Moving to Chicago (Yay!); Help me find a house

Well, the title says it all; I’m moving to Chicago. The mother-in-law, in a random, charitable act, is giving the wife and I $250,000 to buy a house in Chicago. This strange turn of affairs came about with no prior notice or discussion. My wife used to live in Chicago, but we have lived in Bloomington, IN for the last five years. A week ago, seemingly on a whim, my mother-in-law told us that she would buy us a house. The only condition she has attached to the money, and to which my wife too readily agreed, is that it has to be a single-family or multiple-family home and not a condo. I’m opposed to that condition, but I want the money, so I’m going to shut up and concentrate on signing up and studying for the Illinois bar exam in July (I unfortunately haven’t practiced law long enough to get admitted via reciprocity).

We’ve started looking online, using and, which are helpful. We’re planning a scouting trip for next weekend. I was hoping for some recommendations for other sources, websites, or anything that would help us find a good house. How did other Chicagoites find their houses? What are good neighborhoods where we could afford a single-family house in our price range? The wife lived in Lakeview and Rogers Park when she lived there; we’re priced out of Lakeview and anything affordable in Rogers Park will probably be in the “bad” part of Rogers Park.

Any and all help would be appreciated.

Oh, and go Fire! Even if Dykstra isn’t as good as Busch. I’ll parrot the commentator on last night’s loss to NY: “…Busch would have caught that.”

Is $250k your entire budget? Or are you willing to finance some amount beyond that? Because you won’t get much in the way of single family homes in any cool neighborhoods for a quarter million.

You might find your best deals in the “bungalow belt” areas near Midway or in the northwest (Edison Park, etc.) part of the city, but even there you’re at the low end of the range.

Good luck!..TRM

We can finance more, although we’re hoping to avoid it if we can. I owe so much on my student loans another large monthly payment would be a killer. My secret hope is that we can’t find anything nice/reasonable in a nice/reasonable neighborhood, and then we start considering condos, like I originally suggested.

We’ve been finding some affordeable stuff online in Irving Park and Avondale, but we don’t really know much about those neighborhoods.

Thanks for the tips, though.

Irving Park and Avondale are decent, sturdy neighborhoods, on the Kennedy Expressway and the Blue Line. So they are convenient to both downtown and to the 'burbs, and are probably pretty safe investments. Personally, I’d find them a bit boring, but that’s a personal thing.

wherever you choose make sure it is within a Bungalow belt

I’ve been in a similar situation. I am shopping for a single family home in Chicago with a budget about the same. Wish I had your financing ‘problems’, though.

I’ve found to be the most intuitive and useful tool for my search. Here’s a link centered around the areas I’ve looking but you can drag the map around. The search parameters list $150-300k which is, of course, also configurable. If you sign up for a username and login, you can see some more interesting data on the homes like sale history for the last 15 years or so. There’s a ton of foreclosures for $200-300k that 4 or 5 years ago were sold or refinanced for literally twice the current asking price. I’m looking at one now that is listed for ~$220k that was last sold for $380k in 2005 and had been refinanced for $510k in 2006.

Anyone who thinks you can’t get anything livable for $250k hasn’t looked in a while, is accustomed to Zotti-style splendor :wink: or wants to live on the Goldcoast or in a Lincoln Park brownstone or something. I’ve been looking in Edison, Jefferson, Norwood, Portage and Irving Parks. Those homehunting here should become familiarized with the Chicago neighborhood namens and locations. Here’s the city’s version: Link here

Hey, my house wasn’t splendid when I bought it. But assuming you’re not looking for a fixer-upper (which is to say, assuming you’re sane), I’d think about a two-flat. Yeah, you wind up being somebody’s landlord, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But two-flats are way cheaper than single-family, there’s plenty of room if it’s just you and your wife (maybe 1,300 s.f. gross), 1920s brick construction quality was generally excellent, and - meaning no disrespect - you get into a more interesting collection of neighborhoods than if you stick with bungalows. Albany Park, for example, has its points - near the L, diverse ethnic mix, etc.

Thanks for all the tips. The wife has been focusing her search on the parks Irving and Albany, while I’ve been hunting for the cheap 1,500 sq ft Lakeview or Whicker Park condo to try to convince her I’m right.

Has anyone had any experience with buyer’s agents and the like? It might be simpler if we were just willing to give someone else a chunk of the money to handle the heavy lifting.

I do, and it’s the right thing to do. You get the advantage of their experience and negotiating skill, and they don’t charge you (directly, anyway–they take a cut of the property price from the seller.) A good one will negotiate the price down, help you find what you want, and not pressure you. I had a great experience with Dwell One Realty.


The wife and I made an offer (that was accepted) on a nice brick two-story single-family home in Budlong Woods. It’s a bit dated (1960s pink tile bathrooms…shudder), but it was in our price range and it has a lovely yard for the dogs. We are schlepping up to Chicago on Tuesday for the inspection. If all goes according to plan, we close at the end of the month and move up at the beginning of August, although I take the Illinois bar at the end of July and may just stay up there.

We’d initially gone with one of my wife’s friends as a buyer’s agent, but that was an absolute disaster. She was a wee bit racist and refused to help us look for places on the South Side. She’d say things that would make me think “damn; that violates about 8 federal housing laws…”. We finally fired her after she steadfastly refused to make an offer on a nice three-flat in Humboldt Park, and went with an agent from Redfin, who was stellar. He asked all the right questions, was super sharp, and wasn’t racist in the least (which is always nice).

