These beautiful homes are significant architectural gems, no doubt, but historic money pits nonetheless. They’re on the market, but be wary.
For many, owning a house with a rich architectural history is nothing short of a dream — icons like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater continue to attract visitors and history buffs alike. Nonetheless, actually owning one of these homes is a different story — a house with historical significance or an unusual shape can bring along unexpected problems and expenses.
They’re significant architectural gems, no doubt, but historic money pits nonetheless.
Just this month, the iconic “spiral house,” which Wright designed for his son in 1952, hit the market in Phoenix for $12.95 million prompted excitement among his fans. But despite its beauty and historical importance (at around the same time, Wright was working on the design of the Guggenheim museum in New York), such a space can be challenging to maintain.
For one, its curved shape has no corners and plenty of tight spaces — which would require either keeping the original indoor décor intact or buying custom furniture, Realtor.com reports. And while people who shell out almost $13 million on a home generally want some privacy, a house this historic would attract legions of Wright fans wanting to take a picture or look inside.
Same goes for this $2.75 million cave resort that a tea tycoon had originally designed as a shelter in a nuclear war — while beautiful, the damp cave setting could be a nightmare to keep insured and protected against the passage of time. When you factor in property taxes and insurance, that alone adds up to more than $3,500 a month.
Donna Baker, a Douglas Elliman Realtor who specializes in historical and character homes, told Inman that most modern buyers often forget to think about things like insurance and upkeep when purchasing — they just see the original design and fall in love. And while few buyers expect a multimillion dollar house to be a ‘fixer-upper,’ that is precisely what one gets with homes that incorporate natural elements into its design.
“Once upon a time, they wanted projects when they bought older homes, but those days are gone,” she said. “Most people are too busy to take on restoration projects.”
Baker added that the high cost of insurance (some insurers even refuse to cover unique homes), foundation issues and outdated heating and wiring systems are all factors that homebuyers need to consider when lusting after historic properties.
Take this $14.9 million house built on the very edge of a cliff on a private island in New York. Inspired by Wright’s Fallingwater, the cantilevered deck and glass windows overlooking a lake are beautiful but, alas, a pain to clean.
Even a home with a low price tag could spell major trouble — a famous glass house, which is now fresh on the market for $575,000, could rack up as much as $210 a month in heating and cooling alone. Plus, there are all the cleaning supplies it’ll take to keep fingerprints off the glass.
“Like commercial counterparts, large glass displays only look good when they’re clean, and when they are not they look awful,” California real estate developer Tyler Drew told Realtor.com.
And finally, a unique home could be difficult to resell later — many of these houses spend months or even years on the market before finding a buyer who has both an appreciation for its history and the cash to spare.