No place like home

Special to the Tribune

Silence is golden? Shannon and Steve Tauschman won't hear of it.

"Too much quiet creeps me out. I don't like nature or crickets and I don't like walking in the woods." But living near the tracks in an urban area like Chicago, she feels, is nirvana. "Give me an L train and the city any day," she said, chuckling.

That's exactly what Tauschman and her husband Steve got when they moved into a single family house near the Steppenwolf Theatre -- and right next to a turn in the elevated tracks. While some might bristle at the thought, for Shannon Tauschman, it's probably the next best thing to hitting the lottery. It makes sense considering the early indoctrination her father, who owned a bar on Rush Street, gave her to the city. "I always joke that my parents left Northwestern Hospital after I was born and instead of taking me home, took me to my dad's bar to show me off."

And she said it gets even better, given the box seat view she'll have from her deck of trains as they make the turn. "It's kind of neat because when you're standing out there, the turn of the train is right there, so I thought it was cool visually. It was like 'Oh, we live in a house, but we're definitely in the city.'"

Perhaps not surprisingly, Shannon Tauschman's point of view might not be shared by all homeowners. According to the National Association of Realtors' 2007 Profile of Buyers' Home Feature Preferences, garages with two or more spaces for cars, as well as air conditioning and a walk-in closet in the master bedroom and high on the list.

But Tauschman will take the tracks and other elements of the city. "I liked the idea of living near the 'L'; it's very urban. I don't like an area where it's completely dark and silent," she said. "People who like to walk in the forest -- that to me is just beyond creepy and I couldn't do it."

Misha Immormino, a real estate agent with Dream Town Realty in Chicago, said "for some it feels 'urban' to be near a train. It's the convenience of catching a train a few steps from their door."

Similarly, Kim and Wes Root didn't give it a second thought when they recently bought a three-bedroom townhouse in Naperville, not more than a few steps from a power line and water-treatment plant. It beat the alternatives, they said.

"It wasn't an issue for us because we looked at townhouses all over the city [of Naperville] ... we preferred a better quality and this neighborhood was the best. Our place is high-end, and then even in our subdivision, there was another [unit] that was available that backed up next to another townhouse. So you walked out your door and were in your neighbor's back yard," said Kim Root, a compliance specialist for a relocation company. "It was like, 'OK, there's a pole here, but there's no people.' People or a pole, we'll take the pole. I'll take privacy any day."

The reasons people buy a home can differ with the characteristics involved, said Mike Frank, a sales associate with Keller Williams in Lincoln Park. "In general, I think people choose to purchase a property because they like the property, space and finishes -- and the property meets their needs."

Why else would buyers go for the two- and three-bedroom townhouses at Kelsey Court at 111th Street and California Avenue, a corner carved out of Mt. Greenwood Cemetery?

Usually the decision to purchase such properties is based on price, said Elizabeth Ballis, an agent with Coldwell Banker in Chicago. "Most often it is a financial consideration; for the purchasers willing to make this compromise, they usually find they have a more reasonable chance to make a better deal with the seller since the buyer pool is more limited."

But Frank emphasized such buyers should keep the resale in mind. "If it has [less than desirable] characteristics, it will be more difficult to sell and the sale price will need to be discounted appropriately. As long as they get an appropriate discount with their purchase, it shouldn't be too large of a problem when they need to sell."

That was a non-issue to Root and husband Wes, a geologist.

"As a matter of fact, when the previous owner purchased the property they bought it new two years ago at prime market value. Even with the housing slump and decrease in prices it still made a substantial profit," Root noted of her Naperville home. Root said the home sold in the same $350,000-to-$475,000 range as others in the subdivision, with the difference based on amenities rather than location.

Even the Tauschmans, despite Shannon's interest in living near the "L," leveraged its presence during negotiations. "I thought it was a feature, but when it came to negotiating the price, I think we kind of played it down, like 'Oh, that's going to bug us.' Not really, but that's what we said," said Shannon Tauschman, a restaurant manager. Tauschman demurs on providing her purchase price but a real estate agent familiar with the deal says the couple paid 97 percent of a reduced asking price. Recent sales in the area show single-family homes going for $600,000 and up.

Adam Grimm and his roommate weighed their options before they bought a three-flat next to the "L" on the North Side last year. They thought it might discourage renters from the other two units in the building, where Grimm and his roommate occupy the third unit. So, the two gauged the noise level there several times. "We stood in all three units of the building while the train was going by at different times to see if it would be an issue, either for us or renters."

Grimm, a freight broker, then weighed that against the average age of renters in the area: early-to mid-20s.

"Renters are mostly younger and don't mind the noise as much. The fact that the train is close is even viewed as an added benefit because of the proximity to available transportation."

The Tauschmans, particularly Steve, a marketer, also visited the area several times to get sense of the noise. It seems the rural Wisconsin native is not that sold on the idea of living near the "L."

"He has gone up there many times during the day to see the trains, like during rush hour, to see if it really is as noisy as he thought it might be, and he doesn't think it's that bad," said Shannon Tauschman, a restaurant manager.

Shannon, who works nights, admits there's a greater possibility that noise from trains could affect her. "I don't get up until around 11 in the morning, and I don't know what that's going to entail because the trains are a lot longer during the day. I think we're lucky that we're right on the turn so they'll slow down, but we'll see. I might change my tune."

If Grimm and his roommate change theirs, it won't be because they jumped into anything. They looked at about 30 properties before buying their building, which has a back stairwell that serves as a "sort of buffer between the tracks and the living area, and the high quality of the back windows helps muffle the sound."

Noise aside, Grimm sees the support columns for the "L" tracks that impede access to sections of parking as more of a disadvantage.

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