These real estate facts don’t even cross most people’s minds
The real estate industry is an inherently fascinating one, partly because of the glamour associated with thriving in it. As we all know, the current president of the United States made his fortune in real estate and many other fortunate individuals who are able to pin down property in a prime location are able to climb the real estate ladder. But the truth is, most of us don’t know much about how the industry actually works. And even what we think we know isn’t always spot on. Read on to learn the wildest real estate facts that don’t even cross most people’s minds.
1. Tree houses are considered real estate
The word “tree house” for most people likely conjures up images of small structures built by children in the middle of the woods. Of course, those kinds of tree houses are usually exempt from building codes and are not considered real estate. Other tree houses, though, are an entirely different story.
The world’s biggest tree house located in Crossville, Tennessee, is a nearly 10,000-square-foot structure that is 10 floors high, boasts 80 rooms and even houses a church. And it’s not the only tree house that was considered to be prime real estate. The two-story “Levitating Lighthouse” in Seattle went up for sale in 2017 for $475,000 – cash only – according to The Seattle Times.
2. Most of the Vegas strip isn’t actually in Las Vegas
Millions of people flock to Sin City every year to party and try their hand at gambling, among other things. Most of them probably don’t realize that most of the Las Vegas strip itself isn’t located in Las Vegas proper, but rather in a census-designated town called Paradise.
The town was formed in 1950 to avoid paying burdensome taxes and is completely surrounded by Las Vegas. Paradise – what a fitting name – houses the McCarran International Airport, University of Nevada, Las Vegas and most of the tourist attractions in the Vegas area. All of the ZIP codes serving the town are assigned the default name “Las Vegas” and that’s why it remains largely unknown among its visitors.
3. There is a secret apartment in the Eiffel Tower
When the incredible Eiffel Tower was unveiled in 1889, the world deservedly heaped tremendous praise upon the visionary Gustave Eiffel. But apparently, the praise wasn’t enough. Soon enough it was revealed that the towering civil engineer gave himself a more concrete reward for his work.
He did so by building a small apartment near the top of the magnificent structure. Located on the third-most level of the tower, his real estate was not large or over-the-top but it was cozy and reportedly earned him the envy of the Paris elite. Eiffel is said to have declined numerous offers to rent out the apartment.
4. Sellers in New York have to disclose if their house is haunted
Paranormal activity probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when considering things a home seller is required to disclose to a potential buyer. But in some states, fessing up about ghost sightings or exorcisms is a legal requirement when selling real estate.
In a 1991 legal ruling – aptly known as the “Ghostbusters ruling” – New York State declared that home sellers must tell potential buyers if they suspect their property is haunted, only if they’ve already shared the opinion “to the public at large.” For home buyers on the superstitious side, relocating to the Empire State might be a good idea.
5. A real-life Simpsons house exists
That’s right. Pepsi offered up a life-size replica of the Simpsons house or $75,000 as a prize in a contest. It was built as a nearly exact 3-D replica of 742 Evergreen Terrace, the house of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie Simpson on the show. Every detail was included – even the family’s cat’s food dish.
It turns out the contest’s winner wasn’t keen on moving all the way to Henderson, Nevada, and chose the cash instead. The owner that lives in the ultimate cartoon memorabilia today has had to learn to deal with The Simpsons fans’ constant prying. Think that’s a fascinating fact? There are more to come.
6. You can rent out Luke Skywalker’s childhood home
This is a big deal for Star Wars fans. Remember where Luke Skywalker lived on Tatooine with his aunt and uncle, in that galaxy far, far away? Well, it turns out that galaxy is far more attainable than one might imagine. Named Hotel Sidi Driss, the intergalactic complex is located in a tiny Berber-speaking town of Matmâta, in southern Tunisia.
George Lucas and his crew used the town’s underground tunnels as Luke Skywalker’s home in the Star Wars films and it has since been set up as a “hotel.” Anyone can spend a night in the residence, and it will only set you back 10 bucks (more on other big screen properties). After filming of the original films was finished in 1976, the hotel saw a decline in visitors. That was until 2000, when filming for prequel Attack of the Clones began.
7. Monica’s apartment in Friends makes her a millionaire
For loyal fans of the popular 1990s sitcom Friends, it must be hard to constantly watch re-runs of the show without wondering how Monica is able to afford her incredible New York City home – especially for those fans living in a tiny studio apartment, barely making their rent in the Big Apple.
