Porter County, with its close proximity to Lake Michigan and public transportation for quick access to Chicago, is seeing a boom in real estate developments.
According to statistics released by GNIAR, Porter County’s year-to-date growth from Jan. 1, 2016 – Feb. 29, 2016 to Jan. 1, 2017 – Feb. 28, 2017, showed an increase in the number of units sold of 3.7 percent and an increase in the median selling price of units sold of 5.9 percent.
“I used to live in the Chicago suburbs,” says Larry Mudd, vice president of development for Holladay Properties, which is developing the Promenade at Founders Square in Portage, when asked why he thinks many Illinois residents are opting to move to Porter County. “My taxes are considerably lower here than there, it’s a better quality of living and also there’s lots to do.”
But it isn’t only those from out of state who are taking a look at living in Porter County, says Mudd, who says the Promenade at Founders Square will attract residents from all over. Mudd describes an uber urban space with retail, including a dry cleaner and bank on the first floor and sidewalk pedestrian access.
“It’ll be a community; we’ll have a pool, fitness center, club house and even a dog walk with a dog washing area,” he says.
“Valparaiso is a great city and Porter County has so much to offer including the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Indiana Dunes State Park,” says Angela Fielder, vice president of operations for the Lakes of Valparaiso, which currently has 260 apartments available and by the end of the year will have a total of 407. “It’s easy to see why people would want to live here. It’s convenient to everything you could want, but still peaceful and more like country living.”
Offering 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom apartments and 35 floor plans to choose from, Fielder says their typical occupant is someone who wants the flexibility of renting but the amenities that come with a home. That’s why their apartments feature granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, attached garages and private entrances.
“They’re not renting because they can’t afford to buy,” she says. “It’s because we offer an active upscale community including an 8,000-square-foot clubhouse where we host monthly social events. The clubhouse also has a demonstration cooking kitchen where we have cooking classes.”
Besides that, there’s 24-hour fitness and the pool area has an outdoor kitchen and cabanas.
“Porter County offers a carefree and safe lifestyle,” says Carol A. Carden, president of Coolman Communities, Inc. “The Valparaiso area alone offers all sorts amenities with all the restaurants, recreational facilities, stores and theater. And there are new shops and restaurants continuing to come into the area all the time.”
Currently, Coolman Communities is building in two of their new communities. “The Prairie is a community with lovely Craftsman-style and cottage type homes,” says Carden. “We have different sizes of lots so the buyers can have flexibility in home price, size and space. The location is in the county, so that gives it a lower property tax rate than living in the city.”
Their other development, Pepper Ridge, which also features Craftsman-style and cottage type homes, is just five minutes from Valparaiso. “We are just now starting the development infrastructure there,” says Carden. “The location is absolutely gorgeous with a tree-lined ridge. We have lots with walkout basements on several of the sites.”
Carden says their homes offer a lot of what’s trending in the housing market right now. “People are looking for home automation, painted cabinets and interior trim, granite and quartz countertops, beverage refrigerator, low maintenance and exterior finishes,” she says.
One of the biggest trends in home owning now, says Dan Steiner, of the family owned Steiner Homes, is that people don’t necessarily want large lots which require an immense amount of maintenance.
“Before, the big trend was one-acre lots, and there are still people who want that, but many people are downsizing to smaller lots with less maintenance,” he says. “They don’t want to shovel snow or mow.”
That’s why the Preserve, their new 89-lot subdivision in Chesterton, is so perfect, says Steiner.
“All the houses are located through a nature conservancy and almost every house will have woods around them so there will be a real sense of privacy,” he says, noting that Steiner Homes and Shinn Builders will be the builders in the Preserve. “It’s really beautiful.”
Which brings up another trend that Steiner says they’re seeing—buyers interested in natural and environmentally friendly settings.
To take advantage of that—and the housing inventory shortage—Steiner says they’re also developing a new subdivision in Valparaiso with houses that will range from $350,000 to $550,000.
“People are moving to Porter County because of the great schools and because it’s a beautiful area,” he says.
“Hatch Lake has turned into such a beautiful neighborhood,” says Lori Devereaux of Sunshine Homes about this new subdivision community just five minutes from Valparaiso. “We’ve had tons of interest and a lot of great future homeowners. Soon we will have several spec homes for sale. The new home market in Porter County and especially Valparaiso is really busy right now. It’s a great place to live and we are close to downtown Valpo and in Center Township.”
For those lifesizing (formerly known as downsizing), maintenance-free is part of the package they’re looking for, says Kathy Harris, vice president of development for ATG Real Estate, which is developing Easton Park in Chesterton.
The development, which is currently in stage one, features 346 lots ranging in size from 70 feet to over 100 feet, with walkout and daylight availability in a wooded and rolling setting.
“Many of our current lots are dedicated to our villa homes, single family dwellings with yard space geared toward empty nesters,” says Harris. “If you’re someone who wants to travel or travels for work, the maintenance package which includes yard care and snow removal is perfect.”
Easton Park also focuses on the environment in their landscaping design with an emphasis on native plants and incorporating the natural wetlands in the development.
“We’re keeping its very naturalized feeling,” says Harris.
Noting the desirability of their location, Harris says that Northwest Indiana up into Southwest Michigan is now termed “the affordable shore,” because it’s close to Chicago but very affordable.
“One of the most distinctive features of Easton Park is that you get an out-of-town feeling, but you’re so close to everything including the South Shore station,” she says.
“What we have here in Porter County are great school districts and great value compared to other communities,” says Mudd. “I think people now are realizing the value of living here.”