Neighborhoods and Communities
Chicago is the third largest city in the United States and is positioned predominantly in Cook County, the nation's second most populous county. Its current population is more than 2.7 million, which represents a 7 percent decrease from 2000. While many residents have been forced to move outside the city limits due to the impact of the recent recession, the Chicago housing and job markets indicate that the city's economy is on the rise. Population has not been an issue for the city's surrounding suburban counties.

The Chicago-Naperville-Joliet Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) reported an increase in population from 2000 of nearly 540,000 residents to 9,729,825 in 2011. Kendall County on the outskirts of the suburban area was the fastest growing county in the country, more than doubling its population to 114,736 during the past decade with a 110-percent boost. The outlying town of Plainfield was the sixth fastest growing town with a population of more than 10,000 that tripled to 39,581 in just a decade.

Chicago offers a vast selection of both multifamily and single-family residential homes. Appraisal Research Counselors estimate a $1.17 median rent per square foot for Chicago suburban properties and a $3 average rent per square foot among the city's downtown Class-A units. The average suburban residence occupancy is 95.2 percent. Furthermore, approximately half of Chicago housing units are leased to renters. The city of Chicago is believed to have more owner-occupied housing than any other metropolitan area in the United States.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), homebuyers paid a median price of $187,700 for a house in the Chicago-Naperville-Joliet MSA in the second quarter of 2012, an increase of around $3,000 compared to the average in 2010, which shows a slight upturn in the market.

COMMUNITY COMPOSITION
The average household size in Chicago is 2.67 people. The percentage of family households is 56.7 percent with married-couple families occupying 35.1 percent of these households. Of the population aged 25 years and over, 80.2 percent earned a high school degree or higher, 32.9 percent earned a bachelors degree or higher and 14.7 percent earned a graduate or professional degree. The median age for residents in Chicago is 32.9, which is much younger than the national average.

According to the American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, White Americans make up 63 percent of the Chicago-Naperville-Joliet MSA's population, of which 54.3 percent are non-Hispanic whites. African Americans account for 18.9 percent. American Indians are 0.2 percent, and Asian Americans are 5.6 percent. Pacific Islander Americans make up 0.1 percent of the city's population while individuals from an "other" race amount to 10.6 percent. Individuals from multiple races are 1.6 percent of the city's population.

HOME-FINDING RESOURCES
Once you have decided to purchase a home or rent a property in Chicago, there are many resources available to assist in the process. The Chicago Association of REALTORS® (CAR) services 11,500 members through its two offices and is the third largest local real estate association board in the country. It is one of more than 1,400 local boards as well as 54 state and territory associations of REALTORS® nationwide that forms the National Association of REALTORS®. The CAR website (www.chicagorealtor.com) offers a free property search and can connect you with any one of its REALTOR® members. For more information, contact the CAR central office at 200 South Michigan Avenue, Suite 400, Chicago, IL 60604; or call (312) 803-4900.

If you are in the market for a brand-new home, a good resource is the Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago (HBAGC). HBAGC is a trade association representing more than 2,000 members involved in home building, remodeling, design, housing finance, building product manufacturing and other segments of residential construction. To help you locate the perfect builder, the HBAGC's website offers a "Find a Builder" feature, which provides you with a directory of all members' contact information. For more information on the HBAGC call (224) 353-6050 or visit www.hbagc.com.

In 2009, Crain Communications reported that Chicago's largest homebuilders, ranked by revenue included Magellan Development, Pulte Homes, DRH Cambridge Homes, Related Midwest, Ryland Homes and Meritage Homes. All of these homebuilders with easily accessible websites can help you navigate through specific communities, floor plans and price ranges. Having insight into what each respective builder offers prior to contacting the local office will help streamline the home buying process.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
It is often the case that location will dictate where you choose to purchase or rent a home. Perhaps it is a particular school district that attracts you to an area or maybe being in close proximity to your job is important. Also consider whether you are the type who prefers the hustle and bustle of city life or the quiet of a suburban atmosphere. Whatever the case may be, when determining where to live, location is paramount.

The economics of where you purchase a home is another consideration. You may find the most value per dollar by purchasing a home north of the city. Since the North Side is mostly residential, it's known to have Chicago's nicest housing options. If you are on a tight budget, it may prove economical to purchase or rent a home on the city's more industrial West Side. Also, if you work in the city but aren't quite ready to settle in the suburbs just yet, the Western Chicago areas closest to Downtown may be a perfect fit. However, if you prefer vertical living, the downtown area may be a good option because it is home to many of the city's new high-rise developments. If you are in the market for lots of acreage, the areas to the south of Chicago may be just what you're looking for. Situated on more than 60 percent of the city's land area, the South Side offers a great deal of neighborhood choices for residents.

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