The reality is that Courtney Cox’s character, Monica, would have to be pretty flush with cash to be able to afford the apartment in which she lives on the show. Taking into account its size, location and amenities had the apartment really existed, the place would be worth about $2 million in today’s money.
8. Warren Buffet lives in the same house he bought in 1958
Warren Buffet is one of the world’s richest men. As such, it might surprise some that he has lived in the same house since 1958 – a house he purchased for $31,500, or about $250,000 in today’s dollars. Located in a quiet neighborhood in Omaha, Nebraska, the house is worth about $652,619 today, according to Business Insider.
Buffet, who is the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, is widely considered one of the world’s most talented investors. He has referred to the modest home as the “third-best investment he has ever made.” When asked why he hasn’t moved to a more lavish home, he told BBC that “I’d move if I thought I’d be happier someplace else.”
9. The U.S. Supreme Court has a basketball court on the top floor
The U.S. Supreme Court has always been known as the “Highest Court of the Land” but technically there is one that is even higher – literally. The Supreme Court building actually has a basketball court sitting on its fifth floor, aptly nicknamed “the highest court in the land.”
The Court didn’t always have space set aside for playing basketball. The room was once just a spare, to house journals and documents. In the 1940s, it was converted into a workout area for courthouse employees and later baskets were installed. Fun fact: a sign at the court’s entrance instructs visitors to not play ball while court is in session!
10. The Seattle Kingdome cost its owners a fortune even after it was demolished
The idea of building a giant covered stadium for a major sports team was first conjured up by Seattle officials in 1959 but it took nine years for voters to warm up to the idea. In 1968, King County voters approved the issuing of $40 million in municipal bonds to build what would become home to the Seattle Supersonics, Mariners and Seahawks.
One could reasonably forgive voters for being skeptical of the super expensive project. Indeed, the Seattle Kingdome cost so much money to construct that it wasn’t fully paid off until 15 years after it was demolished in 2000. Talk about a mortgage!
11. How much is the White House worth?
Considering the White House is a governmental building, most people probably don’t spend too much time pondering its real estate value. But considering it houses arguably the most powerful person in the world, it’s safe to consider it a prime location – one of the best things to be considered in real estate.
Completed in 1792, and having housed every U.S. president since then, it would be hard for even those who are well-versed in the real estate market to guess the White House’s value. Actually, it turns out the building is worth a whopping $110 million. But keep reading, that’s not all you’ll learn about the White House.
12. Mark Zuckerberg bought his neighbors
Spoiler alert: the co-founder and CEO of Facebook didn’t actually buy human beings. But Mark Zuckerberg did want to have a say in which people would live in close proximity to him in his Palo Alto neighborhood. One could argue that it’s not always easy to be one of the world’s richest men. Understandably, such people to have to take certain precautions to protect themselves.
So, in a valiant effort to prevent the houses next-door to him from being advertised as “neighbor to Mark Zuckerberg,” he purchased four of them and leased them back to the families that lived in them. It’s unclear what exactly went into Zuckerberg’s decision to buy his neighbor’s homes but when you’re as wealthy as he is, why not?
13. Ever hear of the tiny house movement?
That’s right, there is an entire movement dedicated toward building and living in tiny houses. People are choosing to downsize, simplify the space in which they live, and own fewer things. So how big – or small – exactly does a home have to be in order to be considered tiny?
The typical American home is around 2,600 square feet, according to CNN. The typical small or tiny house is defined as one that is between 100 and 400 square feet, although there is no official set of rules. That’s more than five times less! Not only is the move from a normal-sized house to a tiny one environmentally friendly, but it saves lots of money, too.
14. ‘Breaking Bad’ fans throw pizzas onto Walter White’s house
Breaking Bad fans have been trespassing on the residence that served as teacher-turned-drug-kingpin Walter White’s home in the show to recreate a famous scene, which involves throwing a pizza on the roof of the house. The one problem? Someone actually lives in the house in real life.
Needless to say, this homeowner wasn’t thrilled with strangers vandalizing her roof – let alone wasting perfectly good pizza, which should totally be a federal crime. After seven years of putting up with such shenanigans, the home’s owner, Joanne Quintana, put up an imposing 6-ft. tall iron fence to prevent some of the show’s wilder fans from intruding.
15. In Japan, there’s a highway that passes through a building
Now, this one is quite the real estate novelty. There is literally a highway in Japan that passes through a 16-story building. The road connects two elevated highways, passing through Osaka’s Gate Tower building’s 5th, 6th, and 7th floors. It’s a short walk from the Osaka station and quite a sight to behold.
