List Price: $1.98 million
Sale Price: $2 million
The Property: A Winnetka mansion that went into foreclosure when
its owner, a developer of Chicago condos, reportedly left the country as his business went belly up, is back in the hands of its original builders, who are sprucing it up before putting it back on the market. “This is our baby,” says Milena Birov. “Who can do a better job fixing it than we can?”
With her husband, Leo, Birov is a cofounder of Heritage Luxury Builders, a Northfield company that has built several upper-end homes in Winnetka. In 2005, Heritage built this 14-room house on a half-acre lot adjacent to Crow Island Woods; it is one of four big homes that the company built on the street.
In August 2005, according to files from the Cook County Recorder of Deeds, Andrius Augunas and Edita Auguniene paid $4.18 million for the home. In 2007 and 2008, as South Loop condo projects planned or underway by Augunas’s Rokas International fell apart, Crain’s Chicago Business reported that the company had assets of $2.02 million but liabilities of $82.01 million, and that Augunas had left the United States.
In March 2008, Bank of America started foreclosure proceedings on the Winnetka house. “We started watching it then, because we wanted it back,” said Steve Aisen, a Heritage executive and the Birovs’ son-in-law. Ultimately, Heritage outbid others and bought the property from the bank on March 1, 2010. Aisen says they had no relationship with Augunas other than “what’s typical of a seller and a buyer.”
Heritage is now putting the six-bedroom house through an extensive cleanup, the total cost of which Aisen estimates will be about $600,000. The cleanup began with a $25,000 mold remediation job in the basement, brought on by inadequate winterization while the house was vacant. “There was a theatre, a wine room, an exercise room, a bedroom down here—it was all ruined,” Milena Birov told me on a walk-through last week. Those rooms were removed down to the foundation walls, and Heritage is now outfitting the basement all over again. On the main living floors, much of the flooring and cabinetry was warped and is now being repaired or replaced, and almost every room is being repainted and getting new light fixtures. “They had decorated it a little loud,” Aisen noted. Several ornate chandeliers—which in my photos are all wrapped in plastic while the walls are being painted—will go, he said. The honey onyx slabs on the master bathroom walls and shower have already been removed. “They were horrible,” Birov said.
Price Points: Aisen expects the house to be priced at about $3.275 million when it goes back on the market. Heritage is comfortable in that upper price bracket, even in these times. “We have 12 custom-builds going on now, and two more coming online,” Aisen said. They are all valued at over $3 million—although not all of them will be $3-million transactions; in some cases, the clients already own the land and are paying Heritage upwards of $2 million to build. Proceeds from those homes will help fund speculative projects. Heritage has two of them going up now.
Listing Agent: Jason Shapiro, Rising Realty; 773-897-0614 or firstname.lastname@example.org