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Best Places for Homeownership in Illinois

Chicago River

by Cherise Fantus

The state of Illinois is on the rise. With the economy slowly but steadily growing, so is the job market. According to a study by CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists Intl., Illinois was ranked third best when it comes to growth in business establishments. Combine that with the Illinois Association of REALTORS’ latest report that shows the number of homes sold increased by 18.9% in 2013 over 2012, and it seems the state is primed for new homeowners.

NerdWallet looked at 121 places in Illinois to determine which are the best for homebuyers. Our analysis answers three main questions:

1. Are homes available?  We looked at the metro area’s homeownership rate to determine the availability of homes. A low homeownership rate is likely a signal of competitive inventory, more options for renters rather than buyers and expensive housing. Areas with a high homeownership rate led to a higher overall score.

2. Can you afford to live there? We looked at median household income and monthly homeowner costs to assess whether residents could live comfortably in the area. We used monthly homeowner costs to measure cost of living. Areas with high median incomes and a low cost of living scored higher. Thinking of buying a home yourself? Check out our mortgage tool to find the best rate.

3. Is the area growing? We measured population growth to ensure that the area is attracting new residents and showing signs of solid growth. This is likely a signal of a robust local economy, which is another attractive characteristic for homebuyers.

For more information, check out our cost of living calculator here. 

1. Huntley

With a homeownership rate of 93.5%, Huntley is among the fastest growing communities in the Chicago area and has the highest growth rate on our list. With a diverse economy made up of manufacturing, warehouse, service and health care organizations, Huntley’s top employers include Centegra Health System, Dean’s Dairy and Weber Stephens, a manufacturer of gas and charcoal grills. It is among the lowest-cost areas in the Midwest but has all the convenience of being within the Chicago area. Its taxes are also among the lowest in the Chicago area.

2. Plainfield

Will County’s oldest community, Plainfield has a unique mix of historic buildings and new construction housing quaint shops and restaurants in its central business district. Three of its local sites even appear on the National Register of Historic Places. Agriculture and industry are also part of Plainfield’s landscape, giving it a rural feel with suburban convenience. It’s also a village with a commitment to the environment: the “Green Village” Program incorporates various plans and ordinances to ensure that new development and day-to-day activities remain sensitive to the environment. It also sits at the top of our list for median monthly household income at $9,303.

3. Oswego

Oswego is the largest community in Kendall County and is only getting larger, with a population growth of 9.3% between 2010 and 2012. It has two industrial parks that are ready for development with a third park available for future development. Its largest employer is Caterpillar Inc., a manufacturer of heavy equipment, which employs 3,200 people. It’s also a great place to raise kids, and new residents often say that it was the great schools that drew them in. But they probably also enjoy the fact that they spend only 27.4% of their household incomes on homeowner costs.

4. South Elgin

Natural beauty is one of the selling points for South Elgin’s new residents. With Fox River running right through the village, residents get gorgeous views, fishing at several points along the river and miles of hiking and biking trails in the Kane County Forest Preserves. Combine the beauty with median selected monthly homeowner costs that only take up 28% of median monthly household income, and it’s no surprise that 90.4% of its residents own their homes. Residents also have nearby Elgin Community College at their disposal for an associate degree or as a stepping stone to a four-year university, such as Northwestern University in nearby Evanston.

5. Romeoville

Residents of Romeoville enjoy the lowest homeowner costs on our list, with median selected monthly homeowner costs at $1,875. They also enjoy the more than 300 acres of park land with seven community parks and 23 neighborhood parks, plus a 55,000 square-foot recreation center, all overseen by the award-winning Romeoville Recreation Department. Romeoville’s population grew by 4.5% between 2010 and 2012, and top employers in the area include Dann Dee Display Fixtures, Lewis University and Sharp Electronics.

6. Lockport

Lockport’s historic ambiance, quiet, tree-lined streets and affordable housing prices all contribute to its high homeownership rate of 87.6%. Located on the Illinois and Michigan Canal, which linked the Great Lakes to the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, it is one of the best-preserved Canal sites in existence, and its historic district is even listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its economy benefits from its location and transportation infrastructure, so Lockport attracts many commercial employers. The top employers in the area include CITGO, Wal-Mart and Panduit Corporation, an electronic components manufacturer.

