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Single Family Homes

Top 11 Elements To Look For When Buying A Chicago Home

The process of looking for a Chicago home can be a daunting one. At times it's hard to know where to begin. Creating a list of characteristics to look for during your search can help you decipher which home is ultimately right for you-and only you. Your style, the home's type, location, size, ceilings, floors, façade and bedrooms are all important elements to consider throughout your search. Below is a guide to these components to help you sift through the Chicago housing clutter.

1) Style - Like your wardrobe, car or artwork, your Chicago home should represent you inside and out. It should reflect your design taste, whether that's sleek contemporary, traditional or historical elegance. Give considerable thought to your current lifestyle and furnishings before purchasing a Chicago home to make sure a home is the right fit.

2) Type - Chicago is full of eclectic and historical architecture. But in a city with so many different looks, it can be confusing trying to figure out what type of home you're buying. Is it a row house or a single-family home?

a. Row Houses - These homes are typically vintage, originally built in the 1890s. Their facades form a continuous row homes, but internally they are divided vertically so there is a common wall between the homes. Row homes are usually narrower than single-family homes, sitting on a lot smaller than 25 feet in width. Chicago also has newer row homes that were built in the 1980s and 1990s.

b. Single-family Homes - These homes are stand-alone buildings and are normally frame, brick or stucco. These homes can be built with combinations of brick, stone and block as well. In addition, some single-family homes may have portions of the home built with dryvit. A qualified real estate agent should explain the nuances of what is best for the resale value.

c. Greystones and Vintage Homes - These homes typically refer to older homes, usually pre-World War II. They usually have hardwood floors throughout the home, high ceilings, fine woodwork, sun parlors and interesting moldings made of plaster.

3) Location - Where a home resides plays a major role in its resale value, too. Typically, it is better to reside on a quiet side street than on a major thoroughfare, which can affect the home's value considerably. If you're considering a home on a busier street, make sure it's surrounded by similar housing stock. Fullerton Avenue in Lincoln Park is a great example. Although this street is extremely busy, from Clark to Burling streets, large turn-of-the-century houses and unusual vintage homes line this tree-filled street. All these homes have interesting setbacks and enchanting architecture from a bygone era. Throughout Chicago, there are neighborhoods and streets that have a certain cache. Consult your realtor for the most prestigious ones if you are interested in purchasing a luxury Chicago home.

4) Lot Size - The size of a home's lot is extremely important because it dictates the home's room sizes, particularly the width of the living room, and the layout of the home. If the home was constructed lot line to lot line then the interior is two feet larger in width. A standard Chicago lot is 25 x 125 feet, but Chicago homes can be on 30 x 125 feet and 37.5 x 125 feet lots, or possibly on a double lot, which is 50 x 125 feet. Some lots may also be longer than the usual 125 feet. A larger lot indicate more space, therefore, homes built on a bigger lot tend to be more expensive and on the higher end of the luxury scale.

5) Ceiling Height - When purchasing a home in the current Chicago real estate market, strive for one that has at least 9-foot ceilings. Anything lower can make your home feel cramped. Ceilings also play a large role in differentiating an average home from a luxury one. Luxury homes usually have 12-foot ceilings. This type of home may also incorporate elegant tray and/or coffered ceilings.

6) Flooring - There are many different types of flooring to consider in a home, but most people enjoy hardwood flooring. Be sure to ask what type of hardwood is in the home and stay away from prefabricated flooring, which is usually associated with less expensive homes. In a luxury home, look for five-inch wide tongue-and-groove planks for the ultimate elegant statement. Darker stained floors also scream luxury, so look for hardwoods stained with American walnut.

7) Building Façade - A building's façade is a buyer's first impression. When it comes to a building's façade there are a number of different materials that can be used. Look for a Chicago home with stone or brick. Many of Chicago's homes have also been built with a stone, brick and block combination. However, block, which is used for the side of a home, indicates that the construction is of a lesser quality than an all stone or brick home. If you're considering a home that was built with block or dryvit, consult with a real estate agent and inspector before closing the deal. A home built with the best brick, stone, wood trim and lighting indicate a high level of elegance, which an important factor in the luxury home market.

