Barrington Hills property, North Side property, Oak Brook property and Winnetka property

Super-luxury real estate in Chicago and the suburbs started our tracking year—July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009—with a bang. Locally, three of the year’s five highest-priced home sales occurred in the first ten days of July 2008. Indeed, those three sales each surpassed the purchase that topped last year’s list—a Prairie-style house in Wilmette that went for $7.25 million.

This year’s most expensive sale came on July 10, 2008, when John B. Harris (scion of the Toni Home Permanent clan) and his wife, Stephanie Field-Harris (a descendant of Marshall Field), paid $13 million for an Astor Street mansion. A few days earlier, Matthew Halbower (he runs Pentwater Capital Management) and his wife, Julie, paid $9,711,000 for a 13-room house on the Kenilworth lakefront. (They have since demolished the 83-year-old house and are building a new home on the property.) At about the same time, a 15-room house built in 1939 on the lakefront in Wilmette was sold for $9 million; the buyers cannot be identified.

But in the months that followed, things slowed down dramatically in the upper reaches of the housing market. “Even the buyers not affected by [the financial turmoil] started becoming more conservative,” says Gloria Matlin, a Glencoe-based Coldwell Banker agent. By the end of our 12-month reporting period, 1,374 Chicago-area homes had been sold for $1 million or more, according to Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED). That’s down 15.5 percent from last year, when 1,627 homes were sold in that price range, and down 42.9 percent from October 2006, when Chicago reported that there had been 2,408 big-ticket sales.

This year, Chicago’s Near North neighborhood had the most sales—177—for $1 million or more, but that was down 46 percent from 2007, its peak year, when it had 322 sales. In fact, the four localities rounding out our top-five areas for high-end sales all showed a significant drop from their peak years (either 2006 or 2007). Coming in second this year was Lincoln Park, with 114 sales (a 34-percent drop), followed by Winnetka, with 78 sales (45 percent), Hinsdale, with 74 sales (40 percent), and Lake Forest, with 66 sales (61 percent).

Rounding out this year’s top-five list for individual sales were a lavishly renovated 19-room house on the Gold Coast that went for $8 million in December 2008, and a 20-room house in Winnetka that was sold for $6.2 million in March 2009. (Some privately conducted sales may not appear in MRED’s records.)

The top-five sales were all in Cook County. In the other five counties in the Chicago metro area, these were the year’s top sales:

  • In Lake County, a 19-room house built in 1909 was sold in November 2008 for $5.55 million.
  • In DuPage County, an 18-room house in Oak Brook went for $5.45 million in February 2009.
  • In McHenry County, an 18-room house built in 2006 on a 12.3-acre lot in Barrington Hills was sold for $3.425 million in November 2008.
  • In Will County, a 19-room house built in 2007 on a ten-acre lot in New Lenox went for $2.59 million in March 2009.
  • In Kane County, a 15-room house on two-plus acres in St. Charles went for $2.2 million in September 2008.


Photography: Dennis Rodkin, (top right) Kim Thornton