List Price: $3.299 million
Sale Price: $3.025 million
The Property: When this Glencoe house overlooking Lake Michigan went on the market listed at $8.2 million in 2007, it wasn’t distinguished by its high price tag—there were at least ten local houses on the market for more. Rather, it was the zany design flourishes, inside and out, that set it apart. I described some of them in an earlier blog item: “The stucco exterior has shapes and textures imprinted on it. Inside, most of the floors have colorful angular inlays . . . and the entry hall and living room are separated by a kettle-shaped double fireplace . . . sheathed in deep red mahogany and topped with an undulating stainless steel crown.”
That wasn’t all. As you can see in the pictures below (shot during my visit six years ago), there were elaborate angular light fixtures and funky floor mosaics in the master bath, big pyramidal blisters and a cartoonish drooping curve in the kitchen cabinetry, and bookshelves in one room that appeared to be curving out from within the wall. The most whimsical finish was the balustrade on the lake-facing deck that stretched the length of the house, a composition of curlicues and stylized human figures. (It’s visible outside the windows in the photo below with several burgundy leather chairs; in the photos accompanying the listing, you can see that the crazy handrail extends all the way down the bluff to the private beach.)
Is all that design nuttiness to blame for the fact that the home sat on the market from February 12, 2007, until finally closing on February 8, 2013? “It needed to be much more toned down,” acknowledges Susan Maman, who in April 2012 became the third agent to list the house. “It needed a more transitional look.” “Transitional” is what real-estate agents often say when they mean a home’s décor is so neck-deep in one style—especially a very personal style—that potential buyers can’t see it flexing to accommodate their own taste.
By the time Maman got the listing, the sellers had moved out, so their wacky furniture that matched the house was no longer a distraction. But Maman says that the emptiness had become its own problem. “Being vacant, it was impossible to sell,” she explains. “The room sizes were such that nobody could see how well it would work.” She had the house staged by Kim Flashner of Phoenix Rising Home Staging & Interior Design to emphasize what she calls the property’s “eclectic, contemporary, transitional possibilities.”
The staging and the huge price drop—Maman’s first asking price was $3.5 million, just 42.6 percent of the February 2007 asking price—got the house multiple offers, Maman says, and it was under contract by August 2012. (A complex financing deal between buyer and seller kept it off the market until the February 2013 closing.) Maman doesn’t know whether the buyers—who paid 36 percent of the original asking price and are not yet identified in public records—plan to change the looks of the house.
Price Points: According to county records, the five-bedroom house was 25 years old in 1991 when Bruce and Betsy D’Alba, the current sellers, bought it for $2.7 million. Twenty-two years later, they sold at a profit of 8.9 percent, not counting whatever they spent to jazz the place up.