Buying a One-Bedroom in Downtown Chicago for About $200,000

After their son was accepted into Columbia College in Chicago last year, Brian McCutcheon and Donna Sink started looking for ways to cut down on expenses and make everyone’s life easier. A campus housing policy had kept Angus McCutcheon, now 19, in a dorm as a freshman, but the couple hoped they could find him a new living arrangement for his sophomore year. They studied student housing costs and local rental prices, and decided that buying a modest condominium in the city could be the best bet — the mortgage payments would be comparable to the dorm fees, and they could set up Angus with a long-term home.

Mr. McCutcheon, 57, who owns an art fabrication business, and Ms. Sink, 55, an architect, had recently downsized. They liquidated their assets — a midcentury family home in Indiana and a lakefront property in Michigan — and moved into a small bungalow in Indianapolis. “It was a major shift in our quality of life to feel able to survive, especially during the pandemic, and hopefully pay for college,” Mr. McCutcheon said.

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The next step was a place for Angus. A condo would give them several options: It could be a home for Angus after college if he stayed in Chicago, or a source of rental income, or they could even retire there.

For Ms. Sink, this kind of plan had worked before: Her parents bought a fixer-upper property for her and her sister when they were students at the University of Arizona. “I watched my friends have to find a new apartment and roommate every year,” she said. “Having that place really allowed me to focus on my studies.”

The couple worried that the Chicago market would be too competitive, but prices for midsize units were sagging at the time, so they set a budget of about $200,000 and focused on buildings in the Printers Row neighborhood in the South Loop.

“We decided the apartment needed to be 800 square feet or more, which took newer properties off the table in our price point,” Mr. McCutcheon said.

Angus was excited to be able to choose his home and wanted to be close to campus, restaurants and shops. “The view was important to me,” he said. “I’m a fan of natural light.”

The family connected with Daniel Eirinberg of eXp Realty, who agreed that Printers Row would be ideal. “You’ve got good train access and a bunch of great little cheap and delicious food choices that cater to the college students,” he said.

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