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.

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