Location the driving force behind home price gains

Don DeBatDespite the gloomy national survey reports on falling property values that show lower home prices in 77 markets, prices of residences rose in 73 markets countrywide. And Chicago was one of the good real-estate news stories of 2007.

Yes, fewer homes and condos were sold here last year than in 2007, but prices – especially in high demand North Side neighborhoods – rose, in some cases substantially, according to David Hanna, president-elect of the Chicago Association of Realtors.

Overall, the median price of condominiums in the city rose a solid 5.8 percent in 2007, although the number of units sold fell 10.4 percent. Meanwhile, the median price of single-family homes eked out a thin one-half of 1 percentage point rise, while the number of units sold fell 24 percent.

So what neighborhoods were the big winners in 2007? Surprisingly, the Loop, a relatively expensive neighborhood, led the condo-price appreciation downtown with an impressive 42 percent median gain to $397,250 for the 1,046 units sold.

In 2008, two successful Loop projects – 235 Van Buren, a new-construction project by CMK Development, and 200 North Dearborn, a conversion by American Invsco – should continue to lead the downtown boom, experts say. The two projects, one in the Financial District, the other near the Theatre District, accounted for nearly 550 sales last year.

Other hot city neighborhoods that posted rising condo prices last year include: quiet Montclare on the Far Northwest Side with a gain of 29.8 percent to a median price of $235,000 on 41 units sold; emerging Kenwood on the Mid-South Side with an increase of 24.40 percent to $279,900 on 198 units sold, and leafy Forest Glen with a 23.7 percent gain to $365,000 on 13 units sold.

High-priced North Side neighborhoods posted solid gains in 2007, according to CAR, and the market on the emerging Near West Side also was strong. Highlights include:

  • Gold Coast and Near North Side. Condominium values appreciated a solid 9.53 percent, posting a median price of $392,000 for 3,131 units sold, while median single-family home values rose 2.57 percent to $1.995 million on 36 sales.
  • Lincoln Park. Median condo prices rose 7.6 percent to $413,400 on 1,447 units sold, while home prices rose 4.1 percent to $1.5 million on 183 sales.
  • Lakeview. Condo values increased 5.5 percent to a median price of $333,400 on 2,331 units sold, while home prices rose 11.11 percent to $1.15 million on 129 sales.
  • Near West Side. Median condo prices rose 7.1 percent to $326,582 on 1,575 units sold, while home prices rose a hefty 32.4 percent to $450,000 on 47 sales.
  • North Center. Condo values inched ahead 1.7 percent to a median price of $380,000 on 495 units sold, while home prices rose 4.86 percent to $849,500 on 192 sales. Belle Plaine Commons, an affordable 92-unit condo development targeted to buyers age 55 and older, posted strong sales in 2007, according to Rena Appel of North Center Associates, the developer.
  • Lincoln Square. Median condo prices rose 9 percent to $280,450 on 574 units sold, while home prices declined 3.4 percent to $625,000 on 103 sales. “The restaurant, retail and nightlife attractions of this neighborhood have sparked demand for condos along Lincoln Avenue,” said developer Richard Lettvin, who is marketing the Lincoln Crossing development.
  • Albany Park. Condo values rose 5.7 percent to a median price of $222,500 on 247 units sold, while home prices skyrocketed 25.9 percent to $480,000 on 91 sales. “A strong condo-conversion market exists in the neighborhood for renovated units in walk-up buildings,” said Charles Huzenis of Jameson Realty Group.
  • Logan Square. Median condo prices slipped 0.8 of 1 percentage point to $305,000 on 653 units sold, however home prices posted a solid 12.3 percent gain to $677,500 on 162 sales.

Real estate columnist and media consultant Don DeBat has written about Chicago-area housing and mortgage markets since 1968. He is chief executive officer of DeBat Media.

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