When filming Home Alone, writer and producer John Hughes wanted to use a home that felt like real people lived there. This was the framework that made the story believable.
The busy and expansive house made it seem possible that the family could have accidentally left for vacation while someone was still sleeping in the attic. Without this authenticity, the remainder of the plot wouldn’t have worked.
When chasing this feeling of believability, Hughes looked to his own personal experience. He grew up on the North Shore of Chicago, and the McCallister family home is located in a northern suburb of Chicago called Winnetka, IL.
Value of the Home Alone House
The movie may be steeped in nostalgia, but the house is worth big bucks.
The house used to film Home Alone is a two-story brick colonial built in 1921. It’s 4,243 square feet with six bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms, plus the attic and full basement.
It has a current estimated value of $1.9 million according to Realtor.com. This is about a 21.5 percent increase since it sold in 2012 for $1.6 million.
Prior to the 2012 sale, the home sold for $875,000 in 1989. Shortly after moving in, the new owners would share their new home with the Home Alone filmmakers.
The house used to film Home Alone is currently valued higher than the average for the town and wider area.
When we look at Winnetka, IL, the median sale price is $1.1 million. The Home Alone house is valued to be about 75 percent higher than the median. However, some homes in the town sell for as high as $24.8 million, so there’s a big price range.
If we look at the wider region of the North Shore, the median sales price is $475,000. The value of the Home Alone house is about three times higher than this.
Even when we control for different house sizes, the Home Alone house comes out ahead. Kevin McCallister’s house is valued at $454 per square foot, which is higher than Chicago’s median of $267 per square foot.
How Did Filmmakers Choose the Home Alone House?
John Hughes may have been focused on a feeling of authenticity, but other filmmakers were looking for different characteristics that would help make the movie work.
Director Chris Columbus told Entertainment Weekly, “John had written very specific physical humor for the end of the film. And it was extremely important that the house fit the gags of the movie.”
He explained, “We needed to cast a house that would work for the stunts and also a house that was visually appealing and, if this makes sense, warm and menacing at the same time. It’s the kind of house if you were a kid, it would be fun to be left home alone.”
Who Owned the Home Alone House When the Movie Was Filmed?
On-screen, it was Macaulay Culkin who said the words, “This is my house. I have to defend it.” But the real property owners were John and Cynthia Abendshien.
The couple had moved to the Winnetka house in the late 1980s from nearby Evanston. One of the location scouts had previously been talking with the couple about using their Evanston home to film a different John Huges movie, Uncle Buck. However, the deal fell through.
When production on Home Alone began, scouts started talking with the Abendsheins about using their new home. This time the deal worked out.
The couple agreed to six weeks of shooting, but the crew ended up working at the house for about four months. There were also plenty of overnight shoots that invariably kept the neighbors up with shouts for “action.” In addition to the actual shooting, there was wallpaper to hang, a treehouse to build, and a ramp to construct over the staircase for sledding.
Set designers even constructed the outdoor staircase to the basement that Marv would fall down. “They brought in a backhoe and dug up the property and put in fake steps and a fake door,” owner John Abendshien told Vanity Fair. “And then after the shoot, they filled all that back in and resodded. You could never tell that that had happened.”
How Did the Family Share Their Home During Filming?
Despite the disruption, the family continued to live in the house during filming. “During that time, we had virtually no privacy,” said John Abendshien. “But having said that, they became like family.”
The couple’s daughter, Laura Abendshien, was six years old when the movie was being filmed. She remembers, “In order to avoid appearing on screen, we would have to crawl around the window line from room to room.”
Even though the house was the family’s everyday living environment for decades, it’s recognized as a cultural icon. “If faced with that decision back then, knowing what I know now, I would certainly do it, absolutely,” said John Abendshien.