After living in the midst of public traffic and congestion, Natalia Alvarez and her husband purchased a home six years ago in Oak Crest, a neighborhood in the northwest corner of Waukegan.
"I like the country feel here. There's a huge farm in back of us where we see horses and sheep, and at the corner, there are always ponies outside," Natalia Alvarez said. "It's nice; I love it."
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Listing sheetPrice range: $140,000 to $250,000
Age of homes: 30 to 35 years
Schools: River Trail, Spaulding and O'Plaine Elementary and Viking Middle schools in Gurnee Elementary District 56; Warren Township High School in Warren Township High School District 121
Parks: Waukegan Park District
Oak Crest sits south of Yorkhouse Road, just west of the Midlane Country Club. Although Alvarez wasn't initially looking to live that far north, the Realtor showed the couple two nice homes within their budget in what she called a really good, amazing neighborhood, Alvarez said. Alvarez also learned one of her good friends had grown up in the neighborhood.
"With positive reinforcement from two people I trusted, we put in an offer," Alvarez said. "It was exactly what I wanted -- a neighborhood not congested with traffic and with a sense of community. I don't have a white picket fence, but everything I was looking for, I have.
"We're in a secluded area; people aren't back here unless they live here," Alvarez said. "It's a good sense of security for us, and neighbors watch out for each other. It's been amazing living here; neighbors are more than just neighbors."
Jo Swanson agrees.
"Oak Crest isn't like any other neighborhood," said Swanson, a real estate broker with Real Living Property and a 30-year resident of Oak Crest. "It's like an old-fashioned neighborhood; everyone knows each other.
"When a man in his mid-30s had a stroke, two neighbors walked the neighborhood and collected for the family. That just doesn't happen these days."
Comprised of a main street and five cul-de-sacs, the subdivision has a country atmosphere with city-sized lots. People like the appearance of the neighborhood with homes by several different builders, so the subdivision doesn't have a cookie-cutter feel.
Homes feature a nice mix of ranches, large raised ranches and two-story houses with many different styles and well-kept properties.
"We have a lot of original owners who live here because most people only move if they're transferred or retiring," said Swanson, who had a house built when her husband was transferred to the area from Rockford.
Another plus for the neighborhood is the excellent Gurnee Elementary District 56, which received the Apple Distinguished Program honor for its 1:1 iPad initiative.
"The schools are a big draw to the neighborhood," Swanson said. "They're all newer, state-of-the-art schools."
Enjoy wildlife? The Waukegan Savanna Forest Preserve is just east on Yorkhouse Road, "so we have tons of wildlife," Swanson said. "I've had a huge deer jump over my 6-foot privacy fence."
When prospective homebuyers choose a place to live, family recreation and activities often rank at the top of their wish lists. The Waukegan Park District offers something for everyone with programs designed for specific age groups, beginning with quality play experiences for toddlers.
Nearby family entertainment includes Six Flags Great America, a theme park that attracts people from all over the state, and KeyLime Cove, a family resort hotel with an indoor water park, spa, restaurants and retail stores.
The subdivision is close to the I-94 tollway, and residents are midway between Chicago and Milwaukee with a 45-minute drive to both O'Hare International Airport and Mitchell Field in Wisconsin.