Aurora, Illinois, calls itself the Biggest Small Town because it’s a good size city with a small-town friendly vibe. Located on the outskirts of the Chicago suburbs, Aurora has a lot more property available than in Chicago proper. Therefore, you’ll find a lot of employment opportunities as corporations and commercial entities are taking advantage of the available land and building space. Also, you’ll find all sorts of housing options when relocating here. Large apartment complexes, condos, townhomes, and single-family homes are your options, with home ownership outweighing rentals by almost 40%.
If you’re looking for diversity, this is the place for you. Aurora’s rich ethnic culture, primarily Hispanic, makes it one of the most diverse towns in Illinois, giving it certain energy not found elsewhere in the state. You’ll find plenty of Mexican food and entertainment plus lots to enjoy and appreciate from other cultures. The Midwest friendliness shines through, as well, and all are welcome in the “City of Lights.”
Great Guys Moving wants your move to Aurora to be as easy as possible. That’s why we’ve provided this guide that’s packed with everything you need to know about moving to Illinois’ second largest metropolis.
Living in Aurora, IL: What to Know Before Moving to Aurora
You’ll find the second largest city in Illinois located just past the far northwestern suburbs of Chicago. The City of Aurora is mostly located in Kane County but also spans parts of DuPage County, Kendall County, and Will County. With a population of 200,965, Aurora has a thriving manufacturing industry and other excellent work opportunities. It’s one of the most diverse cities in the state with over 42% of its residents boasting Mexican descent. About 37% are white, 10% of the population is Black, Asians make up over 7%, and the remaining citizens identify themselves as Mixed.
Aurora was the first city in the United States to use electric lights to illuminate the entire city in 1881, hence its moniker “The City of Lights.” You’ll find this city has much to offer in the way of activities, amenities, and affordable places to live. It’s also known as “The Biggest Small Town” because while its population is big, it has a decidedly small-town feel. But like any city, Aurora has its strengths and weaknesses. Check out what’s good, and what’s not so great about Aurora, Illinois:
Pros and Cons of Living in Aurora
- Reasonable housing market
- Many family-oriented activities
- Positive job outlook
- Average cost of living
- High poverty rates in some areas
- High crime rates in some neighborhoods
- High taxes
- Low walkability
- Income Taxes: The biggest complaints most residents have about living in Illinois is the taxes. With a state income tax of 4.95%, tax reform is front and center on its citizens’ minds. The state legislature recently passed a graduated income tax proposal that will raise taxes for the top 3% of earners and supposedly lower taxes for the rest. This proposal is up for voter approval in 2020, amid much controversy. And rightly so. Much debate is currently taking place, and the outcome of this proposal remains to be seen.
- Property Taxes: In Illinois property taxes are set locally by communities and counties. The city is part of four different counties, mostly DuPage and Kane Counties. Therefore, your property taxes will vary based on where you live. The DuPage County portion of Aurora has a 2.22% rate based on a $250,000 assessed home value. This rate is well above the average 1.211% for the US in general. For Kane County, you’ll pay an even higher rate of 2.65%. The smaller portions of Kendall and Will Counties will pay a property tax rate of 2.92% and 2.60%, respectively. The average property tax rate for Illinois is 2.253%, second only to New Jersey for the highest state property taxes. Aurora property taxes reach limits that stretch the dollar of many families beyond affordability.
- Sales Taxes: Aurora sales tax also varies depending on the county. Kane and Will Counties have an average sales tax rate of 7%, Kendall County has a rate of 7.25%, and Dupage county’s rate is 8.25%.
Homeownership ranks higher than renter-occupied homes in Aurora. Owner-occupied homes make up 69.6% of homes, with rentals being 30.4%. Bestplaces.net lists the median home price at $179,500. The median rental will run you around $1145. Home appreciation is up 5.7% in the last year, making it a good time to buy. You’ll find the most expensive homes on the eastern side in the DuPage County area, and the cheaper places will be on the west and north sides of the city, as well as east of downtown.
Cost of Living
Aurora’s cost of living is equal to the nation’s cost of living. Bestplaces.net gives the average cost of living in the country a score of 100. Scores below 100 have a below average cost of living and scores above, have a higher cost of living. Aurora, IL, has a score of 98.7, which makes it a reasonable place to live in terms of the cost of living. High taxes are a factor that affects Aurora’s cost of living. The median household income is $66,848, which is higher than the national average of $55,322.
Weather and Natural Disasters
You’ll find Northern Illinois weather is fickle. Lows in the winter average around 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Midsummer highs are around 84 degrees F. High humidity in the summer months can be difficult for some people, and heat waves in the 90s are not uncommon. The beginning of autumn is usually quite mild and offers some of the best viewings of the changing tree colors. Towards the end of fall, however, you’ll notice a quick and cold change with the November rains that quickly turn to snow and ice.
Winter will hold strong through February and sometimes March. Extreme wind chills in the winter make the already cold temperature feel even colder. But just when you think it’s never going to warm up, spring comes with a rainy season followed by bright shiny days that bring a sense of relief after the long winter. Many Illinois residents love the seasonal changes and the Aurora area if full of things to do in every one of them. If you can handle the cold Illinois winters, this there are many advantages to living in Aurora.
Severe storms will be your biggest natural disaster threat, followed by blizzards and tornadoes. Illinois, according to Patch.com, ranks at number 4 for risk of snow and 5th for risk from tornadoes. The good news? Patch.com also explains that Illinois ranks 5th in the nation as the most prepared state for natural disasters.
Economy and the Job Market
The unemployment rate in Aurora is 4.2%, slightly higher than the nation’s 3.9% average. The job market has increased by 1.3% over the last year. In the last few years, corporate offices and commercial growth have expanded the city limits to Rt. 59 on the east side and beyond Orchard Rd. on the west. With new companies in the area, jobs are not difficult to find.
According to datausa.io, the following categories are typical job types in the area.
- Manufacturing: The manufacturing industry employs about 12,000 people. Some of the main employers are BRK Brands, Inc., Henry Pratt Company, and Caterpillar Inc. The Fox Valley Industrial Association lists more than 150 manufacturers in the area.
- Warehouses and distribution centers: This sector is a huge part of the area’s economy. Around 4.6% of the population is employed with companies in this sector such as Quaker Chemical Corporation, Windy City Distributing LLC., and XPO Logistics, among many others.
- Construction: With around 5% of the workforce working in the construction industry, this sector provides many jobs for local workers and well-paying jobs at that. You’ll find many large and small construction firms hiring regularly.
- Retail: With Westfield Shoppingtown of Fox Valley, formerly Fox Valley Mall, and the Chicago Premium Outlets, Aurora has much to offer in retail jobs.
- Entertainment: The Paramount Theater and the Hollywood Casino are the two biggest names for entertainment employers in Aurora.
- Healthcare and Social Assistance: This sector employs about 10% of the workforce. The main employers are VNA Healthcare, Presence Mercy Medical Center, Rush Copley Medical Center, and Advocate Medical Group.
- Food services and accommodations: This industry employs around 7.5% of workers.
- Finance and insurance: Companies such as Busey Bank, Capital One Bank, and Seabold Financial Management employ many in the finance and insurance industries.
With Aurora being the second largest city in Illinois, you’ll find these and many more opportunities for employment. The neighboring city of Naperville also offers good job prospects. Some residents take public transportation into Chicago for even more job opportunities. Living in such a populous area, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a job here or in nearby areas.
Traffic and Transportation
Aurora is accessible by five interchanges on the East/West Tollway Corridor. This abundance of highways makes driving to and from pretty easy. Rush hour commutes take longer but time stuck in traffic isn’t too bad –better here in the outer suburbs than in Chicago. But with many workers employed in Aurora and its neighbor, Naperville, expect rush hour times to be doable but somewhat heavy. Off-peak commute times are relatively quick with no traffic hassles.
The BNSF Metra Railway will take you into Chicago with many stops along the way, including Western Springs, Hinsdale, and Brookfield. The Pace Bus system services the city and neighboring areas. Public transportation is accessible in the downtown areas, but other areas are served better by car. Walkscore.com gives Aurora a walking score of 40 with public transportation only rating a 22. Biking is a bit easier with a score of 53. If you’re planning on moving to Aurora, it’s best to have a car.
