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Thursday, May 25, 2017

If you can afford the renovations, Italy will give you a castle

For all you Fixer Upper types out there:

Old houses, inns, farmhouses, monasteries and ancient castles are all up for grabs - and you won’t have to pay a penny. In total, 103 sites are available, dotted across the country from north to south.

One of the castles up for grabs. Photo: Agenzia del Demanio

The only catch is that those who take up the offer will have to commit to restoring and transforming the sites into tourist facilities, such as hotels, restaurants, or spas. Successful applicants will get an initial nine-year period to work on their project, with the possibility of extending it for a further nine years.

The buildings are all located off the beaten path, with 44 of the sites situated along historic or religious walking routes, and the remaining 59 along cycle paths.

They can be found along the Appian Way (a Roman road connecting the capital with Brindisi on the southern coast), the Via Francigena (an ancient pilgrimage route stretching from Rome to the northern border), and several of Italy’s cycling routes.

Former school in Puglia

Interested entrepreneurs willing to take on an ancient fixer-upper can browse the list of properties, and submit an application. More at The Local.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The End of a Long Controversy Over a Striped Townhouse

Not your usual HOA spat - this townhouse in London is valued at 15 million UK pounds - approximately $19.3 million dollars. It's interesting to realize that property restrictions in the U.S. (in places with restrictive HOAs) are much more draconian than they are in the U.K.

A woman who angered her neighbors by decorating her multimillion-pound townhouse with red and white stripes can ignore a planning order to repaint the property, the high court has ruled.

Zipporah Lisle-Mainwaring, a property developer, painted candy stripes on the three-storey facade of the terrace home in South End, Kensington, west London, in March 2015.

She has denied that the paint job was done to spite neighbors who objected to her plans to demolish the property, currently used for storage, and replace it with a new home.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea served her with a notice under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, requiring her to repaint “all external paintwork located on the front elevation white” within 28 days.

Mr Justice Gilbart, who said the painting of the house had been “entirely lawful”, posed the question: “Is it proper to use a section 215 notice where the complaint is not lack of maintenance or repair, but of aesthetics?”

He ruled that using section 215 “to deal with questions of aesthetics, as opposed to disrepair or dilapidation, falls outside the intention and spirit of the planning code”.

Gilbart said he noted the crown court’s finding that Lisle-Mainwaring “painted the house in stripes as a matter or pique”. He added: “She may well have done, but section 215 does not entitle one to address the motive of a landowner. 

More at the Guardian

Friday, April 21, 2017

The World's Most Stubborn Real Estate Holdouts

Some interesting real estate holdouts.

People who refuse to sell their properties are called holdouts. Eminent domain (wiki) generally only comes into play when the government wants private property for public use (though there have been some exceptions).  If it’s a private development that wants your place and you refuse to sell, there’s often not much they can do.

Edith Macefield's Seattle house—sandwiched in the middle of a shopping mall
Around 2005, a Seattle neighborhood called Ballard started to see unprecedented growth. Condominiums and apartment buildings were sprouting up all over in a community which had previously been made up of mostly single family homes and small businesses. Around this time, developers offered an elderly woman named Edith Macefield $750,000 dollars for her small house, which was appraised at around $120,000. They wanted to build a shopping mall on the block where Macefield had lived for the last 50 years.

Macefield turned down the money. Developers went forward with the shopping mall anyway, and they ended up constructing the mall around three sides of the house. Here's lots more on the Edith Masefield story.

The Macy’s shopping bag on 34th and Broadway in New York City hides a holdout building
If you look closely at the corner of 34th and Broadway in New York City, you might notice something a little off. Macy’s, the ginormous department store that has taken up an entire city block there since 1902, does not form a complete rectangle. Instead, the retail behemoth has a corner notch in which a narrow, five-story building sits. 

The odd setup goes back to a 19th-century competition between Rowland H. Macy and a rival, Henry Siegel, a partner in Siegel-Cooper, a bygone store situated between 18th and 19th streets on Sixth Avenue. In the 1890s, Macy’s, Rowland Macy began to acquire the land his store now occupies, but before he could purchase the small corner lot at 34th and Broadway, Siegel bought it. The story goes that Siegel hoped he could exchange the sale of it for a lease of the old Macy’s location. Macy refused, and Siegel eventually sold the building to someone else. 

Though Macy’s has never owned the holdout, it has advertised on its exterior since the 1940s. A billboard made to look like a huge Macy’s shopping bag is currently wrapped around the narrow structure, declaring Macy’s “the world’s largest store.”

The owner of this tiny home refused to sell to developers eyeing the block of Massachusetts Avenue between Fourth and Fifth streets NW in Washington, D.C. in the 2000s. 
Austin Spriggs, the man who owned the Massachusetts Avenue home, rebuffed developers who offered him nearly $3 million to buy his mid-block parcel to make way for the large new developments rising in the area during the 2000s construction boom. The redevelopment eventually happened anyway, around him.

This four-story townhouse sits across Bloomingdale’s, protruding from the side of a 31-story office tower on East 60th Street near Lexington Avenue. A memorial to one of New York City’s best-known holdout battles, the former townhouse had been converted to five rent-stabilized apartment units by the 1980s.

When the developers began construction, four of the five tenants moved out. The fifth, Jean Herman, refused. She believed the developers had a responsibility to find her a suitable replacement, a new apartment that had both the neighborhood appeal and affordability of East 60th St. The developers, unable to meet her request, decided to build around the townhouse, even shaving off the fifth floor, above Ms. Herman’s unit.

