Homeward Bound - South SW

Call ahead before visiting builder models this weekend

Joe Zekas

20 years on the North Shore without going native.

The shopping frenzy of Black Friday is traditionally followed by a Bleak Sunday for home buyers seeking open houses to view. This year is no exception, and many home buyers sit out the weekend rather than look at a thin selection of homes.

New home buyers who check builder Web sites learn that they're open this Saturday and Sunday. What they really learn, however, is often nothing more than the fact that few builders update their Web sites to announce holiday schedules.

The takeaway: don't rely on the open hours on a builder Web site. Call ahead and verify that models will, in fact, be open before you head for them.

New restaurants and new listings in Plainfield

Joe Zekas

20 years on the North Shore without going native.

Restaurant sign, Plainfield, Illinois

A robust dining-out scene is a must for many when they're shopping for the venue of their next home.

If the recent spate of restaurant closings in Plainfield had you striking that community from your least, be of good cheer this holiday season. Plainfield Patch is reporting that restaurant openings planned for the near term slightly outnumber recent closings.

New listings for homes for sale in Plainfield are plentiful, despite the holiday season, with 38 single-family homes coming to market just within the past 7 days.

The newly-listed homes range from a 3-bedroom, 2 ½ bath priced at $134,900 to a nearly 6,000 square foot home with 5 bedrooms and 5 ½ baths and an asking price of $884,900. The larger home, according to the listing, has a lower property tax bill ($3,897) than the smaller home ($5,040). Further investigation is obviously warranted.

What $300,000 buys in Frankfort

Joe Zekas

20 years on the North Shore without going native.

At the more affordable end of the market in Frankfort, it appears that $300,000 or thereabouts buys what would have cost you $350 to $375K just four or five years ago.

The 5-bedroom, 3-bath home at 7690 Steeple Chase Dr sold for $345,500 in 2006 and is currently listed for $309,808. I'm certain that the Realtor has some logic to the $8, and perhaps he'll find someone who can understand it once the property reaches its fourth anniversary on and off the market come November 30.

The 4-bedroom, 2 ½ bath home at 21430 South English boasts a 3-car garage and an asking price of $300,000. It sold for $375,000 in September of 2006. The day after Christmas will mark the home's second anniversary of being on and off the market.

Digging for a bargain in Coal City

Joe Zekas

20 years on the North Shore without going native.

545 N 5th Ave, Coal City, Illinois

The strip mines that gave Coal City its name have long since been abandoned and reforested as recreation areas, but energy is still a part of the area's fabric. Nearby Braidwood is home to the state's newest nuclear power plant.

The Village of Coal City's Web site has an oddly-written description of the village that reads like this passage:

Each year, the Village comes together in a number of events including its Octoberfest, which sees the downtown area shutdown and the streets overcome with vendors, people, and businesses celebrating the passing of summer into the fall and community.

If you're more interested in digging up a home that might represent a bargain, consider the 2-bedroom, bath-and-a-half cottage at 545 N 5th Ave in Coal City. It was priced at $94,900 when it came to market in July of this year, and has just reduced today to $49,900.

Will County's Lake Renwick is for the birds

Joe Zekas

20 years on the North Shore without going native.

In all the time I've spent out and about in Illinois during my 36+ years here I'd never seen a Great Blue Heron. My son Jordan recently shot the pair you see in the video above opposite his home in Antioch.

Being close to nature and the wild is one of the reasons that people move to Will County. The area offers an abundance of outdoor recreational opportunities for the active and not-so-active.

One of Will County's many delights is the Lake Renwick Heron Rookery where, in the summer, you can see 1,000s of herons, egrets and other large wading birds.

You can read a recent report from Lake Renwick by Robyn Monaghan of Plainfield Patch, a good source of local news.

And while you're visiting Will County, check out the housing stock, which seems to be growing more affordable by the day as prices recede from the peak levels of 3 and 4 years ago.

Are home sellers crestfallen in Crest Hill?

