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ITT: Evergreen talks about houses and real estate

edited 2011-10-24 11:46:43 in General
Since I have a habit of browsing real estate listings online to amuse myself, and Glenn and I have talked somewhat extensively about houses and the housing market and stuff before in various threads, I figured it was time I made a thread where I could put such things and people could discuss if they wanted to. 

What I share here will generally be categorized by whether I see it as Awesome, Stupid Awesome, or just Stupid.

For example, this estate on Lake Erie in Ohio is what I'd consider to be just plain Awesome. It's definitely somewhat strange (there's a whole underground level that you can't see, too!) and a bit stuck in 1990 in terms of decor, but it's still luxurious and incredibly innovative and unique. It was custom built for Don Brown, the guy who invented the dropped ceiling, but he and his wife died in a plane crash last year, so his sons are selling it.

This enormous house in Farmington, CT is a good example of Stupid Awesome. It is currently owned by 50 Cent, previously by Mike Tyson. It's probably the biggest house in Hartford County if not the whole state, but it's utterly charmless and when you think about it, a house that big is really just kind of unwieldy. It would be better off as some kind of conference center and small hotel, or a religious retreat house, or...y'know. Something like that. It's a local legend, and has been on the market since I was in high school, or earlier...

This fairly ordinary but upscale colonial in Avon, CT is to me just plain Stupid. As in, it's the kind of house that I like to make fun of relentlessly. It's nice, it's pretty big, and it's been very well-kept, but it looks like it's barely been changed in 20 years. I absolutely love/hate when that happens. Also, the exterior is kind of odd, it's like they were trying to do the whole Tudor revival thing (and I loathe the 70's Tudor revival, btw) and then just decided to half-ass it.


  • The first house has a stunning setting, but the house itself doesn't grab me for some reason.

    "Fiddy"'s place has a rather creepy vibe to it - a bit like the hotel in The Shining. Where on earth does he find the people to fill it up? You'd need to have an entourage the size of Louis XIV's court living with you all the time. The gym is particularly ridiculous. If you ever ran short of money you could just turn it into a paying gym for the whole town.

    The third house - well, you may not like the interior design, but the day I move into somewhere like that'll be the day I know I've arrived. Probably in a re-make of The Stepford Wives or something, but still...

  • Obviously G-Unit wasn't a big enough entourage for that house. I always figured that someone in that business always wood be able to fill it with followers, hangers-on, guests, etc. But apparently not.

    There are lots of houses here like the third. I should introduce you to Devonwood, Farmington's legendary luxury development that is basically shorthand for "wealthy". Well, I'll save that for later.
  • Creature - Florida Dragon Turtle Human
    I'll check out the first and third later, but the second one...

    At first, I was like, if we had a Mystery Hunt team of like 100 people, we should totally rent out that place.

    But then I realized that all Mystery Hunt really needs is one big room with lots of tables and electric outlets and preferably hard floor (so that trash doesn't get stuck in the carpets), or maybe one big room like that and one kitchen and eating area.  Okay, if we're planning on an extended stay, let's have a third room filled with bunk beds or sleeping bags, and two multi-user bathrooms, for guys and for girls.

    So then i realized that that 50 Cent's house...would do well to best house a supervillain and all his lackeys.  I mean, it's got entertainment (at least 3 pool tables, 1.5 basketball courts, 2 swimming pools, one hot tub, and a bedroom the size of a small office building).  That foyer would be great for greeting the heroes when they first come to visit...then dropping them into a shark pit below or something.
  • Ahahaha, yes! Or, a shady government organization. Or a not-so-shady government agency of mages who have houses everywhere but especially this one because their founder and leader is me is from CT. (Yay my fiction...)

    Also, I think I need to have an Ambivalent category. I'll have an example of something that would fall into that soon.

    ^I look forward to your thoughts on the first and third.
  • edited 2011-10-24 15:25:56
    Thane of rum-guzzling and necromancy

    Now, this is my kind of topic. I like the second house.

    I like this. I want the additional five acres of land too, so I can extend the garden and plant a forest surrounding it.  The interior decor isn't quite to my taste, but that's easily rectified.

    Though I think there are better properties than that. Ideally I want a modestly-sized secluded cottage (5 bedrooms maybe) with a large garden on all sides. Not having any public footpaths or farms within half a mile would be a plus. I really like my privacy.

  • That's a nice one. So much in England automatically seems quaint and such to me, but that really is nice. A forest would take a while to grow in and it would certainly change the character of things...

