The Most Expensive Lakes in Illinois to Buy a Second Home


Written by Kaleigh Moore

Updated: July 26, 2023

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Imagine escaping the chaos of city life and immersing yourself in the tranquility of a stunning lakeside retreat. This is the dream of everyone looking for the most expensive lakes in Illinois to buy a second home. And although Illinois might not be the first place that comes to your mind when thinking of luxury waterfront living, this state has breathtaking lakes with perfect sanctuary for luxury waterfront living.

Illinois has over 2900 lakes, three large reservoirs, and 84,000 ponds. This tells you that if you’re looking for a lakehouse, this state will have something for your budget. Moreover, if you prefer luxury, there are exclusive lakes worth exploring. Below we’ll discuss the most sought-after and expensive lakes in Illinois to buy a second home. 

Overview of The Most Expensive Lakes in Illinois to Buy a Second Home

These sought-after lake properties provide not only breathtaking views, but also a variety of leisure activities like boating, fishing, and swimming. They offer a chance to enjoy the serenity of lakeside living. The exclusive lakeside lifestyle that awaits those who desire it will be revealed as we examine the top lakes in Illinois when purchasing a second home. Dive right in!

What Influences the Price of Lakefront Properties

Before getting into the most expensive lakes in Illinois to buy a second home, it’s crucial to understand what influences lakefront property prices. Firstly, location is vital. Lakes closer to major cities or popular tourist destinations are generally more expensive than those more remote. The size of the lake and the amount of shoreline also play a role in the cost of the property. Lakes with a larger surface area and more shoreline tend to be more expensive.

In addition, you must also account for the type of lake in question when assessing its worth. Lakes formed through natural forces such as glacier intervention tend to be priced higher than those created through artificial means like damming or filling. This is because natural lakes are often more scenic and offer better recreational opportunities.

Finally, the amenities available in the surrounding area can also impact the cost of a lakefront property. Lakes near golf courses, ski resorts, or other popular attractions will be more expensive than isolated ones.

A beautiful lake home surrounded by trees and foliage.

Enjoy the tranquility of this lakeside home, perfect for escaping to nature’s beauty.

11 Most Expensive Lakes in Illinois for Second Homes

Lake Houses in Illinois are not the most expensive in the United States. Nevertheless, it isn’t inexpensive either. You’ll still have to part with huge amounts to buy a lakehouse with a serene environment. Now, without further ado, let’s discuss the 11 most expensive lakes in Illinois to buy a second home.

1.  Lake Barrington

Lake Barrington is our first pick for the most expensive lakes in Illinois to acquire a second home. This exquisite lake in northeastern Illinois boasts stunning natural beauty and a serene atmosphere. The median price for a Lake Barrington lakefront property reaches approximately $1 million, showcasing its exclusivity and desirability. With its idyllic surroundings and upscale real estate market, Lake Barrington offers an unparalleled opportunity for those seeking a luxurious retreat.

Lake Barrington’s exclusivity and high property prices are because it’s a prime location, just a short drive from Chicago. This proximity makes it a coveted weekend getaway for urban dwellers seeking a retreat amidst nature’s beauty. Surrounded by prestigious neighborhoods and often graced with ownership by affluent businessmen and celebrities, the lakefront properties exude an air of sophistication and desirability.

Despite the steep price tags, Lake Barrington continues to draw discerning buyers searching for a luxurious second home. The lake presents a haven for indulging in various recreational activities, such as boating, fishing, and water sports, catering to the outdoor enthusiasts’ desires. Moreover, Lake Barrington boasts an array of high-end restaurants, upscale shops, and other exclusive amenities tailored to meet the discerning tastes and expectations of the wealthy clientele.

A gorgeous lakefront view of Lake Barrington in Illinois, perfect for a vacation home.

Whether you’re looking for a quiet retreat or an active day out on the lake, you’ll find it at Lake Barrington.