Joe Zekas

20 years on the North Shore without going native.

The market seems to indicate they ought to be. According to recent data from Redfin, there were 81 single-family homes on the market in Crest Hill at the end of October and only 2 sales during the month, down from 15 the previous month.

In tandem with the slowed pace of sales, you'll see some serious price slashing. A few examples follow.

A 2-bedroom, 2 ½ bath townhouse at 16439 Club Dr was listed in February for $155,000 and is currently offered as a short sale at $99,000.

A 2-bedroom home at 312 Pasadena Ave also recently a 1/3 price reduction, from $105,000 when it was listed in August to $70,000.

And then, for a little not-so-comic relief there's the "Stupid Realtor Trick" of a $1 price reduction at 1830 Burry Circle Dr, from $138,000 to $137,999.

A thin selection of rental homes, condos in Tinley Park

Joe Zekas

20 years on the North Shore without going native.

16025 S 85th Ct, Tinley Park, Illinois

There are many places where the depressed market for home sales has resulted in a wide selection of homes and condos for rent, as sellers struggle for a way to wait out the downturn. Tinley Park is not one of those places.

There are currently only 14 homes and condos listed for rent in the local Multiple Listing Service. Prices range from $775 a month for a 1-bedroom condo to $2,200 for a 3-bedroom, 2 ½ bath end-unit townhouse.

The asking price for the 4-bedroom, 3-bath home pictured above is $2,000 a month. The home is on a quiet cul-de-sac, has a large rear deck an updated kitchen, and neutral tones throughout. Pets and smokers are not welcome.

Comparing property taxes in select south suburbs

Joe Zekas

20 years on the North Shore without going native.

Rising real estate taxes are becoming an increasingly important factor in home affordability, but they're only one of many factors home buyers weigh in selecting their next community.

Property taxes can vary considerably within a community based on the governmental districts and special assessment districts that have authority to levy taxes on a home. The biggest difference is typically attributable to school districts, but park districts and special-purpose districts can also vary within a municipality, so bear in mind that the following estimates may not apply to a particular home.

For purposes of these estimates, I've assumed a home with an estimated fair market value of $300,000 and the minimum homeowner's exemption of $6,000. You can learn more about how those terms impact the estimates, and see the detailed components of tax rates for various suburbs in this PDF file, one of a number of real estate tax reports available from the Cook County Assessor's office.

Using those assumptions, here's what you'll pay in property taxes in each of the following suburbs on a $300,000 home:

  • Country Club Hills, $13,295

  • Flossmoor, $10,731

  • Hazelcrest, $11,196

  • Homewood, $10,361

  • Matteson, School district 159, $9,904

  • Matteson, School district 162, $9,263

  • Olympia Fields, School district 162, $9,505

  • Park Forest, School district 163, $16,169

  • Richton Park, School district 159, $10,130

  • Tinley Park, $10,195
  • Costco set to open in Bolingbrook, second Target in the works

    Joe Zekas

    20 years on the North Shore without going native.

    Americana Estates, Bolingbrook, Illinois

    When the Chicago Tribune profiled Bolingbrook two years ago the community was heralding the opening of the new Promenade shopping center, anchored by Macy's and Ikea. The current roster of shops at Promenade is impressive,

    The big news in Bolingbrook currently is the imminent opening of a new Costco, a chain that's developed a hyper-loyal fan base in other locations. And, a second Target may be in the works for Bolingbrook.

    The Trib profile also called attention to the "million dollar executive homes of Americana Estates" (above image). The development's Web site now appears to be dormant, and there's no trace in the public records of any homes having sold for the $1M mark or above at Americana Estates.

    There have been foreclosures in the development, and a number of homes are currently listed for sale below their original purchase price.

    A 3,500 square foot, 4-bedroom, 3 ½ bath home at 1905 Eisenhower Ln sold in June of 2006 for $732,000. It's been on and off the market for nearly two years, and is currently asking $569,900 after multiple price reductions.