    This thread has gone international! I didn't expect that. Good to have you onboard.
  • I am Dr. Ned who is totally not Dr. Zed in disguise.
    >Ideally I want a modestly-sized secluded cottage (5 bedrooms maybe) with a large garden on all sides. Not having any public footpaths or farms within half a mile would be a plus. I really like my privacy.

    You would be spending quite a lot on a house like that.
  • One thing I can't do here is comment on UK pricing. I can tell you all about prices in my area, but that's about it.

    I give you...southern Connecticut mass-produced early 90's luxury. 2 acres, a pool, quality materials and lots of decorative features. And at the moment very tastefully decorated. And mostly trapped in 1992, but the nice parts negate it. Quality is quality and it looks like it's been kept up perfectly.

    This falls squarely into my Ambivalent category. Captainbrass, is this the kind of place you were thinking of earlier?
  • Creature - Florida Dragon Turtle Human
    @Evergreen: Unlike you, I actually like that third house.

    It has a ton of rooms.  So what if the exterior looks kinda silly?  I like how the interior looks neat and bright, and also has a ton of rooms that makes it easy for you if you want a change of mood.  The carpet looks comfy where there's carpet.  It could look brighter, given that some of their color schemes are a bit silly (such as the lattice fence wallpaper), but overall it looks okay.
  • We do seem to have a knack for disagreeing on these kinds of things, don't we? My views are I supposed nurture more than nature...a childhood of going to open houses with your parents and hearing "Oh, how dated..." in ones like that one leaves an impression.

    My mother has a particular dislike of carpet, too. Much prefers wood floors. I'm not sure what to think, carpet is comfy, but I barely experience it anymore...
  • Creature - Florida Dragon Turtle Human
    I love carpet because it really gives a home-like comfort to things.

    However, it is also a huge pain in the ass to clean.

    Hard floors, especially ceramic tile and wood, are much easier to clean but less comfy, and less inviting in the winter months.
  • I am Dr. Ned who is totally not Dr. Zed in disguise.
    So keep the tiles to the kitchen/bathroom/toilet and carpet the rest.

    I like cosy small rooms with low ceilings, also old houses that have crooked stairways or funny shaped rooms and niches in a lot of places.
  • edited 2011-10-24 18:22:03
    Thane of rum-guzzling and necromancy

    @Ian: Compared to the houses at the start of this thread, the price is nothing :P

    I have two ideas of what sort of luxury house I'd want. The first is a modest cottage with spacious and secluded grounds, and the other is a gigantic fortified estate with top-of-the line security, self-contained recreational facilities, etc.

    Behold, Fairfield Manor:

    It tickles my imagination just dreaming of the sorts of things one could do with that house and grounds, and alot of money. It could have its own cinema, a deluxe library, a massive forest, its own theme park somewhere (think neverland but awesome), a marina, and even a town for all the servants and bodyguards. 

  • I am Dr. Ned who is totally not Dr. Zed in disguise.
    I guess :p
    Relatively expensive compared to 'normal' houses then.
  • edited 2011-10-24 19:35:17
    Creature - Florida Dragon Turtle Human
    @IanExMachina: Well, that's how our previous house back in Florida did it.  Carpeted were the bedrooms, the upstairs hallways, the stairs, the nook at the top of the stairs, the combined living and dining room, the family room, and even the under-stair closet.  Tiled were the bathrooms, the kitchen, the breakfast area (i.e. the "eat-in" extension to the kitchen), and the foyer.

    I liked that more.

    > I like cosy small rooms with low ceilings, also old houses that have
    crooked stairways or funny shaped rooms and niches in a lot of places.

    I prefer high ceilings, but I also like old houses with crooked stairways and funny-shaped rooms and niches in a lot of places.


    As for some of those huge estates...uh, dude.  Imagine having to mow those lawns.  Even if it's your paid servant.  Those are some fucking huge lawns.  With how much trouble our current yard (just about half an acre) poses to my mom, I feel like I would hate to have to upkeep that amount of land.  I would rather just leave it undeveloped and let it become woods or something.  Or build something on it.

    I'm also not too interested in having crazy amounts of possibilities for recreation.  After all it's just my own property; it lacks life.  It's not like a college campus where every afternoon you will see people using the tennis and basketball courts and the track or something.  It's just you there, and maybe your family if you're married and have kids.  It's lonely.

    If I were to have a mansion, I'd first sell off most of the accompanying land, then organize the mansion into a communal living arrangement with a bunch of friends if possible.  Because having a huge living space is great for novelty value but quickly becomes lonely.
  • I am Dr. Ned who is totally not Dr. Zed in disguise.
    Nearly every house I've lived in had it so carpets were everywhere but kitchen/bathroom/toilet/porch.
    It is the most common here I guess.

