With the proverbial “Dog Days of August” in full swing, the dawning realization that summer is nearing its too soon end and a general personal malaise in discussing current trends and statistics about real estate, inflation and interest rates, let’s take a break and just explore some random and entertaining fun facts about real estate!
1. The Largest Land Deal in History
The Louisiana Purchase was one of the largest land deals in history and directly impacted Minnesota, as approximately 2/3 of the state was acquired in the purchase.
Taking place in 1803, and encompassing approximately 827,000 square miles, the Louisiana Purchase comprised all the territory located to the west of the Mississippi River, between New Orleans and what is now known as Montana.
The closing price was $15 million dollars, which, at today’s exchange rate, is equal to about $200 million.
If this seems a bit inexpensive, you are correct, because at today’s equivalent, the cost per acre of land would be less than 40 cents an acre!
2. When Property Taxes Began
Every May 15 and October 15, Minnesota homeowners are required to pay their property taxes. But property taxes in the United States date back to the 13 Colonies.
Property taxes first appeared in England during the 14th and 15th centuries. When the first British colonizers arrived in the United States, they brought the idea of property taxes with them. These taxes would later become one of the main sources of income for budding cities and towns, helping them to grow and thrive, as well as develop public services.
When the idea of becoming an independent nation started expanding, these tax systems backed up the notion that it would be possible to go to war, although the duration of the war itself and the resources consumed by it made it necessary to increase taxation upon citizens, which afterwards tried to decide whether the concept of taxation should be included in the ideal of equality expressed in the Declaration of Independence.
3. How Much the White House Cost
The White House cost $232,372 to build in 1790. The need for the construction of an executive mansion where the president, his family and staff would be housed began growing as soon as the Declaration of Independence was signed, but it was not until July 16, 1790, when Congress established the District of Columbia as the capital of the United States, that the building of what we know today as the White House was approved.
The current site of the White House was chosen by George Washington, together with city planner Pierre L’Enfant, who had presented a plan for a presidential mansion that was at least four times larger than what was originally built. Construction itself did not start until October 13, 1792, taking 8 long years and $232,372 to finish the beautiful mansion designed in the neo-classical Federal style.
These days the White House has been valued at anywhere from $90 million to $389 million (although it’s not up for sale!).
4. The Empty Space Building
The Empire State Building was once nicknamed “The Empty Space Building”. It was completed in 1931, at the height of the Great Depression. Because of the state of the economy at that time, approximately 77% of its office space remained unleased for years, which made New Yorkers start calling it “The Empty Space Building”, a play on its name.
These days, space in the Empire State Building is not only scarce, but also some of the most expensive real estate in Manhattan.
5. Adolf Hitler’s United States Mansion Bunker
Adolf Hitler owned a bunker disguised as a mansion in the middle of Los Angeles, California. It was built during the 1930s, by a group of his Hollywood sympathizers. Hitler’s mansion was never occupied by him, although those who designed it hoped he would live there if he ever had a reason to flee Germany. The place, still unfinished, was raided by police after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, and was abandoned. Blueprints show a 40,000 square foot mansion with walls over 1’ thick and concrete ceilings 2’ thick and included a 400,000 gallon water tank. These days it remains abandoned, covered in graffiti and is visited only by those who are willing to hike the mile and a half and walk up 500 steps to reach the area where it is hidden in an out-of-the way nature preserve off Sunset Boulevard. There are a number of famous nearby neighbors including Steven Spielberg.
6. Secret Apartment at Eiffel Tower
The designer of the Eiffel Tower, Gustav Eiffel, included a secret apartment at the top of the landmark for his personal use. He used it whenever he needed to get away from the hustle and bustle of his daily life. The apartment has been restored, sits directly above the public observation deck and can be viewed from there. Thomas Edison was among the few esteemed guests who visited Eiffel there.
7. What a Red Door Means
Seeing a red door on somebody’s home can have different meanings, depending on where you were standing.
In Scotland it is customary for homeowners to paint their front door red when they have finished paying their mortgage, while in the United States, during colonial times, it meant that weary travelers could stop safely at that house for a much needed rest.
8. New York City’s Central Park has a land area of 843 acres with estimated value of $512,626,276,800.
Yes, that would be $512.6 BILLION – only $608.1 million per acre!
9. The Federal Government owns about 50% of the land in the Western U.S. and less than 5% in the Eastern half.
10. Half of all the privately owned land in Scotland is owned by 432 people.
11. Times Square occupies only 0.1% of New York City’s total land area yet creates approximately 11% of the city’s economic output and 10% of its jobs!
