This House Is Totally Free Except For One Big Catch

Let’s say you’re in the market for a new piece of real estate. A buddy of yours calls excitedly one day with a wild offer: the owner of a 5,000-square-foot home on Lake Michigan is anxiously looking for someone to take on a rent-free 50-year lease. You’d probably want to find out more information, right?

Believe it or not, that offer actually exists. Indiana Landmarks, a historical preservation group, is seeking out a candidate to relocate there. However, there’s one very important catch, and it’s definitely something that would make or break the deal with a lot of folks…

When the Great Depression struck America, millions of people lost their jobs and livelihoods. It was the worst economic slump society faced, and everyone was looking for a reason to look forward to the future.

The perfect place to take concern away from day-to-day life and offer some sense of relief was the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago; nearly 50 million people attended the fair over its two-year run.

The World’s Fair was titled “Century of Progress,” and the exhibits on display followed suit, showing people how technological advancements could help make daily life much easier.

There were five innovative homes built for the fair to inspire spectators about what the future could bring. One of the homes that garnered the most attention and buzz was called the “House of Tomorrow.”

The 12-sided home was a single-family unit equipped with all the latest gadgets and designs. Some of these might sound commonplace now, but remember, this was 1933…

There was an attached garage with a push-button opener, the very first General Electric dishwasher, floor-to-ceiling windows, and an open floor plan.

All of these amenities, however, were masked by something else the home had that was completely unheard of, and frankly a little bizarre to many people: a personal airplane hangar.

Nowadays, of course, open floor plans and a plethora of large windows are common among new homes, but people at the World’s Fair couldn’t believe how different and innovative the appearance was.

The brains behind the House of Tomorrow was an architect named George Fred Keck. He became a pioneering designer of passive solar homes, realizing the floor-to-ceiling windows allowed sunlight to keep rooms warm during winter months.

The House of Tomorrow was a huge success throughout the entire two-year run of the fair. When the show ended, all five of the display homes were placed on barges and brought across Lake Michigan to Beverly Shores, Indiana.

The land the homes were relocated to eventually became part of the Indiana Dunes National Park. It was then that Indiana Landmarks, a historical preservation society, began leasing them out to tenants who could restore them.

Now that you have a little background as to the historical significance of the homes,  you should know that the House of Tomorrow is currently looking for a new tenant! The most architecturally innovative of the five, it’s been vacant since 1999.

Indiana Landmarks needs someone to take on a rent-free 50-year lease. You probably just read “rent-free” in disbelief. It is, in fact, rent free, but there’s one massive catch…

You have to restore it! And how much will cost to completely renovate “America’s First Glass House”? Anywhere from two and a half to three million dollars, so you need a lot of loot if you want this “free house.”

As you can see, the home is in shambles and will take a large amount of effort to bring back up to the level it was during its heyday. But for the right person this is an amazing opportunity to restore history.

Director of the Northern Regional Office of Indiana Landmarks, Todd Zeiger, is one of the members in charge of combing though all the submitted proposals from potential owners to choose the right fit.

Zeiger is looking for three specific things before even considering a proposal. First, he makes sure the tenants have gone through a renovation before. He wants someone with serious experience. 

The second aspect the director requires is a thorough breakdown of the renovation budget. He needs all the details figured out and thoroughly explained before moving forward.

So long as a potential tenant meets the first two requirements, and they prove to Zeiger  they absolutely can and will complete the project, the rent-free 50-year lease is all theirs.

Would the House of Tomorrow be something you’d invest in if you had the time and money? For the right person it’s a chance to preserve history, and although it costs a hefty sum, the story behind the home is priceless.

The House of Tomorrow is far from the only real estate offer that comes with a catch. Recently, in New Jersey, a lovely 111-year-old mansion hit the real estate market, and it can be all yours for $10! But, there’s a lot more to the story…

The property is located in the town of Montclair, which is a scenic suburban area full of friendly residents. It’s the ideal location for someone looking to settle down and raise a family. Not surprisingly, the mansion is even located on a road called Pleasant Avenue.

