In Chicago and the suburbs, spring and summer are traditionally the prime time for real estate sales, with the first half of the year often the busiest for home sales. Following the Cook County Assessor’s recent reassessment of homes’ worth, for some, increased property taxes can also be cause for concern during the season.
“We have two primary groups of people coming to Forest Park: new families coming out from the city or we have the downsizers from our neighboring communities like River Forest and Oak Park,” said April Baker, a realtor at Weichert Realtors Nickel Group who lives in Forest Park. “Forest Park is very attractive. You get more for your money, and the taxes, although increased, they look pretty attractive compared to our neighboring communities, let’s put it that way.”
Home prices have been steadily increasing in Forest Park since late 2012, she said, although they haven’t quite hit pre-recession levels yet. This year is no exception.
From the beginning of January to the end of June in Forest Park this year, prices for detached, single-family homes, condos and townhomes increased 11 percent year over year, with single-family homes selling for an average of about $304,000, while condos and townhomes are selling for about $162,000, according to Midwest Real Estate Data LLC.
Single-family homes are also selling faster, spending an average 63 days on the market compared to 71 days in 2017. But the time condos and townhomes are spending on the market has increased, with those properties spending 95 days on the market this year compared to 77 days the year prior. Baker said she’s not quite sure why condos are lagging, although they typically take longer to sell since there’s a greater supply in Forest Park.
“Earlier this year we were struggling for inventory, we need people to sell their homes, nobody wanted to sell their homes,” Baker said, adding: “I think personally it was very cold and no one wanted to go out and look at homes.”
From January to June in 2017, there were 29 single-family homes on the market at any given time, whereas this year there’s been an average of just 24. Those looking to sell their condo or townhome declined year over year, as well, with 31 on the market at any given time, compared to 45 during the same period in 2017.
“We got a bit of a delayed start, but the market’s caught up and doing well now,” Baker said.
Baker said it’s a hot time to invest in real estate in Forest Park, since there’s plenty of rehabs and at least three new developments coming to the area. Baker is personally renovating an old home on the 400 block of Thomas.
“Honestly, the only critique I get is the education, the schools. I wish I could have something new to say, but I don’t. It’s the same old thing. If we were able to improve that there’s no stopping the price increase” in Forest Park, she said.
One critique she doesn’t often hear is about high local property taxes. Although many residents might complain of high taxes, a meteoric rise in taxes in nearby Oak Park and River Forest has driven people to Forest Park, with people seeking refuge in lower taxes, a walkable downtown, easy access to the city and more.
“People are in Forest Park for the affordable downtown, the walkability, the price points,” said April Moon, a broker for @properties who worked on The Grove townhouse project. Unlike Oak Park, Moon said she doesn’t expect Forest Parkers to leave the village because of an increase in their taxes. She just expects residents to appeal them.
Proviso Township Assessor Steven Zawaski, along with Mayor Anthony Calderone, will hold a property tax appeal forum at 6:30 p.m. on July 31 at the Howard Mohr Community Center, 7640 Jackson Blvd. The deadline to file an appeal is August 17 and the deadline to file documentation is August 27.
“Out of the 14 towns in Proviso Township, Forest Park is in the middle to lower end with taxes because they have more commercial and industrial property than other towns,” Zawaski said.
Residents can also visit attorneys like Joseph Spillane, a real estate lawyer in River Forest who has spent more than 14 years helping residents contest their taxes. Along with the tri-annual reassessment, he said those who saw an increase in their property taxes this year can partially credit it to the village’s hot property market.
“Taxes don’t, generally speaking, go down. It’s because home values increased. That’s the bigger issue,” Spillane said.
This article has been updated to reflect that the tax appeal workshop date is July 31.