It would seem that when the words “real estate” are mentioned, the first, and probably the only, thing people tend to think of is buying and selling property, and not much else. But the truth is that the world of real estate is as varied and interesting as other, more popular topics.
The history of property ownership and real estate is long and diverse, dating back to that moment in time, around 15,000 BC when humans finally stopped roaming the land as nomadic groups and settled into agrarian societies which started placing claims on the land on which they established their dwellings. Back in those days, the claim to any fertile piece of land belonged to the individual who was strong enough to defend it from invaders and raiders.
Over time, a tribal leadership system was developed, which led to the pooling of labor where the leaders of the tribe determined which members would do what work, essentially giving way to what is known today as “communal land” and farming villages in which the leaders continued to hold ownership of the land for generations thanks to the right of lineage. In short, people paid with their labor for the strongest members of the tribe to protect them from attackers.
With the fall of most monarchies, a free market of sorts was developed. It was at this point that the great tracts of land originally held by the ruling families were divided into smaller plots, which were then put up for sale, although in most cases only financially powerful people, such as merchants and former aristocrats, were the only ones who could purchase said land.
The Industrial Revolution brought about an enormous change for real estate operations. With more free time on their hands, thanks to the advent of machinery and industrialized production, peasants and other laborers invested in education.
This led to them having the ability to enter a higher class than that of their parents, which in turn brought better jobs and the ability to purchase property through mortgages and other types of loans.
At the same time, those which remained within the peasantry, gained the ability to rent their homes from landlords, pretty much in the same manner as their ancestors had paid the tribal leaders and feudal lords of previous centuries for the opportunity to live on the land in exchange for labor.
These days, the ability to own property, be it land, a home, or any other form of real estate, has evolved into an investment opportunity available to most. Real estate no longer needs to be defended by brute force and there are laws that grant both owners and tenants a series of rights and obligations, changing the way people live and invest their money.
But real estate isn’t only about financial transactions, and throughout the centuries, the entire field has accumulated a wealth of facts that continue to be as interesting and as amusing today as they were back then. So, let’s move forward and enjoy the following 101 Facts About Real Estate, most of which you probably did not know.
Historical Facts About Real Estate
1. The first hotel constructed in the United States was located in New York City.
Located at 133 Broadway in New York City, the City Hotel, one of the earliest examples of the development of commercial real estate in the US, opened in 1794 and consisted of 73 rooms.
It became such a popular icon that similar hotels were built in some of the most important cities of the time, such as Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore.
Thanks to the rapid evolution of cities during the 19th century, the real estate industry was able to develop a myriad of prime opportunities, and those who were able to purchase first grade tracts of land, such as William Butler Ogden in Chicago, garnered large personal fortunes as a result of the ownership boom brought about by the Industrial Revolution.
2. The Louisiana Purchase was one of the largest land deals in history.
Taking place in 1803, and encompassing approximately 827,000 square miles, the Louisiana Purchase comprised all the territory located to the west of the Mississippi River, between New Orleans and what is now known as Montana.
The closing price was $15 million dollars, which, at today’s exchange rate, is equal to about $200 million.
If this seems a bit inexpensive, you are correct, because at today’s equivalent, the cost per acre of land would be only 4 cents!
3. Property taxes in the United States date back to the 13 Colonies.
Property taxes first appeared in England during the 14th and 15th centuries.
When the first British colonizers arrived in the United States, they brought the idea of property taxes with them.
These taxes would later become one of the main sources of income for budding cities and towns, helping them to grow and thrive, as well as develop public services.
When the idea of becoming an independent nation started expanding, these tax systems backed up the notion that it would be possible to go to war, although the duration of the war itself and the resources consumed by it made it necessary to increase taxation upon citizens, which afterwards tried to decide whether the concept of taxation should be included in the ideal of equality expressed in the Declaration of Independence.
4. The White House cost $232,372 to build in 1790.
The need for the construction of an executive mansion where the president, his family and staff would be housed began growing as soon as the Declaration of Independence was signed, but it was not until July 16, 1790, when Congress established the District of Columbia as the capital of the United States, that the building of what we know today as the White House was approved. The current site of the White House was chosen by George Washington, together with city planner Pierre L’Enfant, who had presented a plan for a presidential mansion that was at least four times larger than what was originally built. Construction itself did not start until October 13, 1792, taking 8 long years and $232,372 to finish the beautiful mansion designed in the neo-classical Federal style.
5. These days the White House has been valued at anywhere from $90 million to $389 million, although it’s not up for sale.
