One of the most controversial pieces of Kenwood property, the vacant lot next door to the house of President Barack Obama, went up for sale today. The sellers are asking $899,000. That’s 33 percent more than they paid for the 50-by-150-foot lot in March 2008, before Obama’s election presumably jacked up the value of properties near his.
Barack and Michelle Obama bought their house on the same day in June 2005 that Rita Rezko, the wife of the now-convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko, bought the vacant lot next door. Six months later, Rita Rezko sold the Obamas a strip of the lot adjacent to their home for $104,166.
Critics of Obama believe the transactions suggest that Obama was more deeply connected to Rezko than he claims. As recently as August, the conservative politician John Sununu intimated that Rezko could help the Obamas in a similar way if Mitt Romney won the presidency.
Rezko sold the lot to a limited liability company for $575,000 in December 2006, according to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds. That LLC sold it in March 2008 to John and Marjorie Poulos. According to an @Properties press release about today’s listing of the lot, the couple “never moved forward with their plans to build a custom 8,000-square-foot home.” (Their architectural plans are available with the land.) According to the listing agent on the sale, Anthony Rouches, the couple had lived nearby and intended to build on the site but wound up putting their kids in a school on the North Side and are moving to Lincoln Park.
Rouches also said that the property has actually been on the market for about six weeks, though he “kept it low-key. We didn’t want to get it out there because we didn't want it to bring up any other stories.” He put a sign on the lot, he said, and has already had six inquiries. Roches also said that he might not list the property on the multiple listing service.
Rouches acknowledged that the sellers’ asking price included a significant markup over their purchase price. “They’re aggressively throwing it out there to see if someone’s interested,” he said. Could we call the 33 percent markup the Presidential Premium? “Probably.”
Rouches is also the listing agent on a similarly sized lot a few blocks away on 50th Street. The price there is $599,000, but Rouches noted that the lot next door to the Obamas’ house is zoned for a larger house: three stories compared to just two stories on the 50th Street lot. And a heads up to potential buyers: To show the property next door to the Obamas, Rouches explained, “I have to give the Secret Service 24-hours notice.”