In Lakewood Balmoral, Bidders Are Fighting Each Other at the Open Houses

Two recent sales at about a million bucks each show what a good month it’s been for the handsome, historic neighborhood.

A house on Wayne St. and a house on Magnolia St. in Lakewood Balmoral

Photography: Dennis Rodkin

A house on Wayne Street (left) and a house on Magnolia Street (right) in Lakewood Balmoral.

List Price (on Wayne): $1.15 million
Sale Price: $1.15 million

List Price (on Magnolia): $895,000
Sale Price: $940,000

The Properties: In the handsome, historic Lakewood Balmoral neighborhood, spring brought lots of leaves to the tall trees, color to the gardens, and bidders to the open houses.

Baird & Warner agent Pamela Ball put a five-bedroom built in 1907 and extensively renovated in the past few years on the market in March. At the first weekend open house, more than 100 people toured the property and by 5:30 p.m., she says, “we had three offers.” After the first successful deal fell through, “we sold it again in two hours,” she says. The sale closed June 13, at the full asking price, $1.15 million.

Three blocks away, Re/Max agent Marlene Granacki’s early May listing, a five-bedroom from 1891, also attracted more than 100 people—at least a couple of them, presumably, unsuccessful bidders on Ball’s listing. “People were fighting over this house at the open house,” Granacki says. Multiple bidders—Granacki wouldn’t say how many—vied for the house, pushing the eventual sale price up to five percent over what the sellers were asking. The sale closed June 7.

Both houses look nice but not exactly seductive on the outside. On the inside, they’re much sexier. Check out the wood finishes inside Ball’s listing. It’s the work of the late master craftsman Berthold Schwaiger, commissioned by Ball’s clients after they bought the house in 2008. (Public records don’t show their name or the purchase price.) At that time, Ball says, the house “was dismal. Dismal is being nice.” There are no interior photos of Granacki’s listing, but she says her sellers “had done everything impeccably. It wasn’t big-deal high-end finishes, it was just very well executed.” The sellers, Tyler Chafey and Ebony Hurr, had paid $750,000 for the house in 2008, according to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds. Ebony Hurr is a designer and the head of the Snow and Graham stationery studio. “She had a definite take on an old house done in a contemporary way, and it showed outrageously well,” Granacki says.

Price Points: Both agents said the much-reported shortage of inventory was on their side. “When you open the doors, there’s a list of buyers ready to look at it,” Granacki says.

Getting bid up over asking price, as hers did, is a wonderful thing but it’s not as common here as in some cities. Redfin reported last Tuesday that among big cities, Chicago had the smallest percentage of for-sale homes where a bidding war pushed the sale price up over the asking price (19%, compared to 49% nationally, and at least 96.8% in San Francisco) in May.

Ball said her sellers weren’t at all disappointed that theirs didn’t go over ask—because they had already jacked up their asking price. When getting the house in shape to go up for sale, she and they had a certain price in mind, she says, but when the market went nuts, “we raised it.” The increase was about 10 percent, she says, and even so, the house went at its full asking price.

The last time I spoke to Ball was back in 2006, another time when bidding wars were rampant; bidders took one of her Lakewood Balmoral listings over ask then, to a record price for the neighborhood.

Listing Agents: Marlene Granacki (on the $940,000 sale) of Re/Max, 773-520-7447. Pamela Ball (on the $1.15 million sale) of Baird & Warner, 312-981-2824, pamela-ball@bairdwarner.com.

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