8) Bedrooms Per Floor - At least three bedrooms to a floor-one master and two additional rooms-is an ideal setup when looking for a Chicago home. Having additional rooms on the same level as you is especially important if you have small children. In today's real estate market, a master bathroom in the master bathroom is a must. For resale purposes, the more en-suite bathrooms the better. For luxury homes in the $2.5 million and up range, it is not unusual for the master suite to take up an entire floor, thus eliminating the three-bedroom configuration on one floor.

9) Millwork - Millwork, such as the woodwork, cabinets, doors, window casings, moldings and baseboards, is the main ingredient that separates a mere builder from an architectural artist. When shopping for your home, check to see if the baseboards are in excellent shape and customized. When viewing a luxury home, the millwork should be elegant, distinguished and sophisticated, providing your home with that perfect finishing touch. Distinctive baseboards, special moldings and trims provide an extra level of detail, which exudes quality.

10) Kitchen - Granite countertops, 42-inch cabinets and stainless steel appliances are almost a must when purchasing a home. These details look great and will likely increase your home's resale value. For luxury homes, look for high-end cabinetry, which includes the traditional brand Christoper Peacock or contemporary Italian brands like Poggenpohl or Val Cucine. Also, consider high-end appliances that blend into the cabinetry inconspicuously.

11) Appliances - For most homeowners, stainless steel appliances are an added bonus. General Electric is a typical brand you'd find in a traditional kitchen. However, for luxury homes, this is entirely different. High-end kitchen appliances create an incredible "wow" factor in all luxury homes. Most luxury homes feature a Wolf gas range with six burners, a griddle and two ovens. For the ultimate gourmet experience, La Cornue offers a custom-made Chateau range that is built by hand and is available in 26 finishes (enamel or metal), 12 trims and multiple oven and cooktop configurations. If you are on a budget, La Cornue has developed a more modest line, CornuFe, which has five burners and two ovens. Sub-Zero is also an excellent brand to consider when purchasing a luxury Chicago home. Its Pro 48 refrigerator is stainless steel both outside and inside with simple details, such as dual compressors, auto-closing hinges, and exterior drawers with glazed lids for the crisper and freezer. It is an excellent example where form meets function.

Top 5 Extras to Consider When Looking for a Luxury Home

1) Bathrooms - Buyers in the luxury home market want to see a number of well-appointed bathrooms with extras such as steam showers and massage sprays. Also, they usually want en suite bathrooms for each bedroom. Larger is always preferred, but whether large or small, convenience and amenities combined with visual beauty is important. For bathroom extras look to Kohler. The brand's personalized hydro-massage system is controlled via an electronic touch pad that adjusts water intensity and direction for the ultimate massage.

2) Wine Cellar - The wine cellar has easily become one of the most critical components of a truly luxury home. The best wine cellars have brick walls, mahogany racking and cabinetry. Also consider one with stone countertops to complete its European-inspired look.

3) Library - A library is an important element to consider in a luxury homes valued over $4.0 million. It should also be detailed with fine custom-stained shelving, cabinetry and moldings.

4) Movie Theater - Whether you're entertaining friends or just staying home for a quiet evening, a rear projection movie theater has become a must-have for the luxury home. Large comfortable reclined seating for six to nine people upon a graduating elevated platform is ideal. Add a wet bar to the room and you have the ultimate home theater!

5) Landscaping/Outdoor Appliances - Because land is so limited in the city, it has now become customary to create green spaces on top of the garage roof. If done appropriately, this can be a real added bonus for any luxury home. Creating the ideal green space calls for careful planning, timed planting, elegant seating, unique lighting, and a barbeque grill/outdoor fireplace. And if you really want a luxury rooftop, consider an outdoor pizza oven. The objective is to create an inviting outdoor space where the homeowner can relax and entertain.