More for your money in western Lake County - Metropolitan Planning Council

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More for your money in western Lake County

Nine-foot ceilings, five bedrooms, Wauconda schools and luxury master baths are among the goodies to lure would-be home buyers to the western edge of Lake County.

While those perks individually might sway some, a hard-to-resist bottom line has been the attraction in Lakemoor, Volo and other towns that used to be dots on the map but have since been discovered.

In the price range of $250,000 to $300,000, for example, buyers in west and northwestern Lake and eastern McHenry County have a wider selection of bigger and newer homes than what's available in more- established communities.

Vaqar and Linda Sheriff moved from Island Lake about two years ago to the fourth home on the block at the Pines of Lakemoor.

"We were looking for a bigger house. We had twins. They were growing fast. We had three bedrooms, now we have four," says Vaqar, who manages a retail store in Kildeer.

They toured homes on the Internet and looked in several communities before deciding on Lakemoor.

"These were bigger. Everything is going to be new," Vaqar said.

Purchased at a pre-construction price of about $240,000, the value already has increased substantially. The same model across the street is selling for $301,000.

The word has spread. The population of Lakemoor is expected to increase nearly tenfold, and Volo will spike to more than 76 times the number of current residents within 25 years. That would mean that about 23,000 and 14,000 people, respectively, would call those towns home.

Granted, the percentage jumps are exaggerated because the base numbers are small. But the impact is undeniable.

"This is the natural progression of how growth and sprawl is going. Once it gets past there, it'll keep going to Rockford," says Elizabeth Drozdik, director of market research for Strategy Planning Associates Inc., a Schaumburg firm that analyzes housing trends.

"Western Lake County is just starting to really boom and there's no reason it's going to stop anytime soon."

Like growth rings on a tree, suburban expansion has been rippling from the metropolitan area since the 1950s, when interstate highways made the hinterlands accessible.

Distance makes for a longer commute, and the resulting traffic jams have been a target of "smart growth" advocates. But with lower land costs on the outskirts, builders, for a time, are able to deliver more house for the money.

"There really is no place to go but out," says David Fiorovante, who with wife, Kathleen, paid about $170,000 for a corner-lot townhouse four years ago in Lakemoor Farms, north of Route 120.

Over the years, the couple hopscotched from Chicago to Wauconda to Island Lake, where they lived 11 years.

"Instead of putting in a new roof and water heater at the old place, we said let's get a new place," says Fiorovante, a truck driver who works in Elk Grove Village. "It was getting into a better house (and) the price was right."

Buyers have been filling the instant neighborhoods, trading the lack of mature landscaping and entertainment options for a bigger and newer home than they could afford in established communities.

For example, one colonial-style home in Lakemoor has four bedrooms, 2¨ baths, attached two-car garage, den, fireplace and other amenities. Its list price is $287,725.

In Libertyville, $279,900 gets you a 42-year-old split-level frame home with a two-car detached garage. It also has four bedrooms, but the master is 154 square feet compared with 272 square feet for the home in Lakemoor.

One seller in Lake Zurich is asking $280,000 for a 16-year old, frame raised ranch with an attached two-car garage, and four bedrooms.

"It comes down to the old adage: the farther you move out, the more home you get for your money," said Charlie Bagg, a broker for Re/Max of Barrington, who listed the Lakemoor home.

More land equates to more homes and lower prices, he said.

Libertyville doesn't have room for large new subdivisions. And because of its desirable location near the tollway and other major routes, quaint downtown and mature neighborhoods, areas that do pop up are expensive.

The asking price for 2-acre lots on Sunnyside Avenue, for example, on land that had been zoned for homes since the 1920s but not developed, is $275,000. Homes built on those lots are expected to run $800,000 or more.

Anti-sprawl groups, such as the Metropolitan Planning Council , say more home for the money may be good for families, but bad for the region.

"The most affordable housing in the region seems to be the farthest away from where the jobs are," said Robin Snyderman , housing director for the Chicago-based group of civic and business leaders.

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