Two Top Chicago Brokers Assess the City's Luxury Real Estate Market

By Lisa Skolnik | June 24, 2019 | Home & Real Estate

Slowing home sales, low inventory and modest price growth are making for a tough market, but luxury is beating the odds in pockets of Chicago.

The virtually staged interior of a Lincoln Park single-family home at 2039 N. Mohawk St. ($1.975 million). (Photo by VHT Studios/courtesy of KoenigRubloff)

Home sales in Chicago, like the city’s weather, usually heat up in spring. Not this year on both fronts: Chicago home sales have been falling for nine straight months, according to Illinois Realtors data, while home prices are rising at 1.8%—half the national rate of 3.7%, the latest S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices show. While temperatures have nowhere to go but up in July and August, what about home sales? Chicago luxury brokers Janet Owen (KoenigRubloff, 312.268.0700) and Alex Wolking (Keller Williams, 312.343.1039) give us their market assessment.

Why is the market so slow this year?

JO: First we had elections, which always stall sales as people take a wait-and-see position. But supply massively outweighs demand right now, though there are segments of the market that are doing very well. In the West Loop, good properties still get multiple offers.

AW: We’re finally getting an influx of new inventory, but buyers are taking their time to explore the options. So instead of the market favoring buyers or sellers, it’s going back to neutral. But another consideration is what luxury means today. It’s no longer about having the biggest or most fabulous house on the block; it’s about lifestyle. So the market depends on where you want to be.

Where do people want to be?

JO: HENRYs (high earners, not rich yet), who are the future, want homes or condos designed for young families, and they are not going to the suburbs but neighborhoods like Ukrainian Village and Logan Square for homes and the West Loop for family condos. The homes they buy range from $1.5 million to $3 million. But empty nesters want to be in the Gold Coast, Streeterville or Lincoln Park and are buying properties that are $3 million and up—including gracious old co-ops, which are making a comeback.

AW: It depends who you are. People in the medical and tech industries want to be close to work, which has made the West Loop incendiary. Blue Line neighborhoods—Wicker Park and Bucktown—do well too and have single-family homes that are about 8 percent cheaper. Yes, empty nesters want to be in the Gold Coast or Streeterville, but Old Town attracts multiple generations.

A grand Gold Coast single-family home on a double lot at 1442 N. Astor St. ($4.995 million) (Photo by Alayna Kudal/VHT)

What are you selling that you expect to do well?

JO: Properties must be priced correctly and in great shape. I have a wonderful Lincoln Park single-family at 2039 N. Mohawk for $1.975 million that was built in 1990, has been updated regularly and has four beds, three full baths (and two half baths) and 5,400 square feet with a chef’s kitchen, two-car garage and roof deck with great views. At 999 N. Lake Shore Drive, in a notable Benjamin Marshall co-op, a three-bed, 3 ½-bath, 4,000-square-foot co-op for $2.685 million is a good value because the building has a new rooftop terrace with an outdoor kitchen and entertaining area and just approved a new fitness center overlooking the lake.

AW: The market is so challenging that properties must be up to date cosmetically, structurally and technically. I have a storied 1891 six-bed, five-bath Gold Coast home at 1442 N. Astor St. designed by Pond & Pond on a double lot, but the property is dated so we had Chicago architect Chip Von Weise do complete plans to restructure the property for contemporary family life and had the plans approved by the Chicago Landmarks Commission. A new listing I expect to sell quickly is a 2003 four-story, 2,600-square-foot three-bed, three-bath townhouse for $1.3 million at 240 E. 14th St. in Museum Park that’s been totally updated. It looks and lives like a single-family because it connects to the high-rise next door, where its two parking spaces are located. Another huge plus is it has access to the building’s pool and clubhouse

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