Nate Berkus’s Slow-to-Sell Condo Suddenly Sells Fast

List Price: $1.89 million
Sale Price: $1.6 million
The Property: An Astor Street condominium that the interior designer and TV host Nate Berkus first put on the market in March 2011 was sold last Wednesday—just three days after the listing agent marked it as having a contract pending…

Nate Berkus's former condo building

List Price: $1.89 million
Sale Price: $1.6 million
The Property: An Astor Street condominium that the interior designer and TV host Nate Berkus first put on the market in March 2011 (view photos of the condo here) was sold last Wednesday—just three days after the listing agent marked it as having a contract pending.

Typically, it takes at least a few weeks for that process to occur. A swift shift from pending to sold often indicates that it’s an all-cash sale (although there could be other reasons behind the quick transaction). The condo’s listing agent, Katherine Chez Malkin, referred my questions to Berkus’s public relations representative, Kristin Giese, who emailed back that “neither myself nor Katherine are able to disclose the details of the sale.”

A second-generation interior designer, Berkus, who has run his eponymous Chicago company since 1995, was a regular guest on Oprah Winfrey’s TV show until getting his own program in September 2010. The show was cancelled last May, but the Oprah Winfrey Network is airing it in reruns. (Marcia Froelke Coburn profiled Berkus for Chicago in 2007.)

It has been widely reported that Berkus bought the three-bedroom condo for $1.5 million in 2003. However, the Cook County Recorder of Deeds shows him paying just $500,000 in July 2003. The records also show him taking out a pair of mortgages on the purchase date that totaled $1.175 million. That could indicate that Berkus got funds in excess of the purchase price to make renovations, or it could mean that the $500,000 deed is mistaken. Again, Chez Malkin and Giese declined to provide information on any aspect of the deal.

Whatever he paid for it, Berkus undertook an extensive renovation. As he explained to Elle Decor, he built on the home’s 1929 vintage and its mid-century renovation by Samuel Marx, layering in his own contemporary take on warm modernism. “I’m more interested in the relationships between things than I am in sticking with an overall concept,” he told the writer Taryn Bickley. The seven-room condo occupies the entire eighth floor of a 12-story, 12-condo building on Astor Street.

Berkus put the condo on the market in March 2011, having moved to New York. The asking price was $2.65 million; it came down four times, finally landing at $1.89 million last November.

The listing was changed to “contract pending” on January 13, and the contract sold on January 16 for $1.6 million—60 percent of Berkus’s original asking price. The buyers are not yet identified in public records. Giese, who said Berkus wasn’t available to be interviewed, offered only this comment: “I know that Nate, who still has tremendous ties to Chicago with his design firm being based there, wishes the new homeowners great happiness in the property.”

Price Points: Another high-profile home listed by Malkin took a considerable price drop last week when Michael Jordan cut the asking price on his Highland Park house by $8 million. He had put the sprawling compound on the market last February, asking $29 million, a price that I dismissed as a publicity-seeking “ridiculisting.” On January 17, the price came down 27.5 percent, to $21 million.

Listing Agent: Katherine Chez Malkin of Baird & Warner; 312-576-5200 or katherine.chezmalkin@bairdwarner.com

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1 year ago
Posted by TerryTurn

The $500,000 figure is an error, Dennis. The recorder's office computer system, which unfortunately frequently has mistakes in its "consideration" field, erroneously only used one of the 2003 deed's three $500 transfer stamps (which are plainly visible on the 2003 deed) to calculate the number that appears in the "consideration" field. That's why the computer system spits out the $500,000 figure (it's supposed to take the sum total of a certain government body's transfer stamps and then multiply them by 1,000 to show the sale price -- it should have taken all three of them, or $1,500, and then multipled that by 1,000).

And a different governmental body (I can't remember which one) that also requires buyers to pay transfer stamps shows a $750 transfer stamp on the deed -- and to calculate the purchase price off of that particular governmental body's transfer stamp, one needs to multiply the transfer stamp amount by 2,000.

So if you look at the actual transfer stamps on the deed at the recorder's office, you'll see that by multiple measures, they clearly add up to a $1.5 million price in 2003. The $500K figure is an error.

What's more, a $500,000 purchase price for this condo in 2003 just flunks the smell test. Think about it -- it's really worth more than three times what it sold for in 2003? Hard to see. Plus, Nate took out a $1M-plus mortgage on it in '03 after paying just $500K for it? Hardly likely. All those things should be red flags. It sold for $1.5 million in '03, not $500K.

1 year ago
Posted by Dennis Rodkin

Thanks for the clarification, Terryturn. I agree that the $500,000 price flunks the smell test. I'm bound to report only what I can document, so I went with what I had. But I appreciate your clearing up those points.

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