    I'm not entirely sure why I like the low ceilings to me it just goes hand in hand with the crooked building.
    Tall ceilings remind me of the old victorian era buildings here, very cold and desolate.
    (I remember several schools with the high class ceilings and desolate feeling, as well as some of the waiting rooms for GP surgeries which make it seem even colder and clinical.)

    I wouldn't mind a house with 'grounds' however I'd want the fencing to be secure as I'd keep chickens.

    Also this might be interesting regarding house sizes:
  • No rainbow star
    ^ Canada isn't mentioned :(
  • Creature - Florida Dragon Turtle Human
    I like higher ceilings since the rooms feel spacier and there's also more vertical storage space.  Which also makes for other possibilities, including bed bunking and half-floor designs.

    And I think y'all have smaller houses because you've got less space.
  • edited 2011-10-24 20:20:40
    Thane of rum-guzzling and necromancy

    @GMH: It would take a considerable team of servants to keep the estate in working order.

    I would entertain quite a few "guests", probably. Even though I'm nothing like a socialite, it feels good to extend generousity as both a tool of intrigue and merriment. Oh yeah, not to mention if you're a power-hungry billionaire the estate would not merely be a massive playhouse, but a feudal centre of power.

    ^^^ Sucks that the UK is right there at the bottom. I blame the crummy pseudo-"detached" houses developers keep building. There's barely a foot between some houses, and the rooms are tiny. Rip-off Britain at its finest. And people still fall for that con.

  • Damn, I go away for a few hours and look what happens. Cool. 

    ^I happen to know from my ridiculously extensive Street View usage exactly what you're talking about. I can clearly tell the difference between true detached British housing and those. And just having a properly detached house is obviously a big deal over there. Glenn is of course right about how British houses are smaller (and usually attached) because yes, less space. I find it fascinating. It makes your landscape look so different.

    But I think even Canadian homes tend so be smaller. Canada seems to be very fond of narrow two-story "snout houses" Like in this picture. Canada sure does look different from the air.

    A thought on what's cool about the very first house I linked to: In the aboveground portion, each room is distinct, sort of like a little building of its own. I think that's cool.
  • edited 2011-10-24 20:42:39
    Thane of rum-guzzling and necromancy

    ^ I made a thread about surbubia a few weeks ago. I would not want to live in a house like the ones in that picture. Everyone can see your back garden from their bedroom window, and likewise. When you go out back you don't have an idyllic view but a scene of sameish monstrosities. 

    I would still prefer to live in a detached house, but a decent one.

    And I agree, streetview is so fun.

  • Creature - Florida Dragon Turtle Human
    Yeah, if you're using your estate as your base of operations, that's a totally different story, since you'd be not just living there but also working there, and you might as well let all your subordinates live there as well.
  • Creature - Florida Dragon Turtle Human
    ^^^ I dunno about you, but my cousins in Ontario live in a huge 5000-or-so-square-foot house, while the ones I've lived in have never been even half as big.

    That said, it wouldn't give an accurate picture if we didn't compare similar neighborhoods in terms of socioeconomic status and other factors.
  • There are some neighborhoods of huge new mansions on pretty big lots in Ontario. They're pretty easy to find on Google Maps if you know what you're looking for.

    Well, I'm gone for tonight, but when I'm next here, I'm probably going to do a series on Devonwood, the huge luxury development straddling the border between Avon and Farmington. Over the course of about 30 years, Devonwood has grown gradually bigger (it seems to have stopped) and along the way became an icon of wealth and opulence, defining for the Farmington Valley area what modern luxury housing should be.

    There are several houses in it currently on the market, and they represent a nice cross-section of Devonwood over the years. So I'll put that out tomorrow or maybe later in the week. Everyone around here has already made up their minds on Devonwood. I want to hear outside opinions based on what I'll show you.
  • Creature - Florida Dragon Turtle Human
    Well the odd thing is that their house is over 5000 square feet but their lot is smaller than ours.  They're also living in a neighborhood that's one of many densely-planned suburban neighborhoods.
  • Ok people, it's time for Devonwood. 

    See that big tangle of streets in the center of this map view? That's it. Possibly the largest planned luxury development in the region, it sits at the north end of Farmington, Connecticut. In fact, its northern edge is the border with the town of Avon, but contrary to what my parents seem to believe, it is located entirely in Farmington.

    The street that provides the only two ways in and out is called Devonwood Drive and forms a rough L-shape. The huge loop that almost everything else stems from is called Cambridge Crossing. 

