It’s fun to look at stuff like 1990s mansions. But sometimes you just need a house, and you aren’t a millionaire, and even though unemployment is high and the economic future is uncertain, house aren’t getting cheaper.
Then it’s time to turn to the workhorse of Chicago architecture, the bungalow: lovable, ubiquitous, solidly built, and reasonably sized. Even at a $250,000 price point you can find one that’s decently preserved or respectably updated throughout the city and suburbs. The affordable specimens tend not to linger on the market, but here’s a sense of what you can expect.
3433 North Kostner Avenue, $229,000
This cute frame bungalow has a screened-in porch and a living room with “quaint interior elements” that are “hearkening to the Northwoods,” including a “faux stone wall,” according to the listing.
In truth, it takes a niche taste to find the interior quaint rather than extremely dated, but it’s pretty singular. The heated rear porch, with its light wood ceiling and very dark wood paneling, has a similar vibe. If you’re into it, it’s kind of cool; if not, it’s less than a quarter mill for two beds, one bath, and a respectable 1,600 square feet in Irving Park.
1155 South Scoville Avenue, Oak Park, $249,900
The curb appeal is merely tolerable, but the interior of this three-bed, 1,525 square-foot bungalow has been simply and pleasantly updated — all for a good price given its location in Oak Park. The un-popped second floor suffers from the prototypical low ceilings that make people expand their bungalows vertically, but it’s nicely handled, with two pleasant nooks carved out around the windows; the enclosed back porch is another cozy space.
6234 South Kedvale Avenue, $224,900
The listing describes this as a Spanish bungalow, and the Mediterranean touches in the living room have fortunately been preserved. There's a bold A-shaped fireplace framed by two large windows, with twisting columns separating it from the dining room. The second floor isn’t entirely finished, but the basement is, and there’s a wood-paneled, enclosed porch. The West Lawn structure packs four bedrooms and two bathrooms into 1,128 square-feet, and it's conveniently close to Midway Airport, the Marquette Park golf course, and Michael J. Madigan Sr. Park.
3046 North Natchez Avenue, $250,000
This one’s pretty straightforward: classic bungalow, $250,000, 1,500 square feet in Belmont Cragin. It’s got the wonderful half-hexagonal living room you won't find in all bungalows, plus four bedrooms and three bathrooms — a lot for a bungalow of its size. The kitchen is bright and has a lot of counter space, and the basement and the second floor are simply but nicely finished. It’s been popped out a little bit in the back, but tastefully: like the rest of the house, the addition is nothing major and nothing drastic, despite what the trippy furniture might indicate.
6144 South Kildare Avenue, $225,000
On the outside, this West Lawn specimen is a classically beautiful Chicago bungalow, with stained-glass windows and checkerboard brickwork. The inside is just as striking, with stucco paint and an unusual open wood staircase going up to the open-plan second floor. Five bedrooms are allegedly crammed into just over 1,000 square feet, though two are a “tandem” (read: no walls) bedroom upstairs and one is in the basement with just a tiny window; only two bathrooms service them. All this comes at the expense of kitchen size, but there’s a nice wooden patio on the back.