    If you're bargain-hunting in Bolingbrook, for a new home or just a new pair of winter gloves, you might want to start at the holiday extravaganza at The Promenade.

    A little-known source of real estate development news

    Joe Zekas

    20 years on the North Shore without going native.

    If you're a real estate news junkie, trying to spot the next trend or development that will tip you over the edge into buying or renting your next home, you probably scour dozens of suburban news and Web sites on a regular basis.

    You're not alone in that pastime, and some of your fellow junkies congregate at a Web site called SkyscraperCity to share updates on developments in city neighborhoods and suburban communities.

    Visits to SkyscraperCity would have kept you informed of the latest plans for the riverfront development in Aurora and for downtown Joliet, among many other items.

    Willow Springs stands out in south suburban home price appreciation

    Joe Zekas

    20 years on the North Shore without going native.

    In a previous post we focused on the precipitous declines in home values in some of Chicago's southern suburbs.

    Not all of the housing news in home appreciation has been bad in Chicago's southland, however, and at least one southern suburb ranked among the top 10 in home price appreciation since 1994.

    Willow Springs was a clear standout, with average home prices that have increased 120% since 1994, even after falling 19% year-over-year during the past year. The average sales price of a home in Willow Springs, according to Chicago Magazine, is $549,578.

    Redfin market stats and trends info paints a curiously different picture of Willow Springs home prices. In September 2010 Redfin reported that 131 homes were listed for sale at a median price of $250K. Only 2 homes were reported sold in September at an average price of $118K.

    Forty-nine homes are currently listed for sale in Elmhurst at a median price of $300K, and a range of $115,000 to $945,000.

    A closer look at Willow Springs' housing stock indicates that much of the purported price appreciation since 1994 was not in the price of existing homes, but in the substantially larger and higher-priced homes built in Willow Springs during the past decade. That changing mix also explains the substantially higher prices that currently prevail in Frankfort, as opposed to 1994 prices. Frankfort also experienced a spurt in the construction of new, large homes during the past decade.

    The takeaway: current and historical price levels can be misleading in communities that have experienced spurts of newly-built homes.

    Staggering price drops in south suburban home values

    Joe Zekas

    20 years on the North Shore without going native.

    The October issue of Chicago Magazine features a rundown of home prices and appreciation trends in Chicago's neighborhoods and suburbs.

    Chicago's southern suburbs fared badly - very badly, in a number of cases - in home value appreciation. Negative appreciation, i.e. depreciation, is a more accurate description of the experience of home values in many of Chicago's southern suburbs.

    Nine of the 10 suburbs that fared the worst (North Chicago being the only exception), are in the southland. The average sale price and percent depreciation since 1994 for the 10 biggest losers is:

    Harvey, $22,648, -49.53%
    Riverdale, $33,673, -49.45%
    Robbins, $16,680, -45.49%
    Dolton, $49,447, -34.42%
    North Chicago, $51,646, -33.38%
    Sauk Village, $40,864, -32.45%
    Burnham, $47,089, -31.46%
    Park Forest, $59,032, -24.76%
    Calumet Park, $51,901, -21.14%
    Calumet City, $63,121, - 18.62%

    In case you're wondering, the lowest average sales price was in Ford Heights, at $9,660. Sales prices for 1994 were unavailable for Ford Heights, or it might have made the top 10 list. When you take taxes into account, you can buy three average-priced homes in Ford Heights for less than the cost of the average new car.

    Tougher times ahead for Plainfield builders?

    Joe Zekas

    20 years on the North Shore without going native.

    Veteran housing consultant and appraiser Tracy Cross reports that the current volume of new home sales is down more than 90% from the peak year of 2005. During the third quarter of this year suburban single-family developments reported only 1.3 sales, on average.

    There are reasons to speculate that the woes plaguing home builders for the past several years will continue for at least a few more. One obvious factor is the state of the economy and continuing high unemployment rates.

