A ‘High-End Squatter’ Found a Sweet Spot to Stay in Wicker Park

A woman lived in a foreclosed, $1.5-million house for two years without a lease—even putting up holiday decorations and getting to know her neighbors.

Photo: Dennis Rodkin

List Price: $1,595,000
Sold Price: $1,482,500
The Property: Usually, when you read about squatters taking over vacant, foreclosed homes, they’re in boarded-up houses like this one in Rogers Park or the 20 or so in Englewood that the Anti-Eviction Campaign has moved homeless people into.

But one Chicago squatter found a pretty sweet place to occupy: a newly built five-bedroom, five-bath home in Wicker Park that had an in-home theater, a sauna, and a rooftop deck with views of the downtown skyline. The builder lost the property in foreclosure in 2011. It wasn’t until 2013 that the foreclosing lender, MB Financial, managed to get the squatter out, via a court order.

According to Melanie Giglio, one of two Sergio & Banks agents who sold the home for MB Financial, the woman appeared to have no lease and pay no rent for at least two years. The other agent, Melissa Govedarica, said the woman might at some point have had a lease with the builder. In any case, the bank didn’t know there was a tenant when it gave the two agents the listing on the house in 2012, Giglio says.

“But she was living there; she had keys and she decorated [outside] at Halloween and Christmas,” Giglio says. “The neighbors knew her, but they didn’t know she was a squatter.”

Selling foreclosures, agents frequently run into squatters—whether they are formerly legal tenants who now are just hanging on as long as they can, or are illegal occupants of a property. “But I hadn’t seen any at this price point,” Giglio says. “This was a high-end squatter.”

Planning to sell the house after spending two years foreclosing the builder, the bank then spent more than another year evicting the occupant. Eventually a court issued an eviction order, with a definite date for the woman to vacate the property, but she didn’t comply. Ultimately, police were called in to move all her belongings out to the street. The builder had completed the home but hadn’t maintained it, Govedarica says, and the squatter “beat it up,” Giglio adds. The bank spent about $100,000 on repainting, floor refinishing, and other touchups before putting it on the market in September.

New buyers put it under contract in October, and the sale closed December 12. Giglio, who also represented the buyers, said they were aware that there had been an unwanted tenant but weren’t concerned. “They didn’t see the house until it was cleaned up and restored,” she says.

Price Points: The builder paid $500,000 for the site in 2007, according to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds; a year later he was offering the not-yet-complete house for $1,899,900. He took it off the market in late 2008—possibly because he had rented it out, although the recent agents said there was no documentation of that.

The bank started foreclosure in May 2009 and got possession of the house in February 2011. In September of this year, after the tenant was removed and the house cleaned up, Giglio and Govedarica put it on the market with an asking price of $1.799 million. That came down to $1.699 and then to $1.595 before it sold.

Listing Agents: Melanie Giglio (773-235-6100, melanie@sergioandbanks.com) and Melissa Govedarica (773-235-6100, melissa@sergioandbanks.com), both of Sergio and Banks.



8 months ago
Posted by HeathersFeathers

I lived next door to this woman and there is so much more to the story!

8 months ago
Posted by Dennis Rodkin

HeathesFeathers, if you'd like to fill me in, email me: dennis@rodkin.com. I'd love to have more of the story.

8 months ago
Posted by BaffledChicagoan

I have more to add to the story too - but will only discuss with you on confidential / anonymous basis. Please email me if interested in hearing more.

8 months ago
Posted by ChicagoJZ

I can't believe we use police to do the dirty work of private, for-profit bankers and real estate agents. And yet if our bikes get stolen in the same neighborhood, some desk jockey takes the info on 311 and that's it.

Welcome to Rahm's Chicago... where the super rich guys always win.. and the rest of us are out on our ass.

8 months ago
Posted by Beckola

There's always more to the story but the big picture is that we(Illinois) is a judicial foreclosure state. Which in a nut shell means that foreclosures have to go through the court system. Since the court system is so slow/backlogged, whatever, it usually takes about 15-20 months from the point where the bank starts foreclosing to the point they can take possession. Many times the homeowner's will just stay put until they're told they have to leave, where others will rent their home out and collect rent until the bank takes control. The stories are endless from renters who do not know the owner is not paying the mortgage, to friends living in homes for free, to you name it. The difference here is that when the person living there was told the home had gone through the full foreclosure process and they had to go... they used Chicago's tough renter laws to stay for bit longer. I know people have the inside story here but my guess is that was not too much malice involved. Person in there probably started out a renter or friend of builder and just used the place as long as possible.

8 months ago
Posted by BaffledChicagoan

You have been mis-led / mis-informed Beckola. The renter was involved in a UCC / Strawman scam trying to take the home from the bank MB Financial. He was incarcerated (for identity theft) while in the process of doing this and failed at his scam. The builder was in on it. The woman was a drunk and probably clueless to what was going on with her husband. Do some homework on the owner & builder. ChicagoBlockshopper.com there is a laundry list of odd real estate transactions with both supposed renter and builder.

8 months ago
Posted by callithowiseeit

BaffledChicagoan sounds like a bored housewife looking to spread drama...

8 months ago
Posted by Auju Sazu

Baffledchicagoan is much more accurate than the realtor.

8 months ago
Posted by Iamjrfleming

I am the executive director of the Chicago Anti Eviction Campaign feel free to get fact checks, clarity quotes,comments by contacting antieviction@gmail.com. Appreciate articles by you and Mr. Moser. There is a housing movement in Chicago that help birth and re energized occupy our homes,take back the land and other housing justice movements. We believe in a human right to housing and support community based solutions to vacant and abandoned properties.

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