From the Ground Up: New Construction is Coming Back

by Nichole Odijk DeMario

All in the (Spacious) Single Family

Chicagoland’s growing demand for new construction can be attributed to a variety of factors. One is the desire families have to keep their roots planted in the city. Heather Gustafson, CMK Realty’s broker and vice president, has observed a more family-oriented mindset in the homebuyers she’s seen. In her 11 years in the industry, she has seen more and more families decide to stay in the city rather than expand their family and immediately make the move to a nearby suburb.

“The city has become much more accessible,” she explains. “Parents who would leave before aren’t now. Especially dual-employed parents say, ‘I don’t want to spend any more time commuting away from my kids.’ They want to be close to it all – work, play, volunteering. They want homes that make that possible.”

CMK Realty and Ranquist Development’s new development, called Basecamp River North, is a direct response to families who want city living, but aren’t willing to give up space. This project includes three to four bedrooms, attached garages, roof top decks and more outdoor space. Almost 40 percent of the 47 row homes have been sold in about six weeks. Similar in concept are the two firms’ other development, Back Yard in Andersonville row homes, which showcase features like fenced in front yards.

Liz Brooks, the vice president of sales and marketing for Belgravia Group, has also observed renewed interest in city new construction, although her clientele is a bit different – suburban empty-nesters turned city-dwellers.

“These buyers are happy to leave behind the maintenance of their single-family home, but are not willing to compromise on space,” Brooks says. “Both of these trends are clearly evidenced by Belgravia Group’s success in the West Loop – where we have sold 125 three-bedroom condos in less than three years – and our quick sellout of 14 row homes in Lincoln Park.”

The desire for space, says Jeff Benach, co-principal at Lexington Homes, is not just a desire for city homebuyers. All consumers, he explains, are not only interested in more space, but also more fluid floor plans that use space more efficiently. Many buyers are opting for larger family rooms over separate living and family rooms.

Rather than a dining room and breakfast nook, buyers are choosing all-purpose dining areas. These open floor plan options can be found in all of the company’s current projects, including its single-family homes and row homes in Bridgeport, townhomes in Des Plaines, Morton Grove and Palatine and its custom-built homes in Kildeer.

For Todd Condon, the Chicago division vice president of sales for Ryland Homes, he’s seen many buyers deviating from the usual floor plans. Many are inquiring into single-family ranch and split level floor plans instead. Others are selecting their traditional two-story home option, which has been revamped to include spacious spaces to “live well” and are also 40 percent more energy efficient.

“Larger, well-appointed kitchens, spacious family rooms, functional dining rooms, oversized bedrooms with enhanced closet space and well-designed storage solutions also continue to remain in high demand,” Condon says.

These options are featured in their two new communities, the Sonatas in Woodstock and Windett Ridge in Yorkville. Ryland Homes anticipates at least six additional communities this year.

For many buyers, space is not merely a want, but an integral component of their residential investment. Today’s buyers are thinking long term for their next purchase. Curt Bailey, president of Related Midwest, says that means flexible spaces and larger floor plans that will work if they stay in the home longer than originally planned. And with the continued rise in people working from home, dedicated office spaces and dens will be front-and-center.

In addition, buyers today aren’t just “tire-kickers,” according to Benach. He has seen  regular traffic and consistent serious buyers in the market.

“Traffic has been steady the last few weeks,” he says. “They are real buyers. Before, you’d see the people out dreaming or thinking of a new construction home. The buyers out now know they want to buy and aren’t out looking if they can’t.”

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