7. Algonquin

This village takes pride in its use of sustainable practices. With its ECO-ALGONQUIN concept, the village boasts nature preserves, recycling, energy efficiency, protected natural areas and abundant park space, and it is recognized as a Tree City USA. Homeowner costs are only 26.6% of household income in Algonquin, the lowest in our top 10, and 88.3% of its residents own their homes. Its top employers are School District #300, which has 720 employees; Jewel-Osco, a grocery store chain that employs 410 people; and School District #158, which has 370 employees.

8. Bartlett

With more than 30% of its population under the age of 30, Bartlett is brimming with youth. And the park system provides residents with plenty to do with more than 380 acres of parks, including the Apple Orchard Golf Course, Bartlett Aquatic Center and the Bartlett Trail, a paved pathway that is more than 14 miles long. The village has a friendly, small-town atmosphere with well-maintained homes. The owners of those homes only spend 28.8% of their incomes on homeowner costs, and 88.2% of them own their homes.

9. Lake in the Hills

A beautiful, natural place to live and work, Lake in the Hills lives up to its name. But what its name doesn’t say is how it’s conveniently located along the Randall Retail Corridor, with accessibility to metro areas like Elgin and Chicago. These factors contribute to its 91% homeownership rate. The top job segments in the village are manufacturing, health care, retail trade and government. Major employers include Costco Wholesale, with 150 employees; Boulder Ridge Country Club, with 120 employees; and Lowes Home Center, with 105 employees.

10. Tinley Park

Just a 35-minute drive from downtown Chicago, Tinley Park is also surrounded by thousands of acres of forest preserves, making it both beautiful and convenient. It also boasts a diverse business environment including office, corporate headquarters, health care, manufacturing, distribution, education, government, entertainment, commercial retail and hospitality industries. It is recognized as a major destination for diners, and the median selected monthly homeowner costs are at a low $1,893.

Rank City Nearest Big City Home Ownership Rate Median Selected Monthly Homeowner Costs Median Monthly Household Income Homeowner costs as a percentage of household income 2010-2012 Population Growth Overall Score for Home Owners
1 Huntley Chicago 93.5% $2,025 $5,877 34.5% 12.4% 93.8
2 Plainfield Chicago 90.1% $2,613 $9,303 28.1% 9.3% 90.3
3 Oswego Chicago 87.4% $2,213 $8,068 27.4% 9.3% 89.4
4 South Elgin Chicago 90.4% $1,961 $7,005 28.0% 3.0% 77.7
5 Romeoville Chicago 86.3% $1,875 $5,878 31.9% 4.5% 75.9
6 Lockport Chicago 87.6% $1,928 $6,435 30.0% 3.5% 75.8
7 Algonquin Chicago 88.3% $2,224 $8,356 26.6% 1.8% 75.1
8 Bartlett Chicago 88.2% $2,309 $8,011 28.8% 2.2% 74.4
9 Lake in the Hills Chicago 91.0% $2,023 $7,119 28.4% 1.0% 73.7
10 Tinley Park Chicago 85.5% $1,893 $6,499 29.1% 2.5% 73.5
11 Orland Park Chicago 89.3% $2,120 $6,489 32.7% 2.7% 73.3
12 Streamwood Chicago 87.6% $1,812 $5,942 30.5% 2.4% 73.3
13 New Lenox Chicago 87.5% $2,237 $7,569 29.6% 1.8% 72.6
14 O’Fallon St. Louis, MO 68.8% $1,802 $6,356 28.4% 4.9% 70.3
15 Homer Glen Chicago 93.6% $2,416 $8,154 29.6% -1.2% 69.7
16 Bolingbrook Chicago 84.1% $1,991 $6,676 29.8% 1.0% 69.2
17 Northbrook Chicago 88.6% $2,896 $9,103 31.8% 0.5% 69.1
18 Machesney Park Rockford 79.0% $1,187 $4,614 25.7% 0.7% 68.8
19 Morton Grove Chicago 90.5% $2,218 $6,017 36.9% 1.4% 68.3
20 Vernon Hills Chicago 76.0% $2,354 $7,513 31.3% 3.1% 68.2

The overall score for each city was derived from each of these measures:
1. Homeownership rate: U.S. Census (2010-2012 ACS)
2. Selected monthly owner costs: U.S. Census (2010-2012 ACS)
3. Median monthly household income: U.S. Census (2010-2012 ACS)
4. Population change from 2010 to 2012: U.S. Census (2012 ACS)

Only cities with populations greater than 20,000 were included. Cities were excluded for higher than average crime rates.