2. Lake Michigan

Claiming the second spot on our list is the awe-inspiring Lake Michigan, the third-largest among the Great Lakes. What sets Lake Michigan apart is its unique distinction as the only Great Lake that lies entirely within the United States, showcasing its national charm. Lake Michigan offers many recreational possibilities, spanning an expansive shoreline of 1,600 miles, and attracting boating enthusiasts, anglers, and swimmers. 

Lake Michigan’s vast waters and shoreline make it an irresistible destination for those seeking a lakehouse. And if you prefer to buy an expensive lake home, you will be spoilt for choice. Homes here range from cozy beach cottages to sprawling mansions. 

Whether you’re in search of a house just for you or one capable of accommodating your entire family, rest assured that there is no shortage of fun activities around Lake Michigan. The breathtaking shorelines offer inspiring pastimes such as beachcombing, biking, picnicking, and sunbathing.

If you are a water sports enthusiast, you can indulge in sailing, yachting, and powerboating. Moreover, the lake hosts an array of annual events and festivals, including sailing regattas and beach parties, ensuring year-round excitement.

Buying a house around Lake Michigan will enable you to visit various sites that are nearby. Such places include the Shedd Aquarium, Navy Pier, Grant Park, 875 Michigan AVE, and Field Museum of Natural History, among many others. While the average price of a house around Lake Michigan is $986k, some luxury properties are going for up to $8.5 million.

Seats at the end of a  pier overlooking a lake.

Enjoy lovely sunsets at the end of a dock while taking in views of Lake Michigan, one of the best lakes in Illinois to buy a lake home.

3. Crystal Lake

Another expensive lake in Illinois to buy a second home is Crystal Lake. Northwest of Chicago, in northern Illinois, is where this lake is located. Due to its proximity to the Chicago Metropolitan region, the neighborhood sees heavy traffic, particularly on weekends and holidays. You may benefit from the numerous visitors by purchasing a second property in Crystal Lake and renting it out. 

Sand beaches and crystal-clear waters characterize Crystal Lake, hence its name. You can go swimming (but only in designated locations), kayaking, and fishing here. Crystal Lake Park and the Three Oaks Recreational Area are the most sought-after spots to go hiking, fishing, biking, and birdwatching. Despite the area’s high cost of living and the expense of homes generally, Crystal Lake is a popular location for second homes and vacation rentals.

The average house price in Crystal Lake is $312,385, but the price can go as high as $3 million. 

A red cottage on a clear lake surrounded by trees.

The size of the lake and the amount of shoreline also play a role in the cost of the property.

4. Fox Lake

If you are looking for a luxury home, Fox Lake is the fourth place to look. Located in northern Illinois, 55 miles northwest of downtown Chicago, Fox Lake is a scenic waterway spanning 2,713 acres, interconnecting 45 miles of rivers and 15 lakes. Its reputation for exceptional fishing and boating experiences sets it apart as a true gem. The properties on Fox Lake range from cozy cottages to lavish estates, offering a broad spectrum of choices for buyers seeking a lakeside haven.

Fox Lake is a sought-after destination for second homes and vacation rentals. This is because it presents an ideal setting for outdoor enthusiasts and water sports lovers. Cast your line into the lake’s bountiful waters, teeming with bass, walleye, and catfish, offering exciting fishing opportunities.

Moreover, as a boating enthusiast, you can navigate the extensive channels, bays, and coves, enjoy leisurely cruises and engage in various water sports activities. Complementing the lake’s allure, the surrounding area has golf courses, nature trails, and recreational facilities, ensuring abundant activities for both residents and visitors.

A red brick house sits in front of a lake.

With some areas offering picturesque shorelines and crystal clear waters, it’s easy to see why so many are choosing to add a lakehouse to their real estate portfolio.

