This article was updated on Feb. 15.
Since Navistar employees began working in Lisle, moving from their former headquarters Fort Wayne, Ind., they have bought up more than $50 million in real estate in DuPage and nearby counties.
At a community event on Feb. 2, Navistar officials said their employees had purchased their new homes mostly through John Greene Realtor, Coldwell Banker, and @properties, with $50 million closed and another $4 million under contract. Approximately half of these transactions occurred through John Greene Realtor, according to Navistar vice president Don Sharp.
Navistar began phasing employees into the area in mid-2011. More than 3,500 people now work at the company's new headquarters on Warrenville Road, officials said.
Erin Connor, John Greene’s relocation director, confirmed the firm has closed on 74 properties, totaling $24 million as of the community presentation. She said another seven properties representing $2 million in sales were pending through their brokers.
Although local home prices have decreased since 2010, Navistar employees are relocating to a more expensive market.
The median home and condo price for Allen County, IN, where Navistar's former headquarters was based, was $101,000 for the fourth quarter of 2011. Median prices for the fourth quarter were $182,000 for DuPage, $157,000 for Kendall, and $138,500 for Kane, according to data from the Illinois Association of Realtors and the Indiana Association of Realtors.
The company spent $9 million in relocation expenses for those employees, according to a report from the Indiana Breaking NewsCenter.
Connor is responsible for pairing buyers with a compatible agent. She said Navistar employees fell "all across the board" in terms of home needs. She described them as a mix, mostly families with younger children, but also young professionals and "empty nesters."
Connor said that while agents closed many of the sales in the Lisle and Naperville area, employees settled across DuPage, Kane, and Kendall counties, including Oswego, Plainfield, and Yorkville.
Connor said she traveled to Fort Wayne prior to showing clients homes in Illinois as a way to gauge their "expectations." She learned what employees were accustomed to in terms of space and amenities, travel times, and a sense of their communities. Connor found several transplants wanted to retain the "more rural" atmosphere they’d had in Fort Wayne. Those employees gravitated farther west.
What did they want out of their new home?
“Typically it was having a bit more space… where they were coming from they were used to having a bigger piece of land, where they maybe weren’t as close to their neighbors,” she said.
Larger garages that allowed “space for their toys,” or personal projects, such as car restorations, were also a frequent request.
Connor noted short commute times weren’t necessarily a factor because many were already making a 45-minute drive to work in Fort Wayne—albeit on less congested roads. However, she said some employees were “willing to drive 30 to 45 minutes to really have the quality of life they wanted.”
To aid in the process of home selection, Connor said agents pooled resources in nearby communities.
“I knew that a lot of the clients had probably been to Chicago, but not necessarily the western suburbs,” Connor said, so clients were provided with information on school districts, parks and forest preserves, and "what the communities were known for." John Greene Realtor also provides city guides on its website, specifically for those relocating to the area.
Connor said there is still a small percentage of clients, "probably dozens, that decided to rent in the short term.” She said some are waiting for their homes in Indiana to sell, while other clients are “taking a little bit of time so they can make an informed decision” about which community they choose.