Photograph: Dennis Rodkin
List Price: $775,900
Sale Price: $900,500
The Property: Here’s one for your file labeled “Those who live by the sword die by the sword.” The longtime home of Louis Prus, a real estate developer who helped push along Wicker Park’s gentrification in part by buying up distressed and foreclosed properties to flip, has now itself been sold as a foreclosure.
Built in 1885 during Wicker Park’s original boom, for ship-owner Halvor Michelson the 5,000-square-foot brick pile sits across from the triangular park that developers Charles and Joe Wicker created in 1870 as the epicenter of their planned neighborhood. Sometime in the 1970s or early 1980s, when the neighborhood had been in decline and was largely home to moderate-income Hispanics, Louis Prus, who was white, bought the ten-room house.
Prus had been grooming the neighborhood for gentrification since the early 1970s, according to a 1989 Chicago Tribune article. He didn’t endear himself to the existing residents of the neighborhood, as this 1988 Reader article points out.
Prus was a frequent buyer of foreclosed, burned, or otherwise distressed properties not only in Wicker Park and the rest of West Town, but also in Austin. Over the years, he ran a succession of real estate firms called Easy Life, Ace, and Mansion View. In the early 1990s, when the upscaling of Wicker Park began to really boom, I interviewed Prus in the living room of this house (the article isn’t archived).
Prus died in January 2010, and two months later his estate put the house up for sale with an asking price of $1.265 million. The lender, RBS (a unit of the Royal Bank of Scotland) started foreclosure in January 2011. In December 2012, the deed was taken back and given to Fannie Mae, the loan’s backer. The house went on the market in as-is condition January 25, and was under contract February 4. Listing agent Ben Beaty says there were at least six bidders. Among them were John and Aliany Lynch, who had been interested in the home in 2012 just before it was taken off the market in the final step of foreclosure. When it came back on, they toured it the next day—“there were people walking around everywhere in there,” John Lynch says—and made their offer the following day. The winning bidders, they closed on the purchase March 28.
Price Points: Beaty says he was surprised to see the bids take the price up so high. “My [research] on comparables says it’s a $1.2 million or $1.3 million house after you spend half a million to renovate it, so the $700,000s was a fair price to ask,” he says. “It has all these 1970s, 1980s finishes—the gold and glitter and green carpet. It’s hideous. It should be gutted.” Photos that accompanied the listing and this promotional video from when it was on the market in 2010 back up his contention that the home is pretty dated inside.
The buyers’ agent, Chris Mundy of @Properties, said his clients were already residents of Wicker Park were drawn by the house’s historical façade, oversized lot (25 x 162 feet; the standard is 25 x 125), and location by the park. Now living in a condo a few blocks away with their two children, they plan to renovate. “It’s going to require a pretty massive demo job,” John Lynch said.