Things to Do
Aurora is a fun city with a lot of indoor and outdoor activities for singles and families alike. If you’re a nature buff, the surrounding areas are more rural and offer some terrific options. Try Abbey Farms, a working farm with year-round activities such as apple and pumpkin picking. This agritourism venue is a local mainstay and is hugely popular for school field trips and family outings. The Red Oak Nature Center is a nature preserve that offers rustic hiking trails, a cave, and nature programs and events. Other local nature attractions include Oakhurst Forest Preserve and Blackberry Farm.
For animal lovers, don’t miss the Phillips Park Zoo. This local attraction has been around since 1915 and offers free, year-round admission. Phillips Park is also home to Mastodon Lake. You can find more family fun at the SciTech Hands-On Museum. If you’re looking for aquatic excitement, be sure to try out Splash Country Water Park and The Vaughn Aquatic Center and Indoor Water Park. Aurora is served by the Fox Valley Park District which offers many programs and venues for all ages.
You’ll find an active dining scene with many choices comprised of large restaurant chains. But there are plenty of independent options too. With half the population of Mexican descent, the options for various types of Mexican cuisine are endless and some of the best in the area.
Schools and Universities
Aurora is home to six different school districts. Aurora East School District 131 serves the east side and Aurora West School District 129 the west. Indian Prairie School District 204 serves the far east side. Batavia Public School District 101 is in the far northeast. The Oswego Community Unit District 308 serves the far southwest side, and Kaneland Community Unit School District takes care of the far northwest side. With a population that varies widely, some schools rate better than others. Certain areas of Aurora have a high poverty rate as well as a high crime rate. The schools reflect the problems that come with high poverty. We recommend clicking here for Great School’s ratings on individual schools within the districts mentioned above.
Aurora University is the local four-year post-secondary institution and comes well rated. Waubonsie Valley Community College is the junior college option. And of course, the choices for higher education in nearby Chicago are extensive.
With a score of 100 being the safest, Neighborhood Scout rates Aurora crime at 43. This assessment means that Aurora is safer than 43% of U.S. cities. As with most cities, there are a few localized areas with high crime rates, and the rest of the neighborhoods are relatively safe. The violent crime rate per 1000 residents is 2.58, and the rate for property crime is 13.36. You’ll want to research prospective neighborhoods as you’re choosing where to live in Aurora, as some areas have a very high crime rate with gang-related activity and poverty-driven crime.
The City of Aurora provides water services and garbage collection. You can call the local city office to set up service, and they will bill you bi-weekly. Nicor is your natural gas provider. Click here for information on setting up your gas utility. ComEd supplies electricity, and you can find information on starting service with them by clicking here. You’ll find many options for cable and internet service. Comcast Xfinity and AT&T are the two largest in the city. These two also provide phone service.
Best Neighborhoods in Aurora, IL
With some areas of Aurora having a high crime rate, it’s important to do your research when choosing which neighborhood to live in. Aurora has some great areas that are safe and fun. Here are eight of the top Aurora neighborhoods out of 36.
Eola is one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Aurora. In fact, it’s one of the pricier places to live in the country — 79% higher than the average US neighborhood. You’ll find lovely tree-canopied streets lined with brick homes that give Eola a certain upscale charm. Many homes are larger than average with four, five, and even more bedrooms. Most of the homes were built between 1970 and 1999, but many date from post-2000. The current vacancy rate in this popular neighborhood is 0%. If you like a house here, be sure to put in a bid right away as it won’t be on the market long.
You’ll need a car when moving to Eola as it’s not accessible by public transportation. Many of its residents take the Metra into the city for jobs but just as many people drive to work in nearby areas. Neighborhoodscout.com rates this neighborhood as one of the best for executive lifestyles, and it shows with the style of homes and the excellent property upkeep. Most residents are highly educated career individuals who can afford to live in comfort and whose work keeps them busy. Eola is somewhat ethnically diverse as almost 35% of residents are of Asian ancestry. About 13% of homes speak Indian languages.
Most of the citizens here are married, and the concentration of married individuals is higher than over 96% of neighborhoods in the US. This community is possibly not the choicest neighborhood for singles.
- Median Home Price: $455,029
- Schools: CF Simmons Middle School, C I Johnson Elementary, C M Bardwell Elementary, East High School, Edna Rollins Elementary, Fred Rogers Magnet, G N Dieterich Elementary
If you’re looking for a much more reasonably priced neighborhood, investigate Blackhawk Park. Here, you’ll find mid-sized homes in a well-established neighborhood that continues to attract buyers. You can choose from many different home styles, including split-levels, colonials, ranches, and raised ranches. There’s also a lovely selection of vintage homes. The most common home’s size is three bedrooms and two bathrooms. This neighborhood, with tree-lined streets and affordable homes, tends to be very family orientated with nice parks and green spaces. Most homes have garages as well as finished or partially finished basements.
This neighborhood is a middle-class area of primarily Mexican heritage citizens. The most common language you may hear while walking these streets is Spanish. Most of the residents work in manufacturing and labor. Blackhawk Park is a very family-centered area, and you’ll often see families playing in their yards and parks. It’s located on the west side of town with Illinois Avenue to the north and Galena Boulevard to the south. Randall Road forms the western edge with North Highlands Avenue as its eastern border.
- Median Home Price: $183,000
- Schools: Jefferson Middle School, McCleery Elementary, West Aurora High School
This established neighborhood is on the east side of Aurora between E. New York St. and Ogden Road. It enjoys a wonderful location. You’ll appreciate all the shopping, dining, and entertainment options just minutes away. While you’ll still most likely want a car, you can get around on the Pace bus line that will take you to the Rt. 59 Metra. If you’re able to get an express train, you can be in downtown Chicago in 45 minutes. This perk makes Oakhurst a great area if you work downtown but want to live in Aurora.
Oakhurst is a family area with single-family homes and townhomes mostly completed in the 1990s. The majority of residences have four bedrooms and two bathrooms with two-car garages. The community is served by the highly rated Indian Prairie School District 204 which makes the neighborhood a popular choice for families. It’s also a dream location for bikers and runners as the Waubonsie Creek Trail runs along the southern border. Also, it’s home to Oakhurst Forest Preserve on its western side. With its proximity to so many amenities, this is a desirable, yet somewhat affordable, option for Aurora residents.
- Median Home Price: $347,450
- Average Rent: $1399
- Schools: Waubonsie Valley High School, Fischer Middle School, Reba O. Steck Elementary, McCarty Elementary
Home to the Stonebridge Country Club, this community is mainly comprised of large single-family homes. You’ll notice a variety of styles and price ranges, but relative to some communities of larger homes, Stonebridge is reasonable for homes of this size. There are some attached homes as well. These residences will come with various levels of homeowners’ association fees. Access to the country club is included with many homes but comes with a price similar to most country club communities.
Most of the residents are educated, upper-middle-class citizens who appreciate well-ordered homes and a community-oriented lifestyle. And with its proximity to amenities such as parks, dining, and shopping, Stonebridge does provide an easy lifestyle. Access to I-88 and Rt. 59 is convenient, and it’s only five minutes from the Metra station. This custom home community has a wonderful golf course, pools, and more. The schools are quite excellent, making Stonebridge a very popular choice for families with school-age children.
- Median Home Price: $437,500
- Average Rent: $1490
- Schools: Metea Valley High School, Francis Granger Middle School, Gwendolyn Brooks Elementary, CF Simmons Middle School
This single-family home and duplex subdivision dates from the early 2000s and has some recent construction. With generous size homes of about four bedrooms and three bathrooms, this is a great area for families. The square footage of these homes can range anywhere from just under 2000 square feet to almost 5000 square feet. Lot sizes are about a quarter of an acre. You’ll notice a mix of home styles which helps keep Ginger Woods from looking like a “cookie cutter” area. Families love being able to walk to nearby parks and playgrounds.
I-88 borders the northern edge of this community with Rt. 47 to its west and Rt. 59 on the eastern edge. With easy access to major roads, Ginger Woods is an excellent choice for those who drive to work. Expect to pay in the upper $400,000 range for a home. Unfortunately, taxes are high, but the association fees are quite low in comparison to other upscale Aurora neighborhoods.
