Bearing out that trend, RE/MAX brokers in Northern Illinois report a growing number of their empty-nester clients are seeking condominiums or single-family homes in downtown Chicago or the downtown areas of the city's close-in suburbs. Their clients are interested in pedestrian-friendly locations, ones that will let them walk or take public transportation to restaurants, shops and entertainment.
"So many of my empty-nester clients are looking to live in downtown Chicago or places like downtown Glen Ellyn," said Susann Rhoades with RE/MAX Suburban in Wheaton, Ill. "These clients want a nice home, but they also want that social piece that comes with living in a more urban area. Their kids are gone. They want to get out and still have a vibrant social life, and in the Chicago area, there are plenty of urban downtowns that can provide that."
Dave Scott, a broker with RE/MAX Valley, Realtors®, in Roscoe, Ill., said he has helped several empty-nester clients sell their homes and move to areas in or closer to Chicago.
"They've raised their kids and are ready to move on," Scott said. "Their houses are now too large for them to maintain. They have good equity positions in the homes, and they can use that to help purchase a house or condominium in a more urban area."
Where are Scott's clients moving? Some are relocating to downtown Chicago, while others are moving to walkable urban downtowns in warmer climes, such as Florida, Texas, Arizona, and even the state of Washington.
Though Rockford is the closest big city to Scott's Roscoe office, none of his clients have moved to downtown Rockford when they downsized. However, Scott believes this might soon change. Rockford officials have initiated the Transform Rockford effort. Their hope is that it will lead to a significant level of business development on the riverfront and in downtown areas, as well as create other incentives to spark economic growth for the region.
"Once the downtown transformation initiatives are further along, I would expect more empty nesters will consider downtown Rockford when they're ready to downsize," Scott said.
Downtown Chicago and its surrounding neighborhoods -- places like the South Loop, Lincoln Square, Gold Coast and West Loop -- are all benefitting today from this trend, according to James Michaels, a broker with RE/MAX Vision 212 in Chicago.
Residents of these communities can walk to a wide variety of restaurants, shops and bars and have ample public transportation options, as well as easy access to the museums, theaters and attractions of downtown Chicago, he explained.
"If you live in one of these neighborhoods, you rarely have to take your car anywhere," Michaels said. "You can walk or take public transportation to get where you need to go. After their kids move out, many people no longer want to live in a suburban location where they have to drive everywhere. They also want to experience opportunities that you can only get in an urban setting like the downtown Chicago area."
Rhoades advises empty nesters not to rush into any move, especially one that puts them in a very different type of living situation.
"I suggest empty nesters take their time and look carefully," Rhoades said. "They need to evaluate their situation thoughtfully. Living in an urban area can be a big change from a suburban single-family home where they have had their own space and large yard. I always suggest that clients look at multiple condos before they make a move. They need to make sure they are going to be comfortable with their surroundings."
RE/MAX has been the leader in the northern Illinois real estate market since 1989. The RE/MAX Northern Illinois network, with headquarters in Elgin, Ill., consists of 2,000 sales associates and 100 individually owned and operated RE/MAX offices that provide a full range of residential and commercial brokerage services. Its mobile real estate app and www.illinoisproperty.com provide comprehensive information about residential and commercial property for sale in the region. The northern Illinois network is part of RE/MAX, LLC, a global real estate organization with 90,000+ sales associates in 90+ nations.