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Entries in Mansions (3)

Tuesday
Jul172012

Versailles in Florida: Will It Be the Largest Home in America?

ABC News(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- A home under construction in Florida could hold the distinction of being the largest house in the United States if it is completed.

The American Versailles, at 90,000 square feet, is bigger than a 747 airplane hangar and includes amenities like a bowling alley.  Other features include nine kitchens, 30 bathrooms and two movie theaters.  The home's mahogany doors and windows alone cost $4 million.

The owners, vacation time-share mogul David Siegel, 77, and former beauty queen Jackie Siegel, 46, said they had originally planned for the home to be smaller.

"We didn't start out having a 90,000 square foot house.  It was more like a normal 60,000 square foot house," David Siegel said with a chuckle.

"...But then I said, 'I want a bowling alley,'" Jackie Siegel continued.  "And then he said, 'Well, I want a health spa.'  You know, so we just kept going back and forth and adding on things."

Construction on the home, which was modeled after the Palace of Versailles in France, began in 2003, but was stopped for four years when the recession hit.  But now that business is good again, the Siegels intend to continue building.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jul192011

Texas Man Gets Mansion for $16 with Adverse Possession Law

Creatas/Thinkstock(FLOWER MOUND, Texas) -- Kenneth Robinson lives on Waterford Drive in Flower Mound, Texas, but he doesn't own or rent the home he claims he has a right to live in.

The home was in foreclosure, and the owner abandoned the property.  That's when Robinson swooped in and, after submitting a $16 filing fee at the local courthouse, claimed the law of "adverse possession" gave him the right to occupy the home.

Adverse possession is a common law concept developed in the 1800s.  According to Lucas A. Ferrara, a partner in Newman Ferrara, a New York City real estate law firm, adverse possession was enacted to ensure that property wasn't abandoned and was "maintained and monitored."  It requires the posting of a clear, public notice that someone is at the property -- hence the court filing -- and that someone would remain there for a specific period of time, usually 10 years.

After the time requirement is satisfied, the Robinsons of the world have the opportunity to claim clear title to the property.  In the meantime, the original property owner could fight the action, but it would be costly.  And since the house has already been abandoned, it's not likely the original owner would wage an expensive legal battle to get it back.  The mortgage holder would have to fight a court action, too.

The growing number of abandoned homes brought on by the foreclosure crisis has produced a small buzz around the idea of adverse possession.  A spokesman for the National Association of Realtors, however, said adverse possession wasn't very common and wasn't on the association's radar screen.

But a quick Google search, however, turned up plenty of websites willing to show anyone how to do what Ken Robinson did.

At AdversePossession.com, for example, for a mere $39.95, "average people" can learn how to "acquire valuable real estate for free."  The site takes steps to assure potential Robinsons that adverse possession is not squatting. "Squatter," says the site, "is an unfortunate and negative term used to describe someone who unlawfully occupies a vacant property or other real estate." Nor is occupying abandoned homes for financial gain immoral, according to the site.  It's "doing the neighborhood a favor."

Robinson's new neighbors see it differently.  They told local reporters that "If he [Robinson] wants the house, buy the house like everyone else had to..."

And Ferrara said, "it's quite an un-American notion that someone can take another's property without paying for it... After all, even the government has to pay for your property if it decides to take it from you."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May302011

Homes Over $10 Million Prove to Be a Tough Sell in Connecticut

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(GREENWICH, Conn.) -- Any home grand enough to have a name, you have to figure, is going to be pricey -- and "Point of View" in Greenwich, Connecticut doesn't disappoint.  The six-bedroom, 20,000-square-foot mansion overlooking Long Island Sound has an atrium, a library, a gallery and an indoor pool that, with the touch of a button, converts into a ballroom.

The 175-foot suspension bridge connecting the estate to its boat dock was designed by John Roebling & Sons -- makers of the Brooklyn Bridge.  The $42.5 million manse seemingly has everything, except a buyer.

Like some 50 other homes priced above $10 million in this haven for Wall Street hedge fund managers, it sits forlornly awaiting a buyer.  How long might it have to languish?  In February, a 10,000-square-foot pile finally sold (at a discount of close to 30 percent) after having languished on the market 630 days.

In an improving real estate market, these homes stand out.  "The Greenwich market overall," says Mark Pruner, an agent with Prudential Connecticut Realty, "is doing well."

Ordinary shacks -- homes priced at $4 million to $5 million -- have practically been flying off the shelf by comparison.  Between Jan. 1 and the end of April, says Pruner, six sold, reducing the inventory of homes in this range to a little over 13 months -- the inventory of $10 million homes during the same period was over six years.

In May, things improved a bit.  A property listed at $10.75 million sold for $9.1 million after 294 days on the market.  Another went for $11 million in a private sale.  A third is under contract, with an offer price of $14.75 million.  The result: supply has dropped from six years to four.

So why aren't mansions moving? Agents blame several factors, starting with Wall Street's rewarding its star players with bonuses that contain a smaller percentage of cash. The $10 million-and-up market has traditionally been a cash market, Pruner says. Sellers of these homes tend to be people who can afford to wait.  Further, they poured money and personality into creating unique residences, from which they are reluctant to part.

Pruner thinks he's detected another reason. "There's been a lifestyle and attitude change," he says.  "The desire for 'big-living' is gone.  People are buying houses that fit the size of their family, that they're comfortable in. They're not buying to show off anymore; they're not buying houses as investments."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio