This restored 1889 Victorian home at 945 Longcommon Road in Riverside is listed at 75,000. (PROVIDED)

Throughout the Chicago suburbs, home sales in 2020 have been brisk. Despite, or perhaps because of the pandemic sweeping the nation, houses have been selling quickly in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and Will counties — up 7 percent in the first 10 months of 2020 when compared to the same period of 2019.

In Riverside the numbers are attention-grabbing. Year-to-date home sales were up a whopping 53 percent, the most of any suburb in the five counties. Other near west suburbs also saw substantial sales increases, but no other local suburb came close to cracking the top 10 in sales as measured by local industry groups.

Keller Williams realtor Rory Dominick has lived in Riverside since 2008 and focused her real estate practice there since 2012. She says this year has been unlike any other year she’s seen since she started selling homes in 2005. 

She says it has not been unusual to see homes garner three, four or five offers, and she has heard of interested buyers knocking on doors in the suburb to inquire about homes that are not even for sale. In part, she says the unusual selling season has been due to “an incredible increase in the activity of buyers coming from the city.”

Realtor Jeff Baker of the Burlington Group of @properties says the summer season was the busiest he’s seen since he started working in Riverside in 2004. 

“You could put a house on the market on Friday and have 30 showings over the weekend,” Baker said.

Noting that inventory in the village, whose population is roughly 8,800, is down 10 percent and sales up over 50 percent, Dominick says of 2020, “It’s the perfect storm of high demand, low inventory.”

Like other suburbs, she says that the pandemic moved a lot of potential city buyers into certain suburban buyers. As the pandemic and its accompanying restrictions dragged on, young buyers in the city were desperate for more space to work from home or school from home. 

On top of that, they were looking for a bit of green space to stretch their legs, and those of their children and pets.

Dominick says these young buyers looking for their first suburban homes fueled a lot of sales in Riverside. 

“Anything priced between $400,000 and $600,000 is going fast,” Dominick said.

Baker says he saw a lot of buyers from the city move up their timelines due to the pandemic. He notes that with shutdowns in place, young couples weren’t able to enjoy the restaurants and amenities of the city anymore, so they started looking for a place that provided more green space and access to good schools for the future. 

While young families in the past typically left the city when their kids were ready to start school, this year it was different.

“We’re seeing clients with young babies looking now,” Baker said. “We didn’t see that in past years.”

What makes Riverside so special? According to Dominick, the village hits a lot of notes that appeal to first-time suburban buyers. 

“It’s only 11 miles from downtown,” she said. “So, for someone who is thinking ‘I’m not ready to leave the city, but if I have to do it, I want something special,’ Riverside is close to the city but has that uniqueness of a cute town and tons of green space.”

Baker says the suburb is on more buyers’ radars this year and thinks that the fact there is a Metra station downtown as well as highly rated schools is a part of the appeal. He says low interest rates have helped fuel the sales market, too. 

He also has seen a lot more activity on larger homes as people within Riverside upsize, looking for more space to work and school from home. 

Dominick also has had a handful of clients move within Riverside. Again, she says these moves were often influenced by the pandemic. 

“People who lived here already realized their space wasn’t working for them anymore when they needed space for work and schooling at home,” Dominick said. “I had one couple that was planning to downsize who are now looking for a home with more space because their college-aged kids are at home.”


Good stats for other suburbs

John Lawrence, managing broker of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Oak Park, says that while Riverside is having a fantastic year for sales, other near west suburbs are doing well, too. 

“The nice thing is that there’s good things in all of our markets,” Lawrence said. “There’s a different headline for each, but good news for all of them.”

Lawrence compares Riverside to River Forest’s market, noting that the two suburbs are similar in size and appeal and both are near train lines with great housing stock. 

“Both of them are sort of hidden gems in that they don’t have a huge area that draws in people from outside for dining or entertainment,” he said.

He points out that while Riverside’ detached housing did well — 158 single-family homes closed in the first 10 months of 2020 compared to 103 in 2019 — the suburb’s No. 1 spot was also due to attached housing sales, which increased almost 100 percent from 11 units in the first 10 months of 2019 to 21 in the first 10 months of 2020. 

While attached housing sales might have decreased this year in River Forest, primarily because previous years saw higher sales when new developments were listed, Lawrence says detached housing is on track to have its best year ever in River Forest. 

“As of today, we are only six units off our all-time high, and with 19 properties pending, we should see probably a 40 percent increase year-over-year in detached housing.”

In Oak Park, Lawrence says sales are on track to give the village perhaps its third best year in sales. He says that there are 474 closed sales and predicts that with pending transactions, Oak Park could get close to its all-time high of 544 sales for the year.

While Forest Park has not seen the same highs in terms of numbers of sales, Lawrence says the village is also a good news story. 

“They have 100 closed sales at this point and will not get to their all-time high of 133,” Lawrence said. “It might be their fourth best year of all time.”

That said, he notes that the average price in Forest Park has increased almost 40 percent over last year, and Forest Park can also boast that its median prices have risen above pre-recession levels, something few other suburbs can say.

Lawrence says that Forest Park can also claim an almost 60 percent increase in the median price of attached housing in the past two years.

“There’s a lot of good in Forest Park,” he said.