Realtors hire ruined millionaires to pretend to live in vacant megamansions


How do you imbue an empty mansion with the indefinable "energy" that comes from daily habitation? Find distressed rich people with nice furniture and precarious jobs at McDonald's to move in.

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Live in a San Francisco Ikea bunk-bed in a mass hacker dormitory for a mere $1k/mo


Here's a Craigslist ad for a "hub for entrepreneurs" where you can be barracked in one of dozens of bunk-beds ranked in rows for a mere $999/month. But you also get access to plenty of whiteboards and brainstorm areas, and will no longer have to endure the misery of "hop[ping] from coffee shop to coffee shop" as you seek to launch your tech business.

When I moved to San Francisco in the late nineties, I lived in half an illegal sublet for about $2K/month, and that was a deal by the standards of the day. But I had it better than the guy paying $800/month for the Sears shed in the back-yard -- I got a toilet!

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Should you short the London property bubble?


Economist Tim Harford answers my question: How would you short the London property bubble? in a column that also asks the important question: should you?

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This man appraises stigmatized real estate

Heavensgate1Real estate appraiser Randall Bell specializes in "stigmatized properties," homes and other buildings where bad things have happened or are thought to have occurred. For example, his assignments have included Nicole Brown Simpson's Brentwood condominium, Heaven's Gate's Rancho Santa Fe home base (seen at right, before it was demolished), JonBenet Ramsey's Colorado house, a "haunted" Las Vegas mansion featured on the TV show Ghost Adventures, and many natural disaster sites. He literally (co-)wrote the book on the subject, Real Estate Damages: Applied Economics and Detrimental Conditions. The Los Angeles Times published a fascinating profile of Bell:
Among his tips for clients: Don't waste money tearing down a house; the stigma attaches itself to the land, not the building. For example, in 1984 a gunman murdered 21 people at a McDonald's in San Ysidro, a neighborhood in San Diego. The company bulldozed the fast-food restaurant, then donated the land to the city. San Diego tried to sell it but got little interest. Nearly four years after the tragedy, the city sold the land at a deep discount to a community college.

In death, celebrities and ordinary people are equal — their murders lower a property's value by the same percentage, Bell says.

"Does Satan worship lower a Las Vegas mansion's value?" (LA Times)

RealEstateDamages.com (Bell, Anderson, & Sanders LLC)

"For Sale"


Photo: Rob Beschizza (cc)

Cheap castles, lairs

Castles are going cheap in Scotland, writes the WSJ; Gawker's Hamilton Nolan points out that they're cheaper than many apartments in New York.

Live-in replica of the Disneyland Haunted Mansion for sale

A Disney contractor is selling a seven bedroom, full-sized, live-in replica of the Disneyland Haunted Mansion that he built in Duluth, Georgia. Mark Hurt 1996 home was built to closely replicate the exterior of the LA Haunted Mansion, and includes an "animated bathroom Hitchhiking Ghost scene." He's asking $873,000. The sale is listed by Theme Park Connections, who specialize in super-rare theme-park merch and collectibles. From Attractions Magazine:

Hurt is selling the home because he has moved on to an even more ambitious project but hasn’t stopped designing and building unique Disney inspired buildings. Mark is working on his current project of a resort themed house modeled after Disney’s Grand Californian along with a replica of Walt Disney’s backyard barn and a pool that will be themed to the Jungle Cruise in Kaua‘i Hawaii. Hurt says that Walt Disney was the mentor that I had but never met.

The ultimate Haunted Mansion collectable? – Disneyland Haunted Mansion look-alike home for sale

San Francisco's "public" privately owned spaces are hidden away and that needs to change


In San Francisco, developers who want to build big projects are required to make space available to the public as part of their planning permission. Some of the most beautiful spots in town are in these privately owned public spaces. But you'd be hard-pressed to discover their existence, as many of them are hidden away with tiny, obscure signs announcing them, and in some cases, you have to sign in with a guard to get to them. Writing on SFGate, John King lays out the problem and suggests some solutions:

The solution: pull back the addition's 11th floor to tuck in a terrace that also maintains views from the west of the 1906 landmark's regal mansard roof.

