Mansions Are Selling Really Well Around Chicago Nowadays

A Gold Coast home just fetched $7.15 million, and one in Lake Bluff got $5.25 mill. They’re both pretty nice houses!

The Gold Coast mansion (left) and the Lake Bluff mansion (right)   Photography: Dennis Rodkin

List Price (Gold Coast): $7.85 million
Sale Price: $7.125 million

List Price (Lake Bluff): $5.5 million
Sale Price: $5.25 million

The Properties: In case you’ve been wondering, the sellers of mansions have been doing rather well recently.

On the Gold Coast, a refined home built in 1914 as part of what would later be the Playboy Mansion compound was on the market a little over three months before selling at $7.125 million on November 8. (I posted a video tour of that property last summer.) And in Lake Bluff, it took just six days to sell a Mediterranean-style villa built in 1930 and its ten acres of grounds. That sale, at $5.25 million, closed November 15.

Both were recent highwater marks for their neighborhoods, but they were far from being the only big-ticket sales this fall. According to data out from Re/Max last week, there were 338 sales at $1 million and up in September and October, up 52 percent from the same period in 2012. Those high-end homes sold faster, too: they went in an average of 143 days, down from 190 in 2012, Re/Max reported.

The Lake Bluff sale will pull the average market time way downward in the next report. Six days is super-fast for a home at a regular people’s price; up in the $5 million range, it’s lightning fast. The listing agent, Jean Royster of Coldwell Banker, assured me it wasn’t a pocket listing and that she didn’t have buyers lined up ahead of time.

It was, she says, just a really fine place. “It’s an elegant home with beautiful architectural details that has been maintained well,” Royster told me, “and the compound has over 10 acres, a pool, a tennis court, and a putting green. It’s unusual to have that combination.”

The photos in the listing show arched ceilings, big stone fireplaces, and ample rooms that, although they’re furnished with maybe a few more chairs than I’d like, have views out onto expansive lawns.

If you get a sense of Old Hollywood glamour while looking through the pictures, that’s appropriate: Until her death in August, the estate was the home of Jana Mason Wacker, who according to her obituary, used to sing with the likes of Nat King Cole, Jimmy Durante, and Donald O’Connor. She seems to have been pretty busy in TV and movies in the mid-1950s, and listening to this jazzy old clip of her, you can tell why.

In 1958, she married Frederick Wacker Jr., a Chicago jazz musician and business executive who was a grandson of the man from whom Chicago’s Wacker Drive got its name. According to the Lake County Recorder of Deeds, the couple bought the Lake Bluff estate in 1974. He died in 1998. Royster would not discuss the sellers other than to say that they were only the property’s second owners.

The buyers aren’t yet identified in Lake County records on the Lake Bluff sale, or in Cook County records on the Gold Coast sale.

Price Points: The Gold Coast sale is the highest price paid for a house in the post-boom years; the next-highest is embattled banker Jamie Dimon’s former Chicago home, which went for $6.8 million in 2010. (Several condos have gone for more.) The Lake Bluff sale is the highest in that town since the record-setter—a $5.5 million sale—in mid-2011.

Listing Agents: Gold Coast: Janet Owen of Prudential Rubloff, 312-268-0700; jowen@rubloff.com. Lake Bluff: Jean Royster of Coldwell Banker, 847-735-7667 and jean@jeanroyster.com.

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