RNP Real Estate Group didn’t succeed the last time it listed a luxury condo with some very unique features, so it’s giving it another shot with the help of some significant virtual staging.
RNP is once again listing the penthouse atop 415 East North Water Street, with the same $9 million asking price as the last time it listed in 2017. The 9,000-square-foot, three-bedroom unit’s many unconventional features and amenities, including wall-to-wall marble and massive fish tanks, remain.
What’s different this time is the marketing strategy: Listing photos have been digitally altered to remove some of the unit’s more eccentric finishes. It’s a practice that’s becoming more and more widespread in the resi world, though not without its detractors.
In an edited photo of a bathroom, for instance, gone are the brown marble sinks, countertops, walls and bathtub. Instead, a new listing shows a sleek countertop with wood finishes and modern sinks, along with an upgraded bathtub. And the room’s all-brown marble floor and walls in real life are replaced with a black floor and bright white walls, similar to how some new construction units are staged.
The idea behind the digitally altered photos is to show prospective buyers what the unit could look like after some renovations, said Grigory Pekarsky, managing broker and a partner at RNP.
“It’s a super high-end unit, but it was designed with [the owner’s] own personal tastes,” Pekarsky said. “We want to show how it could look.”
The two-floor penthouse was bought as raw space, before the owner, a local investor who Pekarsky declined to name, built it out himself. That included sourcing tons of marble from Italy at a cost of more than $1 million, according to previous reports.
The owner also added a basketball court, squash court, sauna, hot tub and three, 500-galloon saltwater fish tank. A wraparound balcony on the 33rd floor was also built out, looking over the Chicago River, Lake Michigan and Downtown.
The unit’s epic views and ultra-lux interiors have been featured on shows including “Empire” and “Chicago P.D.” Previous listings of the condo garnered widespread local media coverage.
“It’s a one-of-a-kind unit,” Pekarsky said.
The penthouse hit the market in 2015 with a $13 million asking price. It was listed by @properties at the time. In 2017, Pekarsky’s Vesta Preferred Realty took over the listing, putting it on the market with a $9 million ask. (RNP is a recently created division of Vesta.)
With that listing, Pekarsky and his brokerage played up the unit’s uniqueness. Pekarsky cut a promotional video that showed off the condo’s eye-grabbing features, edited in a style similar to the MTV celebrity home tour show “Cribs.”
But some of the unit’s eccentricities did not sit well with ultra-luxury homebuyers, Pekarsky said. Nor do such buyers like to embark on gut rehabs, especially with the prevalence of new construction luxury condo buildings, including Vista Tower, which is rising directly across the Chicago River from 415 East North Water.
“That market is particular,” Pekarsky said. “They don’t want to do a lot of rehab work.”
Pekarsky then got the idea to relist the unit with some of its features digitally buffed out. Photos, plus a virtual reality tour, are meant to show what the unit could become. Pekarsky will offer prices for the changes presented in the altered marketing materials, and his brokerage is willing to partner with a buyer to help with the rehab, he said.
RNP broker Brad Robbins is the official listing agent.
Time will tell if the marketing tactic will pay off, especially in a luxury market that has cooled off. Luxury sales of $1 million or slowed by 22 percent in the first quarter of the year, with the drop being even more pronounced in the Downtown condo market.
Still, Pekarksy said the unit’s innate features are what make it unique in a competitive ultra luxury market. That is, if buyers can get past some of its more personal touches.
“People aren’t visual,” Pekarsky said. “They don’t understand that the value is what you can’t change — the size of the space and the views.”