While the White House is not, nor has ever been, listed on the market for sale, many experts have tried to estimate its current sale value. Factoring in elements such as the original cost of construction, its size, the number of rooms, and the estimated price for similar properties, together with the value of all the artwork, artifacts, and historical items contained within the mansion, the number of $389 million was reached. Even so, other experts on the subject downgrade that amount to approximately $90 million for the building and land alone.
6. The Empire State Building was once nicknamed “The Empty Space Building“.
The Empire State Building was completed in 1931, at the height of the Great Depression. Because of the state of the economy at that time, approximately 77% of its office space remained unleased for years, which made New Yorkers start calling it “The Empty Space Building”, a play on its name.
These days, space in the Empire State Building is not only scarce, but also some of the most expensive real estate in Manhattan.
7. During the early 1900’s the Sears catalog featured mail order houses.
Between 1908 and 1940, the Sears, Roebuck and Company catalog featured a section called “Sears Modern Homes”, in which a person could purchase a well-equipped home starting at about $452. These homes can still be found all over the continental United States, although they are more common on the East Coast. These mail order houses came in a kit that could be easily assembled by the homeowner and his family, and which featured all the modern day comforts of the time, such as central heating, indoor plumbing, and electricity.
8. Adolf Hitler owned a bunker disguised as a mansion in California.
Built during the 1930s, by a group of his Hollywood sympathizers, Hitler’s mansion was never occupied by him, although those who designed it hoped he would live there if he ever had a reason to flee Germany. The place, still unfinished, was raided by police after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, and was abandoned. These days it remains abandoned, visited only by those who are willing to hike the mile and a half and walk up 500 steps to reach the area where it is hidden in an out-of-the way nature preserve off Sunset Boulevard.
9. The designer of the Eiffel Tower included a secret apartment at the top of the landmark for his personal use.
Gustav Eiffel included a secret apartment that he could use whenever he needed to get away from the hustle and bustle of his daily life. This apartment is currently up for rent and a second one is being planned for the first floor of the tower.
10. Seeing a red door on somebody’s home can have different meanings, depending on where you were standing.
In Scotland it is customary for homeowners to paint their front door red when they have finished paying their mortgage, while in the United States, during colonial times, it meant that weary travelers could stop safely at that house for a much needed rest.
11. Cairo, Egypt has grown to become such a large city that the pyramids of Giza are actually located in the suburbs now.
It is widely believed that the pyramids of Giza were built about 4,500 years ago.
It wasn’t until about 969 AD that the city of Cairo was founded. At the time it was a long distance away from the pyramids.
Over the years, Cairo has grown to such a size that it is now considered to be the largest city in Egypt, covering 204 square miles and housing over 9.5 million residents, Because of its exponential growth over the last 3,000 years, the pyramids are now only a short distance from city limits, standing mightily in what are, effectively, Cairo’s suburbs.
12. During the Great Depression, Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd, a notorious bank robber, destroyed mortgage documents to free people from their debt.
Pretty Boy Floyd, who became public enemy number one when John Dillinger died, had a $23,000 bounty on his head because of his interesting habit of destroying mortgage documents held in the banks he robbed.
To many, this turned him into a modern day Robin Hood, but to bank owners and lien holders, he became a nuisance and a source of financial loss.
13. During the early 1900’s, people would burn their mortgage paperwork after their last payment.
During the early 20th century it become customary for homeowners to burn their mortgage paperwork at the end of their loan as a sign of freedom from an obligation that lasted 30 years. As the years passed, this tradition gave way to the current housewarming celebration.
14. The oldest real estate brokerage in the United States is Baird & Warner.
Founded in Chicago in 1855, Baird & Warner recorded its first transaction that same year, a $5,000 mortgage loan. Since then, the company has established itself as one of the principal brokerages in the United States, winning several awards in the process for its impeccable service and host of options.
15. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) was created in 1934 under the National Housing Act.
For the last 83 years, the Federal Housing Administration has insured well over 35 million home mortgages and 47,205 multifamily project mortgages. It has essentially created our current mortgage system.
These days the FHA has insured almost 5 million mortgages, which include both single family and multifamily options.
Check out this selection of homes for sale in Las Vegas that will consider FHA financing.
Wild and Wacky Real Estate Laws
16. Homes in Waldron, Washington cannot have more than two toilets.
17. In 1991, the Supreme Court of New York, ruled that a seller must disclose if his or her property is considered to be haunted.
Did you know there’s a way to find out if a person died in your house?
18. In Clayton, Missouri it is illegal to have a yard sale in your front yard.
19. In Tempe, AZ, no more than three unrelated people can live together in a single family home.
20. In Maryville, MO having furniture designed for indoor use, such as couches and recliners, on your porch is illegal.
21. In Rhode Island, no property can be surrounded by a fence that is more than 6 feet tall.
22. In North Carolina, local planning agencies’ ability to use climate change science to predict sea-level rise has been restricted.
