Homeward Bound - North

September 2010 Archives

Golf, Chicago's tiniest and least diverse north suburb

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Joe Zekas

20 years on the North Shore without going native.

20 Dover Ln, Golf, Illinois

According to City-data, the Village of Golf's population consisted of 444 whites, 4 Asians and 3 Hispanics, making it Chicago's least populous and least diverse north suburb.

The Encyclopedia of Chicago quotes a longtime resident describing the half-mile square village as "a small town somewhere in the middle of Kansas."

One thing that sets Golf far apart from small-town Kansas is its housing prices. At the moment, five homes are listed for sale in the MLS at prices ranging from $525,000 to $1,599,000.

The 4-bedroom, 4 ½ bath home pictured above is priced at $1,185,000. It's a few steps from Diedrich Park and less than two blocks from the Golf Metra station.

Custom ranch homes announced for Libertyville's Enclave at the Merit Club

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Joseph Askins

Enclave at the Merit Club, Libertyville, Illinois

(The following is a sponsored post for the Chicago Tribune's Fall 2010 Festival of Homes.)

Merit Homes has announced new exceptional pricing for their two to three-bedroom ranch or two-story homes at The Enclave at the Merit Club, a picturesque community in Libertyville, affordably priced from the upper $400s.

"This is a win-win situation for everyone," says Merit Homes President Bert A Getz Jr. "We've reduced our prices without compromising our inclusions and amenities. Our buyers receive the same superior construction, first-class product specifications and superb finishes that we are known for in the industry."

Every home is distinguished with upgraded luxury features that come standard such as site-stained oak flooring, Kohler fixtures, maple, oak, cherry, and alder cabinets, granite countertops, all major appliances, full masonry fireplace, extensive trim details, Pella wood windows, cedar shake roofs, and zoned temperature control.

Empty nesters who are ready to downsize into a well-designed home and young professionals who want the convenience of single-level living can choose a ranch plan or a two-story design with a first-floor master bedroom. Stunning homes have two to four bedrooms and up to 3,000 square feet, priced from the upper $400s.

Sales and marketing manager Jeri Szatko believes there is a large built-up demand among young professionals who desire single-level living and mature buyers who are ready to downsize and that this substantial price reduction will help stimulate sales.

Merit Homes has two ranch models open for touring. To customize their home, buyers start with a plan and are permitted to change the footprint of the house and eliminate or add rooms. There's a lot of flexibility and they can select from the same finish level as a custom home buyer.

Part of a gated community called the Reserve at the Merit Club, the 17-home Enclave is surrounded by semi-custom homes and one-acre custom homes on 100 acres of beautifully landscaped rolling terrain. A magnificent natural landscape of scenic rock gardens, sparkling ponds and colorful wildflowers enhance the tranquil setting.

To visit The Enclave, take I-94 to Route 137, go west to Route 21 (Milwaukee Avenue), then north one half mile to entrance. Follow signs to the sales center, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Monday.

Call 847-680-0090 or visit MeritHomes.net for more information.

Is Skokie Chicago's most diverse northern suburb?

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Joe Zekas

20 years on the North Shore without going native.

Old Orchard shopping center, Skokie, Illinois

Evanstonians like to brag (some would say bray) about their town's diversity, but Evanston is not Chicago's most ethnically and racially diverse northern suburb. That honor probably belongs to Skokie. That's right, Skokie.

City-data provides the following breakdown for Skokie:

• White alone - 40,127 (58.7%)
• Asian alone - 16,579 (24.3%)
• Black alone - 5,903 (8.6%)
• Hispanic - 4,083 (6.0%)
• Two or more races - 1,478 (2.2%)
• American alone - 79 (0.1%)
• Other race alone - 55 (0.08%)

Skokie is served by a number of public elementary and high school districts. The school-age population is more diverse than the general population, due to Skokie's relatively large number of older whites. The median age in Skokie is 41.9 while the statewide median is 34.7.

Skokie is economically as well as racially and ethnically diverse. The median household income is estimated at $79,596 and the median price of a residential unit at $225,000. Twenty-six percent of the housing stock of Skokie is renter-occupied. School district statistics reflect a substantial low-income population.