Creative Commons: Image: akasped /Flickr: Source

  • Bridget Jones

    I have lived in Huntley for 14 years this May. It has grown greatly in size from approximately 3100 when I moved here to over 24,000 residents. My husband has a graphic design business in town. My son was in the first Kindergarten class at Leggee Elementary and now attends a state university. My daughter is in Middle School. I feel the education has been great overall, and that the schools have provided a progressive, well-rounded education. My daughter’s class was the first to use computer tablets instead of textbooks in a pilot program in our schools. Her knowledge of computers has been enhanced by this program. Overall, our neighborhoods are safe, great for families. The sports programs are competitive. Recently, the interchange at Route 47 and 90 has been opened so that traffic can get on and off in both directions, which is a huge benefit. We are close to grocery stores and shopping. Huntley is only 25 minutes from the Schaumburg area, 1/2 hour from Rockford, and about an hour from the city, depending on traffic. When the writer of this article mentions “low taxes” she must have meant the sales tax in McHenry County, which leads me to the only disadvantage to living here; the PROPERTY TAXES. McHenry County’s tax base, while growing, is still heavily vested in it’s homeowners. Prior to the real estate bubble, my home was worth $540,000, however, now it is only worth $304,000. My property taxes are $9,400 per year, and despite having lost over 40% of it’s value, my taxes have continued to skyrocket. Also despite adjusting down the assessed value of my home, Mc Henry County chooses to raise it’s property tax rates every year. Caveat Emptor.

    • Kris Krajecki

      Don’t forget to refinance and take advantage of the low rates.
      ~Your neighbor,
      Kris Krajecki
      (Great Mortgage)

    • Fripperton

      Yup. My house is 12 years old and still under your $304 but my property taxes are up at $6700.

  • Sherrie Ludwig

    I live in a rural area of McHenry Co. My house has lost value, I have a well and septic, pay yearly to get a library card, if I call the cops the county sheriff, not city police show up, and STILL I pay $5000 a year in prop taxes. The I contest my prop taxes yearly,which has given me some relief (I’d probably be over 6K yearly otherwise) but I do not feel I am getting much value for money. Perhaps we need to elect more Democrats to County Board, since the Republicans have shown no willingness to cut crony political expenditures.

    • rushattack1 .

      I’m neither republican or democrat. But you cant blame this on republicans. Look at cook county that is controlled by democrats. 5000 dollars for taxes is not that high especially since Mchenry has a good school system. The state is controlled by democrats and look how much the state is in debt. The problem is corruption and to many hands in the cookie jar.

      • Sherrie Ludwig

        Whenever one party has had complete hegemony for decades, there is the opportunity for cronyism. And,If you think $5k isn’t high, well, for Chicago, no. But we have: NO public transportation, lousy infrastructure (or,in the case of my area, NO infrastructure), no public services for the disadvantaged, no access to even medium speed internet (no, really,none, unless you put up a satellite dish) and a thousand other inconveniences. But, it is pretty out here.

  • rushattack1 .

    The medium montly income is that gross income or net just curious thanks if anyone knows. I’m just trying to figure out mine.

    • NerdWallet

      The median monthly household income reflects gross income before payments for personal income taxes, social security, union dues, medicare deductions, etc.

  • Cassie Dobson

    I grew up in Algonquin. I moved to Michigan for college ten years ago and never left. I would love to move back to McHenry County, and the only thing that’s stopping us is the property taxes. I live on a nice little lake and only pay $1000 a year in property taxes. I’d probably pay at least five times as much for the same place in McHenry Co. That’s just ridiculous!