Location remains the driving force in real estate

If you build it, they will come. This misquote from the movie "Field of Dreams" has become a mantra in pop culture. Whether myth or truth, the fact remains that if you build it, you increase the probability of them coming. So, where are builders building, and are buyers coming?

The answer to this question is that buyers make a lifestyle choice when they choose a place to live - and that could be a townhouse in Naperville, a home in a small town in the far West suburbs or an upscale, two-story home in a subdivision near excellent schools.

"It's such an individual choice," said Anna Harmon, director of sales and marketing for Shodeen Homes. "For example, some empty-nesters downsize and move to Chicago, and others go to Wisconsin."

Townhouse communities in thriving suburban towns

M/I Homes offers several townhouse communities that attract first-time homebuyers, families and downsizers, said Cheryl Bonk, vice president of sales and marketing for M/I Homes. "We want to make sure we have something for everyone."

With a strong presence in Naperville, M/I Homes' townhouses are a nice option for downsizers from Naperville and Wheaton because they have the familiarity of the area where they've lived for many years. And they have all the conveniences and the vibrant downtowns that they want to continue to enjoy.

"People are downsizing earlier than before, yet many are still working," Bonk said. "They want access to highways to get into the city just as they've been doing all their lives. Their lifestyle hasn't changed; they just no longer want to take care of a large home.

"Our townhouse buyers want a strong location with access to area amenities, no maintenance and strong school districts to enhance their investment. This product has been popular for us because a lot of people are making a lifestyle choice to go the townhouse route. Also, our townhouses live large and make it easier for buyers to transition to a townhouse from a single-family home."

Move-up communities in desirable suburbs

M/I Homes also offers communities geared toward move-up buyers such as Bergman Pointe in Hoffman Estates and Kettering Estates in Lemont, along with homes in Joliet, Shorewood and Channahon, Bonk said. "The benefit of purchasing a home in the South corridor is that buyers can get a very good value on a single-family home with a basement in a strong school district."

Plote Homes offers ranch duplex homes at Lakes of Boulder Ridge, which is not age-restricted, but age-targeted because of the product and location. "Many downsizers choose this community because they enjoy the country club, and they want to live near their kids and grandkids in nearby Algonquin and surrounding areas," said Scott Ballard, director of homebuilding for Plote.

Keim Corp. has been building custom homes throughout the West suburbs with active communities in Wheaton, North Aurora, St. Charles and Geneva. "Upscale custom homes attract move-up buyers who want a nice custom home with unlimited options, and we have the ability to make any changes our customers want," said owner Joe Keim. "All these areas have good school districts, which is a draw for families with children."

Building communities in the most desirable suburbs with good school districts is also a priority for Meritus Homes, which offers upscale move-up homes that appeal to families with children, said Jay Dulla, executive vice president of Meritus Homes.

"When people move to the suburbs, they're not looking for a large lot; they want a nice, fairly priced home in a good school district near a commuter train," he said.

"Empty-nesters, too, want access to expressways, shopping, conveniences and familiar areas, and they're willing to pay higher prices to be closer in, to be near to their families and friends," Dulla said

Meritus Homes offers houses in The Reserve in St. Charles, The Enclave at Mill Creek in Addison and Lake Vista in Lake Villa.

Far West suburbs, Wisconsin and vacation communities

On the other hand, Shodeen Homes has seen a lot of interest in properties farther west. "We just opened Squires Crossing, a new community in Maple Park where buyers get more house for the money and a quieter lifestyle," Harmon said. "They have the best of both worlds - a rural setting with a hometown community feel and easy access to Metra, highways and major shopping."

KLM Builders sees more people who want to move to Wisconsin where lower property taxes are a draw. "Our Whispering Oaks community in Twin Lakes is right over the border, which is a good location and close to the expressway for those who work in Illinois," said Kim Meier, president of the company.

"We're building a lot of single-story ranch homes that have a broad appeal, not only for empty-nesters. People of all ages like the wide open floor plan with the split bedrooms and full basement."

KLM offers eight different communities from more rural, one-acre lots to in-town communities in the midst of shopping and conveniences.

Plote Homes is building maintenance-free homes at Cliffs of Fontana in Wisconsin with scenic views of Lake Geneva, year-round recreation and town festivals. Recreation includes boating on the lake, lounging at the pool or hiking along nature trails. Residents enjoy a blend of tranquillity with convenience with unique shops and boutiques on Fontana's square.

Fontana, a charming hillside community, is ideal for a vacation home, and many buyers moving there commute back to Illinois for work. Others say it's only an hour from where they work, and they're selling their homes in Illinois and relocating to Wisconsin.

Some communities such as Heritage Harbor Ottawa Resort in Ottawa and Newport Cove in Antioch offer vacation-style living all year long, which also attracts downsizers who want an active but easier lifestyle. They want to get away from mall shopping and like a simpler way of life near small towns with a touch of Mayberry. They still want access to amenities, health care and walking/biking paths.

The Mayfair townhouse community is located in a scenic setting around a small lake, and is close to downtown Naperville. Courtesy of M/I Homes
The decorated Palmetto II model is now open at Squires Crossing, a Shodeen Homes' community of 42 ranch and two-story homes in Maple Park. Courtesy of Shodeen Homes
  An English garden is featured at English Rows by M/I Homes in Naperville. Bev Horne/
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