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Survey: Proximity to a Commuter Train is a Plus for Home Sales

Even though the market is down, RE/MAX's research shows that the market is not as bad for home sales along a METRA line.

The "location, location, location" rule of success in real estate apparently held true last year for the sale of homes located close to a METRA train line, according to a survey by RE/MAX Northern Illinois.

The RE/MAX Northern Illinois real estate network's fourth annual METRA Community Study compared home sales in communities served by METRA commuter trains with the home sales across all suburbs in the seven-county metropolitan Chicago real estate market. The study looked at housing activity during the first half of this year, last year and 2006, which is a year when home prices and the number of homes changing hands were peaking.

The study analyzed home sales in three towns along each of the 11 METRA corridors throughout the Chicago suburbs. The towns along each METRA line were selected based on their distance from the city, with one close to the city limits, one at about the mid-point of each line and one near the end of each line. Sales there were compared to home sales in all suburbs in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will counties.

The analysis revealed that the overall suburban market delivered stronger results than the METRA-served communities over the last year, but the reverse is true when considering the entire 2006-2011 period. 

Homes sales activity in the METRA-served communities was 14.6 percent lower this year than in 2010, compared to an 11.1 percent decrease recorded by the broader suburban market. An important factor in the sales decline in both cases is the federal tax credit that was available to homebuyers during the first half of last year but not in 2011. 

The median sales price (which marks the statistical midpoint among all prices paid for homes during the period) in the METRA-served towns was $190,000 this year, down 9.5 percent from the 2010 median price of $210,000. In comparison, the median suburban home price for the first half of this year was $164,000, 8.9 percent lower than the 2010 median price of $180,000. The median price data includes sales prices for both attached and detached homes.

The average time spent on the market by all homes sold in METRA-served communities this year was 189 days, an increase of 13 days over 2010. In the broader suburban market, the typical sale took 185 days in 2011, which was 15 days longer than the prior year.

The RE/MAX study also found that changes in sales activity and home prices varied widely among the 11 METRA lines when comparing 2011 to 2010. For example, transaction volume was down just 5 percent along the North Central Service line but dipped as much as 31 percent along the METRA Electric line.  Similarly, the decline in median sales price ranged from 2.1 percent along the Heritage Corridor to 47 percent on the Milwaukee District West Line.

The METRA-served towns had a small edge when results from 2006 were compared to those for this year. The METRA towns and all suburbs saw a decline in homes sold, but sales activity held up 2.7 percent better in the METRA communities, which saw 4,048 homes sold this year compared to 6,960 sold in 2006. 

Similarly, the median home sales price fell in the suburbs generally and in the METRA towns from 2006 to 2011, but the decline was substantially smaller in the latter category. The median price for METRA towns slipped two-thirds as much (28.3 percent) over the five-year period as it did in the total suburban market, which experienced a 41.5 percent decline. The average market time was 101 days longer in 2011 than in 2006 for both the METRA communities and the broad suburban market.

Glen Ellyn and Western Springs

The RE/MAX analysis also looked at the METRA-served towns based on their relative distance from downtown Chicago. This year it was the middle distance METRA communities, (Glen Ellyn, Western Springs, Palatine, Winnetka, Deerfield, Prospect Heights, Roselle, Lemont, Palos Heights, Oak Forest and Flossmoor) that turned in the strongest results. That contrasts to a year ago when the least distant communities (Evanston, Park Ridge, Morton Grove, Franklin Park, River Forest, Riverside, Summit, Oak Lawn, Blue Island and Harvey) were the results leaders.

Geneva and Lisle

When sales for 2011 in the middle distant communities are compared to 2010, transaction volume was down 9.2 percent, the median price fell 1.6 percent, the average price declined 0.2 percent and the average market time increased 7 percent. In contrast, transactions in the least distant communities fell 20 percent, while the median price dropped 16 percent and average market time declined, falling 4 percent to 169 days. As for the most distant communities (Geneva, Lisle, Cary, Lake Bluff, Fox Lake, Antioch, Elgin, Lockport, Orland Park and New Lenox), sales activity in 2011 was 14.7 percent lower than in 2010, the median home price fell 12 percent and average market time increased 16 percent to 197 days. 

RE/MAX, established in the northern Illinois real estate market in 1989, has 2,300 sales associates and 110 individually owned and operated RE/MAX offices that provide brokerage services throughout the northern one-third of the state. Its illinoisproperty.com and remax.com Web sites are leaders in consumer visits among real estate franchise brands, according to the company. Its mobile search, m.illinoisproperty.com, allows users to conduct real estate searches on any mobile device with Internet access. The northern Illinois network is part of RE/MAX LLC, a global real estate organization with 90,000 sales associates in 84 nations.

John Schofield October 10, 2011 at 09:50 AM
D'oh!
Dick October 10, 2011 at 01:37 PM
So Lisle is considered a "distant" community at 26 driving miles to Grant Park and Glen Ellyn is a "middle" community at 28 drving miles to the Loop? Perhaps since Lisle real estate tanked far worse than other "middle" communities with train stations, they fudged the data a bit to suit their desired results.
Thomas October 10, 2011 at 03:03 PM
How much did they spend on this survey? I thought it was common sense, that proximity to Metra was an asset. Did they really need a survey to reinforce this? Is their next survey going to study if good schools increase property values?

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