FROM LEFT: Buzz Ruttenberg and Scott Curcio are seeing—and selling—luxury homes in far-flung neighborhoods.
“Up, up, and away” is the new blueprint for the Chicago housing market, with the US experiencing its 11th consecutive month of double-digit home price increases in October according to the National Association of Realtors. If you’re in the market, advice from two industry experts, Belgravia Group founder Buzz Ruttenberg and Coldwell Banker broker Scott Curcio, may help guide your search.
What do these new housing conditions mean for home buyers? BUZZ RUTTENBERG: In the past, people were location-driven and fixated on staying in one or two neighborhoods. Today, they’re product-driven and more focused on product type and price, such as a house or condo with a specific number of bedrooms and bathrooms and outside space. SCOTT CURCIO: Instead of location, location, location, the new mantra is space, safety, and schools. That’s what constitutes value today, and after what’s happened to the market every transaction is totally value driven now—even luxury. And with good inventory so low, hot neighborhoods are emerging farther out.
So how far out are we now?
SC: Neighborhoods like Ravenswood Manor and Bridgeport have really pricey properties now. There’s definitely a much wider range of choices because the school districts are beginning to reflect their neighborhoods with more high-end properties, especially single-family homes. The Lincoln and Ogden [public school] districts were always well regarded, but now Prescott, Skinner, Bell, and a host of others are good, too. BR: A few years ago, we did two developments west of Ashland and north of Fullerton, which used to be considered nowhere, and they sold out quickly because of the nature of the product—they were really luxuriously appointed, spacious townhouses and single-family homes. So when we had a unique opportunity to develop on Montana just east of Ashland last year, we built 14 spacious 3,200-square-foot homes with two-and-a-half-car garages that have attached walls. That way we could make them 25 feet wide rather than narrower with tiny side yards. They sold out immediately in a recovering market, and they were all over $1 million.
Can you name other examples of product over location?
BR: In the West Loop, we’ve been extremely successful with our CA Condos, which are three-bedroom, three-bathroom apartments averaging 2,100 square feet with indoor parking. They sold out so quickly that we have 90 more units like this under construction, priced around $350 per square foot—so they start at about $700,000, and they’re selling fast. These units have high-end fixture and finishes, and would be $400 to $500 per square foot in Lincoln Park.
Any advice on where to put your money now?
BR: There are so many more bona fide choices today if you stick to product. The best value opportunities are farther out. If you want a lot of house for a lower price, go to Hyde Park, and if you want spacious apartments consider the West Loop. SC: North Center and Roscoe Village are choice neighborhoods for buyers seeking quality newer construction and solid value in single-family homes if you want to stay around the $1 million mark. But buyers are more willing now to focus on the type of home they want as a first priority and explore new neighborhoods to achieve that. The eastern portions of Avondale and Irving Park (near Horner Park) offer great value and those high-priority qualities—space, schools, and safety. Buzz Ruttenberg, Belgravia Group, 833 N. Orleans St., Ste. 400, 312-751-2777, ext. 111. Scott Curcio, Coldwell Banker, 1840 N. Clark St., 773-517-6585