Real estate boom pushes up selling prices in Chicago’s Chatham neighborhood


At the end of 2019, realtor Monique Washington told homeowners on South Champlain Avenue in Chatham that they could get around $ 215,000 for their home.

Eighteen months later, a real estate boom was underway when the owners put their brick Tudor up for sale. It was on the market for seven days before being contracted with a buyer who paid $ 320,000 in June, about 50% more than Washington had estimated based on comparable properties less than two years plus early.

If they had put the house back on the market in 2019, “they would have missed this great time that we are having in the market,” Washington said. As it stands, “they were very excited that this sale price would allow them to pay cash for their next home,” she said.

Fueled by low interest rates and pandemic-induced swaps for larger homes that make it possible to work and study from home, the current housing boom has taken many segments of the Chicago housing market to new ones. levels. Homes have sold for record prices in the Beverly neighborhood and several western suburbs. The once sleepy Lake Forest Mansion Market has come back to life.

Here’s a measure of the elevator in Chatham: In the year since the housing market has risen sharply, a dozen homes in the neighborhood have sold for $ 300,000 or more, a threshold that had not been met. crossed for at least five years, according to Midwest. Real estate data records.

It was about time, according to Ald. Roderick Saywer, 6th, whose neighborhood includes Chatham. “It feels like Chatham is finally catching up with other markets,” says Sawyer, who owns a home in Park Manor, just outside Chatham.

Chatham is located primarily between 79th and 95th Streets and east of the Dan Ryan Freeway.

A longtime center of middle-class black property on the South Side, Chatham “has some beautiful homes that you would see selling for twice as much, if not more, in neighborhoods on the North Side,” says Sawyer. “It’s a gap that has been constant over the years, and we don’t need it to continue.”

The median price of a single-family home sold in Chatham in the first five months of 2021 was $ 212,000, up 52% ​​from the same period in 2020, as sales plummeted in the first few months of the pandemic, not the prices. That’s much larger than the reported increase for any North Side neighborhood, most of which is up by less than 20%. In Albany Park, prices rose 26.9 percent; in West Ridge, 16.4 percent; and Belmont Cragin, 8.8 percent. In West Town, the median selling price is down 2.6%.

Sawyer says many of Chatham’s buyers are young families moving out of condos and apartments in more expensive neighborhoods. At Chatham prices, he says, “they can get a yard big enough to put a swing in.”

The timing of the housing boom was fortuitous, as it followed a wave of foreclosure rehabilitations that refreshed thousands of homes in the Southern Suburbs and South Side neighborhoods, including Chatham. Several of Chatham’s $ 300,000 sales were drug rehabs. Among them is a five-bedroom red brick bungalow across from the Tudor that Monique Washington sold. The rehabbers who picked it up for $ 125,000 in July 2019 sold it in November 2020, refreshed with new flooring, kitchen, bathrooms and carpeting, for $ 310,000.

Whether they have family ties to Chatham or just come for the deep-rooted black community, “once you’re here in Chatham, we’ve got you,” Sawyer says.

Tudor buyers on Champlain had no connection with Chatham, says their agent, Michael Mensah of eXp Realty, but were looking for more space than they had on the South Shore. When they went to see the Tudors, “the neighbors had all come out to talk to them about Chatham, the neighborhood,” Mensah said. “They liked it” and made an offer.

Mensah and Washington both refused to identify the buyers.

Not everyone is happy with the rapid rise in house prices in Chatham. Eli Washington is chairman of the Chesterfield Community Council, a civic group in the Chesterfield branch of Chatham. He says he’s aware of the years after the real estate crisis of the mid-2000s, when foreclosures were rife in Chatham. In 2009, 4.2 percent of the property parcels in Chatham were at some stage of foreclosure, vs. 3 percent citywide, according to the Institute for Housing Studies at De Paul University. It wasn’t the highest figure in the city – in East Garfield Park, Englewood and Washington Park, at least 7% of plots were foreclosed that year – but for a neighborhood that had long been an anchor of black property, it was a worrying time.

“What worries me with these high prices is whether homeowners will be able to sustain these payments,” said Washington, who has lived in the community for 58 years. “It’s easy to buy now, but what if it becomes difficult to stay? “

In downturns, unemployment tends to rise for black and Latino workers. It’s one of the reasons Chatham suffered so many foreclosures in the last recession, and Washington says, “I wouldn’t want that to happen again. “

A big difference between the last real estate boom and this one is that while predatory loans and low cost loans were part of the fire in the mid-2000s, the fuel now is the low interest rates that make inexpensive home ownership. If the economy continues to improve as it has been, homeowners who bought when it was cheap to do so will not be in as precarious a position as 2006 buyers.

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