Highland Park

By now, just about everybody with a home listed for sale understands that properties are taking longer to sell. Still, some houses sit on the market for what seems like an eternity. Sometimes a house is so unusual that it simply has to wait for the right buyer to come along. But others suffer from significant flaws: they are outrageously ostentatious; their builders stubbornly cling to the original asking price; they are in unlikely settings for a high-priced house. These are the turkeys of the real-estate market, and in honor of Thanksgiving, I have rounded up a few especially plump offerings. (In order to save anybody too much undue embarrassment, I am not listing street names or the names of builders and real-estate agents as I normally do.).

• In Northbrook, there is a 14-room house with a four-car garage priced at $2.2 million that has been on the market for 948 days, as of today. The price is not out of sync with Northbrook or the size of the house (6,400 square feet), so what’s wrong? Maybe it’s the loud rush of road noise from the nearby Illinois Tollway 50 yards off—and the big covered balcony that points directly at the tollway. The listing sheet says that when you enter the house, “something comes over you.” I hope it’s silence.

• In Glenview, there is an 11-room house listed at $1,189,999. There is nothing unusual about the looks of the place: it is as bland as a house with a two-story entry arch can be. It has been on the market for 808 days, and yet while all around price-cutting has been the norm this year, this house’s price has stayed firm. The property’s listing agent (its second, who has spent 601 days representing the home) says the builder has told her repeatedly that he must get a certain amount from a sale to recoup his expenses. “He’s not going to change that, no matter what,” she says.

• In South Barrington, there is a home so grandiose you would think Donald Trump stays there when he comes to check the progress of his downtown tower. The main staircase is a two-story cascade of black and white marble topped by two opera-box balconies and a mammoth colonnade that leads to a hallway about as wide as the ones at McCormick Place. There are two- and three-story pillars everywhere—inside and out—a domed ceiling painted with palm trees, and an estimated 23,000 square feet of living space. I wish I could show you pictures, but I haven’t been allowed inside to shoot my own. Think Scarlett O’Hara’s Tara and then multiply by ten. The nine-year-old house, which has 20 rooms, eight-plus bathrooms, and a private beach, is listed at $4,895,000—and has been for 1,151 days.

• A Highland Park home is currently in its eighth year on the market. I have to confess some affection for this turkey, a charming, shingle-sided house built in 1925. The architect Robert Seyfarth designed the 12-room house to hug the lakeside ravine on its wooded site; to maximize their views of Lake Michigan, he put the dining room and kitchen on a floor below the living room, the library, and the master bedroom. That idiosyncratic layout has been turning off potential buyers, and the house has lingered on the market for 2,557 days. The sellers were asking $4.7 million, but last month they dropped to $2.85 million.

• Finally, if you are a beleaguered homeowner looking for a reason to be thankful, consider this: At least you’re not living in Miami. A few weeks ago, the Bespoke Investment Group released forecasts of the real-estate markets in ten U.S. cities through 2011, based on Chicago Mercantile Exchange housing-futures trades and other data. Chicago got the best forecast of the ten—only an eight-percent drop in real-estate values by 2011. Miami’s forecast: a 36-percent slide.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. There will be no Deal Estate: The Blog on Thanksgiving Day. See you back here on Monday, November 26th, with a new Sale of the Week.