The road is suspended on both sides and, if it wasn’t clear, doesn’t touch the building itself. Considering this was the first real estate of its kind, all kinds of laws and building codes were revised to allow construction. That’s not all though – there are other real estate marvels to behold.
16. The biggest pyramid on earth isn’t in Egypt
Egypt is a powerhouse of archaeological sites and has a rich history dating back thousands of years. Perhaps nothing embodies that history better or more famously than the Egyptian pyramids – a symbol of national pride in the country. But not everyone knows the biggest pyramid on Earth isn’t in Egypt.
The pyramid that takes the cake is the Great Pyramid of Cholula, located in Cholula, Puebla, Mexico. It stood at a total volume of over 4.45 million cubic meters in its final form when it was finished in the 9th century CE. To put that number in perspective, the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt measures at roughly 2.5 million cubic meters. What a magnificent structure!
17. The Egyptian pyramids are closer to civilization than you think
The ancient Egyptian pyramids are some of the most magnificent structures human beings have ever produced. And apart from them appearing in the pages of history books, social media – particularly Instagram – is flooded with photos from travel fans showing off their new destination. But photos can be deceptive, and some people have the wrong idea about the pyramids’ location.
Many pictures of the Egyptian pyramids appear to show the structures standing tall, surrounded by nothing but desert. While it is true that they are located in the desert, the pyramids are not as far from civilization as some photos would have you believe. In fact, take a look at how close they are to the Egyptian capital city, Cairo.
18. The White House interior was gutted and rebuilt… in 1949
The White House had been around for a whopping 145 years by 1945 and best believe it was in rough shape. Harry Truman was president at the time, and he was tasked with figuring out how to best update the structure. Now, this was a structure that was nearly destroyed in 1814 by the British and survived a Christmas Eve fire in 1929.
It got so bad that Truman’s daughter’s piano almost fell through a floor onto the room below it. Some called for tearing the entire thing down and starting from scratch but the president saw the White House as a national monument and opted instead to only gut the interior and rebuild it as close to the original as possible.
19. Meet the world’s oldest standing wooden structure
The Western Wall in Jerusalem – built with stone – has been around since 19 BCE. It’s therefore quite incredible that the Horyuji Temple in Japan, a wooden structure built a mere 600 years later, is still standing tall. The 1,412-year-old temple is the world’s oldest surviving wooden structure to date.
Horyuji was founded in 607 by Prince Shotoku, who was one of Buddhism’s earliest promoters in Japan. During this time, Muhammad walked the Earth and Christianity was fighting to dominate Europe. It’s unbelievable that a structure made of wood has survived since then. Indeed, the Horyuji temple has since been designated as a World Heritage Site.
20. In Japan, most houses depreciate in value
For an American or European sizing up the real estate market in Japan, it might be advantageous to do a little research first. The Japanese market differs from Western markets in some pretty important ways, one of which is that most Japanese houses depreciate in value – big time.
According to the Japanese brokerage firm Nomura, the value of the average Japanese home drops to zero in just 22 years, so most homes are torn down and rebuilt. In America and Europe, pre-owned homes accounted for 90 percent of real estate sales and new-builds for 10 percent in 2017, according to The Economist. The opposite is true in Japan.
21. There are oil rigs disguised as office buildings in some California cities
With all its green energy credentials, some people think oil production in California is a thing of the past. They are wrong. As of 2017, the Golden State churned out 173.2 barrels, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. Now, that’s about a 56-percent drop since 1985, but California is certainly still in the game.
Visitors of the state, though, could be forgiven for thinking otherwise, considering California disguises some of its oil rigs in plain sight – particularly in Los Angeles. How? By cleverly making them appear as other forms of real estate. One such example is the Pacific Coast Energy property in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood of L.A., disguised as a synagogue. It is home to 40 oil wells.
22. There is a factory that had rain clouds form inside of it
The Boeing Factory in Everett, Washington is the largest piece of real estate in the world by volume, according to the Guinness World Records. Indeed, the mindbogglingly gigantic factory is so big that without proper ventilation, it generates its own weather and rain clouds form inside of it.
The factory was originally built in 1966, in order to house the development of a game-changing plane. But Boeing was so proud of its glorious new factory that it opened it up for tours just two years later, the same year the defense giant rolled out its first 747. It’s still open for tours today but, unfortunately, a strict “no photos” rule is enforced.
