1. Bubble Trouble, Grand Prize Winner,
Dumbest Moment of 2005
"If you grew up in Danvers, and you remember it as the spooky place on the
hill, it might not be the right place to live."
-- William McLaughlin, an executive with AvalonBay Communities, which
is converting boarded-up Massachusetts mental institution Danvers State
Hospital into a 497-unit complex of high-end apartments and condos. That
sound you hear? Not the ghosts of mental patients, but loud hissing from the
wildly inflated housing bubble, which tops our list this year with seven
priceless moments of real estate insanity. First up: the
nuthouse-to-yuppie-house trend currently sweeping North America, with such
conversions also planned in Detroit, New York, Vancouver, and Columbia,
S.C., where the centerpiece of the development is an original brick building
with the word "asylum" chiseled into the facade.
10. Three weeks later, Vail's Board of
Realtors announces that it's moving back in with its mom.
Unable to buy office space in a community where the average home price
recently headed north of $4 million, the Aspen Board of Realtors heads north
too -- to Basalt, Colo., a town of 3,000 residents 20 miles away.
30. Better get your offer in quick -- rumor
has it, Kate Moss is very interested.
A house in the Shepherds Bush area of London measuring less than 10 feet
across at its widest goes on the market for $933,000. Listing agent
Winkworths describes the anorexic structure as "utterly amazing and almost
49. The air we breathe is free? Says who?
In November, New York developers William and Arthur Zeckendorf agree to pay
$37 million for the air rights above a church and an 88-year-old private
club. The Zeckendorfs' purchase, part of a plan to build a 35-story
apartment building that would tower over its neighbors on East 60th Street,
comes out to a whopping $430 per square foot -- two to four times the going
rate for the skies above Manhattan.
67. Can't keep up with the Joneses? Heck,
it's bad enough just trying to keep up with the appreciation on their
In March the median price of a single-family detached home in the San
Francisco Bay Area rises more than $1,000 per day. By month's end, it swells
to $106,000 above the previous year's median -- 43 percent more than the
area's estimated average household income of about $74,000.
90. See? Our plan to turn it into a bastion
of American-style capitalism is working just fine.
"Before, in Iraq, the houses were cheap. Now the houses are expensive, but
the lives are cheap."
-- A real estate agent in Baghdad, to Knight Ridder reporter Matthew
Schofield, about the red-hot market in the Iraqi capital, where prices have
soared as much as 1,000 percent in the past three years. The increases are
fueled by foreign investment, pent-up demand after Saddam Hussein's strict
property regulations, and even reinvested gains from looting.
100. Bubble? What bubble? Oh ... that
In May an Experian-Gallup national survey finds that 65 percent of Americans
haven't heard anything about a possible "housing bubble." Another 12 percent
have heard "only a little." Indeed, 70 percent expect home prices to keep
rising, while only 5 percent think they'll slip. However, when the facets of
a housing bubble are described to them, about 40 percent go on to say that
the scenario is likely to occur in their area in the next three years.
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