Rising rents, rock-bottom interest rates tempt downtown dwellers to go condo

    Renting in River North was becoming an increasingly expensive proposition for Himanshu Kumar.

    While the 32-year-old consulting firm manager had been mulling taking on a mortgage for a while, a nearly 17 percent rent hike in January reinforced his desire to purchase a condominium. The question for the local real estate industry is whether he’s an outlier or the start of a trend.

    “It’s an expense versus an investment,” Mr. Kumar says about renting versus owning. In May, he closed on a one-bedroom in River North’s Silver Tower building for $249,000, according to a county deed. After renting out a parking space, his monthly housing cost is now about $1,500, $75 less than his last rent.

    Mr. Kumar’s experience and similar stories suggest that a confluence of factors—from low interest rates to escalating rents—are starting to push would-be buyers off the fence. The anecdotes don’t mean the market has tipped from apartments, the favored choice for downtown dwellers in the post-crash years. But the first faint glimmers of a shift may be in sight.

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