List Price: $20,500
Sale Price: $1
The Property: That’s not a typo. The purchase price really was one dollar in the November 25 sale of this two-bedroom, 1,000-square-foot home in the South Side’s Roseland neighborhood.

The agent on the sale has not responded to my phone calls and e-mails asking for details, but a person who works for his firm said Monday that the house had been “a donation,” without providing further information. Bank of America received the deed to the home in a judicial action in early October; it’s likely the bank was the donor, although nobody there has been made available for comment. I haven’t been able to find out who received the donation.

Nevertheless, the exchange of the home’s deed for a dollar shows how some Chicago neighborhoods are still struggling with the wreckage of the housing bust. According to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds, this particular home had been owned by the same people since at least 1990; that’s a measure of stability, at least. But those owners were hit with a foreclosure suit in 2010, and by the time home was taken back by the bank, it had some appliances missing and the exterior was showing signs of decline.

High-end homes are moving fast, and in the Case Shiller index data that came out just before Thanksgiving, I spotted excellent news for some Chicago homeowners: In both of the past two quarters, Chicago-area prices outperformed the average among the nation’s top 20 cities. In the second quarter, Chicago sale prices rose 9.9 percent; the figure for the top 20 cities was 7.4 percent. In the third quarter, it was Chicago, 5.1 percent, top 20 cities, 3.8 percent. Zillow reported earlier this month that the third-quarter increases brought 75,495 Chicago-area homeowners’ mortgages up from underwater.

Great news, all of it. But at the lower end of the price spectrum are the give-it-away sales of derelict foreclosures, for prices as low as the $1 transaction in Roseland.

Now, you can read that as good news, too: presumably, a recipient of a donated house will attempt to put it to substantive use—making it one tiny pixel in the larger picture of long-term recovery. In neighborhoods where, as the Chicago Reporter revealed earlier this month, many empty properties are going un-maintained two years after passage of the city’s vacant property ordinance, every home that gets put back to use is a mark in the win column.

Price Points: Although this home went for the lowest sale price in the recent records, it’s definitely not the only recent sale at a rock-bottom price. In the week ended December 2, 32 houses or condos sold for $50,000 or less, according to data from MRED, the multiple listing service. That’s a little more than 10 percent of all the homes sold.

Among the lowest-priced are:

  • This Roseland house that sold for $5,900. That’s two percent of the 2007 mortgage amount, $274,500. (The county records don’t show a purchase price or date.)
  • This four-bedroom Brighton Park bungalow that sold for $10,000. That’s four percent of the $240,000 that somebody paid for the house in 2004; those buyers lost the house in foreclosure last spring.

Listing Agent: Gary Weglarz at Applebrook Realty, 773-779-8500