So you’re moving out of the city. You’re far from alone. From Los Angeles to New York City, people of all stripes are moving to the suburbs to spread out, find a new home to raise their children (and/or dogs!), and enjoy the benefits suburban living offers.
If you’ve lived in Chicago for your post-college adulthood, that step can be a little scary. But, it turns out that more and more people are realizing suburban living can be ideal. If you find the right spot, you can make the most of it—and actually, tangibly, improve your life. You will want to find the right match for your lifestyle and personal priorities (small-town feel vs. city “lite”), and you will want to have an expert in your stable to guide that decision.
Moving to the suburbs is a big step, but for most, it proves to be well worth it! Consider this a city dweller’s guide to making the move, focusing on the western suburbs and anything from average home prices to nightlife and safety considerations.
The Benefits of Suburban Life in and Around Chicago
Let’s start with some general benefits of the move to suburbia. Use these to reinforce your decision, or to justify it to any friends and neighbors who still cling to their urban lifestyle.
You Get the Space You Need…
Everything’s bigger in the burbs. Land comes at a premium in Chicago, which for many means either attached living or living in very close proximity to your neighbors. Moving to the suburbs can not only get you more living square footage but give you room to roam! Think large patios, swing sets, and miniature soccer nets! The sky’s the limit – we often find pools, jacuzzis, basketball courts, and winter hockey rinks in suburban yards! Try fitting that in a Chicago backyard! Several notable western suburbs known for larger lot sizes include Riverside, Hinsdale, and Burr Ridge. Several areas in Western Springs and La Grange offer larger lots as well. Further west, Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, and Downers Grove have great options too.
All that space can quickly become invaluable. It might mean an extra bedroom for the little ones, or a guest room when those remaining city dwellers come out for a visit. Don’t forget about space for the home office either. Especially in light of the increased time at home and social distancing due to the Coronavirus pandemic, living spaces in the big city can feel cramped. The extra space at home will make things work more smoothly and comfortably.
You Get the Schools…
A frustrating part of raising a family in Chicago is navigating schools. Private school? Magnet system? Ultra-high real estate values for highly ranked schools? Tough pills to swallow. Many families find themselves burdened with not only a decent property tax bill, but the costs of pricey childcare and private schooling.
For many, the solution is heading to suburban schools. There are a plethora of suburbs that feature great schools, and often for less money than a city home. The western suburbs have some of the best school districts in the Chicago Metro Area. Just because you can’t put a price on education doesn’t mean you should have to pay more for it.
A More Leisurely Lifestyle
Chicago is loud. Maybe you’ve gotten used to it. Maybe you’ve even grown to like it. But it simply can’t compare with opening up the window in the morning and listening to the serene chirping of birds.
Whether you appreciate the wildlife, moving to a suburban area undeniably produces a more leisurely lifestyle. You can slow down, enjoy life, and thrive in the more laid-back atmosphere of a smaller neighborhood.
The best part: it doesn’t have to come at the expense of convenience. You still get good entertainment and nightlife and, if you miss the bustling city energy, you’re usually in the midst of it again within a short commute. And if you’re thinking you won’t have the advantage of a good public transportation system like the city does, several of these suburbs actually have bus routes and train stops. It’s quite literally the best of both worlds.
The Neighborhoods You Need to Know
Of course, we might not need to convince you or your family that moving to the suburbs is a good choice. You still just need to know exactly you can move. In that case, keep reading. We’ll break down the nuances of some of our favorite Western Suburbs of Chicago.
When you enter Riverside, you might be forgiven for thinking that you’re entering a classic Hollywood movie. This is, after all, one of the first planned communities in the United States. Today, 8,700 residents call this quaint, historic village their own, and they’re sure to frequent eateries and nighttime hangouts like Mollie’s Public House and Quincy Street Distillery.
The average home here costs $394,950, but some villas range to $1 million and more. As in so many of the communities mentioned in this guide, each home offers its own, unique charm—adding personality to the suburban lifestyle. The schools are top-notch and a park is always within walking distance, making this one of the best suburbs in Illinois to raise a family. Fun fact for nature lovers: Riverside is a Level II accredited arboretum!
