Now’s the time to buy? In Humboldt Park, answer may be yes
It was a blustery April Saturday in Humboldt Park – rainy, cold and in no way conducive to a walking tour of houses for sale, particularly when buyers remain few and far between.
Prospective buyers board the trolley for a tour of Humboldt Park NSP houses.
Photos by Gordon Walek
But that didn’t stop more than 100 home owner wannabes from making a combination trolley/walking trek of five formerly vacant, foreclosed Humboldt Park houses that have been renovated through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) and are now for sale to buyers of modest means.
NSP, the federally-funded effort to breathe new life into vacant foreclosed properties and to help rebuild stable, vibrant neighborhoods in Chicago and nationwide – has so far acquired, rehabbed, and put a for-sale sign in front of 28 houses throughout the city. Those in Humboldt Park are among the crown jewels.
Not only are they charming, affordable and solidly-built (many date to the early days of the last century), but they’re on some uncommonly attractive Humboldt Park streets.
Consider, for example, the 3500 block of W. Le Moyne. It’s lined with trim,
Tom Greenan and Constance Purches visit houses on the NSP tour.
tidy, two-story detached single-family houses, all with flat roofs. Among them is 3518 W. Le Moyne, whose crisp, white painted brick exterior is consistent with the bright, clean renovated three-bedroom, two-bath interior. The block, and the house, would be equally at home on a street in, say, London.
The adjacent blocks are no less interesting. Instead of flat-roofed, Georgian houses, some boast the steeply pitched roofs of brick Chicago cottages, all perfectly lined up like soldiers at attention, with their uniform heights and setbacks suggesting that the neighborhood evolved from thoughtful planning and design.
“This area is nice,” said Constance Purches, who’s thinking about moving back to Humboldt Park, where she lived years ago when her kids were in public schools. Purches currently owns a house in Englewood, but wants to buy a two-flat on the North Side with her 26-year-old daughter, Rachel. She’d take one apartment, Rachel the other.
Because she’s looking for a two-flat, the Le Moyne property didn’t interest her nearly as much as a frame, three-story NSP building at 1636 N. Spaulding. It includes an apartment on the first floor, with the second and third floors duplexed into a particularly large second apartment.
“I loved that one,” she said, adding that if she purchased it with her daughter, she’d take the spacious two-story apartment.
Also on the tour, which stopped at 536 N. Avers, 3417 W. Hirsch, and 3339 W. Le Moyne in addition to the houses mentioned above, was Tom Greenan, an Albany Park resident and realtor who was getting the lay of the Humboldt Park (and NCP) real estate landscape.
Cardigan Shipman, the Mercy Portfolio Services consultant who organized the tour, offers directions.
“They’re nice and clean and in move in condition,” he said. “And the prices are right. It’s the whole package…you employ people who fix these houses up. That creates jobs. And Uncle Sam is helping. And then you have city-approved realtors, lenders and developers. You know it’s going to be done right and that there’s some accountability.”
NSP is designed to help low- and moderate-income people buy houses and in the process prevent neighborhoods from sliding into the blight that often results when multiple foreclosures afflict a block. Of the 28 NSP houses that have been placed on the market in recent months, four have been sold and seven are under contract.
“It doesn’t surprise me that NSP houses are moving quickly,” said Greenan. “For first time buyers, it’s a one-stop shop.”
NSP houses are not limited to first-time buyers, but certain guidelines apply, such as the purchaser’s household income can’t exceed 120 percent of area median income. And a down payment of $1,000, or one percent of the purchase price (whichever is larger), is required.
All of the potential buyers at the April 16 open house, organized by Mercy
Interested buyers participated in "introduction to home buying classes" prior to the tour.
Portfolio Services, which is administering NSP in Chicago, and sponsored by PNC Bank, were also treated to an “introduction to home buying classes” workshop, presented by Neighborhood Housing Services and Latin United Community Housing Association.
"I wanted people to believe they could buy a home when they left this event," said Cardigan Shipman, a realtor and consultant for Mercy Portfolio Services who organized the open house tour. "And I believe the groups on my tour did."
Apparently so. The houses at 1636 N. Spaulding, 3417 W. Hirsch and 3339 W. Le Moyne are already under contract.
Shipman said a series of events in North Lawndale, Chicago Lawn, Auburn Gresham, Pullman and Hermosa designed to publicize NSP houses on the market are being scheduled for the months ahead.
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