For individuals in the real estate game, trends are often based on perception instead of figures, since most of the time figures are hard to come by or simply take too long to calculate. But you can 'feel' certain things happening in and around the Chicago real estate market.
Those feelings were confirmed by yesterday's release of 2010 Census data. If yesterday's data release was an awards show, Chicago would have been clapping politely while Aurora (now Illinois' second largest town with 197,899 residents) excitedly ran on stage to accept an award.
Certainly, census data always comes with a number of question marks. This batch is especially susceptible to debate because of the strong political movement that urged people to avoid filling out the census. In addition, since 2001, a heavy contingent of the U.S. Latino community has avoided filling out personal identification questionnaires for fear that immigration officials will begin using it to deport illegal residents.
But the big real-estate takeaways from the 2010 Census for the city of Chicago are (1) Chicago residents are moving to the suburbs and (2) the collar counties and suburbs that offer affordable housing and good schools are increasing their populations rapidly.
Much of this was expected, but now there's proof in the numbers. Chicago's population decreased by about 200,000 between 2000-2010, according to 2010 Census figures. That's a 6.92 percent drop, which will cost Chicago dearly in the form of fewer federal grant dollars (early estimates are in the $10-20 million range).
What percentage of that drop is due to the roller-coaster real estate climate during that decade? It's impossible to tell, but certainly inflated real estate prices have led to more people moving to the suburbs (it should also be noted that a high foreclosure rate likely contributed to the lower population figure). Joliet (38.8% increase from 2000), Aurora (38.4%), Bolingbrook (30.3%), Elgin (14.5%) and Naperville (10.5%) each experienced double-digit growth rates over the 10-year Census span.
In the end, a blow like this could cause city legislators to generate new ways to keep Chicago residents happier. However, with city budgets shrinking and Chicago Public Schools struggling, it may be a while before City Council gets to that part of its to-do list.