At Baird & Warner, we’ve called Chicagoland home since 1855. From our earliest days handling mortgage and title loans, to our current position as the largest independent and locally owned brokerage in Chicagoland, our story is about helping build up our region, by always making the dream of homeownership easier.
We love the Chicagoland area, and all its charms. From the hot dogs, to the pizza, to the incredibly rich history, there are so many things that make our Chicagoland home unique — particularly when it comes to all things real estate.
With 163 years of history behind us, we know that buying or selling property in Chicagoland is different than buying or selling anywhere else. For instance? There are lots of terms you may see come up time and again during your Chicagoland real estate transaction, which are fairly unique to our area.
As the legendary writer Mike Royko once put it: “Chicagoese is one of the world’s most beautiful languages.”
So, what are some of the unique real estate terms we use here in Chicagoland? Here’s a glossary of some common Chicagoland-specific real estate words that may come up as you start your local home search. What would you add to the list?
1.) Two-flat & Three-flat
There are a few different types of structures that you’ll see in neighborhoods all across Chicagoland – and two-flats and three-flats are certainly some of the most iconic. In fact, according to the Chicago Architecture Center, two-flats and three-flats “make up a quarter of Chicago’s housing.” Two-flats and three-flats are buildings comprised of several multi-bedroom single-family units stacked one on top of the other. True to their names, a two-flat generally has two livable units, and a three-flat has three. Most two- and three-flats also boast brick façades and large windows, as well as green space in the front and rear. A “converted” two-flat generally means that a home was redeveloped, from multiple apartments into one single family dwelling.
2.) Duplex Up Vs. Duplex Down
In Chicago, a duplex is an apartment or condominium that occupies two levels. It’s not to be confused with a “duplex house,” used in other parts of the country for a house with two living units. Within this category, units can fall into a few different categories. When looking at listings, a note that says “duplex down” generally indicates that you’ll enter the unit on the ground floor, with the second floor occupying the basement, or garden, level. With a “duplex up,” you’ll typically enter the unit on a higher floor, with the second level one floor higher. So, for example, a “duplex up” may occupy the third and fourth floors of a building.
Other variations? A triplex refers to a unit that occupies three levels. You may also see the phrase “simplex” used to describe a unit that’s all on one level.
3.) 22.1 Disclosure
If you’re purchasing a condominium in Illinois, then you’ll want to know these three numbers. In our area, a 22.1 disclosure consists of all of the condominium documents and information that a condo association or management company must furnish to a prospective buyer, upon request. The name comes from the Illinois statute on disclosures for condominiums being sold by any owner other than the developer. Common information included in a 22.1 disclosure packet includes the condo’s declaration and bylaws, financial information from the owner’s association, and information about any liens, unpaid assessments, or other charges due on the specific unit.
3.) “Granny Unit” (Accessory Unit)
In Chicagoland, you may hear the phrase “Granny Unit” or “Granny Flat” used to describe a livable space on a piece of property, which a single family homeowner could use or rent out, perhaps to defray mortgage costs or improve affordability. Some common examples include attic apartments, garden level units, or detached coach houses. You may also see these rentable spaces called “accessory units,” “accessory dwelling units” (ADUs), or “mother-in-law suites.”
Around Chicagoland, you may hear the phrase “frunchroom” used to describe the front room of a flat or bungalow, overlooking the street. Often, this frunchroom space will be smaller than the main living room, and will feature lots of natural light. Historically, many people have used these spaces for entertaining. These days, you may see former frunchrooms in use as home offices, yoga studios, and other types of “bonus” rooms.
As you look for a Chicagoland home, you’ll see most multi-unit buildings listed as condominiums, while others are called “cooperatives.” Commonly shortened to condo and “co-op,” respectively, these two designations refer to different types of ownership. With a condominium, the buyer purchases their individual unit, and owns a share of the building’s common elements. With a co-op, buyers essentially purchase a share of a legal entity, often a corporation, which owns the property. In this arrangement, purchasing your shares entitles you to reside in a specific unit. In practice, real estate taxes are one big difference for owners. In a condo building, the owner of each individual unit receives a property tax bill. With a co-op, the corporation that owns the building gets the property tax bill, and owners generally pay their share of the taxes as part of their monthly assessments.
6.) High-rise, Low-rise, Mid-rise
As you start to explore different Chicagoland listings, you might come across the terms high-rise, low-rise, and mid-rise. From a zoning perspective, there are all sorts of distinctions between these types of structures. For most of us, though, the distinguishing factor is going to be height. High-rise buildings include the skyscrapers quite common in downtown Chicago and along the lakefront. In most cases, mid-rise buildings clock in around four to six stories, and low-rises may include mixed-use developments, and other buildings that are two to three stories tall.
As anyone who’s ever had to deal with street parking in and around Chicago can tell you, “dibs” can be a pretty important subject to understand, particularly as winter really starts to settle in. When winter storms dump snow on the region, many people have to dig out their cars. As they pull away from their cleared-out parking spot, some drivers may place a chair or a crate to call “dibs” and mark the empty spot as taken, so other drivers won’t swoop in and take advantage of all their hard work. “Dibs” is a subject of some debate around Chicagoland, but it’s an important piece of local lingo to know.
While you may find “bungalows” for sale in California and in other parts of the country, true Chicago-style bungalows are quite unique. Found throughout the city, but particularly dense in the northern and western neighborhoods sometimes called “the bungalow belt,” these structures are generally 1.5 stories, plus a basement. Generally, Chicago bungalows are brick, and often boast hipped roofs, wide porches, and large front windows. While many Chicago bungalows share similar floorplans, these homes often come with unique design features that add character and make each structure totally unique.
Let Baird & Warner Be Your Guide to All Things Chicagoland
At Baird & Warner, we know what makes Chicagoland tick. Our agents are hyperlocal experts who know this area inside and out. So if you have any questions about buying or selling in Chicagoland, we’ve got you covered.
We’re here to make the dream of homeownership easier, at every step of the way. With our signature “One Company” approach, Baird & Warner can help streamline every step of the home buying process, with mortgage and title services all readily available under one roof. From buying to selling to financing, easier is just in our DNA, as it has been since 1855.
Ready to find the Chicagoland home of your dreams? Want to get to know the area better? Get in touch with your local Baird & Warner agent today to get the conversation started!