The following terms can help familiarize you with the different types of housing offered in Chicago.
Condominiums: When you purchase a condominium, you become the title holder to the apartment or townhouse and in addition, you own an interest in the common elements of the building or complex. These common elements typically include grounds, exterior walls, stairwells, elevators, etc.
Cooperatives: When you purchase a cooperative, you become a shareholder in the corporation that owns the building. The stock that you purchase represents the ownership of your apartment, in addition to, your proportional share of the common elements of the building.
Duplex: In Chicago real estate terminology, this simply means a two-story apartment. The apartment is either “duplexed” to the floor above or the floor below.
Flats: This is an apartment that occupies the entire floor of the given building. Thus, a two flat is a two-story building with one apartment occupying each floor.
High-rise or mid-rise: Built since the 1920’s, these buildings have many apartments, usually divided vertically into “tiers.” This is best described as identical floor plans stacked on top of each other but with several different floor plans offered on each floor. High rises always have elevators, and often they have doormen, swimming pools, commissaries, tennis courts, health clubs and parking.
Lofts: These units are usually carved out of existing, older commercial buildings, i.e. warehouses, factories, hospitals, schools or office buildings. Generally, “lofts” offer high ceilings (12-14’), exposed brick and ductwork, timber beams and oversized windows. “Soft Loft” implies a more finished look, i.e. white walls, industrial carpeting and more defined space overall. Lofts preserve the architectural character and heritage of many of the city’s aging industrial and commercial districts while accommodating the city’s growing population.
Renovated/Rehabbed: This term suggests an older building that has had its original features restored or has had “new mechanics” (i.e. plumbing and/or electric) installed.
Rowhouses: These buildings are divided vertically internally so that there are common walls between the buildings. The facades of the homes form a continuous row. Many neighborhoods have been witness to new construction rowhome developments.
Single Family: In Chicago, single-family homes are normally brick, frame, or stucco. Frame and stucco tend to be less expensive than brick. A standard Chicago building lot is 25 ft wide by 125 ft deep; however, this varies by neighborhood.
Townhomes: Purchasing a townhome is similar to that of a condominium, in that the owner owns all of the space within their unit. The difference is that townhomes share vertical walls with the owner on either side. These homes typically have a garage on the ground level and either a patio or a balcony. The exterior walls, roofs and sometimes, even the garages are designated as common elements.
Vintage Buildings: These are the city’s older buildings, usually pre-World War II. Vintage buildings have hardwood floors, high ceilings, fine woodwork, sun parlors and plaster moldings.
Here are some ideas to ponder when considering different types of homes:
Condos and Co-op apartments offer many of the advantages of ownership while minimizing the responsibilities of maintenance. Some high-rise buildings also extend the services of parking and shopping within the building itself. The choice of apartments ranges from low-rise to high-rise, vintage to modern and from city and lake views to quiet, tree-lined streets. Prices vary depending on location.
If it is vintage buildings you desire, most of these elegant buildings are found in the Gold Coast, Streeterville and along the lake shore. These spacious units have high ceilings, original woodwork, hardwood floors and often, exquisite lobbies.
If you are seeking a trendy, urban life style, lofts might interest you. The majority of the city’s loft buildings can be found in the West Loop. Years ago this was the industrial area of the city and in recent decades, developers have bought these old, vacant factories and converted them into residential buildings. These units afford the owner with one-of-a-kind open, living space characterized by oversized windows, exposed brick and high ceilings, lending a very urban feel to the unit.
The most prevalent form of housing in Chicago are two and three flat buildings. These buildings are in high demand either for conversion to single family homes or as owner-occupied buildings with rental income serving to reduce the cost of ownership. These buildings can be found all over the city, and they come in a variety of shapes, styles and prices.