Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Open House Sunday: Oak Park edition

There weren’t many new listings or Open Houses in the city that we were interested in, so this week we decided to check out some OH in OP. Oak Park is one of those suburbs that most of the people I make fun of for thinking Chicago ends at Lincoln Park have at least heard of. My friend JoshV just bought a home in OP and his theory is that OP is has a younger turnover because generally people buy in OP while they raise their children and then sell their homes as soon as the last kid is finished with high school so they can escape the high taxes.

Besides high taxes, OP has a no parking on residential streets rule in place. Therefore, any home we might buy not only has to have a garage, but an extra parking pad or drive way would be awesome for when Nightingale’s dad comes to visit with his F-150.

House No 1: Albany Park
4447 N Christiana
5 bd/3 ba $389000

Actually, we did have one city house to check out, a few blocks from our current place. It is a very nice rehab that has a lot going for it. The first floor has an awesome open floor plan from the Kitchen to the Great Room (dining room, living room and front room.) There’s also a little alcove with a desk which would be perfect for Nightingale. There’s also a bedroom on this level which would be a nice office or den.

What is the difference between an office and a den anyway?

This was definitely designed for entertaining. I think the only reason we aren’t snapping this up is we have made the decision to move out of our particular section of Irving/Albany Park.

Note:  House has been on the market for 24 days and had an initial price adjustment from $420K to $389K in the first week. This makes me think it was more of a listing correction than an organic price drop.

House No 2: Oak Park
805 N Cuyler, Oak Park
4 bd/ 2.1 ba $299900

Based on the listing sheet, the current owners updated things like roof, water heater and windows, which is good. The bad news is the kitchen and bathrooms need updating pronto. Also, the basement failed to pass the Can Icarus Stand in it Without Having to Slouch test.

About the only thing we liked was Its nice big yard, with a 2 car garage and extra-large parking pad for 3 cars.

It originally listed for $309K and has been on the market for 118 days.

House No 3
321 S Ridgeland, Oak Park
3 bd/ 2 ba, $410,000

Naturally I liked the blue house next door, which isn't up for sale, more.  This house has a nice looking front porch (a Nice-to-Have for us that borders on Must-Have).  It was being painted so we were directed to go in the backdoor.  The yard was well manicured and very nice.  It had a nice deck and garden area and a firepit.  Only a 1-car garage though there was a parking pad of some type.

The house was nice but not overly impressive. The rooms were small and we could tell that this family was starting to outgrow it, which implied we might too.

It originally listed for $440K and has been on the market for 86 days.

House No 4:
139 N Harvey, Oak Park
4 beds/3 ba $469,000

This was apparently a total rehab, although it looks like some windows would still need to be updated. The rehabber scored this house for $185K and appears to be looking to make some money. He made the living room and dining room one long room with no visible distinction.

The basement was clean and dry but wouldn’t be much more than a laundry room and storage. Possible workout room or woodshop.

It originally listed for $489K and has been on the market for 52 days.

House No 5:
518 n Ridgeland
4 bd/2.5 ba $463,000

It originally listed for $485K and has been on the market for 86 days.  I suspect it is the exact same rehabber as house No 4 since the agent had flyers for 139 N Harvey.

The rehabber bought the place for $172K. I’m not sure if he put in $300K of work into the place. This is an awesome looking old house, pretty much the type I’d like to live in. I could even get over living on busy street Ridgeland. However, the bedrooms are small and we would probably have to lose one to reconfigure a Master Bedroom/Master Bath setup, though that might also allow for an upstairs laundry room.

Also, the front porch is noticeably slanted and the lack of master bedroom and separate bath leaves this property undesirable at this price point.  The agent wasn't the listing agent but she was nice enough to chat with us for a long time as no one else came by while we were there.  She gave us some insight into Oak Park and I told her that if the builder is willing to come down closer to $400K, give us a call.

Notice that all the houses have had price drops. And have been on the market for almost 3 months or more (not including House No 1 in this analysis.).   In the case of owners trying to sell their homes, I've noticed a trend where it seems like the seller isn’t so much trying to make the insane profit of the boom years so much as they are trying to be able to walk away with their transaction costs covered AND a downpayment for the next home.

In the case of the builders I can only speculate that either the costs are higher than I realize, or they encountered some unforseen circumstances that ate up their profits, or they are trying to cash in on naive or frustrated buyers who just want new and ready to move in homes.


  1. How about http://www.redfin.com/IL/Oak-Park/307-S-Humphrey-Ave-60302/home/13267357

  2. Another good find. Don't know enough about the area. The house looks great. The price is higher than we want to pay though and not sure if the sellers can/will come down. Will keep in an eye on it and the others you've suggested.

  3. Have you seen Harvey and Ridgeland were both relisted at $465 and $449k respectively? How much closer to $400 would Ridgeland need to go?

  4. I'm not sure. I guess it really depends on what $400K buys in Oak Park. I don't know the area that well and haven't poured through listings enough to be able to say, for example, $400K gets you 4/2 in decent shape with a modern enough kitchen but the bathrooms need work.

  5. I saw Ridgeland as well and it is a nice rehab. I was concerned about its location on the alley and that several windows were right at alley level. I felt that I would need an alarm, which was the first time I felt this in OP.

    Now that the price is closer to $400k, any thoughts?

    Also, thanks for the lawyer recommendation!


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