The Politics of Real Estate

It was recently reported in the Chicago Tribune that Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff and Chicago native, has rented out his four-bedroom, 2,719-square-foot house in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood for one year at $4,995 a month. Peanuts for New Yorkers and Californians; mountains of cash for the good folks of Arkansas.

Emanuel, who now resides full-time in Washington, is likely covering his political bases by keeping his Chicago home. After all, no one stays in the White House forever and Emanuel might be eyeing a seat in Congress post-Obama -- and what better spot to launch a political bid from than your home turf?

From a real estate perspective, however, the chief of staff may just figure it's a wiser investment to hang on to the old homestead. According to Trulia, the median sales price for homes in the Lakeview area of Chicago from August through October of this year was $406,250 based on 12 sales -- exactly the same value as the same period a year earlier. So prices there are holding steady, or maybe even ticking up.The average listing price for homes for sale in Lakeview was $482,273 for the week ending Nov 18, which represents an increase of 0.8 percent, or $3,949, compared to the prior week. So while having party crashers at the White House may have been an Excedrin moment for him, at least his home isn't dropping in value like so much of the rest of the country's.

On Jan. 5, Emanuel listed the house for rent for $5,800 a month. A few weeks late, he raised his asking price to $6,000. (Don't you love that logic: If it isn't moving at the lower price, raise it?) In July, common sense re-entered his universe and Emanuel lowered his asking price to $4,995 a month and got his renter.

The 1895 Colonial-style house has 3 1/2 baths, three fireplaces, a granite kitchen and a screened-in sun room. Emanuel purchased the house in December 1998 for $695,000.

Lakeview, considered Chicago's best neighborhood by many, has some of Chicago's best restaurants, theaters and nightlife. While there's something of a misnomer -- it's a 10-minute walk to lake if you want a view -- it's a sought-after place to buy real estate. The area's mid-rise condos and rehabbed walk ups are among the most valuable properties in the city.

But for political groupies who want to live near the hallowed ground that brought us the Obama presidency, we are happy to report that the Chicago home next door the president's is on the market.

Just to keep partisan politics out of here, let's give equal cyberspace to former United States Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales, who has placed his five-bedroom, brick Colonial-style house in McLean, Va. on the market for $1,075,000. Gonzales is teaching at Texas Tech University and clearly no longer needs the 2,604-square-foot home in a town now filled with Democrats. But should a Republican care to buy it, good to know the home has video-monitored entrances and a safe room off the master suite.
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