Our Past for Sale, Again


My sister Ann sent me (and my brothers and dad) an email today that she had gotten from a friend she grew up with. The message said, "Is this your former home?" and included a link. The link (which includes the picture above) goes to a real-estate listing for a "contemporary, raised ranch" home near the town of Crete (about 30 miles or so south of Chicago); it’s got four bedrooms, two baths, a hot tub, two-car garage with an upstairs studio, a wraparound porch, and an acre lot in the woods. Ann’s friend is right — it’s the house my mom and dad had built in 1965-66 (we moved in June 10, 1966) after we had lived in Park Forest, just a mile away, from 1956 on. The hot tub, wraparound porch, and garage have all been installed since our time.

The first thing I looked for in the listing was the asking price: $300,000. Not much by San Francisco Bay Area standards or compared to what similar places are going for in the New York area or Chicago’s northern and western suburbs, but a lot by the standards of the ’60s. Mom and Dad had the house built for something like $35,000; I remember hearing them talk about the lot, which now has undeveloped public land on two sides and is relatively secluded on the other two, and I think they bought it for $10,000 from a family we knew, the Fitzgeralds, who lived a couple blocks from us in Park Forest. The sale listing reduces the house to a series of dimensions. Strange to see, knowing what went on in some of those rooms (which have been inhabited by others for a long time and have a completely new set of experiences and memories imprinted on them). I noticed the listing has the building date wrong, putting it at 1970.

Just out of curiosity, I searched for the property address on Google and got a single hit (with the picture below). It was an online listing for the house last August. The asking price then, six months ago, was $219,900. The jump in price made me curious: Is a new owner trying to flip the property for a big profit? Or, unlikely as it seems, had the old owners put it back on the market for a higher price? An agent’s phone number was included in the old listing, a guy apparently working out of Park Forest. I called. It turned he’s the husband of the house’s last owner, the one who put it on the market last year. He said it sold for a little under their asking price.

When I told him the house was listed again and the current price, he said, "No way that house sells for $300,000." So it looks like the quick-profit scenario is what’s actually going on. I think this is the third or fourth time the house has been up for sale since my parents sold in early 1986 (for a fraction of last year’s sale price) to move back into the city.

I have to say the old owners had the right idea, picturing the house during the summer, when everything in the woods is intensely green. The current listing’s snowy landscape doesn’t look nearly so inviting.


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