There’s a Place Called the “Bungalow Belt,” And You’re Going to Want to Check It Out

published Nov 13, 2021
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Credit: Courtesy of Julie Busby, Compass Real Estate

Along the outskirts of Chicago, wrapping around the city in an arc, there’s such a thing as the bungalow belt — a ring of bungalow homes built in the 1910s and 1920s. The Arts and Crafts-style houses all share the same unique features: brick construction; large leaded glass windows and oftentimes, art glass; one and a half stories above a full basement; a low-pitch hipped roof; a yard; and a large porch with steps descending to the street level. And that’s just on the outside. Inside, you’ll find beautiful millwork; built-ins; wood floors; formal dining rooms; and generally, three bedrooms with one or two bathrooms.

“The bungalow belt links diverse neighborhoods,” explains Julie Busby, a broker with Compass Real Estate in Chicago. The belt starts on the south side, heads out to the west, and then curves up to the north. “It’s almost like an arc with it opening up toward the lake. Some of the neighborhoods that are well known for being in the bungalow belt are Portage Park, Belmont Cragin, Rogers Park, Marquette Park, Chatham, South Shore, Lincoln Square, and Irving Park,” she says.

When you track it on a map, the bungalow belt is a pretty defined space enclosing more built-up and crowded areas, like downtown and the adjacent neighborhoods. And it makes sense — in the early 1900s, when these homes were built, the bungalow belt was on the very edge of the city. It was an affordable area at the time, Busby says. But many builders soon hit a rough patch, freezing bungalow construction into that arc pattern.

“There was a rush in development in these affordable areas, and once the Depression hit, the development stopped,” Busby said. About 80,000 bungalows had been built around the edge of the city by that time. After the Depression, building styles had changed, leaving the belt intact.

Credit: Courtesy of Julie Busby, Compass Real Estate

Now, those bungalows are a prized purchase for many Chicago residents looking to keep the city vibe while having more space, a yard, and a lower price point. Busby says that for buyers today, about 80 percent are looking for a bungalow rather than a condo, two-flat, or three-flat.

“The bungalow can tend to be at a starter price point for a single-family home buyer,” Busby says. “You get this prestigious architecture of a home, but it’s not necessarily unattainable price point-wise. You get more bang for your buck.”

Buyers are loving the historic aspects of the homes right now, Busby says, like the windows, the wood floors, and the built-ins. Bungalows are selling quickly, with multiple offers on each one. If you buy a true historic bungalow that’s registered as such, you also get a tax freeze for eight years through the city.

Credit: Courtesy of Julie Busby, Compass Real Estate

When you move into a bungalow home, though, you aren’t just buying a piece of Chicago’s history. You’re also becoming part of Chicago’s culture — a lifestyle known for sitting on the porch and conversing with your neighbors.

“We have clients who just bought a bungalow on the corner of the street,” Busby says. “So many of their neighbors stop outside and chit chat with them. Because the homes [and the buyers] all have commonality, because they all enjoy the historic features of the homes like the front porch, it makes it easier to sit outside and chat with your neighbor.”