Eric Rojas, Chicago Real Estate Broker

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Family of Four: Can You Buy in Chicago for Around $350,000?

I have a pretty good gig. Recently, I've been helping friends of mine, a family with two young kids, find a home in Chicago... or close by. The catch is, they'd like to be in an area with "things to walk to".

This is personal. They are not only friends but they are in a very similar point in their lives as my wife and I are. They want a cool neighborhood and just a little elbow room. They don't want to mortgage their lives.

Luckily, Jillian and I pulled it off a couple years ago. We will soon be a family of four and have a nice duplex home we'll enjoy for a long, long time. Sure, Ryne (pictured above) basically plays in a parking lot out back. But so did I growing up and that worked out okay.

It can be done. I just read in the latest Dwell magazine about a couple with two kids living in a great Manhattan location who renovated their... get this... 700 sq/ft home to accommodate the new baby (the 4th family member). So, I got a little embarrassed knowing I've once felt like 1800 sq/ft was not enough. It's all about the layout and location (and adding storage).

That said, for many it's really hard to imagine having a couple kids in a three bedroom condo (with a family room please). But it only takes a little thinking about how you live life and what you want outside your door. So, if you want to live in the city... live in the city and make it work. Don't think you're supposed to have a house somewhere far, far away where you clean the gutters and mow the lawn rather than take the kids on the Brown Line to Millennium Park on a Saturday morning.

Now, to find that city home for a family of four in a good loaction for around $350,000... I'm open to suggestions.


Michael S Messinger said...

I almost hate to share this secret but there are plenty of good homes in Chicago for under $400K.

Portage Park, Jefferson Park and even Albany Park come to mind. And these days, you can even find something in Irving Park.

A lot of people don't seem to realize that the city goes beyond Ashland Avenue.

Eric Rojas said...

Ahhh, it seems you've taken the bait. I once lived on the edge of the earth in Albany Park... and don't forget Ravenswood and Lincoln Square are west of Ashland too (my current "hot, hot" hoods I expect to grow very old in).

When talking houses, the neighborhoods you mention are not always worth the trade-offs. For instance, we just can't compare living near Welles Park in Lincoln Square vs. living near the Sears in Portage Park. I have lots of friends in Portage Park on great family oriented blocks. But, it's not for everyone.

Same goes for most parts of Jefferson Park. I just recently had clients enter a purchase on a home around Robert's Square Park and Beaubian Elementary. Again, great block, nice park, very good school... but the surroundings feel a little isolated for some who are new to the neighborhood. And in the last example, its tough to find a decent house at $350K around the park and in that school district.

Norwood Park around Onahan School is another one... gorgeous spot, great school. But, you leave lifestyle and friends behind... and it's again tough to find the nice $350K home in a good school district.

Albany Park is a whole 'nother ball game.

Irving Park, maybe the price, but I'm not a fan... but Old Irving park... forget a $350K house. You can barely get a town home there for $350K and you might get tired of going to Starbucks!

Michael S Messinger said...

Good points. Maybe if more people moved into those nieghborhoods I mentioned, then they wouldn't be so isolated. ;-)

Eric Rojas said...

If I have anyhting to do with it Mike, I'll put a lot of people in all those places if they want a house.

Anonymous said...

Ukrainian Village has a zillion 3 or 4 bed duplexes down listed for approx 350k.

Eric Rojas said...

Care to share some good school information in UK Village?

Unknown said...

Outer Drive East (400 East Randolph) has the best value downtown in terms of price per square foot. You can beat being surrounded by three parks (if you include the lakefront) and the central location. Also the amenities are pretty decent including a shuttle bus for shopping. I think you can probably get a large two bedroom for 350k. Throw a couple of bunk beds in one bedroom and you have a home!

Eric Rojas said...

I barely allowed the last comment above due to the blatant advertisement sans real value to the conversation. But some agents just don't get it and I like to call them out from time to time.

I think there are a lot of places to look at rather than 400 E Randolph if you want to shove a family of four into a two bedroom condo.

There are plenty of people that do raise kids in two bedroom condos and we'd like to hear those stories... save the bad commercial for other blogs.

Anonymous said...

Eric, we don't have any financial stake (listings or showings) in that building, I just mentioned because I was thinking it would be the cheapest way to get so close to "things to walk to" (i.e. downtown).

Due disclosure: My wife does develop that blog in my sig above which and we are raising two kids (currently toddlers) in a two bedroom condo close to Outer Drive East (Parkshore).

Honestly I don't really like Outer Drive East - the smell in the hallways, the special assessments, etc. - but it's definitely the cheapest by square footage in our area and there are fans of the building who could make very good arguments for it.. (unique domed pool, best amenities in the neighborhood, etc.)

but I'm not among them :-)


Eric Rojas said...

See, now only if you started out discussing how you as a family of four live downtown and how long you think you'll stick it out. That's good stuff readers would be interested in. The initial post was a plug for the web site.

I know a lot of kids grow up in high-rise buildings. I grew up in a two bedroom apartment in Rogers park, than the suburbs before my parents bought our first house when I was 10.

For me, I can't bear the thought of going smaller than our duplex. If I was true city, I'd sell my place, make some money and buy a two bed, two bath at a discount right now and live much cheaper. But forget it!

With a second kid on the way I'm even thinking about houses now in Lemont, IL near the in-laws. Geez.