23. In California, buying real estate without water rights makes sewer and water hookups illegal.
24. Homeowners or renters in Missouri cannot make anybody under 21 take out the trash if it includes empty alcoholic beverage containers.
25. In Iowa, those who own establishments that sell alcoholic beverages cannot have a drink on the premises after closing.
26. In Acworth, GA, every homeowner or renter should own a rake.
27. In Columbus, GA you can place, paint or burn any religious symbol on another person’s property as long as you have their permission.
28. In Kendall, NY, it is illegal to camp out on your own land for more than 72 hours each month.
29. In Dana Point, CA, it is illegal to use your own bathroom if the window is open.
30. If you are having a party at your house in Los Angeles, CA, it is illegal to charge admission.
Real Estate Myths
31. When selling your home, you must leave some space for negotiation when establishing the price.
Nothing can be farther from the truth. Home buyers are not dumb and know full well when a house has been overpriced. This might scare them away from considering your property when looking for their new home. It is always best to start at market value and go from there. An experienced realtor will be able to get a fair price for both sides.
32. You should apply for a mortgage after you find your dream home.
Another commonly believed misconception. If you already know how much you want to pay for your new home, it is always best to start hunting after you have been pre-approved. This will make closing easier and faster.
33. It is highly likely you will sell your house if you have an open house event.
Strangely enough, this is not true. While more people will look at your house during an open house, they won’t necessarily consider buying. As a matter of fact, fewer people will buy a property that hosts open houses than those who don’t.
34. You shouldn’t bother to prepare your house for sale.
Wrong again. Preparing your house for sale is always the best way to go. By fixing the issues it might present, cleaning it, and making sure it looks its best you might find a buyer sooner than if you left it at is. Nothing turns off a buyer more than a filthy property.
35. A home “passes” or “fails” an inspection.
False. Inspectors will point out a series of things that might be wrong with a certain home, and offer suggestions as to repairing them, but will never give an overall passing or failing grade.
36. Serious buyers only come out on weekends.
Not true. Serious buyers can go house searching anytime, even during the week and on holidays, which is why it is a good idea to have your home looking great at all times.
37. When you are ready to make an offer on a home, you should always start low.
A definite no-no. Starting low can actually make you lose the property. Always stay close to the market value of the property. Otherwise, somebody with a better offer will sweep it from under you before you can blink an eye.
38. Several price reductions must mean the owner is desperate to sell the property.
Not at all. The real estate market fluctuates with the economy. This means that prices can also change, which is why homes that have been on the market longer can vary in price over a period of time.
39. Getting a real estate license means you will make a lot of money very fast.
Another myth that clients believe is true. Real estate agents invest a lot of their time and own money into their business, and even when they do make a sale, they only get a percentage of the commission.
40. Real estate is a simple business.
Definitely not true. It takes a lot of knowledge on a variety of subjects to become a successful realtor, and it can take years to develop a thriving business in the field.
41. Real estate agents get paid a salary.
How nice it would be if this were true. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Real estate agents work for commissions, which means that if they don’t make a sale, they have no income.
42. Selling your home on your own can save you money.
False. A good real estate agent can get more money for your house thanks to a portfolio of clients and more experience in the field.
43. It’s always best to sell your home during the Spring.
It would seem that spring is the best season to sell your home, but the truth of the matter is that homebuyers are out all year round, even in winter.
44. The real estate agent always gets a 6 percent commission.
Definitely not true. Out of that 6 percent, the brokerage firm receives a certain percentage and the real estate agent gets paid a commission, which is only a portion of the original percentage.
45. The brokerage firm must reimburse the agent’s transportation expenses.
Nope. All transportation expenses, together with any other expenses related to showing and publicizing the house come out of the real estate agent’s pocket, unless an agreement is reached with the seller to cover a determined portion of those expenses.
Truth is Stranger than Fiction
46. In 2016, a realtor wore a panda costume to sell a home.
Jessica Arnett, the owner of Villa Real Estate in Texas, donned a panda costume to pose in pictures showing off one of her listings. The $199,900 brick home is still on the market, but it has garnered a lot of attention, so it might be sold son.
47. In Florida, a 6,700 square foot mansion was set up to be gifted to whoever wrote the best essay.
Sounds easy enough, right? The catch was that all contestants had to submit a $285 entry fee together with their 300-word essay. Even so, it was a small risk to run, considering the house was valued in $1.2 million. No word has been heard of who won, but the deadline was November 15, 2015.
