Chicago Condos: Huron Street Lofts Auction

On Tuesday, December 5th, 2006, the 17 remaining unsold condos at 225 W. Huron will hit the auction block.

Originally built in 1896, the 6-story Huron Street Lofts building is among the last of its kind. The former warehouse is a showcase of exposed brick walls, floor-to-ceiling windows and 11- to 13-foot high ceilings topped with classic yellow-pine beams. It was converted to rental apartments from a warehouse in 1986.

Developer-partners John Mullen of the Morgan Group and Keith Lord of the Lord Companies had made Huron Street Lofts a very successful loft conversion, with unit prices ranging from about $198,000 to $389,000.

But with only 17 condos left unsold, an auction made solid financial sense.

"The advertising costs when I start a project might be $2,000 per unit," Mullen explained. "Toward the end of the project that might average to $8,000 unit. I have interest costs on financing. I have personnel who are required to be on the site and there are costs for them. Generally the people who buy at the auction will get the benefit of the savings."

The MLS (Multiple Listing Service), a property registry used by the real estate industry, listed 68,286 Chicago-area homes and condos for sale last November. This year the inventory stands at over 91,000.

"I've been at this for about 17 years and I have never seen so many private sellers and builders," said Rick Levin of Rick Levin & Associates, the auction house handling Huron Street Lofts. "The number of properties we will sell is going up from about 150 last year to 500 this year. It is obviously the fact that there is more pricey inventory on the market than there usually is in Chicagoland."

"Probably half of our business has been from builders with their last 10 or 15 townhomes or condos," Levin said. "When the projects were conceived it was a year or two ago, and it was the best time in home building since after World War II. Now they find themselves in the perfect storm of a little higher interest rate, negative media attention, the war, and higher gas prices. Winter is coming, so you'll have a heat bill and the velocity of sales has cut back."

Rick Levin & Associates have set up the auction for Dec. 5 at the East Bank Club, at 500 N. Kingsbury St. At that time bids will be taken for 17 loft condominiums with 1 or 2 bedrooms and 1 bath. The suggested opening bid is $125,000.

Five of the condominiums will be sold "absolute," for whatever the maximum bid is. The others must be above a minimum amount set by the seller. Five open houses will be held before the auction so people can tour the units. (www.ricklevin.com)