If you’re looking for a suburb with a mix of new homes and older homes that have been renovated, Western Springs has the best of both worlds. With a median home cost of $689,000, most Western Springs options are single-family homes, condominiums, or townhomes.
Clustered around a historic train station dating back to the early 20th century, downtown Western Springs is surrounded by various shops and restaurants. The old water tower serves as the most recognizable landmark of the town and houses the Western Springs Historical Society. Yet another historic building is the Thomas Ford Memorial Library, which was constructed in the 1930s. Are you picking up on a theme here? If you’re drawn to classic, older building styles, live in a town like Western Springs where history is preserved, but you still have all the advantages of living in a well-maintained, modern home.
Looking to upscale your living situation? The La Grange neighborhood awaits. The median home price here is $425,000, with many houses ranging to $1 million and more. For that price, you get beautiful single-family living that allows you to sprawl out and truly enjoy the majesty of the suburbs.
As mentioned above, though, it’s not just about the space on the inside. La Grange, home to just over 15,000 residents, is one of the most walkable suburbs in Illinois, with plenty of bars, restaurants, and shops all within a few minutes’ reach. A steady array of community festivals and fairs keeps the schedule busy.
Chicago city dwellers have been coming to this place for a reason. According to Niche.com, La Grange is one of the best places to live not just around Chicago, but in all of Illinois. It’s also one of the safest and has plenty of highly-rated school districts for those little ones.
The moment you arrive in the Village of Hinsdale, it’s obvious there’s something special going on. The design of the village center alone is enough to signal that it’s a standout among the western suburbs of Chicago. Downtown Hinsdale leans into its historic roots, featuring a number of Colonial Revival buildings. With a hilly landscape that’s out of character for Illinois suburbs, Hinsdale salutes the vision of its past leaders by maintaining one of the most charming downtown areas of the Chicago suburbs.
Hinsdale’s median home cost is $689,000, and its options for aspiring homeowners are known for being high end, larger homes, making the village a highly sought after place to settle down.
Routinely rated as one of the best places to live in Illinois, Brookfield is situated just west of Chicago. A little under 19,000 residents live in this vibrant town, taking advantage of the many small coffee shops, restaurants, bars, and parks to live their lives.
With a median home value of just above $240,000, Brookfield has seen a rash of recent economic development that has led to a thriving real estate market. About 80% of residents here own their own homes. Within that median home price, you might be looking at properties like this three-bedroom home for $249,000.
Brookfield is also home to some of the area’s best public schools, including the well-regarded Hollywood Elementary School. But even if you’re not quite ready for family additions yet, Niche.com considers the town as one of its top Illinois suburbs for young professionals. Bars like Irish Times and the Little Owl Social Pub might have something to do with that.
Westchester was founded in the 1920s and steadily built a reputation of being a suburban hub for corporate business. This culminated in the latter half of the 20th century when the Westbrook Corporate Center was constructed. Consisting of five 10-story towers and more than a million square feet of office space, the Corporate Center succeeded in establishing Westchester as a favorable place to live and work.
Several of Westchester’s homes keep pace with the sleek modernism established by the Corporate Center, especially in the case of mid-century modern homes. If this home style is your thing, then looking for homes in Westchester is like being a kid in a candy shop. Many were designed by Architect Martin Braun and some are sold by the original owners. You’ll find that most are maintained well and still close to their original condition. The median home cost in Westchester is $265,000.
Westchester is also an ideal location for nature lovers. If you’re tired of the only green you see being in public parks in urban areas, imagine moving to the suburbs and having an Illinois State nature preserve in your town. The Wolf Road Prairie Nature Preserve has hiking trails, birdwatching hot spots, and a diverse ecosystem of plant species. You’ll have the opportunity to dive into nature in one of Illinois’ highest quality natural areas, while also having close access to a portion of the Salt Creek Trail.
How to Find the Right Home For Your Needs
Yes, moving to the suburbs is a big decision. But, if you find the right place to live, it might just be one of the best decisions of your life. This is where you can make a home, raise your kids, and take a breath after the stresses of city living.
Finding that right place can seem overwhelming, with all the options available around Chicago. So why not work with a partner who can help? Scout Real Estate Partners can help you find some of the best real estate in Riverside and any of the other neighborhoods mentioned in this guide. Let’s get started to find you the home (and neighborhood) of your dreams.