In 1998, the house at 517 Beloit Ave. was reduced to sell at an excellent location near the expressway and with easy access to Chicago. It was sold in as-is condition for $47,200.
In 1999, after some renovation, the home had hardwood floors, terra cotta tile baths, new carpeting and a newly sodded and fenced yard. It sold for $138,000, a 192 percent increase over the price one year earlier. But the tale of this house wasn’t over yet. Just three years later, with almost no added renovation, the house sold again for $206,000, a 49 percent increase over the 1999 sales price.
In total the house experienced a whopping 336 percent increase from its sales price in 1998.
And it is not alone. The same can be said of the house at 810 Dunlop Ave.
In 2001, the Dunlop house was sold in as-is condition for $125,000. After some renovation, which included hardwood floors, crown moldings, a large eat-in kitchen and new siding, roof, garage, furnace and bathrooms, the house went for $290,000 in 2002.
This represented a 132 percent increase over the original price.
Two years later, after new landscaping, an added brick patio and pathway, two new bathrooms and other new amenities, the home went for $349,000, a 179 percent increase over the 2001 sales tag.
With the new prices, the numbers indicate that Forest Park is indeed the place to be, but can the market sustain itself.
“I think we can sustain [the property value increases],” said Dan Bogojevich of Prudential Premier in Oak Park. “Our market is unlike the coastal markets, where they have tremendous swings in terms of pricing. Our market is more conservative and tends to have a sustained appreciation. Therefore because we are in a more conservative market our growth tends to be more paced.”
Bogojevich was involved in the sale of the property at 1103 Lathrop Ave., which also has an interesting history.
The lot on which the $600,000 home sits was originally attached to a house at 1101 Lathrop Ave. In 2003 the vacant lot sold for $68,000, then a custom built Victorian home was built on it, which ultimately sold this year for $590,000.
The market, Bogojevich said, is sustainable because of the vibrant business community that exists in the area.
“Forest Park has made such tremendous strides in upgrading the business community that it has become a more desirable community to live in,” he said. “The fact is that Forest Park is adjacent to Oak Park and the pricing in Oak Park has become a bit cost prohibitive, so it is a carry over into Forest Park where taxes are a little bit more affordable and you can get a little more housing. You can’t predict what the market will do, but because the community is such a desirable community I don’t see the trends stopping in the near future.”
Patrick Doolin of Re/Max Vision and a Forest Park commissioner, however, said that all good things will eventually end, but for now, the present and the near future seem bright.
“The unique thing [about the real estate market] is it is only worth what people are willing to pay for it,” Doolin said. “If people are going to continue to be willing to pay for it, then it will sustain. Eventually it will come around full circle, and inevitably the bottom always falls out, but so far it shows no signs of letting up. My livelihood depends on this continuing and I am not worried.”
According to Doolin, who has been selling homes for about 10 years, the market in town has been steadily progressing.
“It has progressively gotten better every single year. Real estate builds upon itself, everybody wants at least what their neighbor got. I can remember selling two-bedroom brick bungalows for $95,000 … before you know it that same brick bungalow I am now getting $240,000 for.”
Another example of this, the home at 533 Thomas Ave.
In 1999 the house sold for $139,000. The nonconforming two-flat resold in 2004 for $288,000, a 107 percent increase. It has since been renovated and turned into a single family home with granite counters and stainless steel appliances and is currently on the market for $465,000, a 235 percent increase over the 1999 price.
To some, the alarming rate of increase, however, opens the door to pure profiteering, where people buy the homes, make only the cosmetic changes, then resell for more than they are worth.
“I have been in situations where I have sold people stuff and they have put makeup on the property, painted some walls, thrown in some granite countertops and just at the rate that things are appreciating they are making a handsome profit and the people who come in and buy these properties end up ripping out everything the person did and redoing it,” Doolin said.
“There is always that risk, but fortunately we feel that by using professional Realtors and by being affiliated with Oak Park Board of Realtors we can curtail people who are strictly trying to be profiteers,” he said.
However, both men said it is usually a matter of the market taking care of itself, as real estate is only worth what a person is willing to pay for it.
In addition, Doolin added, the municipality can help keep the profiteers at bay.
“Upon every property transfer a code inspection needs to be done,” Doolin said. “When it is sold to the rehabber he has a list of things he has to do minimally, if he chooses to do the minimum. Also, any work done does require permits which gives the village ability to come in and check the work.
“I think there is a check and balance and when it comes right down to it, if a buyer is willing to accept less than perfect work, then the buyer is willing to accept it,” he said. “It is their money and they can accept as little or as much as they want to.”