House hunting in Chicago is difficult.
To be fair, house hunting in any market is difficult. House hunting in this economy is difficult. But as a twenty six year old who has spent the majority of his life in a rural setting, my situation has created several extraneous issues.
First, let me provide some context. My wife and I have been living with her parents in suburban Chicago for the last few months. We are ever-thankful for the subsidized housing, but are now in a position to start looking for our own place. As we've day-dreamed and wishfully thought about what we're looking for in a house, Annie and I have come up with a checklist of wants and needs:
1+ Car garage
A good neighborhood (you know, minimal amounts of drug-busts, violent crimes, etc)
Within our price range
We know that we arent going to find all of these things, but we're hopeful that, if we aim high, we might be able to stumble upon a property that fits our needs.
So we've been on the lookout for that perfect property. Scanning the real estate listings, Craig's list, and even flipping through the classifieds of the daily paper, we are doing all we can to find that home-sweet-home. And a few times, we've thought that we had found it. The price was right, the pictures looked nice, and there were minimal remodelling jobs that needed done. We could live with that.
And yet something felt too good to be true. I didn't know the area that well, so I shot an email over to a friend who'd been living in the city for a few years.
I asked him, "What is wrong with this place? Am I missing something, or is this really a good house to look at?"
He responded almost immediately. The subject line of his email read, "HELL NO! Re: Your thoughts on this neighborhood?" You can guess how the rest of the email read.
But I didn't want to give up hope! Not wanting to admit to myself that this house was actually a lost cause, I decided to check it out using Google Maps' Streetview. As the initial image came into focus, I saw that the front yard was filled with overgrown bushes that seemed to be growing trash like berries. Fast food cups and old wrappers littered the yard. As I panned to the side, the next house down came into view, it's windows boarded up like it had just barely survived Hurricane Katrina. On the front steps, it looked as if two men were playing dice over another mans dead body, while tall-boys of some indeterminate malt liquor rounded out the ensemble.
I resisted the urge to look any further. As my heart settled despondently into my lower intestines, I realized that this house was not going to be an option. I purged any remaining hope from my mind, and set myself back to the task of finding our ever-ellusive dream house.
I still haven't had any luck finding that perfect property, but I keep on searching. I've learned a lot about many Chicago neighborhoods over the last few weeks, so I hope to avoid anymore housing heartbreaks.