Meet me in the middle

New buyers looking for homes near downtown, transportation

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By Lacey Sikora

Contributing Reporter

Last week, there were 169 active listings for single family homes in Oak Park, with prices ranging from $245,000 on the low end up to $2.5 million on the high end. In between the starter homes and the mansions, there's a category of homes in the middle. There are 73 active listings of homes in the $500,000 to $800,000 price range. 

This week, we take a look at a few of the homes that make up the middle in more ways than one: Not only are they in the middle of the road price-wise, but they are also in the middle of town. Each offers a slightly different snapshot of what it means to be in the middle of Oak Park.

Veteran local realtor Steve Scheuring of Baird and Warner says that for years, his typical Oak Park home buyer has remained the same: adults between the ages of 26 and 39 with at least one child under the age of 5. While the typical buyer hasn't changed, what has changed is the hot area of town.

Scheuring said that when he returned to the town he grew up in the late 1990s with his wife and a child on the way, the most desirable area of town was the north side. 

"The trend years ago was buyers who would say they wanted to live in north Oak Park in the Mann School district," he said.

He points out that many of those potential buyers were new to town and unfamiliar with the area but had heard through word of mouth that this was the best place to live. Today, that is no longer the area receiving the most interest.

"All of a sudden, downtown Oak Park developed into a place that people wanted to go – even on weeknights," Scheuring said. "With the rejuvenation of downtown and the shops and the restaurants, going out on a weeknight is a big deal. The village even has a Thursday night downtown program in place. People want to be able to walk to that."

He said that his family was a part of the changing trend, first buying in northwest Oak Park and envisioning walking to the farmers' market. As parents of a new infant, they quickly realized that their ideal walking distance was a bit shorter than they'd expected.

"We didn't walk anywhere," Scheuring said. "In 2000, we moved to within three blocks of downtown, and it's life changing. Your kids grow up walking to the library and to the high school."

He also said that what is considered close to downtown has changed in the past 20 years. 

"Nowadays, the area spans farther east and west, all the way from Ridgeland Common to Marion Street," Scheuring said.

What's for sale?

Meg Wygonik Kryger of Weichert Realty's Nickel Group is listing 215 S. Ridgeland Ave. for $625,900. She says that buyers in this price point are typically coming from the city looking for a home in the suburbs with an urban feel and notes that the house offers those city dwellers a huge amount of space. 

"The buyer of this house is going to be someone looking to grow into that space, or someone who needs the space now," Kryger said, while pointing out the vintage charm of hardwood flooring and original woodwork combined with the functionality of a first-floor family room, eat-in kitchen and full bathroom. "It's going to be someone's forever home."

Kryger has noticed buyers increasingly interested in the walkability of properties. 

"If you look at what today's buyers are looking for, this house checks all the boxes," she said. "You can walk to the CTA, Metra, award-winning schools, the pool and parks. It really has that accessibility and that walkability. At the end of the day, you can get off the train, and you don't have to get in your car to drive all over."

Scheuring has several current listings in the middle of the village that fall in the mid-price range and notes that the range from $500,000 to 800,000 encompasses a lot of different kinds of property. 

A typical buyer is coming from the city, but he also sees a fair number of current Oak Park residents moving up to this price range, because they can easily sell their current homes, which have a lower price-point.

One of his listings, 108 Wesley Ave. is priced at $564,000 and was completely renovated in 2000. The three-story home is short on yard but long on location. It's just steps to the Green Line and, Scheuring says, "You can make a 7 p.m. reservation at one of Oak Park's best restaurants and walk out of the house at 6:55 to get there." 

He points out that the deck on top of the garage of the home offers a great entertaining space and the limestone foundation was completely redone to create a unique rec room area in the basement.

Another listing, at 652 Erie St., is priced at $775,000 and was once a coach house for a large home on Euclid Avenue. It was completely rebuilt in 2007 and has an attached garage and no basement. 

"It really caters to the downsizer," Scheuring said. "Maybe someone moving out of a huge house in town who wants an alternative to a condo with a manageable yard."

A third close-to-town listing on Scheuring's roster is 206 S. Grove Ave. Priced at $648,000, the five-bedroom house offers room for a growing family and loads of historic charm. A music room opens to a grand entry foyer.

"The woodwork is amazing, and the floor to ceiling stained glass windows are just unreal," Scheuring said.

Margaret McSheehy of Historic Homes Realty is listing 259 Home Ave. for $699,000 and says that the location, close to transportation, restaurants and shopping, is a huge draw. She notes that for this price, a buyer is getting an incredible amount of space on top of unbeatable Oak Park character. 

"This house is huge," McSheehy said. "It has six rooms on the first level, four bedrooms on the second level and a big, finished attic with a bedroom, full bathroom, office and family room. It has all of this historic character – in-laid floors, three fireplaces, a beautiful staircase and a built-in hutch in the dining room."

In this middle-of-town location, another selling point is on the exterior. McSheehy calls the porch "bigger than any porch I've seen in Oak Park," making this house in the middle the perfect spot to sit back and enjoy all that Oak Park has to offer.

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