Everything You Need To Know About Luxury Condos in Chicago – June 2018 | Zenlist

A Luxury Condo in Chicago

Chicago is seeing an increasing interest in luxury condominiums throughout the city.

Despite their higher price and often smaller square footage, Chicagoans are gravitating toward these properties for their unique designs, layouts and finishes, as well as their prime locations and high-end amenities.

Particularly popular are small- and mid-size boutique condos – ones with three to five bedrooms and around 1,800 to 2,100 square feet. Though their price per square foot may be more extravagant than most traditional condos in the area, they come with an air of luxury and elegance those other properties just can’t offer.

The Luxury Difference


What Defines a Luxury Condo?


When compared to traditional ones, luxury condos usually differ in three main areas: design/layout, finishing, and amenities.


Design-wise, luxury condos often offer a non-standard layout that really speaks to Chicago buyers. They might have intermingled indoor and outdoor spaces, integrating the living area with the balcony, or they could have unique corridors or bottom-floor bedrooms that offer added privacy. Luxury condos also typically come with slightly higher square footage – one of the many the reasons they fetch a higher price tag.


The finishes in Chicago’s luxury condos also set them apart from traditional properties in the area. Timeless, classic and simple, they utilize top-notch materials that enhance the space’s aesthetic, while also standing the test of time. Many luxury condos also utilize innovative or sustainable finishes, which improve the property’s value and branding, as well as cut down on the resident’s energy bills and environmental footprint.


Amenities are what really set luxury condos apart for most buyers. Many units come with high-tech smart home technology, extra-large master bedrooms, rain showers and balconies with a view. The buildings they’re housed in often have serious perks, too – things like wine rooms, 24-hour security, fitness centers, rooftop pools and indoor or even heated parking.

Who Buys Chicago’s Luxury Condos?

Luxury condos are particularly popular with buyers moving back into the city after leaving a more suburban living arrangement. They’re often used to more space, have multiple vehicles and just want to enjoy the city life with more perks than traditional condos offer.

Many couples purchase luxury condos in hopes of raising their kids there – especially if the condo building is located in a great school district, and young, tech professionals also gravitate toward more expensive condos, due to the status and amenities they have to offer.

Most luxury condo buyers are looking for a long-term, permanent living space. They want more room and somewhere they can put down roots for the long haul. (This is likely why the three-bedroom, 2,000-square foot + luxe condo is generally the most popular!)

Where to Look for Luxury Condos in Chicago

There are two types of luxury condos Chicagoans typically look for: lakefront ones with city views and non-lakefront condos with quieter, more private surroundings.

Popular areas for lakefront luxury condos are the West Loop, Gold Coast, Old Town and Lincoln Park neighborhoods. Condo buildings in these areas typically have “blended price” options, meaning they’re housed in the same community as non-luxury units, but demand a higher price point because of their better views or more square footage.

The West Loop is Chicago’s top spot for lakefront condos, offering great views of the city and the lake below. For many, city views are more desirable. (Lakes look great in the sunlight, but at night they’re not visible. The city’s alive 24/7 no matter what time of day it is.)

Lakefront condos have the highest price points of all luxury condo options and can run anywhere from $700 to $800 per square foot. The average lakefront three-bedroom, 2,000-square foot condo starts at $1.2 million.

Non-lakefront condos are popular in River North, Bucktown/Wicker Park and North Center, which includes Roscoe Village and Lincoln Square. These condos are often situated in smaller buildings that leverage their neighborhood’s unique branding, personality and vibe.

Chicago’s non-lakefront condos come with top-notch amenities and amazing rooftops, and though they lack city or lakeside views, they don’t typically come cheap. Generally, they run between $400 and $500 per square foot and about $750K to $900K for a three-bedroom, 2,000-square foot home. In River North, prices are even higher. Units in this in-demand neighborhood are often just below those of the West Loop – the city’s hands-down most expensive area for luxury properties.

Going Luxe in Chicago

Chicago’s luxury condo market has the edge over other big cities. With larger properties than typically seen in New York, San Francisco or other major metros, Chicago’s luxury condos offer residents big city living with more space and more amenities. Plus, spread throughout the city’s unique neighborhoods and locations, they also allow buyers to pick and choose the absolute best spot for their preferences, budget and lifestyle. It’s this flexibility and versatility that has luxury condo purchases on the rise in Chicago.


Similar articles:

Everything You Have to Know Before Buying a Condo | Zenlist

Header Image Buying a Condo

Buying a condo is a serious undertaking. Not only are you putting up a significant amount of cash on the property, you’re also picking out your home – somewhere you’ll live for five, 10, maybe even 20 years of your life.

You might move your new spouse in. Raise kids there. Get a puppy. It’s a big deal, and because of this, it’s important you go about the buying process carefully, thoughtfully and thoroughly.

First of all, you should ask yourself why you are considering buying a condo. Here are the five steps you’ll want to walk through.


1. Learn what are the implications of owning a condo

A condominium, often shortened to condo, is a type of real estate divided into several units that are each separately owned, surrounded by common areas jointly owned. (Wikipedia)

What is a condo?

This type of property presents unique challenges, as you are buying full ownership of one or more individual units and partial ownership in shared “limited common elements”.

Units renovations have limitations: which materials you’re allowed to use, working hours, elevator access and so on. Limited common elements might need some work as well, but who’s responsible? Keep reading to learn more…

2. Understand the reasons why you should be buying a condo

Affordability/Location: Condos are popular in areas with high property values, where a single-family home could be prohibitively expensive. A condo could allow first home-buyers to afford living close to work, in a lively area of a major city.

The Condo Lifestyle: Living in a condo could also have unique benefits no other type of property has, just imagine the city views you could have from the top floors of a high-rise building in a big city.

Flexibility: Also, if you decide to travel for 1 year you can just leave your condo and stop worrying. The level of maintenance for a condominium is way lower than a single-family home in general. This allows for greater flexibility.

3. The risks of buying a condo

Before getting too far into the process, you’ll want to consider the risks that come with buying a condo. These include several lifestyles and financial risks, long-term value risks and the overall market risk you take with a condo property.

Let’s look at each one more in depth.


Lifestyle Risks:

Before buying a condo, always ask how many renters are currently in the building – and the maximum number that are allowed. Renters tend to decrease the value of the building (and subsequently your unit), and this can have serious consequences in the long-term.
On the other end, you might want to make sure to be able to rent out your unit if you want to.

  • Neighbors: Your neighbors pose the biggest potential lifestyle risk when buying a condo. Though you may say hello to one in the hall when viewing the property, you won’t really get to know them until you move in – and by then, it could be too late.
  • The noise – Condos come with a considerable amount more noise than single-family properties. There are residents above, below and beside you, and if you’re on a busy downtown street, you’ll probably hear the traffic below, too. Timber condos are especially susceptible to increased noise.
  • The co-ownership – As a condo owner, you don’t have rights to the entire property. You share it with dozens, maybe even hundreds of other people, and there’s a lot that can go wrong in that scenario.
  • The rules – Much like an HOA, condo properties have rules. You need to make sure these rules fall in line with your lifestyle and goals. Can you not decorate certain areas or host parties? That might not be ideal for the budding interior designer or social butterfly. Are you planning to rent your condo out on Airbnb or something similar? The condo association might not allow it.


Financial Risks:
There are also financial risks you’ll want to consider before buying a condo, most of which boil down to the lack of control you have on a shared property.

  • Limited Control: For one, you can’t control the building’s overall condition. The condo association or building owner is responsible for keeping up the care and maintenance of the building, while other renters/owners are responsible for their own individual units. You have no way of controlling how well the building is kept or whether its value depreciates over time.
    This is why it’s vital to understand the condition of the building before buying a condo. A comprehensive condo inspection can help. This is way is important to rely on the opinion of an expert when considering the purchase of a condo, especially during the inspection!
  • HOA/Reserve Balance: In the same vein, you’re also at the whim of building management. If they have financial problems or are struggling to stay afloat, that puts your building – its condition, its care and its value – at risk. It could even put you out of a home if the company goes under. Always evaluate a condo’s building manager before opting to buy. What’s their reserve balance? What happens if they have an unexpected expense? Do they have regular meetings? Do they participate actively in the community


Always make sure capital and operating balance are on different accounts, to make sure there is enough money in the reserve balance to cover unexpected expenses. Be aware that often smaller building might combine the two on a single account.

It’s also important to understand your financial obligations in the shared setting of a condo community. What are you responsible for if something breaks or needs replacing? Who covers the costs of repairs and maintenance of shared areas? How do you report those and how quickly are they tended to? Make sure you’re not on the hook for more than you can afford.



Long-term Value Risks:

With any property you purchase, you want to ensure long-term value. In the event you sell your condo down the line, you want to make back your money – and then some. Unfortunately, because so much is out of your control as a condo owner, protecting the long-term value of your purchase is a bit harder. You have to deal with:

  • Mismanagement of the building: If there’s suddenly a big problem or repair needed on the property, does the building manager have enough cash reserves to cover it? What if they cut corners and do shoddy work? What if you want to sell? You’ll likely take a hit on your sales price if underlying issues are at work.
  • Your neighbors’ sales: Comparable sales play a big role in how much you can list a property for when it’s time to sell. If your neighbor is in dire straits and sells their condo for 30% under what it’s worth, that hurts your ability to list yours at full-value, too.
  • Building instability: Unexpected financial events, unpredictable neighbors and building management can put the building in an unstable condition. This could make it hard to find an interested buyer down the line, let alone one willing to pay a good price.


Condos are also simply more sensitive to market change. They gain value faster when local conditions are positive (meaning they’re great for a short-term investment or flip), but this also makes them a riskier buy, because it’s hard to predict their long-term ROI.

Still, risks aside, their market sensitivity does come with a few advantages. For one, you might be able to get a really nice property in a high-end neighborhood without paying nearly the price you would on a single-family home. You also get to enjoy a low-maintenance, low-responsibility living situation – another advantage over single-family properties.

4. Identify Your Priorities

Once you’ve weighed the potential risks of buying a condo, it’s time to think about your lifestyle priorities – what you want from the condo today, tomorrow and 10 years down the line.

You’ll want to consider:

  • Living vs. renting – Do you want to live in the property or rent it out? If you’re considering renting it, make sure you know the rules for your condo building. If you want to live there, be sure it checks all the boxes regarding space, amenities, location, transportation access and more.
  • Pets – Do you have a pet? Would you possibly want one in the future? Many condo buildings have strict no-pet policies, and some also have restrictions on certain breeds and animal types. If your furry friends are a priority, find out early on what a building’s pet policies are – and make sure those aren’t changing anytime soon.
  • Appliances – Is there a fridge in the unit? A washer and dryer? If not, do you need to buy and install them? Or are you forced to use shared units or laundromats? Make sure the condo has all the appliances you need or, if it doesn’t, that you’ve budgeted enough cash to cover them yourself.
  • Access – Does the condo have balcony or roof access? Somewhere you can grill a steak or take a dip in the pool? Does it offer easy access to trains, subways, metros and bus lines? Are there parking spots for your cars? Think of all the things you want access to in your day-to-day life, and make sure your condo can offer it.

These may seem like small details, but they can make a big impact on your everyday life. You don’t want to fall in love with a place, buy it and move in only to find out Fido’s not welcome or you need to buy $10,000 worth of appliances just to cook and clean your clothes!