    This picture, which I will warn is rather large, shows the iconic sign at the Town Farm Road entrance. It's a bit dated, but to me still imparts an air of luxury. And this is the intersection of Devonwood Drive and Cambridge Crossing, also a rather large picture. You can see two other iconic symbols of the development in it: the street signs in the form of short brown stone posts with green plaques, and the lights with their simple wooden posts, curved tops, and amber glass. The street signs still look classy to me, the lights just look old and more rustic than opulent. 

    But you must understand, Devonwood began as far back as the early 80's, in what is now the southern portion of the development. On the map view, it's the streets at the south end, unconnected to the big loop: Oxford, Glenmore, Essex, Newberry. Then, presumably, came Stratford, then Salisbury Way cut the corner from one part of Devonwood Drive to the other. And then I can only assume they laid down Cambridge Crossing and set to building all its offshoots. Generally, the further north you go, the newer and larger and grander the houses get. Up top at Thatcher Terrace, houses were still being built a few years ago, but with the economic crisis and a general running-out of space, I think they may have stopped for good. Devonwood had a very specific area to work with, and now they've filled it all.

    That just adds to the exclusivity. But of course, they've already got that in spades. The tranquil forest, the secure isolation without needing any actual gates, the small size of the lots negated by the sheer enormity of some of the houses and by just how many of them there are...these are all part of the magic. Mention Devonwood to any socially aware person above a certain age in Farmington, Avon, or Simsbury (and maybe even further afield) and there will be instant recognition. To have your own truly huge estate in some secluded place elsewhere in the area shows you've really made it, but since so few fit into that category, everyone else strives for Devonwood. I get the feeling that if my family was wealthier, we'd have moved there a while ago. It's convenient to where my dad actually works, much closer than our current house, but it's also a straight shot into Hartford for executives, lawyers, doctors, etc. who work there, and it's near several major roads including true highways.

    I'll let all that sink in, and tomorrow, or maybe later depending upon the situation, I'll show you the selection of houses currently for sale there. It's a nice cross-section that shows everything from the more modest early stuff to their height of late-90's mass production. I mean, we can talk about other things, and feel free to ask questions (not sure if I can answer them, but I'll see what I can do!), but just keep in mind that that's coming.
  • Re the sign at the entrance to the development - that, I think, is pretty unusual for the UK. Generally speaking, you only have standard black-on-white municipal signs for the names of roads, villages or towns. Some get a bit more ambitious. My old stamping ground, Harrow, put up a large metal arch above the main road into the town centre with the name on, but it didn't really work. I hardly noticed it was there at first.

    I also think the idea of a modern housing estate as being high-class and desirable is much more American than British. If you talk about a housing estate here, people tend to think of either "social housing", probably rough, run-down and deprived, a bit like the projects in US cities, or private housing built by developers like Barratt. Those are more middle class, but they have a reputation for small, poorly-designed houses run up on the cheap to maximise profits. If you've ever heard the old folk song about "little boxes made of ticky-tacky", Barratt homes are kind of our answer to those houses.

  • Creature - Florida Dragon Turtle Human
    (unrelated to anything above)

    In at least a certain part of Queens, NY, you have the following:

    In high-rises
    Studio condos/co-ops: up to about $120K, typically around $80K
    1-bedroom condos/co-ops: up to about $160K
    2-bedroom condos/co-ops: up to about $240K, typically around $200K
    3-bedroom condos/co-ops: $200K and up

    In low-rises, possibly with garages: Jack up those prices.  A 3-bedroom low-rise condo/co-op with an attached garage: $400K or more, possibly.


    The crappiest, dingiest, tiny cape from the 1950s with no improvements and shitty as hell maintenance, on the tiniest allowed lot: AT LEAST $450K.

    Basic 2000 square foot house, no basement: $500K to $800K, depending on condition, lot size, etc.

    A decent condition two-family house with garage: $600K to $800K.

    Fucking ass.
  • ^That right there is the American way. A superb reflection of our obsession with detached houses. Also, NYC being its ridiculous self as usual.

    Anyway, I am now going to get the Devonwood houses in order for your viewing pleasure. So that'll be in place shortly.
  • Presenting: The Ten Houses Currently For Sale In Devonwood

    At the top, at 1.7 million, is 14 Clermont Park.  This massive 2001 house is a great example of a late-period Devonwood home, and is uncommonly large even for this community. As might be expected, it is located in the upper-left part of the loop. Inside the loop, technically. And unfortunately there are only 3 pictures provided.

