Just days into the new year, the Chicago area witnessed a couple of real estate closings which will likely be some of the priciest sales of 2018. Combined, two recent sales in north suburban Winnetka represent nearly $19 million in real estate transactions: A Colonial-style lakefront mansion on Sheridan Road sold on January 4 for a whopping $10 million and a newly constructed home nearby on Willow Road closed the following day at $8.875 million.

The sales could be interpreted as continued confidence in the upscale luxury market, but there may be a simpler explanation: It's part of a pattern of big transactions happening near the end of the calendar year.

Though the two big Winnetka sales did finally close in 2018, these properties went under contract last year. 

“If it’s a big purchase, it’s something that people are thinking about for a while,” says Janet Owen, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices who specializes in ultra high-end properties. “And if the end of the year is approaching, a lot of it has to do with people finally making a decision.”

Owen calls it the “December factor.” In December 2014, an unfinished penthouse space at the 89th floor of the Trump Tower sold for $17 million, setting a new record at the time. The following December, a 20,000-square-foot Lincoln Park mansion listed by Owen sold for over $13.3 million. Then in December 2016, another Burling Street megamansion shattered all listing records by entering the market with a $50 million price tag.

Other explanations for big purchases during the holiday season include end-of-year bonuses and a stock market which continues to perform, Owen suggests. “Sometimes people are waiting on a job decision or perhaps an end-of-the-year bonus,” she says. “Another huge factor is that the stock market at an all-time high and it’s a good climate to make a big purchase.”

Speaking of big purchases: Recent news of a multilevel, multimillion-dollar condo purchase last November by billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin has smashed all records and reset the Chicago real estate compass. The Citadel founder and CEO paid $58.5 million for four full floors of the new No. 9 Walton tower in the Gold Coast neighborhood, Crain’s Chicago Business reports.

Griffin’s under-the-radar purchase has not only become the priciest real estate deal of 2017, but it’s now the most expensive sale price ever for a property in the Chicago area. However, Owen believes that there is still much more to come. “It’s a great way to start out 2018, but there’s still a lot of wait and see for this year.”