5. Location, location, location!

Finally, it’s time to weigh potential locations. In Chicago, condos are everywhere. You can find them in virtually every neighborhood and every community. Some are housed in historic, centuries-old buildings, while others are brand new, modern and hip.
Honing in on the right location is crucial – both from a financial standpoint and a lifestyle one.

Not sure where to start?


Here are Chicago’s top five condo neighborhoods as of May 2018:



Logan Square is known for is small, more modern new condos, as well as its vintage units upgraded with contemporary features and amenities. Condos in Logan Square are popular with younger buyers and families, due to the great local schools.

Browse Condos in Logan Square


West Town has a great mix of condos. From small, affordable, pre-2008 units to more modern, midsize ones from the last five years, there’s a little something for everyone in this neighborhood.

Browse Condos in West Town


Luxury and boutique condos are a popular sign in River North, as are lofts – another type of property that’s hot with Chicagoans. The neighborhood boasts tons of new construction as well as existing mid-rise buildings.

Browse Condos in River North


Whether you’re looking for mid-century high-rise condos with a lakefront view or a vintage courtyard condo with tons of charm, you’ll find it along the lake. Just beware of some of the older condos and be sure to have them inspected by a qualified condo inspector.

Browse Condos Around the Lake


Chicago’s tech hub and the spot to go for a great meal or night on the town, the West Loop has become a popular spot for younger residents. The neighborhood boasts both modern and luxury condos, as well as lots of loft options.

Browse Condos in West Loop


Now that you’ve learned pros and cons when buying a condo you might want to look at locations and property types. Check these articles:

The Zenlist Guide to Chicago’s Lofts

The Zenlist Guide to Chicago Lofts for Sale – June 2018 | Zenlist

A stylish Chicago Loft for Sale

Lofts are a popular type of real estate among Chicagoans–and it’s no wonder why.

With their stand-out architectural elements, stunning features like exposed brick and soaring ceilings, and, in many cases, prime locations in the city, they’re as unique as those who live in them.

Boasting storied backgrounds and past lives, each and every one is different. There are the old pencil factory lofts. The countless mixed-use, live-and-work lofts. School and church conversions lofts. Even old brewery lofts.

When browsing for Chicago lofts for sale the options are endless.

About Chicago Lofts

Open, airy and often historic, Chicago’s lofts are particularly popular with young professionals–ones looking for a quick walk to work and easy access to Chicago’s sights and sounds.

Loft Eras

Generally, Chicago’s lofts fall into on of these two eras:


  • 90s-2000 era – These usually have unique, unexpected layouts due to the lower cost of real estate at the time, and they’re a little funkier than today’s newly built lofts. They also have true, loft-style walls that stop just short of the ceiling.
  • 2000-today – Modern lofts have a more traditional in layout and often have a more refined feel than older ones. They have full walls, real do, rs and more expected arrangements. There are a few exceptions, of course. Some builders have intentionally created modern lofts with a more raw feel to them–mimicking older style lofts from decades past.

Loft Types

Chicago lofts also typically fall into either the timber style or the concrete style. Concrete lofts boast concrete floors and pillars and often have a colder feel than timber ones. They’re very insulated from noise and sound. Timber lofts, on the other hand, are warmer–both in temperature and in atmosphere. They also tend to be noisier than concrete lofts.

One of the most interesting tidbits about Chicago lofts is that many of them weren’t actually built to be lofts. In fact, some of the city’s most popular lofts are housed in old movie production facilities, factories, churches, schools and more.

Just check out this recently sold loft. Located in a converted church, it offers sweeping views, a spacious layout, unique features and a prime location on Chicago’s North Side. Lofts like this pop up all over the city as developers repurpose old and existing buildings.

The Loft Lifestyle

Loft living is a truly unique experience—especially for those who choose one of the many historic or themed lofts located in the city.

Consider the Pencil Factory Lofts, for example. Branded for their interesting background and one-of-a-kind story, they give residents a glimpse into times past with their 1920s-era architectural elements and throwback features. They’re authentic, interesting and real—exactly what loft living’s meant to be.

