NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Real estate's Champagne wishes and caviar dreams are waking to a stingy, jobless reality of metropolitan moochers posing as the wealthy.The U.S. is at 9.2% unemployment and conspicuous housing consumption is constricted by tightening loan requirements, while the average home has fallen 4.6% in price from a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors. In neighborhoods where housing prices have remained high, properties are increasingly out of reach. "Even with recent economic softness, this is a disappointing performance with home sales being held back by overly restrictive loan underwriting standards," says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. "There's been a pendulum swing from very loose standards, which led to the housing boom, to unnecessarily restrictive practices as an overreaction to the housing correction." But why break your back paying close to seven figures for a closet in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the U.S. when there's cheaper property nearby? The zip code's cache is nice and all, but even television and Hollywood helped America realize that Alan Arkin's family in Slums of Beverly Hills could get by on the fringes and that Gabrielle Carteris' Andrea Zuckerman character didn't have to be born or have parents in Beverly Hills: 90210 to get into fictional West Beverly High School. TheStreet took a look at five of the tonier neighborhoods in America and found five more on the outskirts that gave residents deep discounts while dropping them directly adjacent to all the stores, restaurants, theaters, museums, parks and other amenities that command premium prices from the rich neighbors:
Wealthy: Chicago's North Center/Lake View Cheaper: Albany Park When you live in either of these Chicago neighborhoods, gentrification isn't something that's happening, but what the guy who owned your condo two owners ago heard he was responsible for just before shrugging it off and heading out for post-game beers at the L&L Tavern. Lake View and its Wrigleyville and Boystown neighborhoods are among some of the most sought-after in the city, especially for those who like the idea of living in a doorman building on North Lakeshore, catching the Brown, Red or Purple lines to work, making a dinner comprising items purchased at Whole Foods and then heading out for a show at Metro, a game at Wrigley or a few drinks on Lakeview or North Clark. They're paying a median of $300,000 to do so, which is considerable in a town where the high-end median is $446,000 for properties on West DePaul. The same can be said for nearby North Center, which hikes up the premium to $346,000 while adding bars, restaurants, bowling alleys and movie theaters while subtracting the lake and the Wrigley Field-adjacent nightlife. Is there any way to take part without paying some of the highest buy-in prices in the city? The answer's found a few paces west in Albany Park, where a neighborhood dotted with green space like Ravenswood Manor Park and Ronan Park right on the river also has three brown-line stations just a few stops away from both North Center, Lake View and even Wrigleyville, where the Southport stop provides Albany Park residents a more favorable ride home than what their more monied neighbors are taking when they jam the red line's Addison station after the ninth inning. Albany Park does just fine on its own, too, as Koreatown's restaurants, the mix of hookah and dart bars at West Lawrence Avenue and North Pulaski Road and the proliferation of bicycle, gadget, tobacco and other shops scattered throughout the neighborhood give the place the type of character that doesn't come one mixed-use residential development at a time. For all this, homebuyers pay about $189,000 on average, which is less than more remote but well-tread gems like the artistically inclined Pilsen neighborhood ($199,000) and little more than still-developing neighborhoods like Humbolt Park ($174,100).
Wealthy: Beverly Hills, Calif. Cheaper: Hollywood There was a time when they would let any hillbilly with poor marksmanship, a pickup truck piled high with personal belongings and a little oil money into Beverly Hills with a smile. Now anything less than the $1.9 million median home price wouldn't even secure you a spot in the local divorcee's Wilderness Girls troop. Perhaps there's the stray "dingbat" apartment here or there, but the overwhelming majority of Beverly Hills and the area surrounding have prices that have been star-quality for a good, long time. Beverly Hills is ringed by the Hollywood Hills ($971,200 median home price), Bel Air ($1.74 million), Westwood ($655,700), Century City ($642,600), West Los Angeles ($760,300), Pico-Robertson ($667,600) and Mid-City West ($800,500) neighborhoods, which are all well above the city's $375,900 median. The only neighborhood directly adjacent to Beverly Hills that even remotely meets that city's median is Hollywood, where a $417,200 price tag has led to increasing gentrification in West Hollywood and throughout the rest of the neighborhood in general. High-end restaurants, coffee shops and bars are open, celebrities and paparazzi are back and home prices were on the rise until the recent dip in the housing market. The lingering memories of drug dealers and 24-hour pizza places may buy a homebuyer some time in snatching up some rich-folk-adjacent property here, but considering it's the one piece of the Beverly Hills ring that isn't ridiculously high-priced as of yet, Hollywood's rebound shouldn't be bogged down much longer.
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