    Perhaps the most significant factor in dampening new home sales volume will the intense price competition builders are facing from resales, foreclosures and short sales in their own and comparable developments. It's not uncommon to see 30% or greater price drops from levels that prevailed 3 to 5 years ago.

    Custom and semi-custom builders, many of whom acquire their property a lot a time in subdivisions where multiple builders operate, are sometimes able to acquire land today at substantially reduced prices, benefit from lower construction costs, and compete effectively on price with their reselling buyers of a few years ago.

    More typical is the scenario that's playing out at 13451 Vicarage Dr in Plainfield. The 3,516 square foot, 4-bedroom, 2 ½ bath home was purchased in March of 2007 for $400,000. It's currently listed for sale, after 6 rapid-fire price reductions, as an approved short sale at $275,000.

    The home is in the Wilding Pointe development. My first thought on seeing the name was that the marketing staff must be completely unfamiliar with the negative connotations of the term "wilding."

    On a somewhat brighter note, this article suggests that Plainfield isn't experiencing as much pain as some of its neighboring communities.

    New listing in Harvey for less than 2x property taxes

    Joe Zekas

    20 years on the North Shore without going native.

    14631 Des Plaines, Harvey, Illinois

    The annual real estate taxes on the newly-listed home at 14631 Des Plaines St in Harvey are $2,878 and the asking price is $5,000.

    As you might expect, the sale is "as is" at this price, and you ought not expect a working kitchen or bath in this 2-bedroom "investment opportunity."

    On the plus side, the property is just 3 short blocks from the 147th Street Metra station in Harvey.

    This is only one of 15 Harvey homes priced at $11,000 or below, so don't despair if this isn't to your liking and you're bottom-fishing.

    Joliet again ranks first in south, southwest suburban foreclosures

    Joe Zekas

    20 years on the North Shore without going native.

    When we last reported on foreclosure filings in Chicago's south and southwest suburbs, Joliet topped the list with 414 filings.

    The pace of foreclosures slowed a bit in Joliet during the third quarter of 2010, but it once again ranked first in the area with,370 filings.

    Dolton, with 175 foreclosures filings, was in second place, while Oak Lawn was in third with 152 filings, followed closely by Romeoville with 151..

    Other south and southwest suburban municipalies with more than 100 foreclosure filings were Calumet City, 147; South Holland, 108; and Tinley Park, 103.

    Foreclosure filings are typically far more numerous than completed foreclosures.

    See third-quarter foreclosure filings and completed foreclosure auctions in the latest report from the Woodstock Institute, and read the Tribune's recent story on the report.

    A shower of deals at Maple Hill in Lockport

    Joe Zekas

    20 years on the North Shore without going native.

    Only four home sites remain available for purchase at William Ryan Homes' Maple Hill development in Lockport, and the company is showering buyers with deals specific to the community in addition to companywide offerings.

    For starts, William Ryan is offering a "Fabulous Fall Savings" deal of 10% off for 10 days only on local properties.

    Maple Hill buyers can take advantage of a $10,000 cash offer from the City of Lockport in addition to "free" hardwood floors in selected areas, granite countertops and a full basement.

    Three and 4-bedroom homes with 2 or 2 ½ baths and 2- or 3-car garages start in the high $200s. The development is close to an interchange on I-355.

    If you visit the development, ask about the more than $100,000 price discrepancy between the developer's listing and the same model listed with a broker. At a time when price reductions are common, the broker listing shows a $100K price increase.

    An oddly-named seniors project in Bolingbrook

    Joe Zekas

    20 years on the North Shore without going native.

    It isn't quite as scary as how the previously-named Department of Aging in Florida used to answer the phone - DOA! - but it's still a bit disconcerting.

    What's one of the most common fears among seniors? The fear of falling, a fear that would never occur to anyone at McKenzie Falls, at Briarcliff Road in Bolingbrook.

    Read all about it in the Chicago Tribune.

