Mr. Big Stuff Eats Crow
List Price: $749,900
Sale Price: $685,000
The Property: In June, Scott Sasse, a real-estate agent who specializes in the West Loop, e-mailed me the listing for his own condo, which he had just put on the market. He thought I might be interested in writing about it.
I wasn’t. Public records showed he was asking 9 percent more than he and his wife, Amanda, had paid for the place in 2007. “Prices have fallen at least 20 percent since that time,” I told Sasse in my reply. That suggested his asking price was nearly 30 percent above where the market was for his condo.
Boy, was I wrong. Last week, Sasse reported that the condo had sold for $685,000—the same amount he and his wife had paid five years earlier. In other words, his asking price had been a perfectly acceptable 9 percent above what they would ultimately get for the place, not the 30 percent I had pessimistically estimated. And the fact that the condo sold for its exact 2007 sale price indicated that some of the neighborhood’s price erosion had come back. And unlike overpriced homes that tend to linger on the market, this one went under contract in 18 days. (The sale closed on September 13.)
I promised to eat a plate of crow that day for lunch, but Sasse was forgiving. “If you look all over the West Loop, I agree the numbers were more in line with 2003 prices [in June],” he said. “We’ve had a bump since then and are up to 2004. But if you look at the high-end category, there’s very little supply and a lot of people looking. That’s driving that category’s prices up.” With three bedrooms and a den, 2.5 baths, and a private roof deck, Sasse’s condo was a magnet for urban families who couldn’t squeeze into the two-bedroom condos that are more the norm in the West Loop.
A decade ago, when Sasse moved to the West Loop, redevelopment there was in its infancy, and most new residents were singles or young couples. But the neighborhood has matured, with an array of retailers, some of the city’s hottest restaurants, a terrific park, and even a museum about the history of Greeks in America.
And Sasse notes that his condo is across the street from one of the neighborhood’s best amenities for families: Skinner West Elementary School, which Chicago identified as the city’s seventh-best grade school in its September issue.
All that growth factored into the pricing of the condo, Sasse told me. He said that the buyers, whom he would not identify, plan to have kids soon and stay in the neighborhood. Sasse and his wife are staying, too, but in a townhouse.
Meanwhile, to commemorate my overly gloomy estimate of what the condo would sell for, I’ve adopted a new theme song for Deal Estate: “Mr. Big Stuff: Who do you think you are?”
Price Points: Sasse said that he was also encouraged in his pricing by the comps, including the building’s fifth-floor unit, which went on the market in May at $799,000 and sold in August at $755,000. (Those sellers had paid $802,000 in 2008; they sold at a 6 percent loss.) “We had gotten ourselves a strong deal [back in 2007],” Sasse said, “and this summer, we took the market for what it is.” Recouping their 2007 price is a noteworthy feat when Zillow shows that, in August, 43.9 percent of Chicago sellers sold at a loss.