Move over, Highland Park: Elmhurst a new hub for million-dollar homes

SUVs parked along Joanne Way in Elmhurst on a Sunday afternoon, their drivers and passengers spilling out to tour a newly built home priced at about $1.1 million. It's the latest house in a development where 31 others have sold for $1 million or more in the past couple of years.

Elmhurst is in the midst of a million-dollar makeover as high-end new construction sprouts all over its leafy neighborhoods. In 2016, the DuPage County town saw 48 sales of homes priced at $1 million or more, according to data from a Re/Max Luxury Report. That's up from 35 sales in 2015 and 14 in 2014.

At the same time, sales of homes at all prices declined in Elmhurst: 681 homes sold in town during the year, down 5 percent from 2015, according to Midwest Real Estate Data.

"I don't mean to sound like a postcard," said Larry Reedy, third-generation head of his family's firm, L.W. Reedy Real Estate in Elmhurst, "but we're seeing a lot of people who grew up in Elmhurst, with excellent schools, easy access to the expressways and O'Hare and a vibrant downtown. They want that and they want a new house with the finishes and room sizes that weren't built here" in the 1950s and 1960s.

More than two-thirds of the million-dollar homes sold in 2016—33 out of 48—were new construction, according to Crain's research in MRED's listings.

The increase in high-priced sales vaulted Elmhurst onto Re/Max's list of the top 10 Chicago suburbs for million-dollar sales. It landed at No. 8 for 2016 sales, up from 13th place in 2015 and a three-way tie for 23rd two years ago.

Elmhurst had more million-dollar sales last year than Highland Park, an affluent town on the North Shore where 44 homes sold for $1 million and up, according to Re/Max.

Joanne Way is the epicenter of million-dollar sales. The new U-shaped street on the former site of Elmhurst Hospital, which moved to a new $450 million facility four miles away in 2011, is the biggest piece of the Berteau Development, which will include 56 new homes on Joanne and on Schiller and Third streets.

Forty homes have been sold, said Berteau principal Joe Nitti; 31 of them for $1 million or more, according to MRED listings. Nitti said thsi week that five houses in the development have sold in the first six weeks of 2017 alone, none for under $1 million.

"It's all due to the demand that's going around town," Nitti said.

Reedy, too, said that while Nitti's project is thick with million-dollar new construction, "other builders are doing it in every neighborhood around town," most often on single teardown lots. "There's no other site as big as Berteau available," he said. "We're built out."

But he doesn't expect million-dollar sales to slip when Berteau sells out because of the ready supply of smaller vintage homes that builders can replace. Older homes on Elmhurst's typical 50-by-150 lot are teardown candidates up to values of around $300,000, said Patricia DiCianni, managing broker of DiCianni Realty.

Reedy and Coldwell Banker agent Vince Keller said the majority of buyers for new million-dollar homes in Elmhurst are young families from the city whose children are approaching school age. In September, Keller had clients from Chicago who bought a new four-bedroom, 3,600-square-foot house on Cottage Hill Avenue for just under $1.14 million. They declined to comment, but Keller said what drew them was "being relatively close to the city, with excellent schools and parks, and all that goes on in downtown Elmhurst."

Walkable downtown Elmhurst helped put the town on Crain's list of the best places to buy a home in 2017, for its many restaurants, historical movie theater, college campus, central park and museums.

Those factors and the town's high-quality schools drew Sid Chhabra to Elmhurst 25 years ago, when he built a house for his family. A structural engineer at the time, he eventually became a professional homebuilder. His firm, DesignPro Builders, constructs one house a year. The four-bedroom, 4,000-square-foot house he built last year on Berkeley Avenue sold in September for a little more than $1.1 million.

"I was skeptical that I could sell it for that," Chhabra said. "But the way things are going now, I shouldn't have been."

(Sourced from Crain's Chicago Business (www.ChicagoBusiness.com) February 16, 2017 article written by Dennis Rodkin)