    A luxury rental option in Oswego

    Joe Zekas

    20 years on the North Shore without going native.

    Farmington Lakes, Oswego, Illinois

    Given the state of the housing market, many people are reluctant to commit to buying, especially if they're moving to a new community.

    The good news for people who want to rent is that there are apartment complexes that offer amenities comparable to many for sale properties.

    The apartments at Farmington Lakes In Oswego offer touches such as individual entries, garage space, full-size washers and dryers and walk-in closets. Some of the units have gas fireplaces and upgraded baths. Rents for one-bedroom apartments range from $950 to $1,070 a month, while two-bedrooms are priced from $1,295 to $1,3255.

    Common area amenities include a clubhouse, a large swimming pool, a fitness center, business center and on-site professional management.

    Parents should always exercise a healthy skepticism when reading statements about the quality of the local schools, since everyone's judgment varies.

    New homes on the chopping block in Minooka

    Joe Zekas

    20 years on the North Shore without going native.

    Village of Minooka, Illinois

    Smykal Homes is advertising an "inventory blowout" sale on new homes in Minooka and Channahon.

    Smykal has dropped the price on the 5-bedroom, 3-bath home on a 52 x 170 cul-de- sac lot at 321 Chief Ct in Minooka from $299,245 to $264,900.

    In the same subdivision, the 5-bedroom, 4-bath home on an 82 x 160 lot at 609 River's Edge Dr recently came on the market asking $194,900 in "as is" condition. The property sold new for $312,965 five years ago, went into foreclosure and had been bank-owned.

    The listing for 321 Chief Ct asks "Why consider a foreclosure?" The simple answer might be, "well, duh, $70,000 and a larger lot."

    When it comes to real estate, however, the simple answer is more often than not the wrong one, and the right answer varies from buyer to buyer. Anyone interested in a new or newer home in the location should consider both properties.

    Who gets the bonus commission to a home buyer's agent?

    Joe Zekas

    20 years on the North Shore without going native.

    As we all know (we do know, don't we?) real estate brokerage commissions are fully negotiable for both sellers and buyers. Many brokers still talk of a "standard" commission that they report to be 6% of the selling price, often split evenly between the firms representing the buyer and seller. The commission is then split again between the agents and their brokerage firms.

    Over the years the "standard" commission has been whittled down to an average nearer 5%, and often less on higher-priced homes. In new construction projects the buyer's agent is usually offered a commission of 2.5% of the base selling price, before buyer-selected options.

    When the new construction market is soft, as it has been for the past several years, developers vie for attention from real estate agents by offering them higher commissions or other incentives (vacations, etc.) An offer of 4% to the buyer's agent is not unusual, and 6% is not unheard of. Many developers also offer "frequent flacker" programs designed to reward agents at ever-higher levels for bringing in multiple buyers over time.

    Experienced real estate agents will tell you - and they're almost always telling the truth - that the offer of higher compensation doesn't bias them in steering buyer to projects. Most developers will tell you that they don't expect to bias agents with the bonus offers, and use them only to raise their visibility among real estate agents.

    The more interesting question is who should get the bonus commission. Should the agents and their firms keep it, or should it be passed through to the buyer as a discount or commission rebate?

    However you answer that question, it's a subject that every home buyer should discuss with their agent before entering into a buyer agency agreement.

    Why you should read your next hometown's newspaper

    Joe Zekas

    20 years on the North Shore without going native.

    Festival scene, Homer Glen, Illinois

    When you don't have a deep familiarity with the town you're considering as your next home, it's easy to make a move that may come with some unpleasant surprises.

    Does that "excellent" high school touted on the builder or Realtor site have an overcrowding problem? Have local residents repeatedly voted down bond issues to solve the problem? Are there transportation issues that aren't being addressed adequately? If you were headed for Lockport or Homer Glen, you'd know the answer to those questions if you checked in periodically at the local Sun newspaper and Trib Local.