    Next up, at 1.595 million, is 2 Sussex Road. It's brand-new and unifinished, and so really isn't much use to talk about except as an example of how Devonwood is still expanding. Sussex is a tiny offshoot of Salisbury way, a major early-period street that cuts the corner of Devonwood Drive. The fact that they're building anew there shows that they're kind of desparate. It's only been on the market a few months, hopefully someone will buy it soon.

    Now we really start to travel back in time with 4 Bedford Court, up for 1.495 million.  Dating from 1993, it's a fine example of the early middle period, when the fanciness was kicking up a notch and Devonwood was really coming into its own as a prestigious place. Bedford is a little offshoot of the U-shaped Townsend Road, one of several early-90's expansions off of the top of the big loop. The house looks somewhat unassuming from the street but is rather enormous at over 8,000 sq. feet, with 6 bedrooms and 7 full baths. It's got a pool and has been so well-updated that you'd never know it's nearly two decades old.

    3 Pembroke Hill, the next house, is in many ways similar, though it's a bit cheaper at 1.399 million. Another example of the aggressive early middle period of about 20 years ago, it was built in 1990. Pembroke Hill is a large loop off the south end of Cambridge Crossing. This one is also over 8,000 sq. feet but looks much smaller from the curb, though its styling seems a bit more dated than the previous house. Overall it has a more "contemporary" feel. It's so nice that you almost don't see how it's fundamentally dated, but in many ways it is, and that's why I presume it lags in price behind 4 Bedford. Also, no pool.

    Here's our oldest house, 11 Salisbury Way, priced at 1.099 million. Its traditionalist architecture was fairly unusual for 1986 and makes it look much newer than it actually is, and newer than some other houses on this crucial late early period expansion street, one of the first major steps outside the early southern part of the development. It's not quite as massive as the houses that would follow, and lacks a pool, but it's been nicely updated and thus can hold its own as the third pre-21st-century house on the roster. 

    Compared to what you've just seen, 4 Whitehall Place might look a bit odd and not quite worth 1.045 million. This 1988 house sits on the border between the late early period and the early middle period, being located on a fairly early straight offshoot of Cambridge Crossing. Its exterior is so unassuming to me that I might not take it for a Devonwood house if I just saw the picture with no info! It's also smaller than the previous houses. It's been nicely updated, though, which probably accounts for its high pricing. A solid choice, just not as flashy as some others.

    The next two houses are rather similar and are part of what I consider to be the heart of the middle period, the mass-production era. They are located on the two streets that characterize this era, one in which the prestige of Devonwood had truly taken hold and everyone wanted a piece of the pie. The houses from this time and these streets are closer together and less architecturally distinct from each other than any seen before.

    Our first house below a million and below 6,000 sq. feet is 6 Wentworth Park, at 975K. It is smaller than any house seen so far, has the smallest lot seen so far, and the first lot under an acre. Otherwise, it's still a very nice house that has either been updated or really just isn't that old to begin with, although 1997 feels like a lifetime ago. 

    Looking like a slightly lesser version of what we've just seen is 7 Kew Gardens at 900K. It's the exact same age but is a bit smaller and is on a lot roughly half the size, if I'm doing my math right. Somehow, that's enough to shave 75K off what is otherwise a more or less equal house to the one above.

    Now we get into the bottom end with the rather peculiar 3 Eton Place, at 849.9K. With its minimalist contemporary colonial look, this early middle period (1992) house on a little offshoot of the far upper right circle Chatsworth Place looks less opulent and may have been designed as a specifically cheaper option. Or perhaps it was just the whims of an eccentric builder. Regardless, its dull colors both inside and out, including an abundance of dark wood trim inside, come off as quite dated: It's obvious this one hasn't been changed much. Combined with its relatively small size for Devonwood and a less-than-an-acre lot, you can see why it's priced so low.

    At the very bottom is 12 Fernhurst, at a mere 725K. Located on an early middle period Cambridge Crossing offshoot similar to the aforementioned Whitehall Place (as in, it's kind of directly opposite it on the inside of the grand loop), this 1989 house looks small but pleasant from outside. It is indeed small for Devonwood, but it has a lot a bit over an acre as befits its earlier era. It's perfectly nice inside and obviously has been updated, but it's just not that showy and lacks big grand rooms or soaring ceilings. Maybe that's why it's priced so low. Frankly, I'm not really sure.

    So that's it! Ten houses, one spectacular neighborhood...feel free to pick favorites, and help me muse on why some are priced the way they are. Because that second-to-last one is especially bugging me.

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