Home prices have gotten slammed in the Chicago area over the past few years, but not so much when it comes to Oak Park and River Forest.
From 2010 to 2011, Oak Park saw its median home price drop by just .27 percent, according to an analysis published in the April issue of Chicago Magazine. And in River Forest, home prices saw a slight appreciation during the same period, with the median up by 3.57 percent.
That's in contrast to other nearby suburbs that saw much larger dips in home prices over the past year, including Bellwood (down 19.71 percent), Cicero (20.34 percent) and North Riverside (22.72 percent).
Oak Park's quality schools and housing stock help keep the village above the rest, according to Alan Rossell, a real-estate broker and licensed appraiser with Jack Carpenter Realtors. Foreclosures are dragging down values in some of those harder-hit communities, while also leaving homes in a shabby condition after they're taken over by a bank.
"Keep in mind that some of these numbers are kind of screwed up because of the amount of foreclosures," Rossell said. "Oak Park probably isn't having them to the extent that you're seeing in some of these other communities. Those foreclosures are driving down the prices, and that's what's totally wrong with all these statistics."
Last year, the median home price in Oak Park landed at about $369,000, according to Chicago Magazine, a 21.49 percent dip over the past five years. Oak Park notched 299 sales last year, and the average home sat on the market for 141 days.
Meanwhile in River Forest, the median home price was about $580,000 during the same time span, a 25.69 percent drop over the past five years. Seventy-eight homes sold in the much smaller village, and 210 days was the average market time.
Delving deeper into the numbers, smaller condos are fairing much worse than the rest of the market, according to Marion Digre, co-owner of ReMax in the Village in Oak Park. From 2010 to 2011, the average one-bedroom condo dipped by 32 percent in price, down to $73,430. In a much smaller sample of sales, one-bed condos dipped in River Forest, too, down 35 percent to $71,500.
Digre said that the market for those types of condos has dried up, as buyers are renting longer, staying at home with relatives, or skipping the starter condo to go straight to a home.
"That doesn't look like such a good deal anymore," she said. "The parents aren't going to put up the money for the one-bedroom condos for a kid to live in for three or four years. Our natural buyer for that category of properties disappeared, scared out of the market coming out of college and can't get a job."
The average single-family home in Oak Park went down by only 8 percent, year to year, to $381,790. And the average two-bedroom, plus, condo decreased by 14 percent in price, down to $195,450.
She cautioned not to make a lot out of the River Forest numbers, as there's a much smaller sample of sales in the community. Plus, the stats can be skewed if one extremely expensive home is sold.
While prices are still down, Digre is heartened that the number of single-family home sales picked up, year to year, from 293 to 299 in 2011. She thinks as the large inventory of homes on the market gets bought up, prices will gradually improve.
"Single-family home values will probably be the first thing that starts to rise again once the market stabilizes, and that's going to lead the charge in getting people to have faith in real estate as an investment again," she said.