Building Lots Only $1,000! (With a Few Strings Attached)

If you haven’t made plans for Valentine’s Day this year, there is still time to head to the Newark City Hall in New Jersey, where 100 vacant city lots will be sold for $1,000 each. The parcels are all owned by the city, and in an effort to transform them into tax-generating properties, a rather unique marketing campaign has ensued.


The lots will only be sold to couples. No investors. No developers. It being conducted, “In the spirit of St. Valentine’s Day,” but there are a list of rules for the sale. Buyers can only purchase one lot, are responsible for all closing costs, and must present proof of funds or financing. There is one more small detail….the buyers must begin construction on a house within eighteen months, and then LIVE IN THE HOUSE FOR FIVE YEARS after the certificate of occupancy. IN NEWARK, NEW JERSEY. It doesn’t matter if you dress up the advertisement on a pink heart and try to create urgency by using the term, “first come, first serve.” This is still Newark, folks.

My question is what happens if you don’t live there for five years? Does the city seize your house? It is quite possible, in fact probable, that someone out of the 200 buyers will die in the span of five years. It is Newark, New Jersey after all.

I’m guessing no city officials want to admit this, but there have to be a few of them who are incredibly concerned that one hundred couples will not show up on Saturday. If that occurs what is next, “Christmas Vacant Lot Giveaway 2015!?”

News Briefs: Sounds Stadium Opens Soon, The Shift of More Renters, CL Tiny House

1. Sounds Stadium Opens Soon: The new Nashville Sounds baseball stadium, First Tennessee Park, is nearing it’s April 17, 2015 inaugural game. Construction has been progressing, and the live webcam gives interested viewers a sneak peek. The 8,500 seat stadium will give the AAA minor league team a new home after 36 years at Greer Stadium. The location is on the north side of downtown between 3rd and 5th avenues, just south of the Germantown neighborhood. A $37 million development featuring 250 apartments will also be on the site. Fans of the team’s old iconic guitar-shaped scoreboard need not fear, the new stadium will feature a modern guitar-shaped scoreboard with high definition video capability. Would we expect anything less in Music City?



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News Briefs: Inventive Rope Loft, Foreclosures Down, $60M London Penthouse

1. Inventive Rope Loft. I’m not sure if rope walls would pass a building codes inspection in the U.S., but they did in Slovenia, where this stone house maximized space and light in the sleeping loft. The principal architect Aljosa Dekleva said, “We wanted the upstairs gallery that connects the two bedrooms to be as open as possible.” Mission accomplished. But I’m wondering how are these ropes fastened at the ends?

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rope loft3    photos from dwell      rope loft4


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News Briefs: Stunning Container House, Welch College Sells, Nashville Park Work

1. Stunning Container House: This Kansas City, Missouri home is by far the most beautiful dwelling I have seen constructed from shipping containers. The architecture firm BNIM helped owner Debbie Glassberg design Home Contained, her concept to, “Build for live, work, and stay.” Different building designs including, schools, hotels, and businesses can also be customized according to their website. Her team is, “hard at work on perfecting the configurations that make Home Contained a site-ready solution…bringing simple, bold, and beautiful solutions to a site near you.”

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News Briefs: Yurt Living, Nashville Food & Drink, Tokyo Tiny

1. A married couple in Minnesota live full-time and work from a 24 foot round yurt. They are well-educated and have three master’s degrees between them, but opted for a tiny dwelling of about 450 square feet a year and a half ago. The owner explains their thoughtful approach, “We didn’t want to go take out a giant mortgage to build a house. We were able to buy this yurt used for $5,000. It’s an option that was super affordable.” Read the full article with nice photos, including one of the outhouse toilet lid covered in frost. It’s a different type of lifestyle for sure, but I am a big fan of the domed yurt ceilings that provide a beautiful sense of space and light.

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News Briefs: Fort Houston, New Skyscraper Plans, NYC Home Sells for $21Million

1. There is an interesting article written about Fort Houston in Native magazine this month. Fort Houston’s motto is “Facilitators of Human Potential.” Their website has more information and provides the ability to purchase a membership or classes, including options as diverse as wood-working, photo studio, motorcycle restoration, and using a 3-D printer. I think it is a brilliant concept, and proof of Nashville’s rising creative class.


2. Developer Tony Giarratana announced plans for what will be the tallest building in Nashville and the entire state of Tennessee, called Paramount. The 750 feet tower will be on the corner of 5th Ave N. and Church St. Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2016 on the $225 million dollar project. Current plans for the 884,533 square foot skyscraper include 630 residential units, comprised of apartments, condos, and penthouses. Read more about the development in The Tennessean article.

paramount photo by Solomon Cordwell Buenz

3. An NYC townhouse recently sold for $21 million. The property was purchased by developers in 2012 for $10.45 million. They conducted major work on the 7,100 square foot structure, converting it from ten smaller units into a single-family mansion. The property now features an elevator, wine cellar, and 1,000 sq. ft. garden. I’m wondering how much was budgeted for the renovation?

wsjphoto by Douglas Elliman


News Briefs: Tiny Cabin, Shipping Containers, Closing Costs, and a new IKEA

1. Can you picture this micro-cabin in your backyard, or favorite hunting spot? It was recently built in Memphis, TN. The design plans are available for purchase, as well as more photos from the Relax shacks website. The designers claim it can be built for a micro-price of only $1200, or even cheaper by using recycled or reclaimed materials.

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News Briefs: Cool Video, Mortgage Rate Update, Suze Orman

1. Cool Video: View the striking 90 second time lapse video of Jean Prouve’s Demountable House being assembled for display in Art Basel Miami Beach. The modernist architect designed the prefab house in 1944. I think it is fair to say that he was ahead of his time.

2. Morgage Rate Update: Mortgage rates remain very favorable for borrowers according to Mortgage News Daily. The 30 year fixed rate is 3.875%, and the average 15 year fixed rate is 3.125% for the highest qualifying borrowers.That 30 year rate works out to a monthly payment of $470 per $100,000 borrowed, meaning even a $400,000 loan is only $1880 a month. That figure does not include taxes or insurance.

3. Suze Orman: The Wall Street Journal has a feature article about Suze Orman’s real estate portfolio.  According to her own website, Orman “is undeniably America’s most recognized expert on personal finance.” While that may be a stretch, the WSJ article reveals that Orman owns property in South Florida, the Bahamas, South Africa, and in New York City. Her purchasing strategy is simple, “If I can’t write a check for it, I can’t afford it.” It’s hard to go wrong with that approach, and it’s certainly easier if your net worth “is well over the $25 million in liquid assets,” like Suze’s is.