JUL 21, 2017
Real estate agents, officials see growth in Arlington Heights housing market
By Elizabeth Owens-Schiele
Throughout many Arlington Heights neighborhoods, dozens of "for sale" signs dot the landscape, along with evidence of tear downs, new home construction and room additions.
The signs all point to a thriving a housing market in the village, buoyed by younger buyers who are returning to the area after spending time living in Chicago, according to local real estate agents and village officials.
Charles Witherington-Perkins, director of planning and community development for Arlington Heights, said the village has been able to attract younger families because of the strength of its schools, police, parks, library and other services.
"Arlington Heights is a very desirable community with an extremely vibrant downtown, many restaurants and dining options, easy access to the city with the Metra commuter rail and it's a very safe community," he said.
According to the Multiple Listings Service, an estimated 448 single-family homes and 168 condominiums and townhomes are on the market in Arlington Heights.
Although village officials and local real estate agents don't formally track the numbers or demographics of new residents moving into the community, they said they have seen growth in the local real estate market following the recession of the late 2000s.
"With the health of the market coming back, a lot of people are jumping in to sell their homes who otherwise would wait on the sidelines," said Sue Duchek, owner of Picket Fence Realty in Arlington Heights and Mount Prospect. "We're seeing a lot more availability and buyers. If something is priced properly, in a location buyers are looking for, it goes quickly."
But some challenges remain.
As more people from the baby boomer generation look to downsize as they become empty-nesters, they're struggling to find options in the village, which has seen some changes to its housing stock in recent years, said Claudia Starck, of Baird & Warner, who has been a real estate agent for more than 30 years in Arlington Heights.
"My challenge is the baby boomer who wants to downsize and stay local with one-level housing," she said. "It's next to impossible to find. But the community is very much thriving, not an excess of inventory in any range. Good homes in good condition that are priced well are going to sell regardless of the range."
According to local real estate agents, the average price of a home in Arlington Heights is $350,000 while many mid-range homes are priced between $500,000 and $700,000.
Most of the real estate activity has been between the $300,000 and $400,000 range, often attracting multiple offers and bidding wars primarily between younger buyers, Starck said.
"A lot of the young buyers that grew up in the area came to realize what they had here and now they're starting to migrate back here after doing their 'city thing,'" she said.
Perkins said many of the established neighborhoods in Arlington Heights, such as Hasbrook or Virginia Terrace, which were originally built as small, single-story ranches "have totally transitioned into large, two-story homes of 2,800, 3,200, 3,400 square feet."
He said that when many of the neighborhoods began that transition in 2005 by doing tear downs, the village created a task force and ultimately changed some of its zoning rules for building setbacks and square footage.
The floor area ratio and square footage of a home is now 10 to 12 percent lower than it was before 2005, Perkins said. Lately, many developers also have been merging two lots to build larger homes since many of the neighborhoods in the village are developed.
"What we are seeing most of are tear downs or major additions," Perkins said. "That's really what's driving larger homes in the $600,000 to $950,000 price range."
Although rentals in Arlington Heights are in high demand, condos also are seeing strong demand, with some one-bedroom units starting at $100,000 but others, such as the penthouses in downtown Arlington Heights, are selling for more than $1 million, Starck said.
Duchek said she also has seen people downsize their purchases in Arlington Heights.
"People aren't buying big to be big," Duchek said. "The market is coming back. People are coming back, but they're 'right sizing' their homes and determining what do they really need. It means more balance."
The village also has seen new home construction pick up in recent years.
According to Jeff Benach, principal of Lexington Homes, six of the company's 15 two-story, craftsman-style homes being built at Kennicott and Sigwalt avenues have sold in the $700,000 range.
"The proximity to downtown Arlington Heights is what we liked about it," Benach said. "It's nice to be in an enclave of all new homes and being close to downtown. Arlington Heights itself is a great place and the prices have kept steady with the values."
Local real estate agents also point to Arlington Heights School District 25 as proof that younger buyers are driving real estate demand in Arlington Heights.
Total enrollment growth from kindergarten through eighth grade increased by 566 students, or more than 10 percent, from the 2004-05 school year to the 2016-17 school year, said district spokesman Adam Harris. The largest amount of student growth has happened at Ivy Hill Elementary School on the north end of the village.
As a result, district officials recently expanded Ivy Hill and Olive-Mary Stitt Elementary School, and they are preparing to expand Thomas Middle School and Windsor Elementary School.
The growth in the community isn't lost on local real estate agents, Starck said.
"The North Shore used to say they didn't know where Arlington Heights was," she said. "Now, we are on the map and we have made our name for ourselves as one of the desirable areas."
"Everyone at Lexington made this transition as smooth as possible."
- Karena Moulton