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When a $2.2M home sale fell through on ‘Windy City Rehab,’ Alison Victoria found a buyer to bail her out: Her boyfriend

The HGTV show cut two versions of the episode in which Victoria boasted that she “knocked it out of the park” after the rehab and sale of the Lincoln Park home. She made no mention of the new buyer’s identity.

At the start of the first season of her wildly popular home flipping show, “Windy City Rehab,” host Alison Victoria boasted about collecting a tidy sum for a property she renovated in Lincoln Park.

“I think I knocked it out of the park,” she said on the HGTV show — which originally aired in early 2019 — of a $780,000 profit after she said she had closed a $2.2 million sale of a brick multi-unit rental building at 2433 N. Janssen Ave.

But at some point last year, another version of the episode was created. In this one her comments recounting the specific sale price and profit margin were edited out. A graphic that airs with every episode was also altered to show a reduced sale price of $1.567 million, with a substantially lower profit of $147,000.

This version, which can be streamed on YouTube and HGTV’s website, makes no reference of the earlier sales price or profit margin. In the episode, she still claims “Janssen was a huge success,” as she did in the first version.

So what happened?

It’s unclear, but the original $2.2 million deal that Victoria bragged about in the episode does not appear in public records. Instead, her boyfriend, Michael Marks, ended up buying the place months later under an LLC registered to his name that’s titled 2229 N. CLYBOURN AVE., LLC, state records show.

Neither version of the show mentions who the original buyer was — or Marks.

Marks, who works at Cushman Wakefield, a commercial real estate firm, acknowledges he indeed bought the property — but said in an email to the Sun-Times that it was done at “arm’s length” and approved “by all stakeholders.”

He said the deal was “not concealed in any way” and was “conducted after the airing of that episode; and ... concluded after offering the property for sale to other prospective purchasers.”

The home at 2433 N. Janssen Ave.
Sun-Times

In a follow-up email he said he didn’t know the specifics of the original planned sale.

“I don’t recall the exact details from their show, nor was I privy to other bids the ownership group received, but I do recall they felt it was sold to a different party at the time of airing,” he wrote. “I wasn’t aware [of] that sale, or any other, [and] didn’t end up closing until much later.”

In regards to the price he agreed to that allowed Victoria to still claim a hefty profit, he said: “My evaluation was based on market conditions and underwriting dynamics at a particular moment.”

Asked about his relationship to Victoria, which has been documented in multiple media stories about her — including in People magazine — he said: “I don’t have a comment ... because the nature of the relationship, if it did exist at all, was personal.”

Daniel Lynch, an attorney for Victoria — whose full name is Alison Victoria Gramenos — said in emailed statement that she did nothing wrong.

“We will not confirm or deny the identities of people with whom Ms. Gramenos has personal relationships because by their nature, those relationships are personal and ought not to be fodder for business stories published in the Sun-Times.”

He added: “As to the insinuation that the deal was somehow improper, be advised that no element of the transaction was concealed from anyone involved.”

A spokeswoman for Discovery Inc., which owns HGTV, did not respond to requests for comment.

Victoria initially paid $850,000 for the property and sunk $570,000 into renovating it, according to the show.

She patted herself on the back during the episode, which is still streaming on Xfinity, after a bit of handwringing over whether the high cost of rehabbing the property would pay off.

“We actually sold it, even after adding the basement laundry area and all the high-end finishes, we still ended up making a profit,” she said on the show.

Among other flourishes, Victoria used reclaimed wood from a barn outside Chicago in some of the units on the Janssen Avenue property.

And though she said at the time the show originally aired that all four units in the building had been rented, three of four units initially sat unrented for four months, the Sun-Times reported in March of 2019. And some units still had boarded up windows when the newspaper visited the property then.

“They said they rented all four, which is laughable,” neighbor Tim Johnson said at the time, although he appreciated the building’s rehab.

Some windows were boarded up at the building this past week. | Sun-Times/Mitch Dudek
The Lincoln Park house still had windows boarded up months after it was featured on an episode of “Windy City Rehab.”

Dan Zolkowski, a lifelong builder and carpenter based out of Chicago, said anyone who watches the show should do so with a pinch of salt.

“No one knows if the numbers presented on the show are accurate,” he said.

Viewers don’t get a real look at her profit calculator. You don’t know what she’s paying herself, what the network is paying her and how much labor and materials actually cost, he said.

“My friends see these shows and are like, ‘They flipped that home and made $300,000 ... Dan, why don’t you do that?’ Well, I have done it, and I’ve never made so much. I think the numbers are a bit inflated,” he said.

This isn’t the first time the “reality” show was more show than reality.

“Windy City Rehab” has used actors to pose as buyers on camera, as was the case at a Lincoln Square home also featured in its first season (“Amazing,” one of the actors gushed while touring that home).

The real-life couple that bought the home later sued, saying it was plagued with leaks and other problems. At one point during the legal battle, the buyers even filed a motion seeking to stop Victoria and Marks from selling the personal home in Bucktown they owned together. The case recently settled for an undisclosed amount.

Meanwhile, Victoria’s former rehabbing partner, Donovan Eckhardt, filed a defamation suit accusing showrunners of using creative editing to falsely paint him as an untrustworthy villain throughout the series.

The show, which has drawn as many as 24.5 million viewers, is slated to release new episodes in the coming months.