Other local lofts that lend themselves to this unique style of living include:


The Locomobile Lofts

One of many auto-inspired lofts. These lofts are located at 2000 S Michigan Ave, in South Loop.

The Prairie District Lofts

These lofts are situated in an old Kodak facility, at 1727 S Indiana Ave, in Prairie District/Near South Side.

The Donohue Building

Located on Printer's Row, along with The Manhattan Building, The Paper Place Lofts and The Rowe Building. These old warehouses are now converted to stylish loft condos.

The Cinema Lofts

The Cinema Lofts are located in a 1920s movie house at 1635 W Belmont Ave, Lakeview.

Best Brewing Company Lofts

One of countless brewery lofts. The Best Brewing Company building has been built in 1888. It's located at 1301 West Fletcher Street, in Lake View.

Hot Loft Neighborhoods

You can find lofts all across the city, but if you’re looking for Chicago lofts for sale some neighborhoods have more options than others.

West Loop, for example, is a particularly popular spot for lofts. Located close to the city’s cutting-edge tech and startup companies, its one of Chicago’s hottest places to live.

West Loop lofts offer easy access to restaurants, cafes and nightlife, as well as great public schools. Local lofts come in all kinds of styles—timber, concrete, mixed-use and conversions—and start at just $450-$500K for smaller, 1,200-1,300 square foot properties.


PROS: Close to tech startups offices, hot and trending, plenty of cafes and people, a great number of lofts (both timber and concrete)
CONS: Pricier than any other neighborhood, the neighborhood has mostly lofts so the view can be “monothematic”


River North is another top spot for lofts, offering quick access to the Magnificent Mile shopping district. It’s famous for its fine art and design and is well known for its affordable timber-style lofts. They generally run from $425-$450K for a 1,200-1,300 square foot unit.


PROS: Well established neighborhood, stylish neighborhood that borders Magnificent Mile and is just across the bridge from The Loop, great timber lofts
CONS: Not as “hot” as West Loop, Price just below West Loop


Logan Square/Bucktown, a former industrial area is also popular for loft lovers. With tons of historic and unique conversion lofts, it offers the most vintage properties in the city. The neighborhood is popular with younger buyers, has great schools and is located conveniently near public transport. Because of its differentiated housing, many people relocate from lofts to single-family homes without having to switch neighborhood. Lofts in Logan Square are usually priced at $400K or lower.


PROS: Plenty of old-school/original lofts, each loft has an identity associated with the history of the building, differentiated housing, great price!
CONS: Not as hot as the previous neighborhoods but “great bang for the buck”


Ravenswood Corridor is an interesting two-mile strip from Irving Park to Peterson, following the metro line. It’s full of unique and historic buildings, as well as popular yoga and design studios. The corridor is easily one of the city’s fastest-growing neighborhoods and offers quick, easy access to downtown. Lofts ranges from $375 to $425K here.


PROS: Interesting and trending location, unique buildings, fast growing neighborhoods and great lofts
CONS: Still developing


South Loop is another Windy City hub for lofts, thanks to its property-filled Printers’ Row area. It’s a very residential neighborhood, making it great for families, and it offers many luxury properties for higher-end shoppers. The average sized loft in the area runs between $375K and $425K with the north being more expensive.


PROS: One of Chicago’s original residential areas, unique lofts
CONS: While residential development was booming a few years ago, non-residential development didn’t have the same growth.


Love Lofts? Come to Chicago

For loft lovers, there’s no better place to call home than Chicago.

From the busy West Loop and River North areas to smaller neighborhoods like Roscoe Village, Lincoln Square and Edgewater, the city is brimming with loft options from top to bottom.

Want more recommendations on Chicago lofts? Not sure if loft living is for you? Then talk to local agent Robert Safranski. He’s our loft guru and can give you the guidance you need.