Small house movement

Two-bedroom homes are a hot market in Oak Park

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By Lacey Sikora

Contributing Reporter

HGTV may have popularized the tiny house movement with shows like Tiny House, Big Living and Tiny House Hunters, but how does the small house movement play out locally? 

In Oak Park, the small mobile homes featured on television aren't a part of the landlocked real-estate market, but there are a handful of smaller homes on the market that embrace living in less square footage. 

Of the current more than 250 real estate listings for single-family homes, only eight of those listings are for smaller homes with only two bedrooms. It appears that HGTV may be on to something, because of those eight listings, only three of the homes were still active, while the other five had offers as of press time.

Is the popularity of small homes in Oak Park a part of the small-home trend or merely a result of the demographics of those looking to buy homes in the area? John Lawrence, broker/owner of Weichert Realtors-Nickel Group and president of the Oak Park Area Association of Realtors thinks that the popularity of these small homes is tied to the hearty appetite for starter homes at starter home prices in the community.

"The two-bedroom houses in Oak Park are moving really well," Lawrence said. "From what I'm seeing, these house are mostly being picked up by first time buyers for Oak Park who want the neighborhood feel of a house compared to attached living, but don't have the funds for the larger entry level homes. 

"These buyers are getting all of the benefits of single-family living, with the option of selling to move up or potentially expanding the home as their family grows down the road."

Lawrence doesn't see empty-nesters flocking to the smaller homes in great number. "The downsizers seem to be looking more for condos and attached housing that will allow them to be free of the hassle of yard work and exterior maintenance, and in many cases, they are seeking the ease of living on a single level with little or no stairs."

Two recently-listed two bedroom homes illustrate the diverse housing stock and possibilities that can be found when buying small.

 

1010 Fair Oaks Ave.

Robert Hann and Susan Abbott of Weichert recently listed a two-bedroom home on Fair Oaks Avenue in Oak Park. A historically landmarked home, the Isadore and Fannabell Fixman Home is a mid-century marvel that would be right at home on the set of Mad Men

Designed in 1953 for a couple involved in the theater business in Chicago, the home was built for entertaining with an open floor plan and easy access to the home's outdoor spaces.

Hann notes that the home was designed with Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian principals in mind. 

"It's private in the front and opens up in the back," Hann said.

The curved brick exterior shields a green backyard from the street, and the inside was planned to take full advantage of the enclosed backyard. Abbott points out that ceiling beams in the living room and dining room continue out to the patio, extending the home to the outdoors when the sliding glass doors are open.

Original woodwork and shelves in the den and a bubble-like skylight are just a few of the mid-century original details that remain, although the kitchen has been updated.

Hann remarks that two-bedroom homes are an affordable way to get into or stay in Oak Park. 

"It's amazing how hot two bedrooms are right now," Hann said. "I just sold one in southeast Oak Park for a couple looking for a condo alternative with a neighborhood feel."

He thinks the Fair Oaks house appeals to a wide range of buyers, from young couples looking for their first home to architecture fans to people looking to downsize. Abbott agrees and notes that this home's unique features drew attention from a lot of different potential buyers.

 "This is a different kind of two bedroom home," Abbott said. "It's architecturally significant and it's almost 1,800 square feet. It's comparable to a three-bedroom home, but there's no basement and no steps. It's truly a ranch home."

845 Forest Ave.

Kara Keller of Baird and Warner is listing a more traditional two-bedroom home on Forest Avenue in Oak Park. Built in 1909, the two-story, wood-frame home features an enclosed porch, fireplace, hardwood floors, a finished basement family room and an updated kitchen and bathroom.

She, too, says that a smaller home works for potential buyers at various stages in their lives. 

"It works for young buyers who want to get into a beautiful home in an established neighborhood," Keller said. "It's a great townhouse alternative for someone who might prefer the privacy of a single-family home, and it also works great for a single person."

At approximately 1,900 square feet, the home, Keller notes, isn't tiny. 

"The first floor is a regular-sized house," Keller said. "On the second floor, the master bedroom is so huge that if someone wanted to create a third bedroom upstairs, they could totally do that."

 

Changing Numbers

While two-bedroom homes may offer a less expensive opportunity to grab a foothold or remain in the local housing market, it appears the popularity of these lower-cost, lower-square-footage homes is pushing up their prices.

Data provided by Hann backs up the theory that two-bedroom homes are hot in Oak Park. 

From 2014 to 2017, the average listing price of a two-bedroom, single-family home has shot up from the low $280,000 range to the high $320,000 range, and the median sales price has jumped as well from the mid-$260,000 range to around $300,000.

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Terry Stanton  

Posted: June 30th, 2017 9:35 AM

I think "smaller" is the operative word here. 1800 square feet isn't tiny. In parts of Europe, or Manhattan, these would be considered sprawling.

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