Drivers cruising along a highway in Wenling, China, had to slow down and drive around one heck of an unusual roadblock: the five-story home of duck farmer Luo Baogen, the sole holdout from a neighborhood that was demolished to make way for the new thoroughfare. When Luo refused developers’ offers, they simply built around him, assuming that being in the middle of a construction zone and later, a highway would drive him out. In the end, it was all the media attention that did it.

More on real estate holdouts here, here, and here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Want to be happy you live in VA? Look at what $1 million gets you in the most unaffordable U.S. cities

San Fran: 

If you’re looking to blow $1 million and don’t care much about space, this one bedroom apartment in San Francisco will fit the bill. It’s close to public transportation, which you’ll probably need after spending so much money to live in the city. However, if you still manage to hold onto your car, garage parking is available at the complex. No pets are allowed in the building and a maximum of two people are allowed to live in the unit — after all, it is just a one bedroom, one bathroom, 696 square foot space. There are no washer and dryer connections, but there is a laundromat in the building. You’ll have to pay to wash your clothes there, but at least you won’t have to haul everything around town to do the wash.


This $1 million condo includes two bedrooms, two bathrooms, 884 square feet, and some decent amenities. In addition to a walk-in closet, this apartment comes with a washer and dryer, small balcony, and close proximity to Cooper Park. The Zen Garden is a community feature, as is the fitness center, heated indoor pool, and Jacuzzi. The features in the unit aren’t outstanding or even worth noting, but the community itself has nice amenities.

Yes, this is a terrible value that’s unaffordable for most people, but New York is one of the most expensive cities to live in worldwide. It’s not a shoe box and the neighborhood is relatively safe, so all things considered, this Brooklyn condo isn’t too bad.

Miami, Florida:

The exterior of this Miami house could use a facelift. The interior needs some updates as well. Still, if you want to live in a Miami home that’s not an apartment or condo, and you’re not worried about having a spacious lot or living in a great neighborhood, this $1 million dollar residence could be perfect for you.

The house has three bedrooms, two baths, and is 1,287 square feet. There’s tile flooring in the house — no word on how long ago that was installed — as well as central air conditioning. There’s no garage, but a few standard appliances are included. No, the appliances are not top of the line.

The most interesting thing about this house is that it last sold in 1993 for $59,900. Not much has been done with the property since then and the area isn’t spectacular, which proves one thing: Miami real estate is over valued, unaffordable, and definitely doesn’t provide much bang for the buck.

More at Housely.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Michelangelo’s Tuscan Villa For Sale

The deeds to Michelangelo’s old Tuscan villa, a three-structure complex complete with Renaissance-age fixtures, functional wood-burning fireplaces, and an olive grove, could be yours for just $8,369,602.

The nearly 13,000-square-foot property known as La Torre de Michelangiolo has been on the market since July 2014 but was only advertised on an international scale last August on Handsome Properties. It’s curious that no millionaire has jumped on this opportunity yet, as the property seems pretty sexy — and eight million dollars doesn’t seem terribly outlandish for bragging rights to owning the former home of one of the Renaissance’s most famous artists, right?

Originally built as a fortification, the property was purchased by Michelangelo in 1549, three years after the Pope appointed him architect for St. Peter’s Basilica. The artist had written a letter to his nephew Leonardo asking him to help him find a reasonably priced property ten or 15 miles away from Florence. He purchased the villa for 2,281 florins (roughly a little over $319,340 today), and it remained in the Buonarroti family until 1867, after which a number of Italian families have resided in it. Its current owner, the Busoni family, has lived there since 1973 and are now seeking a prospective owner who understands the history of the property and will respect it as they did, according to realtors.

Lots more information, floor plans and photos at HyperAllergic.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Here are the 12 US markets with the most vacant homes

Interesting - here's Business Insider:
Tfairly strong, but in some cities there are a lot of properties sitting empty.
he housing market may be
According to RealtyTrac, a real estate research firm, 1.6% of the 84 million residential properties in America are sitting empty.
We've gone over RealtyTrac's data and found the 12 housing markets that have a vacancy rate of at least 3%.
None of them, of course, are anywhere near Northern Virginia. The top two are in Michigan, in Flint and in the Detroit area, respectively:

1. Flint, MI
Number of Vacant Homes: 11,605
Total Residential Properties: 154,137
Vacancy Rate: 7.5%
2. Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI
Number of Vacant Homes: 81,190
Total Residential Properties: 1,539,609
Vacancy Rate: 5.3%
See the whole article at Business Insider.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Calculator: How Much Stuffing Would It Take to Stuff Your House Like A Turkey?

Movoto takes on the hard questions - read their whole post for more of the calculations. Here's the calculator:

Stuff Your House Like A Turkey Calculator By Movoto Real Estate

Doing the math -  one cubic foot equals 119.7 cups = 39.9 boxes of Stove Top stuffing, or 14.76 lbs. For a 2,500 square feet house if it were 10 feet high (yeah, I know, but were rounding things off here) that would be 25,000 cubic feet. So, for our sample house:

Pounds of stuffing: 369,075 lbs
Cooking time: 83,125 hours

For other buildings:

Empire State Building

Pounds of stuffing: 546,231,000
Cooking time: 123,025,000 hours

Taj Majal

Pounds of stuffing: 2,952,600
Cooking time: 665,000 hours

White House

Pounds of stuffing: 14,757,095
Cooking time: 3,323,670 hours