A recently sold Winnetka mansion

Photo: Courtesy of Redfin

List Price: $15.975 million
Sale Price: $12.7 million
The Property: A 17-room mansion with 137 feet of private beach last week became the second Winnetka property to sell in recent months for over $12 million, and only the third ever to sell at $12 million or more on the open market.

The sellers of the house were also its builders: Leo and Milena Birov—he runs the high-end homebuilding firm Heritage Luxury Builders and she’s an @Properties agent who lists much of the product—built the 15,000-square-footer in 2010 and lived in it until the sale. Milena Birov told me that “our younger daughter moved on, so we were in the house by ourselves and it was too big.” They’re in temporary digs now, she said, but will move into a home they’re building about two blocks south on the waterfront site of this now-demolished historical Tudor that they paid $3.21 million for last June.

During the downturn that shook out a lot of homebuilders, family-run Heritage Luxury kept going on all pistons. In 2010, they sold another home on the Winnetka lakefront for $6.62 million; it was the highest-priced sale in Winnetka in four (dark) years. At one point, the company even bought back one of its mansions out of foreclosure, fixed it up and re-sold it.

This $12.7 million property was another where the firm got an advantage from the slowdown, buying the 1.5-acre site in 2007 for $5.6 million from a seller who had paid $6.1 million for it two years earlier. That seller had planned to build on the site, Milena Birov said, and had already demolished the home that previously stood there (thus increasing the discount that Heritage Luxury reaped by saving the firm demo costs).

With a French Colonial limestone exterior, the house that Heritage Luxury built on the site “was the best we ever built,” Milena Birov said. The listing sheet did not include interior photos but said that the home contained seven bedrooms, eight full and two partial bathrooms, a wine cellar, an elevator, “and much, much more.” Milena Birov told me that her favorite space in the house was the sunroom: “It’s all windows facing the lake, and an 18-foot ceiling.” Next best was the master bath, which she would only describe as “beautiful.” She did not want to disclose any further details of the interior, other than to say that the rooms “are good-sized.”

That fits right in with her husband’s track record. I first met Milena Birov back in 2001, when the firm was building an 8,000-square-foot home in western Winnetka. The buyer of that home told me (for an article that is not archived on our site) that a big part of the home’s appeal was that its “rooms are pretty massive. When you go someplace else, everything looks dwarfish.”

The buyers are not yet identified in public records.

Price Points: The $12.7 million sale price tops the previous record-setter for Winnetka, a mansion a few blocks down the lakefront that sold Dec. 31 for $12.5 million. Prior to that, only one other home in Winnetka had ever sold on the open market in the $12 million range. In July 2000, a dotcom millionaire paid $12 million for a historic lakefront mansion that had belonged to the Brach family; a year later, he re-sold it for $11.45 million to financier Byron Trott.

The highest-priced individual home sale on record is Citadel CEO Ken Griffin’s $15 million purchase last November of a two-story condo below his in the Park Tower on North Michigan Avenue. Two other sales, of estates in Lake Bluff and Highland Park, have been for higher prices, though both were bought to be subdivided by a developer; the one in Highland Park later re-sold to private homeowners, but for an amount that Lake County land records don’t make clear.

Listing Agents: @Properties agents Milena Birov of (847-962-1200) and her son-in-law, Steve Aisen, 773-505-2556