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The Woman Who Sold $300 Million

It was almost entirely one building that made Nancy Tassone the top-producing Chicago-area real estate agent last year. But oh, what a building.

Illustration: Adam Cruft

Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty Broker Nancy Tassone will be the first to admit that 2018 was an extreme outlier for her. “Obviously, it’s largely about No. 9 Walton,” she says, acknowledging that the new luxury Gold Coast high-rise — for which she had exclusive rights — brought in nearly triple the revenue of all her other sales. (Certain high-profile No. 9 Walton deals, like Ken Griffin’s record-setting $59 million purchase of the top four floors, were handled directly by the developer.) In all, she delivered a whopping $296 million in residential sales last year, more than any other local agent or team of agents. (At the typical 2.5 to 3 percent commission, that would put her take at around $8 million, before splitting it with the brokerage.) Here, Tassone walks us through her monumental year and offers some insight on market trends.

Q: Just how atypical was last year for you?

A: I typically do $40 million to $50 million a year. But also keep in mind I have worked since 2014 on No. 9 Walton, and we only closed the majority in 2018.

Q: How did No. 9 Walton become such a hot property preconstruction?

A: It was completely word of mouth. People that Jim Letchinger, the developer, knew came first, then they told their friends. One night, Jim went back to the office because he’d forgotten something, and a buyer from the suburbs and their broker walked in. They signed the contract that night. A big selling point is that it has extremely high-end hotellike features.

Q: How did you land the exclusive rights for such a choice project?

A: It goes back to the beginning of my real estate career. In early 2001, I was interested in moving, and I read this little blurb in the Tribune about a townhouse development, Columbia Place, over on Paulina and Diversey. I booked a meeting with Jim in his office and we looked through floor plans and pricing, and we got to talking. He was wondering who was going to sell the project. I don’t know what came over me, but I said, “I’ll sell it.” He laughed and said, “I think we just got our first buyer — and I think we just hired someone.” I resigned from my marketing job at Accenture, and that was that. Eventually, I went to work at Jameson Sotheby’s. Then Jim called me in August 2014. I hadn’t sold with him since 2009. I was waiting to pick up my daughter at gymnastics. When he asked me to be the broker on No. 9 Walton, I couldn’t breathe.

Q: Do you have anything at the scale of No. 9 Walton on the horizon?

A: Yes, One Chicago in River North. That’s an approximately $350 million sellout. We should be opening the sales center in late fall. It’s a completely integrated lifestyle: There’s indoor-outdoor dining, swimming pools, parks, restaurants, a workout facility, a full-service spa, and a Whole Foods attached. You don’t have to leave the building if you don’t want to.

Q: What trends are you seeing in home design?

A: Right now the mass market wants Restoration Hardware: white, gray, modern, and sleek. I’m also noticing a shift toward sustainable, more casual design, with lighter woods and simple layouts. Big, friendly, light kitchens are in; formal dining rooms are on their way out.

Q: Any shifts in the market?

A: At the high end, I’m seeing people move from houses back to condos. It’s not downsizing; it’s smart-sizing. People still want to live with all of the stuff and space they’ve acquired in the suburbs, but they recognize a shift in their lifestyles — they don’t want to take care of the lawn or call the roofer.

Q: From the outside, your profession looks like one where you can just walk in and get rich quick. Is that a misconception?

A: Oh yeah. Everyone thinks, I’m going to go into real estate and make a lot of money. But every year, you start at zero. I have seen a boom, a crash, and a readjustment period. Sales is a talent and it’s a trained skill. To succeed, you have to have an appreciation for human beings. I spent a half hour today talking to clients who are panicking because they are under contract in the suburbs while trying to sell their home in the city and the market is tough. I’m not always about selling. Sometimes you just have to listen and rub someone’s back.

photography: Andrew Miller

The Perks of Chicago’s Hottest New Address

No. 9 Walton in the Gold Coast has lured A-list athletes (Jason Heyward and Patrick Kane) and the state’s richest man (hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin). Nancy Tassone highlights a few amenities that come with the $1,141-per-square-foot price tag.

HOUSE CAR AND DRIVER (1)

A full-time chauffeur in a Cadillac Escalade is at the ready to pilot residents. “It’s like a personal Uber service.” But plusher. “The car doors are opened for you.”

PRIVATE WINE STORAGE (2)

For $250 a year, residents can make use of one of the 42 lockers in the climate- controlled, wood-lined room. “A lot of buyers have private wine storage in their units, but this is great for overflow, instead of going to your offsite storage facil- ity.” Call downstairs, and the staff will bring up your Château Lafite.

DOG RUN

The fourth floor includes an 875-square-foot stretch of turf. “It’s a great selling point for people who are coming from the suburbs and have larger dogs. You don’t have to go outside in the rain and wind and snow.”

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