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Homes for sale: $1

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?

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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 dollar.

The 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 them.

"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 other homes.

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," he says.

Finding hidden gems
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.

Next: "How much are you willing to do yourself?"
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