I have been working with a delightful couple looking for a new home in the Lakeview neighborhood. We met each other over a year ago while hosting open houses in my listings at Wellington Park. These folks returned time and again – viewing most of the units that came available during the past year.
As they are getting closer and closer to making a decision, one wish kept coming up: a desire for more storage space. Townhomes in Chicago tend to have wall closets rather than walk-ins, limited space for extra stuff in the garage, and very few spare closets for linens and random extra storage. In Wellington Park, a lot of residents keep their second car outside as we have large driveways. And then use the extra room inside the 2 car garage to store more stuff.
So my customers wondered if it was possible to locate something with more storage, and their minds wandered to properties that offer basements. What immediately springs to mind are single family homes.
And we also realized that “Duplex” floor plans also offered some additional room space and/or storage.
Here’s where you have to think carefully about trade off’s in Chicago. In and around West Lakeview, single family homes can be clustered into three types:
1. Old homes that a family has remained in for a very long time. These homes usually date to the 1930’s. The floor plans are functionally obsolete as they only have one bathroom, very limited closets, and frequently no air conditioning. Often times they have not been updated, so the decor and fits/finishes are 1970’s or older.
The homes of that era also feature shallow basements (not a lot of head room) and less than 1,800 square feet above ground. Typically, each floor was 800 square feet. And often, the second floor is smaller as the roof line cuts into the second floor space.
These are mostly tear-down’s.
As the price of these homes is primarily for land value, the prices escalated to a high of $550,000 in 2007. They have since settled back to $450,000 with the real estate downturn, but townhomes in the neighborhood are mirroring these movements.
2. Old homes like those above, but were renovated in the 1980’s or 1990’s. It made financial sense in the 1980’s and 1990’s to buy these old homes and modernize them. The land was worth less than $100,000 back then, and the house barely added another $25,000 to the cost. You could renovate for $25,000 to $50,000 and get a nice house for well under $300,000 throughout those decades.
These homes often have added a second bathroom (perhaps even a third in the basement.) Most of the time, though, you still don’t get a master bath suite. Though these homes technically are “modern” with central heat and air, kitchens with full appliances, and the additional baths, the decorating is often “dated.” Think “Miami Vice” for the color palate and you won’t be too far off.
The square footage is slightly improved because during the renovation, it was typical for a homeowner to “dormer” the second floor to add headroom to the smaller bedroom and the bathroom.
But these homes still are short on square footage compared to the modern townhomes that have sprung up in the same neighborhood. A Wellington Park townhome features 2,000 square feet of living space (not counting the garage) and some models are significantly larger.
Prices for homes like this tend to fall mostly in the range $750,000 to $850,000 depending on whether the house is on a very desirable street or a less desirable (perhaps busy) road, and the quality and style of the renovation.
The modernization of the old small homes slowed or stopped during the 1990’s until now because land values crept up making it less desirable to buy one of these and fix it up instead of traveling to a neighborhood farther afield and getting a house with a more modern floor plan and more space for less money.
During the early 2000’s, the West Lakeview neighborhood exploded in popularity when an entire industrial corridor was removed and relocated. The new land accommodated some sharp new developments; each a little more expensive than the last. The newest included some single family homes sprinkled throughout. Prices for the houses drifted up over $800,000, then over $900,000 and finally over $1-million.
The “modest” mansions feature 4,000 square feet of living space, modern floor plans, and every comfort imaginable. The “luxury” and “ultra” mansions feature even more space, and the very best materials money can buy. Electronics packages, heated garages, green design features are all common as you approach the $2-million mark.
4. Duplex floor plans. Developers in recent years have expanded upon the traditional three-flat floor plan with a modern twist. Newer three-flat style condominiums usually feature a first floor unit that duplexes down into the lower level affording an additional bedroom, an additional bath and often a family room. Upstairs, the second and third floor units are two or three bedrooms. Some of the top floor units are duplex-up style, but just as many are not.
These duplex floor plans usually offer more square footage than a townhome in a similar price range as the space for the home does not count the space occupied by parking. Parking is behind the building – in a garage or outdoor spot.
But because of the standard size of a Chicago lot – 25 feet wide – these condo’s typically offer only one parking space per condo.
Since the last chapter of this story has not been written yet, I am curious to see how it all turns out. But to run through the circular conundrum again, I wonder which of these seemingly exclusive paradoxes will win out:
1. The client likes townhouses. But thought it might be nice to have some extra storage. Therefore…
2. We explored houses. They have extra storage in the basement. But the floor plans are dysfunctional and the decorating is from another era. Therefore…
3. We explored duplex floor plans. The offer an extra family room, modern floor plans, and some additional storage in a downstairs/basement. But the thing that attracted us to townhomes in the first place is missing. Namely – the two car garage. Therefore…
Back to number one!
Stay tuned – I’ll keep you up to date!