A large influx of immigrants over the past 20 years has resulted in greater religious diversity in Skokie, which was known decades ago for its large Jewish population.

Juniper Road in Glenview, New Trier School District

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Joe Zekas

20 years on the North Shore without going native.



A small part of Glenview, east of Harms Rd and south of Wilmette Ave, is in Wilmette School District 39 and the New Trier School District.

Most of the homes in the area were modest but the last 10 years saw a great deal of teardown activity and new construction on the larger lots in the area and on double lots. Homes start in the high $200s and range upwards of $2 million.

In addition to the schools the attractions include extremely quiet, low-traffic streets with huge trees, and easy access to the Edens Expressway and Old Orchard shopping center.

Join me for a brief drive along Juniper Road, a narrow 2-block long street. At the time of my drive 824 Juniper, a 3-bedroom, 1 ½ bath home, was on the market for $369,000.

Toll Brothers' ready-to-live rowhomes, just 20 minutes from the Loop

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Joseph Askins

Crossings of Morton Grove, Toll Brothers, Illinois

(The following is a sponsored post for the Chicago Tribune's Fall 2010 Festival of Homes.)

With an enviable location just steps from the Metra, incredible new pricing, and low mortgage rates, it's no wonder national home builder Toll Brothers has seen a surge in activity this year at their community of stylish rowhomes in Morton Grove. The builder just broke ground on a new building and is quickly approaching the 70-percent sold mark.

"Our community is bustling with construction and we are seeing more and more new visitors ready to buy now," says Brian Wulfestieg, senior project manager for The Crossings at Morton Grove.

The Crossings of Morton Grove is an enclave of 64 charming rowhomes, affordably priced from $279,995, within an established neighborhood in Morton Grove. Commuters are drawn to the desirable location, just a few short blocks from the Metra station and 17 minutes from O'Hare International Airport. Another draw is the easy low-maintenance lifestyle with lawn care and snow removal provided by the homeowners association.

According to Wulfestieg, "The Crossings offers the best value in Morton Grove." He substantiates this claim by pointing to a long list of features included in each home.

Buyers are delighted with the granite countertops, 42-inch maple kitchen cabinets, hardwood floors, Kohler plumbing fixtures, Whirlpool Gold stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, a washer and dryer, rooftop deck, two-car attached garage, full basement, and more.

Visitors are invited to tour the stunning Webster model and then check out the three floor plans ranging from 1,450 to 1,850 square feet featuring two bedrooms and two and a half baths. Some homes have the option for a third bedroom and bath. For those ready to move soon, the builder has completed rowhomes ready for occupancy.

Toll Brothers, the nation's leading builder of luxury homes, became a public company in 1986 and entered the Chicago market in 1999. The company is honored to have won all three of the industry's highest awards: America's Best Builder, the National Housing Quality Award, and National Builder of the Year.

From I-94 Edens Expressway, exit Dempster Street west, proceed a half mile, turn left on Ferris Avenue, go 1 block south on Hennings Court. The sales center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For more information, call 847-581-0888 or visit TheCrossingsatMortonGrove.com or TollBrothers.com.

Home inspector cites structural problems in Skokie, Morton Grove homes

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Joe Zekas

20 years on the North Shore without going native.

Split-level homes, Wilmette, Illinois

I was driving around West Wilmette yesterday, and thinking how familiar it would look to anyone who's spent much time in Skokie or Morton Grove. Many of the homes are split-levels built during the great housing boom of the late 50s and early 60s.

I was curious about the types of problems homes of that vintage might typically experience, so I put in a call to Robb Packer, a veteran home inspector who I've known for more than 20 years.

I quickly learned a lot more than I can report in a single post, so I'll limit this one to structural issues.

"When a home inspector talks about structural issues," said Packer, "he typically isn't talking about your home falling down. We're talking about money / value issues where you need to spend money reinforcing the structure. You may need some type of system underneath the footing to support the foundation wall."

"The freeze line in the Chicago area," Packer continued, "is 42 to 48 inches. Quite a few split-level homes built between 1958 and 1965 didn't have a deep enough foundation wall. As soon as the land freezes, it forces the foundation up and destabilizes it. If you're lucky, nothing will happen."