The result is unique, a vantage point of the sort that until now was available only to penthouse dwellers or corner-office executives. The space itself is amply outfitted with benches and planters.

The problem, again, is knowing that it exists.

The 1985 plan states that when public spaces are located within or on top of buildings, "their availability should be marked visibly at street level." But because the guidelines are so vague, it's easy to fulfill their letter but not their spirit.

That's true of One Kearny's hideaway. By placing the sign at knee level - and making it less than 5 inches wide - the likelihood of outsiders finding their way to the roof is almost nil.

At another recent space, the enclosed plaza included as part of the Millennium Tower, the exterior sign is brushed metal. But at 6 inches square, it's too easy to miss.

Compare this with the signs required for similar private-but-public spaces in New York City. The city's planning code requires signs to be "12 inches square in dimension and dark green or black in color with a highly contrasting background," with "lettering at least two inches in height stating 'OPEN TO PUBLIC.' "

Privately owned public spaces: Guidance needed (via JWZ)

World's Smallest Hotel dates from a homeownership requirement for marriage licenses

Eh'häusl ("Little Wedding House") is the "world's smallest hotel," located in Amberg, north of Munich. It dates to an 18th century ordinance that required couples to own a house before they got married, so some clever fellow slapped a roof and walls up to enclose a narrow alleyway between two other buildings. It wasn't intended to be livable, but rather to satisfy the formal requirement of "home ownership" for a marriage license. The house was passed from non-owning couple to non-owning couple for generations, and thus marriages continued in Amberg.

There is no reliable record of how long the practice continued, but the building survived, and in 2008 it received a complete refurbishment, transforming it into a luxury hotel. Total size? 56 square meters. Maximum number of guests at any one time? Two. [Google street view]

But there's more! According to an old legend told by the locals, couples who spend their wedding night at the tiny hotel are guaranteed* to live happily ever after and never get divorced!

(Image: Rode/Summer)

Buy an Old West town in South Dakota for $0.8M


The whole town ("kit and kaboodle!") of Scenic, South Dakota is up for sale, for the asking price of USD800,000. Dave Olsen, a local realtor, has put the town up for sale, including its two jails (one still fit for use!), train depot, museum, dance hall, saloon and bunkhouse. Also, there's DSL.
46-Acres (approximately 12 acres in town-lots & 34 acres surrounding) U.S Post Office Land Lease…..Longhorn Fuel & Food Convenience Store, World Famous Longhorn Saloon, Very Large Dance Hall with basketball court, Large Museum with knotty pine interiors, Bunkhouse sleeps 8-10, 2 freestanding Retail Stores, Historic Train Depot, One Working Jail, One Abandoned Historic Jail, Many Out-Buildings, Residence Home, Residence Modular Home.

Township of Scenic, SD Governing Boards:
Volunteer Fire Department
Community Board
Township Board

Departments:
Scenic Water Department (Rural Water System) Fees: $15/mo Water for home, hydrant , store, hookup $ 6/mo Sewer for home, store, hookup (sewer is piped to a lagoon located on the north side of town)

Utilities:
Township Sewer & Water
Golden West (Electricity, Telephone & DSL)

Buy Scenic SD

Got $799,000? You could buy a town in South Dakota (CNN)

Walt Disney's house for sale


Walt Disney's handsome four-bedroom house and its grounds are up for sale in Los Feliz, a neighborhood in east LA. Disney had the house built to his specifications and occupied it from 1932 to 1950. The list price is $3.65M, not bad for a house that's pretty beautiful, on a big piece of land in the middle of a hip (and generally fun) neighborhood.

The House That Mickey Built: Walt Disney's Estate in Los Feliz (curbed.com)

Walt Disney LA Home 4053 Woke Way (Realtor's site)

(Thanks, Mike!)