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Chicago-area residential white elephants unsold despite boom – Crain’s Chicago Business

In the voracious housing market of the past year and a half, some properties that had sat on the market for so long they were beginning to look unsellable got picked up by buyers. 

Among many others are a mammoth blufftop mansion in Lake Forest that was for sale almost continuously from 2007 until it sold in 2020 for less than its 1987 price, a vast St. Charles estate whose centerpiece mansion is a 1990s mashup of Japanese and airport hotel styles and a historical Lake Shore Drive mansion that hadn’t been updated in decades and first hit the market in September 2015, nearly six years before it ultimately sold. 

The boom reopened formerly logjammed mansion markets in Lake Forest and the Barringtons and led to new high water marks for prices in Burr Ridge, Hinsdale, Lincoln Park and other affluent areas. 

“We’ve had the best luxury market in a long time,” says Michael LaFido, the Exp Realty agent who recently signed a buyer for the opulent Barrington Hills mansion used in the TV show “Empire.”  “If you got an offer in this COVID market, that’s the best offer you’re going to see. If you didn’t take it, I don’t know if [the property] will ever sell.” 

In June 2020, the early days of the pandemic buying boom, a Naperville mansion that LaFido represented sold for  $4.75 million. That’s a little more than half the $8.75 million the sellers were asking for the 17,500-square-footer on 3 acres when they first put it on the market in 2015. 

By the time of the sale, the sellers had cut more than $3 million off of their asking price. Jordan, on the other hand, has held firm to his $14.855 million asking price since 2017. 


After price comes style. Some high-end homes are so extensively tailored to the owner’s individual taste that buyers “can’t picture themselves in it,” LaFido says. 

On Ford Lane in Naperville, an ornate home inspired by European villas, with Corinthian columns flanking the front door, domes on the roof and several levels of terraces climbing up from the swimming pool, has been on and off the market a few times since June 2016. Inside are numerous columns, archways, murals and specialty paint finishes. 

Real estate agents will tell the owner of a mid-priced home who wants to get the home sold and move on to neutralize all that color and heavy finish with taupe, gray and white. Many high-end sellers “aren’t in a hurry to sell,” says Dominique Gagnon, the Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty agent representing the Ford Lane house. 

Gagnon said her client “put so many beautiful things in that home. He wanted it to be perfect for him.” He is content to wait, she said, for “somebody who loves all the details, somebody who is buying with their heart.” 


The asking price is now just under $3.65 million, down from $4.4 million in June 2016.  The homeowner bought the lot, 0.95 of an acre that backs up to the DuPage River, in 2004 for $575,000. Crain’s couldn’t determine what he spent to build five-bedroom, 9,450-square-foot house, which has a pub, a movie theater, an elevator, a wine cellar and a gym. 

The home that may have the longest tenure on the market in the Chicago area is a stately New England colonial shingle-sided house on 21 acres in Barrington Hills.

Known as Valley View Farm, the property first came on the market in July 2005 at $6.6 million. It has been on the market most of the past 16 years, with occasional breaks. The asking price is now $2.85 million. 

At that price, with almost 8,300 square feet inside and a pool and tree-dotted acreage outside, the estate would seem like some families’ COVID-era dream. 

“Everybody’s dream is different,” says Mimi Noyes, one of two @properties agents representing the house. 

Noyes adds that it’s not too late for Valley View Farm to attract a buyer, as “we’re still seeing a lot of activity in our market,” the Barrington area. 

On Sept. 20, a 12,000-square-foot home on County Line Road in Barrington Hills went under contract to a buyer 11 years and two months after it first went on the market at $4.3 million. By the time it went under contract, the asking price was down to $2.45 million. Noyes said she and her fellow listing agent, John Morrison, could not divulge the sale price until after the deal closes. 

Also recently landing a buyer but not yet closed is the modernist glass house in Northfield that its architect and owner, Tom Roszak, has had on the market since April 2017. 

Maybe Michael Jordan should keep his fingers crossed. 


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