    You'll gain a valuable perspective on your next home, and gain a sense of whether enough of your future neighbors are compatible with your views, if you read the local papers when you research your next home.

    Do you have too many pets for your next home?

    Joe Zekas

    20 years on the North Shore without going native.

    If you have five dogs you're welcome in Orland Hills, but Lynwood limits you to two in a single-family home and only one in multi-family housing.

    It comes as a shock to newcomers, and even long-time residents, in many communities to learn that local ordinances limit the number of dogs and cats they can keep on their property, and frequently bar most exotic pets entirely.

    The SouthtownStar recently surveyed the ordinances in effect in 29 southern Cook County and Will County communities. Twenty-three of the jurisdictions limit the number of dogs that residents may keep, and 21 limit the number of cats.

    A number of communities set lower limits on the number of cats than dogs. Evergreen Park, for example, allows three dogs in a single-family home, but only one cat.

    Not surprisingly, the ordinances are frequently unenforced except in the case of abusive or problematic owners.

    The take-away: if you're a pet lover, investigate local ordinances before signing on to buy or rent your next home.

    The highs and lows of Plainfield homes

    Joe Zekas

    20 years on the North Shore without going native.

    14808 Hawthorn Cir, Plainfieldl, Illinois

    The word from AOL's Plainfield Patch is that "Plainfield's real estate market is worse than you can imagine." Some may read that as a window into a reporter's limited imagination, some as a cautionary sign - and some as a signal that opportunities lurk in Plainfield.

    The downbeat article leads with the reporter driving past For Sale signs in "a pretentious Plainfield subdivision," which prompted me to take a look at the range of what's offered for sale in the community the reporter paints as "Painfield." After all, the words "pretentious" and "Plainfield" don't seem to belong together.

    Some of the Plainfield homes priced above $600K are in the faux-castle style that might be considered pretentious by those who are less squeamish than I am about criticizing what's likely to be someone's "elegant" dream home. Since I can't fathom what the reporter considers pretentious, I'll just assume it means a home she can't afford to purchase.

    Sticking to the facts, there are currently over 1,000 homes and condos listed for sale in Plainfield in the local MLS, at prices ranging from an $89,000 townhome to a $1,799,000 single-family. Only two homes are priced above $1 million, and the median price is in the low $200s. There are also many more new homes available in builder subdivisions in Plainfield, a development hot spot before the recent downturn.

    More than 100 homes and townhomes are available for rent in Plainfield, priced from $1,175 to $3,800 a month. The 4-bedroom, 3 ½ bath, 2,900 square foot home pictured above rents for $2,500 on a wooded lot - a Plainfield rarity.

    Good selection of upper-bracket homes in Palos Park

    Joe Zekas

    20 years on the North Shore without going native.

    9111 W 126th, Palos Park, Illinois

    The term "upper bracket" takes on different meanings in different places. In Chicago's southern suburbs it's a safe bet to think of the upper-bracket price range as a million dollars and up.

    There are few southern suburbs that have any homes priced over $1M, and fewer still that have a dozen or more on the market to choose among at any given time. Palos Park, with 17 homes for sale priced between $1.25M and $4.5M,

    Most of the upper-bracket homes in Palos Park are designed in the faux-castle style that too easily descends into the garish or incoherent.

    The home at 9111 W 126th St (pictured above) is in a distinctively modernist style, designed by Jo Palma, who was the lead architect for the new NATO headquarters in Brussels. Surrounded on three sides by forest preserve, the home features 5 bedrooms, 4 ½ baths, and is priced at $3,490,000.

    Head to Calumet City for low-priced homes

    Joe Zekas

    20 years on the North Shore without going native.

    1462 Burnham, Calumet City, Illinois

    Nearly 200 homes priced under $100,000 are currently for sale in Calumet City, almost half of them in the under $50,000 range.

    At those prices you're not going to land a McMansion, but you will find a surprising selection of move-in ready starter homes.

