Sales Are Slow For Trump Condos In Chicago

Jul 4, 2017
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If you are in the market to buy or rent an exclusive luxury condo, there might be some motivated sellers in Chicago. There are a lot of condos for sale there at the Trump International Hotel and Tower. NPR's Cheryl Corley reports that market forces and divisive politics could both be factors.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: On Wabash Avenue in Chicago, right near the Chicago River, Trump Tower rises more than 1,000 feet into the sky. It's a shimmering structure of glass and steel with panoramic views of the city. Luxury is definitely a part of the building's DNA, so is controversy, even from its very beginning.

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PATTY DESTEFANI: Too much glass and chrome.

TOM DESTEFANI: I don't think the lines fit with the rest of the area. And I'm just not thrilled about anything with Donald Trump's name attached to it in Chicago in the first place.

CORLEY: That was Chicagoans Patty and Tom Destefani walking by the building when it first opened in 2008. Years later, when massive 20-foot tall letters spelling Trump's name lit up the skyline, Mayor Rahm Emanuel called it awful. But in the beginning, people snapped up all of the buildings available condos - 486 residential ones, plus some of the hotel condos that are rented to private guests.

JACQUELINE GOLDBERG: The location is superb. And the apartments are nice.

CORLEY: Jacqueline Goldberg still has high praise for the building, even though she lost a legal battle to Trump over contract terms. The 91-year-old says it's just time now for her to get rid of the two-bedroom condo she bought his rental property. After listing it at $3 million and then lowering the price and still getting no takers, Goldberg decided to rent it out again.

GAIL LISSNER: At the present time, there's something like 59 residential condominiums currently on the market for sale by individual owners.

CORLEY: That's Gail Lissner, vice president of the real estate consulting firm appraisal research consulars. She says that's not typical of the luxury market here. So far this year, there have been only six residential units sales at Trump Tower. Owner Jacqueline Goldberg thinks the controversy surrounding Donald Trump's election does have an effect on prospective buyers.

GOLDBERG: Once you see the apartment, you might make a different decision. But would you go to see it? And you say, no, I don't want to try that one. I don't like him. But I don't like his - what his practices have been.

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UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Donald Trump has got to go. Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Donald Trump has got to go.

CORLEY: Soon after Trump's election, the skyscraper served as a convenient protest site. Broker Carla Walker says that concerned some prospective buyers with deep pockets.

CARLA WALKER: You wouldn't want to come home from a night out for dinner or from an afternoon shopping to have people standing out front of your door and you're afraid to go in. I mean, and I imagine ditto for the hotel.

CORLEY: In recent months, though, it's been largely quiet around the building. Walker says while protests may chase away some buyers, she's not clear it's a big factor for sellers.

WALKER: No one's told me I'm selling because Trump is president and everybody's upset.

CORLEY: Instead, she says owners may be hoping a seller's market will return, especially since the condos at Trump Tower have sold at a premium in the past. And prices remain strong. For instance, one 700-square-foot studio is listed for nearly $600,000. Sitting in the lobby of the skyscraper, real estate agent Chezi Rafaeli, who's lived in the building for nine years, points to market forces.

CHEZI RAFAELI: If you're looking at the marketplace, the market is slowing down in general in Chicago.

CORLEY: Whether it's contentious politics or the market or some combination, nearly 12 percent of all the residential units in Chicago's Trump Tower are up for sale. That's about four times the rate for similar luxury condo buildings in the city. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.