News broke last week that the Norman Lykes House — the last home designed by famed American architect Frank Lloyd Wright — was on the market for the first time in years. The asking price? $3.6 million.
Throughout his career the architect designed around 270 homes for middle- and upper-middle-class families, most of which were built between the 1890s and 1950s. Recent years have seen them begin to trickle back onto the market: at least seven sold in 2015, and nine the year prior, according to the Wright Conservancy.
While the Norman Lykes House is one of the pricier Wright homes on the market, it is by no means the only one. There are about a dozen listed right now, and the George D. Sturges Residence, pictured above, goes up for auction next month with a pre-sale estimate of $2.5-3 million.
Some may expect the “starchitect” status of a home’s designer to indicate a sound investment, but is purchasing the distinctive property, or others like it, worth the risk? Maybe, maybe not. An obvious place to start: Why are so many Wright houses coming up for sale in the first place?
According to a 2013 Wall Street Journal piece, the challenges that come with peddling a house built decades or a century ago should not be taken lightly, as the maintenance and repair costs can quickly add up. That said, there is certainly a risk-to-reward component at play — the cachet of a Wright home can lead to a solid return on investment for buyers who are willing to gamble. And be patient.
"Wright houses typically sell at a premium compared to those with similar sizes and locations,'' said John Eifler, a Chicago architect who has restored two dozen of Wright’s homes (he also lives in one). "But flawed alterations may devalue them.”
So the answer, though muddy, is that you can’t expect an easy sell with properties like these, but if you’re willing to put in the work to properly restore and maintain your investments, you could be looking at a sunny future indeed.