    For example, the 2 or 3-bedroom ranch at 1462 Burnham (pictured above) has seen a raft of recent upgrades, including a newer kitchen and bath. The home has been on the market for nearly 2 years.

    Directly across the street from the home is Veterans Park, where you can watch games in the Calumet City Chargers youth football and cheer program, and check out the Widgets - who went undefeated in 2009. The Chargers have an active Facebook page.

    Time running out to buy home at Cambridge Homes' Liberty Grove community

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    Joseph Askins

    Cambridge at Liberty Grove, Plainfield, Illinois

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

    Time is starting to run out for buyers who desire new single-family homes in the family-oriented community of Cambridge at Liberty Grove, where fewer than 50 of 683 total homes remain to be sold.

    Cambridge at Liberty Grove in Plainfield currently features 14 single-family plans from the Prairie and Horizon series. The community features a number of family oriented amenities including a private water park, fully equipped playground, a 27-acre lake with walking path, covered picnic pavilion, and an on-site elementary school.

    "Cambridge at Liberty Grove is one of our premier master-planned lifestyle communities for buyers of all ages," said Paul F. Ivers, president of Cambridge Homes.

    The Horizon Series consists of seven single-family plans including a ranch style design featuring 1,805 square feet with two bedrooms and up to three bedrooms available. The six two-story designs range from 2,117 to 3,018 square feet with three to four bedrooms and up to five bedrooms available (per plan), 2.5 baths, and two-car attached garages. Horizon Series homes are currently priced from the $180s.

    The Prairie Series comprises three single-family designs. The homes range from 2230 to 2781 square feet of living space with two-car attached garages and basements. The ranch style design includes two bedrooms, a den, and two baths. The two-story plans feature three bedrooms to five bedrooms, and 2.5 baths. The Prairie Series is priced from the $230s.

    Cambridge at Liberty Grove is located one mile from downtown Plainfield, and is minutes from I-55. To visit, take I-55 south to Route 126 traveling west 4 miles to the entrance, following signs to the single-family Prairie Series sales office on the immediate left where both the Prairie and Horizon homes are being sold.

    Office hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day except Friday, when the office is open from noon to 6 p.m. For more information call 847-984-4550 or visit MyCambridgeHome.com.

    A tale of just one Orland

    Joe Zekas

    20 years on the North Shore without going native.

    Farmers Market, Orland Park, Illinois, Tribune photo

    When I saw the title of the Tribune's community profile - "A tale of two Orlands" - I looked forward to a comparison of Orland Park and Orland Hills. It wasn't to be. The story focused on two aspects of Orland Park, its "bustling, but laid-back" character.

    The bustling aspect is readily recognizable to anyone who's ever experienced the traffic in Orland Park. The laid-back, not so much.

    Many families are willing to let Orland Park's other attractions, quality schools in particular, outweigh its traffic. Two Orland Park high schools rank among the state's top 100: Carl Sandburg at 55, and Victor J. Andrew at 70. Century Junior High is ranked 87th among the state's middle schools.

    If you want to check out the housing stock in Orland Park during off-peak hours, you might want to start with a visit to this Friday's Farmers Market, where you can chat up the locals and soak in the flavor (bad pun intended) of the community.

    As of this writing there are 719 homes listed for sale in the MLS in Orland Park, ranging in price from a high of $4.5 million for a lavish single-family home to a low of $74,900 for a two-bedroom, two-bath condo.

    Bingo is a hot topic in southwest suburban Manhattan

    Joe Zekas

    20 years on the North Shore without going native.

    Manhattan, Illinois

    You've officially found that small town atmosphere when you reach a place where bingo is a hot topic, as it is in the Village of Manhattan.

    Manhattan's population has more than doubled in recent years, despite its distance from interstate highways It's 7 miles from I-80, 11 miles from I-57, 12 miles from I-55, and 12 miles from I-355. There is a Metra station in Manhattan, but it's unlikely that many residents make the nearly hour-and-a-half commute to Chicago's Union Station.

