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Where to live if you’d rather buy than rent

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These five neighborhoods should be on your radar

Carmen Troesser

Homeownership comes with many challenges, such as saving for a down payment, paying property taxes, and shoveling your sidewalk (or paying for someone else to do it). But if you’re thinking about buying, Curbed has compiled a list of five neighborhoods with great amenities, climbing rents, and appreciating values—factors that could tip the scales in favor of ownership.

In many cases, however, it remains cheaper to rent than buy in Chicago. An individual earning the city’s average income will need to devote a more sizable chunk of their paycheck to owning a three-bedroom home compared to renting a similar property. And don’t forget to consider Illinois taxes, which are some of the least friendly in the nation for homeowners.

But for buyers looking to make an investment in an area and start earning equity on their home, these neighborhoods are worth a look.


Rogers Park

Located on the city’s Far North Side, Rogers Park has a handsome supply of pre-war single-family homes and multi-unit walk-ups within walking distance of public beaches and Loyola University. Though a bit farther from the Loop than other areas in the city, the neighborhood is convenient to the L and not far from downtown Evanston.

According to Zillow data, the estimated median home value in Rogers Park is $220,000 which is below the Chicago citywide average of $242,000. Despite still being relatively low, prices here are on the rise and could soon favor sellers over buyers.

McKinley Park

This Near Southwest Side community, which is named for its 69-acre public park, is near the middle of Chicago’s affordability spectrum with average sale prices around $240,000, and was named Redfin’s hottest affordable neighborhood in the country in 2019.

The report pointed to its proximity to the trendy—and increasingly more expensive—Pilsen neighborhood and mass transit. With the Loop just 12 minutes away on the CTA’s Orange Line, McKinley Park offers a much quicker (and less crowded) downtown commute than North Side neighborhoods like Lakeview or Logan Square.

Homebuyers looking for a really good deal in McKinley Park may have missed out on the 40 percent rise in median home values experienced over the past five years, based on Zillow estimates. That being said, average sale prices are currently down more than 6 percent since last year—perhaps indicating that now is a decent time to buy-in.

Printers Row

There are still some relative deals to be had in Chicago’s red-hot downtown, specifically in the historic Printer’s Row neighborhood, which is located on the southern edge of the Loop. With a median sale price of around $245,000, this area is by no means the cheapest on our list, but it is well below the $310,000 median price of the greater South Loop neighborhood.

What Printer’s Row lacks in single-family homes with fenced-in backyards, it makes up in 19th-century industrial lofts turned rustic condos that often have large windows, exposed brick walls, and timber beams. Just be sure to keep an eye out for special assessments that often come with maintaining older buildings.

You can also easily walk or bike to Chicago’s central business district, Grant Park, the lakefront, and Museum Campus from Printer’s Row. As the nearby Old Post Office fills up with high-tech office jobs and the massive megadevelopment known as The 78 becomes a reality, the demand for housing in the area looks poised to keep rising.

Avondale

As gentrification spreads northwest from neighborhoods like Wicker Park, Bucktown, and Logan Square, it is only natural that Avondale would be next in line. The Northwest Side community has long been touted as Chicago’s “next hot neighborhood” and got another boost when it was recognized as one the nation’s 10 hottest need-to-visit ‘hoods by travel publication Lonely Planet.

With median home values at $389,000, Avondale is the most expensive neighborhood on our list, but still has room to keep rising, argued a recent report from HomeVestors which named the neighborhood as Chicago’s “best neighborhood for speculation.” Median listing prices are down 5.6 percent year over year, according to Zillow. Could this be a good time to take the plunge and buy?

South Shore

Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood is showing signs of a middle-class resurgence after enduring a prolonged period of population loss and disinvestment. The average sale price here soared an impressive 69.5 percent over a twelve-month period, yet is still very affordable at $161,000, based on data from Redfin.

The South Side neighborhood is right on the lake and benefits from decent public transportation and a diverse mix of housing types: classic bungalows and three-flats, vintage apartment towers, and the architecturally significant 19th-century homes within the Jackson Park Highlands District.

South Shore recently opened its first new grocery store in six years and is poised to welcome other investments in the future such as the nearby Obama Presidential Library, a tournament-grade golf course, and the rumored restoration of the Avalon Regal Theater.