Architecture Lab

Real Estate or Live-in Art? A Fractious Market for Frank Lloyd Wright

Real Estate or Live-in Art? A Fractious Market for Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright’s William E. Martin House

There are about 20 Frank Lloyd Wright-designed homes on the market across the country at the moment, which the Wall Street Journal called the “largest number in recent years,” in May. It would seem to be every architectural enthusiast’s fantasy to live in one, given the scores of die-hard Wright fans who take pilgrimages just to ogle these residential buildings — yet not even Wright houses are immune to the housing slump. The Wright homes located in and around Chicago, where nearly half of this recent crop are for sale, came on to the market between nine months and four years ago. Significant drops from the initial asking price have been as high as $700,000.

“We price [Wright’s designs] as art, but they sell as houses,” realtor Laura Talaske recently told Chicago Magazine. She’s now in the process of closing the sale of her own Wright home, the 4,200-square-foot, Prairie Style 1902 William E. Martin House in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park. Having bought the house in 1990 and since outfitted it with central air, she and her husband recently decided to downsize now that their children are grown. In 2010, they put their house on the market for $1.6 million, but three years later it had dropped to $1.2 million. That price is more in step with the neighborhood, where other comparably-sized homes go for as low as $900,000, whether or not they were designed by an architectural deity.

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