    Manhattan's an owner-occupant community, with few rental options. There are currently just over 100 homes, townhomes and condos on the market at prices ranging from just over $100,000 to just over a million. The median price hovers around $250k.

    For just under the median price you can move yourself into a 3-bedroom, 2 ½ bath home (pictured above) with an unfinished lookout basement. The home has a spacious rear deck with an above-ground pool.

    Down to five homes at Estates of Hidden Creek in Shorewood

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    Joseph Askins

    Estates of Hidden Creek, Shorewood, Illinois

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

    When the Estates of Hidden Creek community first went to market, William Ryan Homes had 84 large home sites to fill. Today just five lots remain open to buyers.

    William Ryan has sold almost all of Hidden Creek's ranch and two-story homes to a public hungry for convenience and a quiet country setting. The Estates of Hidden Creek is a quiet enclave of spacious home sites located in Shorewood near Joliet. Across from Four Seasons Park, with all its amenities and a new elementary school, Hidden Creek backs to a pond surrounded by large scenic trees.

    Shopping options are nearby, as is a town center currently under development. Other attractions include parks, golf courses, colleges, and regional shopping centers. The highly respected Walnut Trail Elementary School, Minooka Junior High, and Minooka High School provide public education. A Metra train station operates out of Joliet, and major highways I-55, I-80, and Routes 52 and 59 run nearby.

    Ranging in size from 2,078 to 3,157 square feet, the six different floor plans at Hidden Creek feature three or four bedrooms and two to 3.5 baths. Features included in the price of each home are 9-foot first-floor ceiling heights and 10-year Guaranteed Dry Basements.

    The William Ryan Homes 1-2-10 transferable/limited warranty, along with its exclusive My Home 24/7 customer interactive website and Hard Hat Buyer Inspection program, is included on every home it builds. The company complies with Green-Built and Energy Star standards for energy efficiency, ensuring consistent room temperatures and uniform comfort throughout the home. This can save homeowners up to 50 percent in energy use and expenses.

    The prices range from $223,990 to the low $300s. Hidden Creek is one of many William Ryan new homes communities in Illinois, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Florida.

    To reach the Estates of Hidden Creek, take I-55 south to Route 52 (Jefferson Street). Turn right and go west on Route 52 to River Road. Turn left and go south on River Road. Turn right onto Seil Road to Estates of Hidden Creek Community at 802 Sycamore Drive in Shorewood.

    Sales hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday through Thursday; and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., on Friday.

    For more information on these last five homes call Marilyn at 847-769-1871 or email ChicagoInfo1@wmryan.com.

    Seventeen thousand fewer people forecast for Monee

    Joe Zekas

    20 years on the North Shore without going native.

    Hawk Ln, Monee, Illinois

    Relax. Everyone's not bailing out of Monee, which had a population of just shy of 5,000 in 2009. The shrinkage reflects downwardly revised forecasts from regional planning agencies.

    Monee's population stood at 2,924 in the 2000 Census and the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission projected it would grow to 47,804 by 2030. The revised forecast from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning estimates a 2030 population of 30,771. Employment, which had been forecast to grow from 103 in 2000 to 5,809 in 2030 is now forecast to grow to 5,364.

    The original forecast was endorsed in 2003 and the revised one in 2006 - just prior to the steep downturn in housing development. It's hard to imagine a current forecast projecting six-fold growth in Monee over the next 20 years.

    Based on a quick scan of Redfin data, the price of housing Monee has been nearly as volatile as the population forecast.

    The home at 4998 Hawk Ln (pictured above) in unincorporated Monee sold for $395k900 in October of 2006, $300,000 in November of 2008, and $100,001 in July of this year. It's currently listed at $269,800 after a $100 (n typo, $100!) price reduction. The Realtor touts it as a MUST SEE, perhaps because you can't learn anything of value from the pictures that accompany the listing.

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