And if you're not lucky, I inquired? "The foundation cracks when it settles. You'll see really distinctive step cracks in the foundation," Packer responded. "The genius of the Chicago market is that builders like a mortar that's slightly different, so it makes that settlement crack really pop out at you."

Check back later for much more from Robb Packer on typical problems in 50-year old homes in the northern and North Shore suburbs. If you'd like to reach Packer in the meantime, connect with him at Metrospect.

Discount promotion at Optima Old Orchard Woods extended into late October

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Joseph Askins

(The following is a sponsored post for the Chicago Tribune's Fall 2010 Festival of Homes.)

An outstanding location, an attractive lifestyle, and the very popular "20, 30" promotion have enabled award-winning Optima Old Orchard Woods in Skokie to post exceptional sales, with 11 condominiums sold in August alone. Now, the promotion has been extended until October 30, 2010 due to popular demand.

The architecturally significant building overlooking Harms Woods forest preserve includes 646 condominiums in three interconnected towers and recreational facilities and conveniences. One-, two-, three-, and four-bedroom plans are offered along with extra-large combination designs and penthouses in Maple Tower, the development's last phase.

Award-winning Optima Old Orchard Woods was designed by nationally known architect David Hovey and constructed by Optima, Inc., Hovey's design and development company.

"We have long believed that condominium living can offer virtually unlimited advantages to buyers seeking a carefree lifestyle," Hovey says.

The "20, 30" promotion offers a 20-percent discount on select condominiums for buyers who purchase by the now extended October 30 deadline.

"Optima Old Orchard Woods has consistently been the best-selling condominium building on the near North Shore, and we've had a busy summer," says sales and marketing manager Eric Richards. "Resale homes are selling more readily, and buyers are also attracted by historic low interest rates in the 3-percent range.

The residences offered in the "20, 30" promotion are ready for quick delivery and include one-bedroom plans priced from $199,320 (formerly $259,700), two-bedroom designs priced from $275,120 (formerly $343,900), and three-bedroom floor plans, priced from $409,240 (formerly $511,550). FHA loans are available to qualified buyers with 3.5 percent down and VA loans to qualified veterans with 0 percent down. Jumbo conventional 30-year fixed-rate loans are available with just 5 percent down.

Optima's Skokie sales center is located at 9645 Woods Drive. To visit, take the Edens Expressway and exit at Old Orchard Road, west to Harms Road, south to Golf Road (Route 58), east to Woods Drive, north one block to sales center. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Please call 847-583-4700 for voice mail, or visit OptimaWeb.com.

Morton Grove grows more affordable

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Joe Zekas

20 years on the North Shore without going native.

7533 Churchill, Morton Grove, Illinois

It wasn't that long ago that $300k was close to the minimum buy-in price for most of Chicago's inner-ring suburbs.

Prices have tumbled over the past several years and there are currently 39 single-family homes for sale in Morton Grove for under $250,000.

That price range typically buys a split-level 3-bedroom, 2-bath home built in the 1950s. The home at 7533 Churchill St is a good example of what was and what is. The home sold for $325,000 3 years ago and is currently on the market for $199,000 as a short sale.

Please don't buy my Glenview townhome

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Joe Zekas

20 years on the North Shore without going native.

"I can't think of a single reason why you should buy this townhome" is the message conveyed by this new listing at Redfin.

The Realtor posted 13 completely unappealing photos (shot with a cell phone?) and the following MLS remarks:

SOLD AS IS. NO SURVEY OR DISCLOSURES PROVIDED, BUYER RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY AND ALL CITY INSPECTIONS, ESCROW ETC. IF REQUIRED. ALL OFFERS MUST HAVE PRE APPROVAL AND COPY OF MINIMUM 2% EM. CERTIFIED FUNDS DUE UPON ACCEPTANCE, SPECIAL ADDENDUMS REQUIRED AFTER ACCEPTANCE.

A 3-bedroom, 3-bath townhome in Glenview priced at just over $200k, whatever its defects, must have something positive that could have been said about it. I'm wondering how long this property will linger on the market.

Live for free in North Chicago?

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Joe Zekas

20 years on the North Shore without going native.