5. Lake Carroll

If you’ve got money to spend on an expensive house, Lake Carroll is also an area with expensive lake houses worth checking out. Located in the picturesque landscapes of northwestern Illinois, Lake Carroll beckons with its pristine waters and awe-inspiring natural beauty. Homes on Lake Carroll span the spectrum from charming cottages to sprawling estates, offering diverse options to suit individual preferences. 

Spanning over 210 acres, the glistening lake invites boating, fishing, and swimming adventurers from all around the world. Here you can enjoy various amenities within the community, including golf courses, tennis courts, scenic hiking trails, and a clubhouse complete with a refreshing pool and fitness center. 

The harmonious blend of scenic beauty and abundant recreational opportunities make Lake Carroll an irresistible location for those yearning for a luxurious lakefront lifestyle. The average price for homes in Lake Carroll is $449k, but homes nearing the lake can shoot up to 3 million.

A modern luxury lake home on the shore of a lake.

Find your dream lake home on the shores of Lake Carroll – one of the best lakes in Illinois for buying a lake home. Enjoy year-round outdoor activities and breathtaking views.

6. Lake Zurich

Another worthy mention is Lake Zurich. This lake is in Southwest Lake County, which is only 45 minutes from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. Due to its accessibility, this region attracts a lot of individuals who wish to spend their weekends participating in a variety of interesting activities. Additionally, the lake has excessively clear water and picturesque surroundings, creating an incredibly serene atmosphere suitable for anyone seeking relaxation.

Homes on Lake Zurich range from charming cottages to spacious mansions, providing buyers with a wide array of choices. Lakefront properties command prices in the multi-million-dollar range, particularly those offering expansive lots and premium amenities. Boating, water sports, and lakeside relaxation are cherished pastimes in Lake Zurich.

Lake Zurich, Illinois

Lake Zurich is a popular place to find a second home on the water.

7. Lake Springfield

As the premier lake near the state capital, Lake Springfield is ideal if you seek a second home with the convenience of urban amenities. The lake has various properties, from cozy cabins to upscale waterfront homes. Lakefront property prices in Lake Springfield can accommodate numerous budgets, making it an accessible option for buyers. The median home price here is $641,500, but lakefront houses can go for up to 3.5 million. 

When you purchase a property close to Lake Springfield, you can take advantage of the neighboring attractions and recreational opportunities provided by the thriving city of Springfield while also enjoying boating, fishing, and water sports.

Drone view of lake homes on the shore of Lake Springfield in Illinois.

As the premier lake near the state capital, Lake Springfield is ideal if you seek a second home with the convenience of urban amenities.

8. Lake Decatur

Lake Decatur, located in Green County, is the largest artificial lake in Illinois, covering 109 acres. The area has a mix of urban and remote feel due to the lake’s proximity to Decatur, but there is no shortage of activities. The lake offers fishing, swimming,  sailing, and picnicking opportunities, or you can go to Rock Springs Conservation Area and Scovill Zoo.

Lakefront property prices in Lake Decatur vary, so you’re guaranteed to get something within your budget. Moreover, there are endless options for luxury homes if you’re on a bigger budget. The average price for homes with waterfront is $99250 but can go as high as 2 million.

A beautiful lake home on a lake.

With its incredible fishing opportunities and easy access to nearby attractions, Lake Decatur is the perfect place to buy your dream lake home.

9. Rend Lake

Rend Lake is a perfect choice if you are looking for a lakehouse within an area with big-town amenities. The lake is located in Southern Illinois in Franklin and Jefferson Counties. Most of the area around this lake is farmland, protected wetland, or recreational areas. Rend Lake boasts a pristine shoreline mainly because there is little going on, as the only major business is a golf course and a resort.

This area is ideal for anyone looking for a luxury home in a quiet neighborhood. You can also visit a nearby town of Mt. Vernon, where you can access hotels, a marina, and an airport to catch a flight to Chicago. Although houses here are relatively cheaper than in Lake Michigan, the prices for buying a house here can go close to 1.5 million USD.

Lakeside home and dock on crystal blue waters of a lake.

