Is Our Local Market Finally Valuing Modern Homes Higher than Traditional Houses?

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Don Wrobleski’s modern home in Bannockburn had more than 60 showing requests in 10 days

There’s no denying that this has been a very unusual, crazy and trying year for many people. So it’s stills surprising to a lot of people that since mid-May, the real estate market has been stronger in the Chicago suburbs than at any time in the past five years.

Yes, you read that correctly. Since mid-May, we’ve seen the first notable home value increase in five years. In many areas, values have gone up 3% – 6% or so, while in some micromarkets, values have gone up over the last six months by double digits, compared with the last five years, which have been relatively flat or have had negligible increases in home values at best.

And while modern homes have been growing in desirability over the last 10 years, it’s only been this year, during the pandemic, that the value of them has increased when compared to traditional homes. 

This is much more anecdotal than it is purely scientific, but here’s what I’ve been seeing in the last six months:

Buyers are hoping to find more space, especially those coming from the city. This could apply to bedroom count, overall square footage, land / privacy or a combination of all three.

A sprawling mid-century modern ranch home in North Barrington sold with multiple offers

More buyers are hoping to find “the right modern home” vs. just shopping for a house in general. So while in the past, I’d have a lot of buyers who were looking for something very specific, but they might have settled for something that wasn’t their ideal, now I’m hearing from more buyers that they’d prefer to wait for the right home.

Modern homes that are more “pure” in their aesthetic, and those that have been recently remodeled very well in terms of the materials, fixtures and finishes used are seeing even bigger gains in value compared with other modern homes.

Speaking to buyer preferences, larger lots with more privacy and/or more space between homes are definitely preferred these days, for obvious reasons related to being able to be more distanced from other people.

If you’ve been following me and Modern Illinois for a while, you know that I’ve  written and spoken about the importance of “appropriate” updates to modern homes for years, and this is more true now than ever before. If you’re planning to do work to your home prior to selling it, or even if you’re doing it for yourself but you may sell at some point in the future, there are specific things you should consider when doing those updates. Many of the past articles I’ve written here address some of these, and of course I’m happy to talk through them if and when we meet about selling your home.

Dennis Blair’s former personal residence in Barrington, under contract with multiple offers

I’m also seeing that staging is another important factor: Even though most houses don’t sell with their furniture and artwork included (although it does happen from time to time), a modern home that’s furnished (or staged) with modern furniture, decor, artwork and accessories will draw MUCH more attention than those that aren’t.

This creates a bit of a challenge for those of you who would love to take advantage of this fact but who don’t currently have your homes furnished and decorated this way, as actually finding a stager who can stage with authentic and/or vintage modern items is next to impossible (at least it has been so far). 

In fact, for a while, I was helping people stage their modern homes with authentic vintage items, but when the pandemic first started, I had to liquidate those items due to the cost of storing them. Since then, I’ve continued to help my clients selling their modern homes by providing some smaller decor items and art from time to time, but as far as I know, there still are no stagers in the area who have access to enough mid-century items to stage an entire home.

This beautifully redone modern ranch in Deerfield sold in 1 day for over $1.5MM

With all of that said, the reality is that, yes, our local market is finally placing a higher value on well-designed modern homes – especially mid-century modern – than on traditional homes, and the more pure they are and the more they “look the part”, the higher that value – and the demand for those homes – seems to be.

We’re definitely not at the same level as someplace like Palm Springs, where modern homes often command twice the price of traditional homes, but we’re certainly seeing an increase in value compared with traditional homes. That increase will be difficult to measure for a while, since we still have relatively few modern homes on the market to come up with some truly factual data, but I’ll keep an eye on it of course.

And, as always, I’ll continue to guide and advise my clients selling modern homes on how best to take advantage of the greatly increase demand for these wonderful homes. I should probably point out that all of the homes featured in this article are homes that I listed. If you’re thinking of selling your modern home, and we haven’t yet spoken, I’m happy to provide references of past clients. I provide a much more in-depth level of service than any other agent and am the only Realtor working in the North Shore and Northwest suburbs who specializes in helping people buy and sell modern properties.

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