Declining Fortunes

Chicago’s annual survey of high-end house sales reveals a rare downturn in volume



Lake Forest, $7.6 million


The developer Orren Pickell has built some of the North Shore’s most impressive new houses of the past decade. Lately, however, he has displayed a penchant for buying some of the North Shore’s most impressive houses from an earlier era.


Hinsdale, $5.03 million

Over the past year, Pickell has bought two mega-estates on the lakefront and announced plans to subdivide them. This past December, Pickell paid $17.6 million for a 17-acre Highland Park estate designed in 1920 for the stockbroker A. G. Becker; until his recent entanglements with the law, the insurance mogul Mickey Segal had owned the house. Pickell’s purchase tops this year’s survey of high-end home sales—and the $16 million he paid in July (too late for this year’s survey) for a 96-year-old Georgian mansion in Lake Bluff just may win him the top spot on next year’s list.

Chicago’s annual report on high-end sales covers the same 12-month period—July 1, 2006, to June 30, 2007—as the house-price charts that begin on page 128. For the first time in the nine years that Chicago has compiled this report, the number of homes that sold for a million dollars or more actually declined: from 2,408 total sales to 2,304, a drop of 4.3 percent. But the slowdown did not stop new houses from coming on the market. “It takes days and days and days to bring a buyer through all the available [high-end] homes now,” says Julie Deutsch, a Coldwell Banker agent based in Glencoe. “You can show people 70 or 80 houses, not the 10 or 12 you had a few years ago.” Deutsch says she counsels new sellers to anticipate having their house on the market for months or even years now; a few years ago, the usual sale time was mere weeks.


Lake Shore Drive, $11 million

The densest concentration of high-end sales came in the Gold Coast—where 322 homes went for $1 million or more—followed by Lincoln Park (172), Winnetka (141), Lake Forest (139), and Wilmette (116). Highland Park was home to the two priciest sales: Pickell’s $17.6-million purchase of the Segal estate, and the $11.2 million that unidentified buyers paid in December for a 13-room mansion from 1937. (The buyers used a land trust to hide their names.)

Rounding out the region’s top five sales were:

  • Sam Mencoff, a co-president of Madison Dearborn Partners, paid $11 million in late March for an imposing stone mansion from 1890 on Lake Shore Drive.
  • In March, Garrett Kelleher, the developer of Santiago Calatrava’s Chicago Spire, spent $8.5 million for a 9,000-square-foot six-bedroom mansion on Chicago’s Astor Street.
  • In July 2006, James McNerney, the CEO of Boeing, shelled out $7.6 million for a newly renovated 12-room French-style mansion in Lake Forest.

The top five sales were all in Cook and Lake counties. In the other four counties in the Chicago metropolitan area, the top sales for the year were:

  • In DuPage County, a new 13-room house in Hinsdale went for $5.03 million.
  • In McHenry County, a 21-room house in Barrington Hills went for $2.5 million.
  • In Will County, a new house (completed in 2006) was sold for $2.295 million in Naperville.
  • In Kane County, a 10,000-square-foot house next to a lake in St. Charles was sold for $2.25 million.


 

Photography: (Images 1 and 3) Chris Guillen; (Image 2) Dennis Rodkin

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