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The Suburban Single-Family Home Surge

  • April 1, 2021

The Suburban Single-Family Home Surge

After years of homebuyers showing a preference for urban living, including multi-unit housing, the COVID-19 pandemic has put an intensely bright light on single-family homes in the suburbs.

In mass media and industry forums, mortgage brokers and real estate agents across the Chicago area and many other U.S. big cities have shared tale upon tale of city folk turning their eyes upon suburban homes. Some observers, in fact, have called it the latest urban exodus, the first of which occurred in the 1950s alongside the mainstream adoption of cars.

The appeal of dense, urban living has declined for many considering the novel coronavirus pandemic. With concerns over public health and safety, the city’s inherent allure – shorter commutes for downtown workers, public transportation, cultural events, and the city’s overall bustle among them – has withered.

More and more, urban dwellers are targeting the suburbs for a single-family home purchase, including never-before-lived-in new construction homes. Here are the top five reasons why.

#1: More Space
With homes doubling as workplaces, schools, recreation centers, and gyms throughout the pandemic, many urban residents have realized their homes are too small inside and out to accommodate such diverse needs. People, and particularly those living in space-constrained multi-unit housing, want more elbow room, more freedom of movement, and improved access to outdoor living. Quite naturally, that has spurred an increase in online searches of single-family suburban homes.

#2: Shifting Work Routines
Remote work soared amid the pandemic – and it is likely to exist well into the future for many Americans. While the swelling work-from-home reality has driven urban dwellers’ heightened interest in larger homes, including those with a dedicated workspace, the ability to telecommute has also empowered many to redefine their criteria when searching for a new home. With daily commutes reduced, if not eliminated, workers do not consider a close-to-city residence as critical.

#3: Affordability
Even the most ardent urban dwellers admit it is a challenge to get larger, economical homes close to a city’s downtown. That has fueled interest in the suburbs where homebuyers can often secure more bang for their buck.

Consider this: the median selling price of a single-family home in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood hovers around $1.5 million, while condominiums in the North Side neighborhood sit over $500,000, according to Chicago area real estate data. In Gallagher and Henry’s Covington Knolls community in Lemont, a new 2,604-square foot Danbury home – a brick 4-bedroom home with 2.5 bathrooms and a three-car garage – runs less than one-third the median cost of a Lincoln Park single-family home and even less than a Lincoln Park condo. The Danbury at Covington Knolls starts at $488,700 with plenty of luxury features baked into that base price.

#4: Changing Dynamics of City Life
With its cultural events and hip restaurants, the urban lifestyle compelled many to trade space and affordability for the action outside their doors. Amid COVID-19, however, museums, ballparks, theatres, and restaurants closed, putting a dent in the urban lifestyle that is only now begin to relent.

Yet more, the pandemic has increased awareness around healthy home environments. Those who may not have thought twice about a shared elevator ride or a communal fitness center in a high-rise condo before the pandemic are now more attuned to the potential risks such spaces carry.

#5: More Focused Eyes on the Future
For many, the anxiety, stress, and uncertainty of COVID-19 prompted reflection about what they really want in their overall life, including their home. And as pandemics have happened before and could certainly happen again, individuals are increasingly open to making more permanent changes, including opting for larger homes in suburban communities.