Is Kenilworth the 5-year home value champ?

Chicago Magazine’s April issue hits the stands this week, and one of its features is a series of charts on how home values have performed between 2006 and 2011 in Chicago’s neighborhoods and suburbs.

Only one suburb, according to data supplied to Chicago Magazine by the local MLS, saw an increase in home values between 2006 and 2011 – Kenilworth, where the median home sale price increased 42.8% over that time span. Dennis Rodkin’s Deal Estate column designates Kenilworth “the champ of five-year home values.”

Real estate agents quoted by Chicago Magazine were quick to sing Kenilworth’s virtues in explaining its seemingly stellar performance. I lived in Kenilworth for 5 years and would concur with almost every superlative you can hurl at it.

There is, however, good reason to be extremely skeptical of the notion that “home values” in Kenilworth have increased by 42.8%, or even that they’ve increased at all over the past 5 years.

I don’t know how many sales there were in Kenilworth in 2006, but there were only about 3 dozen last year. Kenilworth is a very small town, with a sharp divide in home prices between the area east of the Metra tracks and the smaller part of Kenilworth west of the tracks. A fairly small change in the mix of homes sold in any given year can easily account for a wide swing in median home sale prices, and that’s the most likely reason for the 5-year increase.

Late in 2010 I stopped for a look at 5 homes priced under $600K in the above video. I was surprised by how low some of the prices were, and you might be too.

The two lowest-priced sales last year were 623 Melrose Ave, at $350,000, and 533 Exmoor Rd, at $425,000. The Melrose home had previously sold for $385,000 in 2001 and the Exmoor home for $400,000 in 1999.

It would take more study to determine whether Kenilworth is really Chicagoland’s home value champ – or just another chump.

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