23. All the land in Singapore is owned by the government
Singapore is commonly known for its free-market reputation but not everything about the sovereign city-state is quite so laissez-faire. Certainly, the republic is a business-friendly one, boasting a top income tax rate of only 22 percent. Singapore doesn’t have a capital gains or inheritance tax either.
But real estate in Singapore is a different story. All of the land in the city-state is technically owned by the government and the vast majority of housing – 85 percent, to be exact – is provided by a government-owned housing corporation. Just something to consider before jumping into the Singapore real estate market.
24. When Canada and Denmark have a land dispute…
Perhaps the most peaceful land dispute in the history of humankind has to be the one between Canada and Denmark. The two western democracies have disputed their respective claims to the barren and desolate Hans Island in the arctic north since the 1930s. But the Canadians and Danes handle their problems in a different way than most.
It started in 1984, when Denmark’s Minister of Greenland Affairs visited the island. He planted a flag and a note saying “Welcome to the Danish island,” along with a bottle of brandy, according to CBS. That act was the start of an adorable tradition in which both countries would visit the island to remove the other country’s flag and leave a bottle of liquor.
25. McDonald’s doesn’t make most of its money flipping burgers
McDonald’s is known as the most widely recognized hamburger-flipping chain on the face of the Earth. But what most people don’t realize is that making Big Macs isn’t really the company’s thing – real estate is. That’s right, franchises make and sell the food while McDonald’s leases the actual real estate to them.
In effect, the company becomes the landlord to all its franchises, meaning it has one of the world’s best commercial real estate portfolios. As of 2015, an entire 85 percent of McDonald’s restaurants were owned by franchises and not by the company itself, according to the company’s 2015 10-K. Keep reading, there are other real estate marvels to behold.
26. Mail-order houses used to be a thing
Believe it or not, there was an era in which people could literally order the parts to a house and build it themselves with an instruction manual. Between the years 1908 and 1940, Sears, Roebuck & Co. sold between 70,000 and 75,000 mail-order houses. Some of them still exist to this day.
The parts would arrive in a kit, usually by boxcar, and Sears promised that a “man of average abilities” could build the house within 90 days. Though it’s undeniably clever, it’s no wonder these houses are no longer available. Can anyone really imagine someone in the age of the smartphone and short attention spans spending a few months building their own house?
27. Someone became a millionaire selling virtual real estate in a game
Ailin Graef, better known as Anshe Chung, is a successful real estate developer. She started with an investment of just $9.95 and built up a fortune of $1 million over the span of 32 months by purchasing, developing and reselling property — and then using the profits to buy more.
Now, while the money Chung has earned is very real, none of the “property” in the equation is. All the houses she deals with are virtual houses in the internet game Second Life, where players can engage in a virtual real estate market through an avatar they create. Chung is the first to become a real-life millionaire by selling virtual property.
28. Ever wonder how the landmark ‘Hollywood’ sign came to be?
The Hollywood sign is the symbol of the entertainment industry. It appears in movies and TV shows and is universally recognized as such. But more importantly, the relatively simple symbol represents all that is glamorous and grandiose. There was a time, though, when it was merely a real estate advertisement.
It’s truly metaphoric: just like many of the stars it represents, the Hollywood sign started from nothing. It first went up as an ad for a suburban housing development called “Hollywoodland” and later evolved into what it is today. It makes sense. After all, real estate is just as important to Hollywood as show business.
29. Paid off your mortgage? Paint your door red
Just uttering the word mortgage is sure to conjure up feelings of anxiety and sheer terror for many people. But for those who have paid off their mortgages, the word might make them feel proud of all their hard work. In some parts of the world, homeowners can do more than just feel proud after they’ve paid their dues.
Scotland, in particular, has a special tradition for such homeowners. In the northern European country, people who pay off their mortgages paint their front door red as a symbol of pride. It’s not clear why red is the color for such a celebration but it’s nice to cherish success!
30. Not all the apartment buildings in major cities are actual apartment buildings
A tourist visiting a major city like London, New York or Toronto might come across a beautiful apartment complex so breathtaking that they strike up a conversation about it, only to realize later that it isn’t an apartment complex at all.
In many major metropolitan centers, there are entire buildings and developments that only exist to hide vent shafts, cell phone towers, and railways. But they are built in a camouflaged way, only to give off the illusion that people actually occupy them. It’s largely an aesthetic endeavor, and if people can’t tell what’s really there, those buildings have done their job well.