- Median Home Price: $435,000
- Average Rent: $1490
- Schools: Brooks Elementary, Louise White Elementary, Young Elementary, Granger Middle School, and Sam Rotolo Middle School of Batavia
Located west of Orchard Road and south of Prairie Street, Verona Ridge is an attractive middle-class neighborhood of newer homes. Construction in this subdivision began in the late 2010s and continues today. Verona Ridge is also a great family area, and it has easy to access parks that offer hiking trails, baseball diamonds, playgrounds, and more. Winding paths loop throughout the neighborhood for walking or jogging. Homes in this community will range from the low to the upper 3000 square foot range. Most homes have four bedrooms and two- and one-half baths. The majority of homes have private backyards making the neighborhood very attractive to families who want to enjoy time outside out of sight from their neighbors. Residents enjoy the lovely wild grasses and beauty of the forest preserve.
- Median Home Price: $338,000
- Average Rent: $954
- Schools: Fern Elementary, Herget Middle School, West Aurora High School
A mostly residential neighborhood, Hometown sits between the Phillips Park Zoo and the Oakhurst Forest Preserve. Homes began going up between the late 90s and early 2000s, and most are three bedrooms, although many have four. Two and a half bathrooms are common. Enjoy easy access to all that Aurora has to offer including parks, green spaces, Phillips Park Aquatic Center, Paramount Theater, and downtown dining and nightlife. There are several gorgeous parks within walking distance. Residents also enjoy the community clubhouse.
The homes here range on the smaller side with the largest being just under 2500 square feet; some of them are very small, inexpensive homes of less than 1000 square feet. Hometown is a planned community of affordable housing. There have been some complaints about the quality of the construction, but if you need a home in a very low price range, this is a good choice.
- Median Home Price: $160,000
- Average Rent: $1389
- Schools: Olney C. Allen Elementary, Henry W. Cowherd Middle School, and East High School
Located along Rt. 34, just across from the Rush Copley Medical Center, is the Southeast neighborhood. This community is a friendly, affordable middle-class neighborhood of medium size homes. Families like having access to well-rated schools. With a walk score of 33, this community is car-dependent. Public transportation is not a viable option for most, and infrastructure for biking is limited. Southeast is part of the Aurora Neighborhood Planning Initiative (ANPI) which helps residents plan for the neighborhood’s future. Southeast was the fourth community to complete the extensive ANPI process.
Southeast is a great family area, and with active community groups, the residents care about keeping their community safe and secure. Mostly comprised of young families, half of this area’s residents are children. The adult demographics put the largest number of adults in their 30’s.
- Population: 14,853
- Median Home Price: $225,000
- Schools: The Wheatlands Elementary, Peter M. Gombert Elementary, Georgetown Elementary, Still Middle School, Bednarcik Junior High, Fischer Middle School, Waubonsie Valley High School, Oswego East High School
The Indian Creek neighborhood lies along the Fox River to its west and I-88 is along its northern edge. In addition to single family homes, there’s a pleasing collection of condos and townhomes as well as limited apartment living. Like most neighborhoods in Aurora, you’re going to need a car as its walk score is only 27. Indian Creek is a popular community for those looking for an affordably priced housing market.
- Population: 9,913
- Median Home Price: $225,000
- Schools: Annunciation, Mabel O’Donnell Elementary
Light of the Community
This community is Aurora’s oldest and most established neighborhood, located just east of downtown. The area’s residents are committed to keeping the historic homes intact. It’s also part of the Aurora Neighborhood Planning Initiative (ANPI) and is the sixth neighborhood in Aurora to complete the process. Light of the Community is a neighborhood dedicated to improving its residents’ quality of life and strengthening its sense of pride.
The area has a very high percentage of residents of Hispanic heritage. Almost 80%, or 8 out of every 10, residents boast Hispanic descent, and Spanish is heard commonly around the neighborhood. With its commitment to creating a safe and secure area, this neighborhood will be very comfortable for the area’s large immigrant population. It’s home to many young families; two-thirds of its citizens are under the age of 34. This historic neighborhood has gone through major demographic changes but is dedicated to maintaining a high quality of life for its residents. We see positive things happening here, and it offers a good lower price option for young families, especially those of Hispanic heritage.
- Population: 10,854
- Median Home Price: $141,94
- Schools: Olney C. Allen Elementary, C I Johnson Elementary, Edna Rollins Elementary, Henry W. Cowherd Middle School, East High School, St. Therese of Jesus School
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