A DePaul / Sheffield single-family home update

The area bounded by Armitage Ave (2000 N), Fullerton Ave (2400 N), Halsted St (800 W) and Racine Ave (1200 W) is the heart of the Sheffield Historic District (pdf), and one of the most attractive residential areas in the city. I say that with more than a little prejudice, since I lived there for 8 years, beginning in 1978, and owned and rehabbed dozens of units in the area.

Most people refer to the neighborhood as DePaul, after the university that dominates its northern border. It was on the cusp of affluence and invasion by young professionals when I first moved there, but still had a strong working-class Italian presence, a healthy mix of artists, gays and academics, a Mexican community, and a soon-to-vanish gaggle of drug-peddling Puerto Rican gangbangers. The retail scene, if you could call it that, consisted largely of antique shops along Armitage Ave. A five-and-dime store harked back to the neighborhood’s middle-class heritage, and the few restaurants and bars served a largely local clientele.

The neighborhood’s attractions included an architecturally coherent and distinctive stock of older, low-density housing, a short walk to the Fullerton or Armitage L stations, pedestrian-friendly commercial streets, reasonable proximity to the expressway, a strong neighborhood organization, and the near-certainty of appreciation driven by explosive demand spilling over from the eastern sections of Lincoln Park.

To give you some idea of prices, I bought a 25-foot wide 3-flat brick rowhouse at 2047 N Seminary for $70,000 (more than double what my neighbors had paid for identical rowhouses) in 1978, gut-rehabbed it and sold it two years later for $275,000 – at the time, the highest price on the street. I acquired the 50-unit building that spans the north side of Armitage between Seminary and Kenmore for $1,050,000, gutted it and eventually sold 36 2- and 3-bedroom simplex and duplex units from the high $90s to the mid-$100s as recently as 1986. Beautiful 2- and 3-flats in the neighborhood were acquired in the 70s at prices in the $10s and $20s, and held as investment property or partially occupied by live-in owners.

For decades, the combination of a thin supply of single-family homes in the neighborhood and strong demand for them resulted in huge price spikes in periods of peak demand followed by sharp price declines in periods of diminished demand. A price increase of 30-40% might be followed by a decrease of the same amount.

I decided to take a superficial look at the current supply of single-family homes in this prime DePaul area to see whether the recent boom / bust cycle has resulted in the sharp downturn in prices that occurred in prior periods of decline. My impressionistic take: the price drops have generally been more moderate in this cycle, on the order of 10 to 15%.

There are currently 24 single-family homes for sale in the area, at prices ranging from $625,000 to $4,200,000. Sixteen single-families have sold within the past 12 months, at prices ranging from $880,000 to $4,200,000.

The home in the above video, 2049 N Kenmore Ave, sold late last year for $1,755,000.

You can see a two-part walk down my old block in the videos below:

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