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If It Came Down to It: What to Make of Two Enticing Homes?

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Say you're tired of cramped apartments. All the talk of a 'down' market is steering you toward home ownership, but you're in no great rush. You've lived all over town and know your neighborhoods. Another year or two of renting is acceptable to you, so long as it resembles a home owner's lifestyle, but affordable condos and houses are on the radar too. Let's say max budget is $400,000 or $2,000/month (similar monthly payments based on a 30-year mortgage at 4% interest). On the off chance that your finalists come down to one rental and one for-sale property, with superficial similarities, how do you make a choice? (note: this is not a referendum on buying vs. renting. There's a lot of variables to consider, personal and market-driven when forming a preference).

Let's visit the for-sale home first: A one-bed, one-and-a-half-bath coach house just off trendy Armitage in Lincoln Park. You must be kidding? A whole house in this area for $309,900?! Not exactly. See, it's technically a condo, has no yard, parking is extra (fine for some, thorny for others), and, while absolutely dahling inside and out, doesn't have a lot of living space. Although assessments are low, they're still one more thing to contend with. "But the cuteness factor!" you say. "And the location!" If that's all that matters to you, then by all means go for it. Unfortunately, if you want to upsize a few years down the road, sales and pricing history don't indicate a serious potential for appreciation. Another thing that gives pause: the home has been on-and-off the market for two years now. You may as well buy a nearby condo in an amenity building.

On to the rental: On a leafy bungalow block in Avondale, this good condition two-bed, one-bath brick house might well appeal to the renter in search of a semblance of home ownership. Even though it's a rental, it has more child-rearing potential than the Lincoln Park cottage, thanks to the extra bedroom, fenced yard, and garage parking. It's also close to Horner Park and California Park at the river. Avondale might be added to the gentrification watch pretty soon, given its decent housing stock and proximity to Logan Square and Roscoe Village (of course, there are barriers in highways and waterways). Consider this: you can find plenty of bungalows for sale in this and other neighborhoods for less than $350K. So, if that's your preferred housing style, may as well do that instead. But if you're indecisive, buy yourself some time and peace of mind by renting this. It's more adaptive to life's changes than the Lincoln Park option. So what's the rent? $1,700.
·2011 N Kenmore Ave [Koenig & Strey]
·3813 N Francisco Ave [Koenig & Strey]