Nestled among rolling hills and lush forests, Rend Lake provides a picturesque setting for lakefront living in Illinois.

10. Chain O Lakes

Illinois’ Chain O Lakes, a network of interconnected lakes and waterways in the northwestern part of the state, epitomizes waterfront luxury living. With 15 lakes and 45 miles of rivers, the possibilities for boating, fishing, and water sports are endless. The vibrant lakeside communities, upscale restaurants, and entertainment venues create a dynamic atmosphere for residents. 

The region has earned a reputation as a recreational hub. Add to it the scarcity of available properties and you have a market that drives up prices, making Chain O Lakes a premier and exclusive destination for second homes. Typically, prices range from $250k to USD 1 million, but high-end properties are going for above 3 million USD.

Upscale homes with amazing views on a lake.

With its picturesque views and abundance of activities, it’s no wonder why so many people choose to call this lake their home.

11. Lake Galena

Last but not least is Lake Galena, a picturesque lake in Jo Daviess County. Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa privately manage Lake Galena, so it attracts only small crowds. The lake has top-notch amenities like golf courses, equestrian facilities, and wellness centers, elevating the luxury living experience.

Homes around Lake Galena are less expensive than some lakes on this list. The average price is $295k, but homes closer to the lake can go as high as 3.5 million. 

Fishing enthusiasts will love the area because there is plenty of fish to catch, like smallmouth and largemouth bass, bluegill, walleye, perch, channel catfish, and tiger muskie. You can also visit Galena town for boutique shops, art galleries, and gourmet dining. 

A serene and  picturesque scene of a lake house on the shore of a lake.

Enjoy the charm and character that comes with owning a piece of paradise.

Points to Consider Before Buying a Second Home on a Lake

Undoubtedly, buying a second home on a lake can be an excellent investment. However, it’s essential to research before purchasing to get the most value. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. You must seek the professional advice of a reputable real estate agent specializing in lakefront properties. Their expertise and knowledge of the local market will ensure you find the best opportunities and negotiate favorable terms, maximizing the value of your investment.
  2. Thoroughly research the lake’s water quality and recreational offerings. Before buying a lake home, ask if the water is safe for fishing and swimming. Learn of the fun activities you can engage in throughout the area. (Buying a house near a restricted lake wouldn’t make sense.)
  3. Check to see if the property is near restaurants, shopping areas, and healthcare facilities.
  4. Ensure you get a home inspection done to ensure the property is in good condition.
  5. Don’t forget to take into consideration factors such as maintenance and upkeep.

Discover your Dream Second Home in Illinois’ Priciest Lakes

As you delve into the world of Illinois’ most expensive lakes, it becomes clear that owning a second home in these prestigious locations is a dream worth pursuing. Whether you seek a quiet lakeside sanctuary or a vibrant community bustling with recreational opportunities, these lakes offer a taste of luxury and exclusivity. 

Consider the breathtaking views, the abundance of outdoor activities, and the tranquility these lakes offer as you design your ideal vacation house. With careful planning and the help of real estate specialists, you can make your dream a reality and settle into the tranquil appeal of lakefront living in some of Illinois’ most sought-after regions. 

So why wait? Start exploring the possibilities and embark on a journey to discover your dream second home in Illinois’ priciest lakes.

Summary of The Most Expensive Lakes in Illinois to Buy a Second Home

NumberExpensive LakeLocation
1Lake Barringtonnortheastern Illinois
2Lake MichiganChicago
3Crystal LakeNorthwest of Chicago
4Fox Lake55 miles northwest of downtown Chicago
5Lake CarrollCarroll County
6Lake ZurichLake County
7Lake Springfieldsoutheast edge of the city of Springfield
8Lake DecaturGreen County
9Rend LakeFranklin and Jefferson Counties
10Chain O LakesMcHenry and Lake counties
11Lake GalenaJo Daviess County
Summary Table of The Most Expensive Lakes in Illinois to Buy a Second Home

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