Town for sale: Buy your own ZIP code

The Real Estate Roundabout

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A collection of news and notes from a very broadly defined real estate landscape:

Buy your own ZIP code
The town of Buford, Wyo., will be auctioned April 5, according to the Casper Tribune newspaper. The burg, which bills itself as "the nation’s smallest town," has its own ZIP code, 82052, and contains a convenience store, post office, a single-family house, and other buildings on 10 acres of land. Bids begin at $100,000, according to the auctioneer, Williams & Williams.

A kangaroo’s reprieve
Mike, the red kangaroo, can stay. A homeowners association had ordered a family in Spring, Texas, to remove a 6-month-old kangaroo it had acquired as a vocational training animal for their 16-year-old daughter, who has Down syndrome.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the HOA changed its stance after publicity over the marsupial’s plight went worldwide. The family intends to move Mike in about a year to a wildlife park it is building. The HOA had objected to the kangaroo because its bylaws forbid ownership of nondomestic animals.

Houses top "if only" list …
Most respondents (51 percent) in a recent poll said that if their financial situations were to improve, they’d buy a house, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Their No. 2 wish: repair or improve the home they already have.

But on the other hand …
Since September 2008, mortgage companies and banks have foreclosed on about 3.3 million homes, according to CoreLogic, a data provider, which said the pace is beginning to pick up after a winter lull.

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Motor City mansions
Detroit may be emblematic of hard economic times in many people’s minds, but high-end housing sales there are heating up, according to the Detroit Free Press, which recently reported that the top 10 home sales in the area in 2011 went for $2 million to $3 million.

Agents told the newspaper that many of the buyers regarded the homes as selling at about half of their original asking prices — and many of the buyers paid cash.

Oprah sells New York penthouse that she bought in dog’s name
A little over a week into the listing, a New York penthouse owned by Oprah Winfrey went under contract to an unnamed British financier, according to the New York Post. The 26th-floor triplex, where the television mogul never officially lived (it was reportedly the residence of her friend, Gayle King), has three bedrooms and 3.5 baths in 2,530 square feet of space, plus a 768-square-foot terrace, the Post reported. Winfrey bought the residence in 2008 in the name of her late dog, Sophie, a cocker spaniel.

A Frank Lloyd Wright home that’s for the dogs
Speaking of canines, a doghouse built from plans by architect Frank Lloyd Wright is touring the country in conjunction with a film documentary. Wright, who was renowned for his creation of Fallingwater and other architectural masterpieces, designed the Berger family home in San Anselmo, Calif., in 1956, and the Bergers’ 12-year-old son, Jim, wrote to Wright and asked him to draw up a doghouse for Eddie, the family Labrador, according to a report in the Washington Post.

About a year later, Wright complied, though the house wasn’t constructed for 12 years, at which time Eddie had gone on to doggie heaven, and another dog used it. Later, Jim’s mother, who had become dogless, put the doghouse in the trash, though Berger and his brother rebuilt it from the plans last year. It’s featured in a documentary, "Romanza," which focuses on Wright structures in California.

Another day, another "Snooki" item
A converted firehouse in Jersey City, N.J., now has celebrity status that should make it attractive to other renters, once Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi and her former "Jersey Shore" co-star Jenni "JWoww" Farley have moved out. The two are living there while they film a spinoff series, according to the Jersey Journal.

A broker said the Snooki connection should command $10,000 to $12,000 a month from the next renters. "It’s sort of like George Washington slept here, now that Snooki slept here," broker Lawrence Perlaki told the newspaper.

Sears chairman buys $40 million home
Business prospects for Sears Holdings Corp. haven’t been terribly encouraging — a $2.4 billion loss in the fourth quarter — but company Chairman Eddie Lampert apparently is undeterred. Forbes reported that he recently spent $40 million for a home on Florida’s Indian Creek Island. It’s the largest single-family home sale in the Miami area since 2006.

Billings broker running for Congress
A Billings, Mont., real estate broker is running for the state’s vacant, lone U.S. House seat: Sam Rankin recently filed to become the seventh Democrat running in the June 5 primary, according to the Billings Gazette.

Real estate agent’s spy skills aid collector’s purchase of Andy Rooney typewriter
A Connecticut real estate agent said he called upon his espionage training to help a California man snag a coveted item from the estate sale of "60 Minutes" commentator Andy Rooney, according to the Daily New Canaan newspaper in Connecticut. Chris Buswell, an agent in Norwalk, Conn., said a California collector of celebrities’ typewriters contacted him after hearing about the sale.

The collector said he decided to ask a real estate agent for help because they work on commission and are friendly people — and Buswell’s website said he had completed CIA training in Langley, Va.

Buswell agreed to go to the sale at Rooney’s house in Norwalk, but headed straight for the back door, a trick he said came from his CIA training, and asked to buy the vintage 1920 Underwood typewriter, offering the collector’s credit card number. The deal was done. The estate sale conductor said the machine sold for "quite a few thousand" dollars.

Australian agent sentenced for forging signature to boost commission
An agent in the city of Darwin, Australia, recently was sentenced to two months in prison for forging his former boss’ signature on a document in an effort to boost his commission, according to the Northern Territory News. The prosecutor in the case said the forgery would have given the agent an additional $31,000 (in U.S. dollars). His lawyers are appealing the conviction.

Agent injured in house explosion
A real estate agent in Gary, Ind., was burned recently when a house she was preparing to show exploded, according to the Gary Post Tribune. The blast tore the bricks off the front of the house and blew out a front window, the newspaper reported. A neighbor helped the woman out of the house through the window space and she was taken to a hospital.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation; however, the Northern Indiana Public Service Co., a gas company, confirmed that it had been at the home earlier in the day for a service call.

Mary Umberger is a freelance writer in Chicago.

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