4-flat in North Chicago, Illinois

If you can keep 3 of the 2-bedroom units in this North Chicago 4-flat fully-rented at the listed rents you should be able to live free in the fourth, and also pocket a small return on your equity besides. All of the units in the single-story property have tenant-paid utilities.

On the surface this appears to be a great deal - but, the fact that it's been on the market for nearly a year indicates that there may be something lurking beneath the surface.

Bargain-priced rentals in Waukegan

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Joe Zekas

20 years on the North Shore without going native.

1816 Washington St, Waukegan, Illinois

There are currently 32 rental listings in the Multiple Listing Service in Waukegan.

Availabilities range from a 1-bedroom upstairs from a liquor store (a convenience store, for some) renting for $550 a month to a 5-bedroom, 3-bath home with a Waukegan address and Gurnee schools priced at $2,250 a month.

The median rent, $1,200, will get you a 3-bedroom, 2-bath home in Waukegan.

Living on the edge of The Grove in Glenview

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Joe Zekas

20 years on the North Shore without going native.

Kennicott Home, The Grove, Glenview, Illinois

If you're a nature lover and insist on living near pristine landscapes, Glenview has a lot of options, including vast forest preserves along its borders.

One of the more interesting venues is The Grove, a history and nature museum first settled in 1836 by John Kennicott. The Kennicott home is pictured above, and The Grove is now a national landmark.

3844 Grace Ln is just a few hundred feet from The Grove. The 4-bedroom, 2-bath, 2,300 square foot home is priced at $575,000. It's been on the market for nearly 5 months, and was originally listed at $639,000.

Just a few hundred feet to the north, 1718 Robin Ln has The Grove as its back yard, and boasts a more attractive price tag. This 4 bedroom, 2 ½ bath, 2,400 square foot 2-story home is priced at $478,900 after several price reductions and more than 4 months on the market.

Who pays the most property taxes in Morton Grove?

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Joe Zekas

20 years on the North Shore without going native.

If you're a data junkie who wants to get a quick snapshot of real estate stats and activity in a Chicago suburb, it's hard to beat the city pages at BlockShopper.

http://chicago.blockshopper.com/cities/morton_grove

Want to know which Morton Grove properties pay the most in real estate taxes? Median sales price, recent sales, foreclosures, properties on the market, school districts? BlockShopper offers this, and a lot more - including chatty, sometimes controversial write-ups about who's buying and who's selling. You'll find BlockShopper a useful tool in your real estate shopping efforts.

Twenty percent off 20 units at Optima Old Orchard in Skokie

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Joe Zekas

20 years on the North Shore without going native.



I stopped by Optima Old Orchard Woods in Skokie on Saturday to check in with Eric Richards, the sales manager at the development. Buyer traffic was brisk, despite the holiday weekend, so I had to wait a bit to catch Eric between showings.

Optima Old Orchard is offering "20 units, 20% off by September 20." The offer's been successful so far, with 10 of the 20 units spoken for. One, 2 and 3 bedroom condos are still available, base-priced from the high $190s to the low $400s. FHA financing is available.

$100K price drop in Libertyville

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Joe Zekas

20 years on the North Shore without going native.

The Enclave at The Reserve at the Merit Club in Libertyville. That's not a phrase that rolls easily off the tongue, but it is representative of the increasingly arcane conventions builders have adopted for naming their "communities." Home buyers will doubtless find more convenient ways to describe where they live.

Whatever small barriers to home purchasing might be imposed by the formidable name of the development may be eliminated by a recent $100,000 average price reduction on the homes.

The Trib quotes Merit Homes' president as describing the price reductions as a "win-win situation for everyone," although it isn't easy to see how a price reduction of this magnitude is a win for the builder. See the details at the Chicago Tribune.

Lincolnwood is a suburb not a Chicago neighborhood

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Joe Zekas

20 years on the North Shore without going native.

The transition from the City of Chicago to north-suburban Lincolnwood is so subtle that it's easy to mistake the village for a Chicago neighborhood.

Lincolnwood's close-in location and strong schools contribute to housing prices that remain relatively high, with a median price hovering around $400,000, despite recent housing market conditions. Relatively high property taxes help to put a cap on housing prices.

In recent years Lincolnwood has become a bit of an ethnic enclave, with Asians accounting for more than 20% of the population.

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