We’d viewed lots of homes and holy crap some people are messed up. “They’re foreclosing! Rip out the copper wiring!!!” “The basement is flooded and we’re trying to sell the house; meh to actually stopping the gushing broken pipe.” There was the mold house, where every wall was covered in black mold. There was the paranoid guy’s apartment (my guess was drug dealer, given the condition of the place), where you saw four webcams set up to watch the outside. Several houses that were leaning quite dramatically. And many, many places where people priced the homes thinking it was still 2006.

Whatever. Got a house. It’s a beaut. It even has a bar in the basement for a “man cave.” I actually found the place, so my wife is going to buy me a leather chair. So I just need some scotch and the soccer channel, and I’m good to go.

Thanks for all the advice. It was actually quite helpful.

Congrats! Sounds like an ideal solution.

If my geography is not totally hosed, your new abode is not far from Rosehill Cemetery. Great place, full of Chicago tradition and amazing statuary. If you are into that sort of thing, you have many hours of great tombstone tourism and sightseeing ahead of you…TRM

Welcome! And good on you for not buying into that whole “if it’s not on the North side it must be a ghetto/hell/dangerous place to live” nonsense.

You could always go super-kitschy with the pink bath. :cool:

I was going to suggest the south suburbs, which are an easy and straightforward commute, but I’m late to the fair…

Yeah, the South Side is just like the North Side, except cheaper and on the south. shrug. I only felt nervous in an area or two that we drove through. The Hyde Park area is kind of surreal, though. Poverty one block, Bentley parked on the street next block. I’d really hunted in the Near South Side (I think it’s called that), because that’s uber-close to the Loop, where I’m sure I’ll end up working.

There was an absolutely GORGEOUS single-family home in our price range in…Bronzeville? Is that the right name? Nearish to Obama’s house… Anyways, 4 bedrooms, freshly rehabbed, wood floors, marble countertops, jacuzzi tub, etc… We made an offer for the asking price, and the agent countered with a higher amount, even though he told us there were no other offers and it had been listed at that price for about six months. So we passed.

And yes, we’re nearish to Rosehill Cemetary. The wife and I had been there before, and it was a very nice walk. We’re also a half-block from Legion Park and a walking & bike trail on the north branch of the river. Half mile from a Starbucks near North Park Univ. and near something called Chicago Soccer Restaurant, which I can’t find any info online about, but I assume they serve crappy food and always show soccer, which is still a pretty good deal. :slight_smile: Anyone heard of Chicago Soccer Restaurant on Kedzie, near Bryn Mawr?

I have worked near the Chicago Soccer Restaurant for about two years now and I pass it every so often. I never see anyone coming in or out and I still have no clue what it’s about.

The area you’ll be in is a nice one – congratulations! Lots of green space and fun stuff nearby. Make sure to check out Tre Kronor on Foster for yummy Swedish food, and Solga for Korean BBQ. Oh, and Merla’s Kitchen on Kimball for Filipino food.

For food stuff, you want to bookmark

It’s the best source for restaurants, cooking, shopping, and food related get togethers.

You’ll be in a nice centrally located area, easy to get to most transportation. Welcome to Chicago!

[curmudgeon]Budlong Woods, Bronzeville … WTF? I’ve lived in/near Chi nearly 50 years and have only the vaguest of ideas where you are talking about. A NW-sider, but I’ve never heard of BW. Hint, those catchy names may sound cute, but we’ve got these nifty things called main streets, Give the closest main intersection and I know right where you are at. Better yet, give us the numbers![/curmudgeon]

Welcome! Oh, and that weekend that you need help moving? Sorry, but I’m busy! :cool:

You’re fighting a losing battle here, my friend. At least Budlong Woods has a branch library in it, at Lincoln and Bryn Mawr, to give you a general idea where it is. Bowmanville, now … you ever hear of Bowmanville? It’s just a short distance away, near the cemetery. It’s the Andorra of Chicago, or maybe the Burkina Faso. People who live there know about it, but hardly anybody else. Bronzeville, on the other hand, is like Ravenswood. Everybody’s heard of it, but nobody knows exactly where it is. Depending on who you talk to, it seems to take in most of the south side. Not Obama’s house, though. That’s in Kenwood.

See, that’s where I got all confused, because he was talking about the S Side and all. By the time he mentioned Rosehill I had zoned out and missed the references to N. Park and Kedzie/Bryn Mawr.

Lincoln and Bryn Mawr? Hell, I can picture it clearly, know what is nearby, and figure any number of ways to get there from anyplace else…

Nope, never.

Hell, at least Ravenswood used to be an el line before they went to these #!@* colors …:mad:

Yeah, I was born and raised near Belmont and Central. 3200 N anfd 5600 W. Not Cragin, South Dunning, Portage Park Heights, or any other crap. And I went to high school at Western and Addison. You got a problem wid dat? :stuck_out_tongue:

It ain’t as tho I’m arguing for Crawford or anything …

Ah, the colors are OK. Would you really rather say Howard-Englewood-Jackson Park?

Well, depends on which direction you are heading, doesn’t it? :cool:

As a N-sider, calling it the Howard el always worked just fine. And if anyone ever said Eng/JP, at least I had a general idea where they were talking about. (Well, other than that one time I was going to the end of the line, and somehow confused Jackson w/ Jefferson… :rolleyes:) Now if you say something is right off the Ponk Line, I gots no idea where that might be. Someplace near Boys Town? :dubious: