Sue Fox, @Properties. Direct 773.816.1788
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Little by little, Chicago developers are once again breaking ground on new houses on lots sprinkled across the North side, bringing dozens of high-end homes to neighborhoods like North Center (which includes Roscoe Village and Ravenswood), Lincoln Park, and Bucktown. In North Center, for example, 18 new homes were sold this year, another 16 are still on the market, while 4 more are under contract.
It looks like Chicago is now witnessing the Return of the Spec Builder — local developers who plan, design and build single-family houses without having a buyer lined up ahead of time. “While spec building never entirely dried up, it slowed significantly after the bust, leaving only a few developers with deep pockets still standing” said a recent story in Crain’s Chicago Business. “Now, smaller builders that waited for signs of life — and the availability of financing — are once again breaking ground on million-dollar-plus homes, confident that buyers will bite.”
In North Center, the new homes for sale range from a 3-bedroom frame house at 2440 W Fletcher St. for $649,900 (with delivery planned for 2012) to a 7-bedroom mini-mansion on an oversized lot at 1936 W Grace St. for $1,749,900 (that the builder promises to customize.) But the majority of the homes are 5-bedroom houses, many of them in the Coonley elementary school district, for $1 million to $1.3 million.
A typical offering is 4108 N Claremont Street, which has a large family room on the main floor, a second-floor laundry room, and a finished basement with a rec room and a wet bar. It has been on the market for only a week, priced at $1,199,000. Once finished, it will be just over 4,000-square feet, with amenities like radiant heat, steam showers and an outdoor fireplace.
While Chicago is just starting to see a glimmer of new construction, housing starts — a measure of how many homes builders are working on — are up sharply throughout the country. Today the Commerce Department reported that housing starts jumped 9.3% in November, the highest in the past 19 months. It seems that low interest rates for mortgages, as well as lower home prices, are propelling buyers back into the market for new houses.
In Chicago, developer Mike Barrett of Barrett Homes is building three spec homes, in Roscoe Village, west Lakeview and Bucktown. “I wouldn’t say the market is flush with prospective buyers,” he told Crain’s, “but the people who are looking seem to be well-qualified and have a pretty good idea of what they want in a home.”
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