Chicago has a sizable population of wealthy people, given its strong position as a business hub - in particular financial firms. And these folks live in some truly incredible homes that provide us regular folks with plenty of vicarious entertainment value as they are bought and sold in the city. So let's take a look back at Chicago's most expensive homes sales of 2015, starting with single family homes in this post.
In order to define "most expensive homes" I looked at where the activity was above various price points. In 2015 only 3 single family homes sold above $5 MM so I dropped my threshold to $4 MM and now we're talking 12 sales. That compares to 13 sales above $4 MM in 2014 and only 4 sales in 2013. So, yes, sales of really expensive homes have increased in Chicago over the last couple of years but going from 4 to 12 sales per year hardly qualifies as "the rich buying up the city". And only 4 of those were essentially new construction so for the most part these homes have been around for a while.
Some of these sales I've covered before - like the sale of Jonathon Brandmeier's River North mansion at 729 N Kingsbury. And the highest priced single family home sale of 2015 had been on the market for a while. I first covered the 20,000 sq ft monstrosity at 1955 N Burling back in July 2014 when it first hit the market as the most expensive single family home ever listed in Chicago at $18.75 MM (you can see the slide show at that link as well as find out a lot more about the seller and the property). It ended up closing at the very end of the year for a mere $13,345,372 (how the heck did they end up with that amount?) after first going under contract in July and having that deal fall apart for reasons unknown. The price was subsequently reduced to $16.9 MM in October.
The second most expensive single family home sold in Chicago last year was at 1874 N Orchard and it sold for $5,927,483 (because the seller balked at $5,927,482). This one was an 8530 sq ft new construction home with 7 bedrooms, 6 full baths, 2 half baths, and 4 fireplaces on a 35 x 131 lot. Unfortunately, there are no photos to share.
The third most expensive single family home to sell last year was also essentially new construction at 1870 N Orchard and it sold right at the list price of $5.5 MM. With 5 bedrooms, 6 full bathrooms, 1 half bath, and 6 fireplaces it has 7260 sq ft and sits on a 28 x 131 sq ft lot. This one was unusual because it actually had sold in November 2014 for $4,883,623 (Hmmmm. There's a pattern here.) yet it was marketed this time as having never been lived in - and the photos look staged but not lived in. Apparently Phillip Mumford, a principal at Mumford Companies, originally bought the house from the builder and then flipped it to Stephen Cerrone, who is the Chief Human Resources Officer at SunEdison. It's not clear if Phil was intentionally trying to get into the flipping business but I doubt it since that would have been a pretty risky move - though it paid off. You can see a slideshow of this property at the bottom of this post.
The home also has an elevator, 2 large decks, and a patio. Like with many of these homes it also looks like the property taxes are going to be too low because the county has assessed it at only a $3.95 MM market value.
Here is the description of the 1870 N Orchard home from the MLS:
Fabulous, brand new, never lived in Environs home on the most prestigious East-Lincoln Park block! This thoughtfully designed residence offers spectacular upgrades & state-of-the-art appointments at every turn. Gracious indoor & outdoor entertaining areas & panoramic city views from the penthouse roof deck. Extra-wide & deep lot allows for attached garage & huge yard. Total home automation and upgraded security cameras, provided by Environs. Two, true laundry rooms in the home. 3 HVAC – 6 zones, plus garage has separate thermostat. All fireplace are remote controlled, except the wood burning fireplace on 3rd floor deck. Penthouse roof deck fire pit is switch operates, and office/bedroom fireplace is switch operated. All baths have radiant floor heat, as well as the entire lower level. Heated front steps, driveway, garage, back patio and steps. Back yard is sleeved and prepped for irrigation.
If I can digress for a moment. The 1955 N Burling sale is a great example of how the real estate market really works. You can hire some big name, high commission realtor and they will absolutely pretend that they know what your home is "worth". But the reality is, and I tell sellers this all the time, that a property has no single value - unless it's one of 20 identical condos in a building that sells 3 or 4 of them per year within a tight price range, which is extremely rare. In lieu of a specific value each property has a price that it will sell at, depending upon what buyers are in the market at that time and what else they have to choose from - and that price changes from week to week. So realtors and their sellers try a price that they THINK makes sense and then they see what kind of reaction they get. If the reaction is not good then they lower the price - eventually.
Sorry to burst your bubble but that's the way it really works, though few realtors are willing to admit it because it screws up their sales pitch about their magic powers. At regular price points you may not notice this going on because the degree of uncertainty might be only $10 - 20K on a $500K listing. However, at the higher price points this becomes really apparent because the dollar amounts are larger and the buyer pool is much shallower. That Burling house was on the market for 540 days and sold 29% below the original list price. Michael Jordan's house in Highland Park has been on the market for 1413 days and is now priced 49% below it's original list price waiting for just the right buyer to materialize.
Anyway, these expensive single family homes were not the most expensive homes sold in Chicago last year. That title is actually held by a few spectacular condo sales which I will go over next week.
Gary Lucido is the President of Lucid Realty, the Chicago area's full service discount real estate brokerage. If you want to keep up to date on the Chicago real estate market, get an insider's view of the seamy underbelly of the real estate industry, or you just think he's the next Kurt Vonnegut you can Subscribe to Getting Real by Email using the form below. Please be sure to verify your email address when you receive the verification notice.