“It’s not really livable unless you did a lot of renovation throughout,” Birov said.
Built in about 1902, the pillared Classical Revival house was owned by the family of executive outplacement guru James Challenger from 1970 until today’s sale.
When the late Challenger’s children put the house on the market in March at a little under $16 million, they were sanguine about the likelihood it would be torn down.
“Either way you go, it’s a project,” Annie Challenger, a daughter of James and Ruth “Timmie” Challenger who is a Baird & Warner agent, said at the time. “Either you love the house and want to restore it as a project, or you decide to build your own and it’s still a project.”
After the sale closed today, Annie Challenger, who represented the property for herself and four other heirs of James Challenger, told Crain’s that “as much as people love houses, we can’t dictate what new owners do.” The house has no landmark protection that would prevent demolition, she said. Winnetka’s ordinances generally allow for a delay on demolition but not an outright prohibition.
The house, on a little more than 1.7 acres, is the sixth Chicago-area home to sell for $10 million or more so far this year. As Crain’s reported last week when a Lincoln Park mansion sold, the only year when more homes have sold at $10 million and up is 2018, when there were eight sales. And 2022 is far from over. If the pace keeps up, this will turn out to be a record year at the extreme upper end of the housing market.
In Winnetka alone, this is the second-highest-priced property sale of 2022, coming in below a $16 million sale in July.
It’s the third sale this year at $10 million or more in Winnetka; there were no recorded sales at $10 million or more in the previous three years. In 2018, there were three, as many as there have been in the first eight and a half months of 2022.
While almost $13 million may seem like a lot to pay for a house you plan to tear down, it’s a small amount compared to the $39.9 million that hedge fund executive Justin Ishbia has spent in the past few years buying four lakefront mansions, some or all of which he plans to demolish and replace with a new mansion.
Birov, the listing agent, and her husband, Leo Birov, run Heritage Luxury Home Builders, which is widely known for the replacement houses it has built on numerous lots in Winnetka and other North Shore towns. But she told Crain’s today that in this transaction she only represented the buyers on their purchase and that “I don’t know yet if they will hire us to build for them.”
James Challenger was one of three partners in executive outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas when he and Timmie Challenger paid $200,000 for the property in 1970. That’s about $1.46 million in 2022 dollars. Timmie Challenger died in 2008, and James in 2019.