The current coronavirus pandemic has forced us to spend more time inside our homes than ever before – and having a comfortably sized home and a well-fitted kitchen that allows you to cook tasty meals certainly makes the lockdown easier to withstand. Apparently, Chicagoans are inspired when it comes to housing preferences. They have been interested in generously sized interiors and amenities such as outdoor space for a while now.
Chicago’s single family homes grew larger over the last decade
The size of single family homes in Chicago is influenced by the preferences of the buyers on one hand and by the size of the plots on the other. Most lots in the city of Chicago have a standard size of 25×125 feet, and you can find even smaller ones. The price of land lots suitable for house building varies depending on location, but they are definitely not cheap, usually in the range of tens of thousands of dollars. Under these circumstances, every square foot is precious and it’s no wonder that builders are leaning toward houses that occupy as much of the land plot as possible.
Builders are notorious for maximizing square footage for resale, says Jason Rowland, founder of the Rowland Group with Compass Real Estate in Chicago, and whatever number they can achieve through zoning rights, they will build. Rowland adds that the square footage of new builds in Chicago really started to get maxed out around the 2011-2013 timeframe, when the previous economic crisis ended. The preference toward building large homes stuck and continues today.
Buyers of single family homes start their search at the 3,000-3,500 square feet baseline
Builders maximizing plots is not the only reason why new-built homes in Chicago are growing larger and larger. In fact, home buyers seem to be equally interested in purchasing generously sized houses.
“Most single family home buyers use that 3,000/3,500 square footage as the baseline in their search. Depending on lot size and zoning, you can add extra square footage to the floorplan which can put you into the 4,000/5,000 range,” explained Jason Rowland, a real estate broker with more than $100 million in closed transactions.
One of the reasons why people want larger homes is the need for storage space. “Storage is a consistent ask from buyers as everyone has stuff. Storage on multiple floors is ideal if it’s possible, which will help detour the need for off-site storage,” Rowland added. However, if a home still doesn’t have enough storage space, a storage unit in Chicago costs you around $100 per month, relatively affordable for a market of its size. National rents are currently somewhere around $116, according to Yardi Matrix.
In terms of location, the most popular neighborhoods for single family homes are Andersonville/West Lakeview and North Center/Lincoln Square, according to Rowland. “These areas offer that tree-lined street, green space and neighborhood feel buyers are seeking. All these neighborhoods encompass new and exciting lifestyle options, parks and access to public transportation.”
Rowland emphasized that they are seeing a heightened interest in houses located near to CTA and public transportation areas, particularly from buyers of starter homes.
Home offices projected to be the next big thing in housing
The most sought-after amenities by Chicagoans on the market for a new home are large, well-fitted kitchens, and access to some type of outdoor space. Both features proved to be true lifesavers during the last few months, as families dealt with a lockdown and spent all of their time at home. Therefore, it’s predictable that both amenities will continue to be at the top of buyers’ lists of preferences.
“The kitchen is still king and a well-thought-out floorplan that accommodates a gourmet kitchen is clutch. Outdoor space is a very close second, whether that comes as a rooftop deck or small yard in the rear it’s a must have for today’s luxury buyers,” notices Rowland.
The coronavirus pandemic is very likely to spur a new trend when it comes to new builds – the home office will most likely be seen from now on as an essential amenity. Millions of people all over the country are working from home right now. It’s not far-fetched to imagine that, even when the public health emergency ends, working from home will continue being a lot more common than it was in the past.
“I think that COVID-19 is impacting the work-from-home space of many households and with that, we will see an emphasis on the home office. I believe we are at the starting gates for the home office to be a real ask for new buyers. All the amenities (low-voltage connectivity, good light, speakers, sound proofing, etc.) that are ideal for a home office will be additions going forward,” Rowland emphasized.