12. Trinity Church (located on New York City’s Wall Street) owns 14 acres of Manhattan real estate.
Originally gifted 215 acres by Queen Anne of England in 1705, this Episcopalian church estimated the value of its assets at over $2 billion… in 2013! Other sources show an estimated net income of $38 million from its real estate holdings in 2011. That makes it the wealthiest individual parish in the world.
13. The great Egyptian pyramids are essentially a suburb of its capital city, Cairo.
14. Kyle McDonald started with one red paperclip.
A year later, he had traded his way up to owning a 2-story farmhouse in Saskatchewan, Canada! You can read the Wikipedia synopsis here:
15. Alaska is simultaneously the northernmost, westernmost and easternmost state in the United States.
Northernmost and westernmost make sense, but easternmost? Well, the 180th meridian separates the eastern hemisphere from the western hemisphere of the world. Semisopochnoi Island (Russian for “having seven hills”) is an uninhabited island (except for millions of seabirds!) of the Aleutian Island chain (part of Alaska!) and approximately 10 miles beyond the 180th meridian making it the easternmost point of the United States. And just 71 miles east of Semisopochnoi Island is Amatignak Island, the westernmost point of the United States!
16. Homeowners or renters in Missouri cannot make anybody under 21 take out the trash if it includes empty alcoholic beverage containers.
17. Whittier, Alaska is known as “The town under one roof“.
Located approximately 60 miles southeast of Anchorage, about 80% of Whittier’s 217 residents live in a 14-story Cold War era military barracks currently known as Begich Towers. The building has a bed and breakfast for visitors, a police station, convenience store, health clinic, and other facilities.
18. In Japan, most houses depreciate in value.
Half of all houses are demolished within around 38 years and there is almost no market for pre-owned homes. While this is slowly starting to change, it is due to the poor quality of mass construction homes following WWII and the buyers desire to live in a home that meets or exceeds the current standards for seismic safety regulations.
19. India’s richest person built a $1 billion home! It has 27 habitable floors including six parking floors that can hold up to 168 cars.
20. Warren Buffett is one of the richest men in the world and he still lives in the same house he bought in 1958. He paid $31,500 for it!
21. In 2009, there were more foreclosures than marriages in the United States!
22. Think your house is too small? The typical home size in many developing countries is 75 square feet.
That is smaller than a typical 10’ x 10’ 1950s bedroom!
23. A 6.2 ft wide home in Boston, known as the “Skinny House“, sold for $900,000 in 2017.
Boston’s “Skinny House” spans only 10.4 feet at its widest point and was built by a soldier as a way to get revenge on his greedy brother. The house features one bathroom, two bedrooms and a full kitchen and is considered to be Boston’s narrowest house. It is currently for sale again, this time with an asking price of $1.2 million!
24. It is said that the ghosts of Abraham Lincoln and Abigail Adams roam the White House.
Those who have seen President Lincoln’ ghost include Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Frankin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson. President Reagan’s daughter, Maureen, has also seen Lincoln’s ghost.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill has also met Lincoln’s ghost while staying in the Lincoln Bedroom. As the story is told, Churchill came out of a long bath one evening, walked into his room completely naked and was greeted by the ghost of Lincoln standing there looking very lifelike by the fireplace. Without missing a beat, Churchill supposedly said “Good evening, Mr. President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage.” After a few moments, Lincoln smiled and vanished, leaving the Prime Minister to get dressed and have his usual nightly cigar and glass of scotch. Although Churchill handled it as coolly as anyone could have, he is said to have requested a different room on subsequent visits to the White House.
And last, but not least, #25:
25. Frank Sinatra’s desert hideaway is again for sale!
Ol’ Blue Eyes has had a tough time selling this home (known as Villa Maggio) as it has been on and off the market for about 15 years. Priced at a modest $4,250,000 it has spectacular views over 7.5 acres and includes a mid-century main house (5BR, 6BA), a guest house (3BR), one-bedroom pool house with a sauna and loads of other amenities!
And as a bonus, one of my favorites, Sylvester Stallone (“Rocky”) has his Beverly Hills mansion up for sale. He started at $110 million and it has been reduced to “only” $85 million! With over 18,500 square feet, there are 6BR and 9BA in the main house plus a 2-story guest house with 2BR and 3BA. Spread over 3.5 acres, there are also patios, a putting green, pool, art studio and 8-car garage. “Yo, Adrian, I guess we made it!!”
Hope you enjoyed learning some fun and interesting facts about real estate as much as we enjoyed finding them for you!