Even as the formerly roaring real
estate market quiets, housing prices are still up in the stratosphere
in many areas of the country. Despite that, there are still unbelievable
bargains waiting to be found. How about a brick Greek revival in
La Grange, Mo., with a scenic view of the Mississippi River for
$25,000? Or a four-bedroom home in Nashville for $84,950?
Still too rich for your blood? Maybe you'd be interested
in a traditional New England farmhouse for, say, $1. Yes, you read
that right: A home that costs a single George Washington, one solitary
price might sound like a scam, but it's not, although strings the size of tow ropes are
often attached. And, to be sure, it's going to take more of a search than looking in
the classifieds or checking your local real estate office listings online. But
such fabulous finds are out there -- all you have to do is find them.
The march of history
For example, every so often, the Town of Norfolk, Mass., sells historic
homes for $1 each. The catch is that anyone interested in buying
the homes must be willing to move them elsewhere. In most cases,
current owners want to build new construction on the lots and will
demolish the existing homes unless they can get someone to relocate
"In Norfolk, we have what's called a 'Demolition
Delay Bylaw,'" says Bill Domineau, chairman of Norfolk's historical
commission. "If a home is determined to have some historic
value, we can require the owners to hold off on destroying it for
at least six months." During that period, town and historic
commission officials try to interest someone in moving the home
to a new lot or, at the very least, dismantling historic details
-- from crown moldings to pine floor boards -- for sale or use in
Most sellers in this kind of situation
actually don't mind offering up the homes for $1, since they get out of paying
for the demolition. Prospective homeowners or investors also get a heck of a deal
in the process. And historic home aficionados such as Domineau are happy to see any
part of an old home saved from the wrecking ball. "It's a win-win-win situation,"
Sharon Hinson and Marjorie Ellena share Domineau's passion for saving
homes -- and love watching homeowners get a bargain in the process.
The two women run HistoricProperties.com,
a site that currently lists about 1,001 residential homes and commercial
buildings for sale throughout the United States that are 50 years
old or older. Listings are updated daily and include many $1 homes
and others that actually are free for the taking. Commercial sellers
pay to be listed on the site, but Hinson and Ellena offer free listings
to historic preservation groups, nonprofits and governmental agencies.
The houses on their site are bargains for many reasons,
says Hinson. "Some homes need to be moved because local authorities
are expanding public projects, such as highways, in the areas the
homes are located," says Hinson. In addition to being listed
on a site such as HistoricProperties.com, these real estate deals
are usually advertised locally.