Two Thumbs Up for Thea Flaum’s Presale Renovation
List Price: $1.199 million
Sale Price: $1.149 million
The Property: Thea Flaum, the original producer of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert’s TV movie-review show, was having trouble selling her Old Town condo. So she took it off the market and had the entire 3,600-square-foot, two-level space gutted and renovated. She put it back on sale at a lower price—and the place was under contract within a few months.
Flaum was a producer at WTTW in 1975 when she was put in charge of pairing the Chicago Tribune’s Siskel (who died in 1999) and the Sun-Times’s Ebert in a new weekly TV show called Opening Soon at a Theater Near You. She went on to win nine Emmy awards and produce numerous shows for PBS, the major television networks, and MTV. In 2007, Flaum sold her 23-year-old Chicago-based production company and turned her attention to a disability-awareness foundation that she founded with her husband, Robert Hill.
According to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds, Flaum paid $593,000 for the condo in the former St. Michael’s High School building in 1988, when the facility was first converted to condos. (Another former St. Michael’s building next door is now rentals.) In 2005, she and Hill bought a Gold Coast condo for $1.95 million, and two years later, Flaum put the St. Michael’s condo on the market, asking $1.295 million. It was on and off the market a few times, always at that price, according to records at Midwest Real Estate Data, the multiple listing service.
In 2010, Jill Buckley, a Baird & Warner agent, told the sellers that the reason it wasn’t selling was its condition. “Buyers valued that location, that quiet Old Town corner where there’s no traffic noise and total serenity,” Buckley says. “But the condo needed to be gutted.” Paul Schulman, the designer hired to do the updating, says that the home’s “color scheme was sort of a salmon sherbet and a light pale turquoise. You might remember that from the eighties. It was all Miami Vice.” (At Schulman’s blog, scroll down to “Smile for the Camera” to see some totally eighties before photos.)
The revamp entailed opening up walls to maximize light from the 14-foot windows and to integrate the kitchen into the main living space. The goal was what Schulman calls a “soft modern” look. After the work was completed on the condo, he and Buckley staged it with temporary furniture and accents to make the place feel lived in. The listing photos show a stylish condo with a very large kitchen island and chocolate-colored cabinetry. “That place is rock star,” Buckley says.
The building, erected in 1925, has the historic St Michael Church as a neighbor, and the shopping, dining, and entertainment of Old Town are only a few blocks away. The lakefront and transportation to the Loop are also nearby. The condo went on the market in mid-February and went under contract three months later. The deal closed July 5th. I could not reach Flaum for comment, and the buyers are not yet identified in public records.
Price Points: Schulman estimates that the total cost of remodeling the condo was $150,000 to $200,000. Going with the midpoint of that estimate—$175,000—would mean that Flaum spent about 15 percent of her sale price to get the home ready for the market.