Real-estate agents are counting on the "Obama factor" to sell the Chicago house next door to the president's family home at a premium, while also touting its location in "the ultimate gated community" because of round-the-clock police and Secret Service protection.

Share story



CHICAGO — Attention high-end homebuyers: Here’s your chance to live on one of the safest blocks in the country and maybe even catch a glimpse of the nation’s chief executive.

President Obama’s next-door neighbors in Chicago have put their home on the block and are marketing it based on its unique location.

The selling price likely will be determined by, as listing agent Matt Garrison calls it, “the Obama factor.”

What does that mean? It means the owners can say they live next to the Obamas, but friends just can’t stop by for a cup of coffee without first getting their name put on a list cleared by the Secret Service, which staff a nearby coach house. Barricades have blocked off the street and the area is kept secure by the Chicago Police and the Secret Service.

“We’re referring to it as the world’s ultimate gated community,” Garrison said.

Owner Bill Grimshaw, 71, said he expects it will take just the right buyer who wants to live amid a security encampment some have found oppressive.

“It’s had its ups and downs,” he said. “Initially, it was exciting. Then it got tedious. Then it mellowed out.”

When Obama was living there, Grimshaw said he often saw the future president when both men were in their backyards for different reasons.

“I grilled and he smoked,” said Grimshaw, a political-science professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.

Grimshaw compared being the Obamas’ neighbors to living next to railroad tracks. “After a while, you don’t even hear the train,” he said.

The 6,000-square-foot home in Chicago’s Kenwood neighborhood has eight bedrooms and stained-glass windows. Built in 1906 by the original owner of the Obamas’ house, the neighboring property was used during World War II to house officers and later was turned into a boarding house for a nearby military school.

It also boasts a bit of recent history: Obama and his family filmed their 2007 Christmas video greeting in front of the brick fireplace in the living room, just before his victory in the Iowa caucuses that helped propel him to the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination and the White House.

The residence has around-the-clock police and Secret Service protection. Grimshaw said he no longer bothers to lock his car doors when he parks for the night.

As for the price, there isn’t one. The sellers are welcoming offers over the next six weeks. Interested buyers need to go through a vetting process, and there will be tours offered twice a week through early October, according to the listing.

The 17-room brick home last sold in 1973 for $35,000. Homes in the area fetch between $1 million and $2.5 million. Garrison predicted the home will sell for about $2 million because, while the kitchen and bathrooms need substantial renovation, the home has “good bones.”

“We are really going to vet the potential buyers,” Garrison said. “At some point I would assume the Secret Service will be vetting the buyers as well.”

Grimshaw said he and his wife, Jackie, have lived in the house since 1973 and want to move now that they are empty nesters. She was the campaign manager for former Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, who died in office in 1987 and is often cited as one of the people who inspired Obama to enter politics.

Bill Grimshaw said he first met Obama in a courtroom when Obama was practicing law in Chicago.

The future president and his family moved into the home in 2005, shortly after he was elected to the U.S. Senate.

Grimshaw said he has been surprised how little he has seen of the Obamas since the inauguration.

“Apparently this Camp David thing has been a big draw,” he said.

Material from the Chicago Tribune is included in this report.