In 1906, renowned local architect Dudley S. Van Antwerp built the residence. He started his design practice in 1900, and he constructed famous buildings such as the Montclair Wachtung Avenue Congregational Church and the Yacht Club in Bayside, Long Island. So, what’s the deal?

This particular Colonial-style mansion contains six bedrooms and three-and-a-half baths. It also has a private exterior tennis court and a carriage house. The house itself is nearly 4,000 square feet, and it sits comfortably on two-and-a-half acres of land.

Given the sheer size and numerous amenities, it has a market value price of $1.35 million. Although that sounds expensive, many of the surrounding Montclair homes sell for around that price. It’s that kind of area.

The home also has some important historical significance to it. It was once owned by the first African American athlete to captain the famed Notre Dame football team, Aubrey Lewis. Lewis eventually went on to become one of the first black members of the FBI.

Unfortunately, Lewis passed away in 2001. After his death, the BNE Real Estate Group purchased the estate and planned on building eight homes on the property. This proposal, however, quickly fell through.

The reason behind the sudden halt in BNE’s plans? When they purchased the home and property after Lewis’s death, they made an agreement with the Montclair Historic Preservation Commission to preserve the estate due to its historical significance.

Because of this hiccup in the plans to build, the home is being sold for a meager $10! It sounds way too good to be true. A property this nice selling for the price of a movie ticket? But that’s where the huge catch comes into play…

And what exactly is the catch that has so many buyers turning their backs on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? As it so happens, the home cannot be occupied where it currently stands. Whoever purchases the residence would actually have to move the entire thing to a different location.

Montclair town officials say they approved the subdivision application on the strict terms that once the property was sold, it must be relocated to a different area. Doing it this way means everyone wins: the historical significance is preserved, the BNE Real Estate Group gains valuable land on which to build their homes, and the buyer owns a big ol’ house!

But there are also other conditions that must be met by whoever makes the purchase. The home must be moved within a quarter mile of its current location, and the buyer must pay for all the associated costs that come along with that.

The seller is even offering $10,000 to whomever buys it to help with the relocating costs. At first, that might seem like a great deal, but when all is said and done, the total relocation effort will cost upwards of $200,000!

Moving costs aren’t the only thing the buyer needs to be wary of, either. Because the home is so old, there could very well be asbestos problems. This, and any other renovations that need to be done, must be paid out of pocket by the purchaser.

Laurena White, a real estate agent for Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty, told CBS New York in August 2017, “In addition to moving it, the cost of any kind of repairs and renovation required that it be done to historic guidelines. That tends to be real expensive.”

 Carmen Warren, a woman who lives next door to this property, shared her thoughts on the situation. She said, “Where are they going to put it? Why would I want to buy such a big monstrosity of a house and don’t know where to put it?” She makes a valid point!

Although rare, a home relocation as intense as this is not entirely unheard of. In 2007, Julie and Randy Olson, a couple from Brook Park, Minnesota, moved their entire home after the value of it suddenly decreased drastically and they couldn’t secure a loan to build a new one.

Fortunately for the Olsons, though, a colleague of theirs was selling their home for one dollar to accommodate a future wildlife refuge. The Olsons jumped at the opportunity, and they had their Brook Park home moved to the land for only $22,000—a fraction of the market value!

Even though the idea of relocating an entire home sounds exhausting—and frankly, a little crazy—it can be a financially savvy move if you know how to go about it in the right way. For some, it would actually be a sensible option.

If you have the money, an investment like the one in Montclair is well worth it. You’d own a home valued at $1.35 million—plus a piece of history—for a startlingly low price. Sure, the relocation will probably cost upwards of a few hundred thousand dollars, but once it’s finally completed, you can sit back and enjoy your fantastic new home!


Even though Chicago’s World’s Fair occurred during the lowest economic point in history, it still would have been really cool to see all of the innovative technology. Especially Keck’s epic House of Tomorrow.

 

 

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