Looking for a new house to buy? Some 44,000 new homes will be built in Chicagoland this year. Some more expensive than others on the north end of 47, Toll Brothers is already negotiating to buy large parcels to appeal to some of the 17 million Americans who take home at least $100,000 a year.
A generation ago, Chicago Tribune legendary columnist Mike Royko joked about all the building going on in the “land beyond O’Hare.” These days, O’Hare and all the suburbs surrounding it are considered close-in bedroom communities. Today’s housing boom is taking place at the new western edge of Chicagoland, Route 47, a place where for now a quarter of a million dollars will still buy a lot of house.
“We see a lot of big communities sprouting up on the outskirts of town, in the farm fields past Route 47,” says Andy Stern, Toll Brothers.
It’s not just existing homes that are selling. Chicago area developers have built and sold between 30,000 to 40,000 new homes since the late 1990s. Last year, new home sales broke all records. But if you want to build homes that the majority of Chicagoans can afford, you’ve got to go farther out.
“Randall Road five years ago used to be considered the limit. Ten years ago it was Route 59,” says Tracy Cross, Tracy Cross Associates.
Now it’s the land beyond Route 47 that’s being bought in large chunks by developers with big plans.
Fueling the boom are home buyers who want bigger homes, in bigger developments with more amenities and are happy to pay more to be the first one to walk through the door.
“I did look at some existing, but I did kind of have new on my mind,” says Chris Kripke, a new home buyer.
At Lakewood Springs, in Plano, you can buy a 4,000 square foot, 5-bedroom, 3 bath house with a 3-car garage, two family rooms and a couple of fireplaces for less than $350,000. The development even has a community center with child-friendly activities and a swimming pool.
“I think it’s just that neighborhood appeal again. It’s the whole community, not just the house value itself,” says Robin Johnson, Lakewood Homes.
Master-planned communities with thousands of homes are in the works from Joliet, Yorkville, Plainfield, and Plano, through DeKalb, Elgin and Woodstock all the way north to the Wisconsin border. And get ready to hear big things about places like Manhattan, Illinois.
“We currently have on our books in our database, over 24 specific neighborhoods, that are looking to be developed, each of them over 1,000 units,” says Mark Gianapulous of Metrostudy.
By the end of the next decade, cornfields like this won’t even exist along the Route 47 corridor. An estimated 220,000 homes are scheduled to be built there.
Some more expensive than others on the north end of 47, Toll Brothers is already negotiating to buy large parcels to appeal to some of the 17 million Americans who take home at least $100,000 a year.
“We think that market in general, not just in Chicago and northern Illinois, but nationally, is really primed and going to take off this year, next year, and 10 years down the road,” Stern says.
For just over a $1 million, your Toll Brothers home comes with every amenity you can think of: spacious rooms, fabulous master bath, and a basement bigger than many Chicago apartments, with a second kitchen, wine room, pool room and it’s own putting green.
“This community has everything. We love golf. We love the social aspect. We love the fact that everyone is coming in at the same time,” says John Barringer, new home buyer.
Which brings us to the $60,000 question: who’s buying all these homes? “We have a very very large population base of 8.5 million. Even if Chicago increases its population by half of what the nation may increase, it’s still a significant number,” Cross says.
But a large number of Route 47 home buyers are immigrants, ready to upgrade their American dream.
“People arriving in this country 5, 6, 7, 8 years ago have now matriculated into our society, upgraded their jobs and positions and are now moving into new housing forms throughout the metropolitan area,” Cross says.
Jobs around O’Hare airport, but that kind of car time doesn’t seem to be doing anything to dim future sales prospects. And while most of the new development is happening at Route 47, new home sales in the city of Chicago topped 6,100 homes last year.