48. Utah ended homelessness by implementing a program called Housing First.
The principle behind this housing program was to provide heavily subsidized homes to all those in need. One of the great findings of the program is that it is easier to keep people off the streets permanently if they are given a roof before trying to get them off drugs or to provide medical assistance. Once the homeless were in a new home, they showed significant progress within months of moving in, and the rate of dropouts was a mere 4 percent.
49. An 84 year old woman refused to sell her home and forced a shopping mall to build around it.
Turning down a million dollar offer for her home, which would be demolished to make way for a new mall, Edith Macefield forced the developers to change their plan and build around her home. At the time of her death in 2008, she willed the house to Barry Martin, the construction chief of the mall, after forming a friendship with him during construction.
50. One landlord charges less rent to those who pledge to not eat meat during their tenancy.
Jinesh Varia, the owner of a 3 bedroom townhouse with a Jacuzzi and a fireplace, is offering a $200 discount on the $2,200 monthly rent to those who pledge to avoid meat during the time of the lease, in an effort to introduce people to the advantages of a vegetarian diet.
51. A Florida couple was arrested after lying about an unrepaired sinkhole to a homebuyer.
When the sinkhole first appeared the couple cashed in the insurance money, but instead of using it for repairs, decided to sell the house by lying about the problem. Once they were discovered they were tried and found guilty of wire fraud, a federal offense.
52. Whittier, Alaska is known as “The town under one roof“.
Located approximately 60 miles away from Anchorage, almost all of Whittier’s 217 residents live in a Cold War era military barracks currently known as Begich Towers. The facility boasts of a bed and breakfast for visitors, a police station, convenience store, clinic, and other facilities.
53. A real estate agent dresses up as a Tyrannosaurus Rex to generate more business.
Jonathan Andrews, a realtor from Charlotte, decided to take a risk and wear a T-rex costume during the filming of one of his listings. Not only did he draw more interest to his business, it also brought more clients to his office.
54. A 6.2 ft wide home in Boston, known as the “Skinny House“, sold for $900,000.
Boston’s “Skinny House”, which spans only 10.4 feet at its widest point, and which was built by a soldier as a way to get revenge on his greedy brother, has been recently sold for almost $900,000. The house features one bathroom, two bedrooms and a full kitchen and is considered to be Boston’s narrowest house.
55. An Oklahoma man built a house over a pond that allows him to fish from his living room.
Paul Phillips loves fishing so much that he built his dream home in Skiatook, Oklahoma. To get his project going he first dug a pond where he could fish, then he built the house over the pond and finally installed a trap door in the living room which only needs to be opened for him to start reeling in the day’s catch.
56. A man in New York pays $1,100 rent for an apartment the size of a walk in closet.
With only 100 square feet of livable space and a bed that serves as a couch on which he can eat, Grayson Altenberg has said he loves his apartment because his job is only a 5-minute walk away, which saves him from having to commute for an hour and a half like he used to.
57. Timothy Andrew Norris of Wichita Falls, TX was arrested when he tried to pay his property taxes in $1 bills.
While paying a $600 property tax bill in singles could seem like a practical joke, the problem began when tax officers realized he had folded them so tightly it took approximately 6 minutes to unfold each bill, which in turn would entail 60 hours of work. When Norris was asked to leave, he refused, which earned him a criminal trespass charge.
58. The story about a woman who left shrimp in the curtains of her home when her husband cheated on her is an urban legend.
Even though this seems like a great way to get revenge on a cheating ex, the story itself is an urban legend that never happened.
59. A man in California spent $50,000 to convert his home into a paradise for cats.
Peter Cohen started transforming his home in 1988 to accommodate his beloved rescue cats. He added a series of walkways, tunnels, perches and other structures for his 15 cats to feel welcome and at home.
60. A North Dakota man moved his 4,500 sq ft home to another town using a 23 axle truck and four specialized moving companies.
Scott Adelman bought a million-dollar home for $70,000 under the condition that he would move it somewhere else because the land it was built on was destined to become a flood diversion. It required four moving companies, a slew of people, lots of permits and 2 days to move the 4,500 sq ft home to a new location 14 miles away.
Most Interesting Bits of Real Estate Trivia
Most Interesting Bits of Real Estate Trivia
61. The Hotel Ryokan in the village of Awazu, Japan is the world’s oldest hotel.
The Hotel Ryokan is located in the village of Awazu, Japan and was established way back in AD 717. It started out as an inn built near a hot spring which was said to have healing properties.
62. The Vanderbilt Marble House was constructed was built using 500,000 cubic feet of white marble.
63. The home of Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, has a 60-foot pool with underwater music.
64. Sweden’s popular Ice Hotel must be rebuilt every year because it starts melting in May.
65. The different roofs of the Sydney Opera House have been covered with 1,056,006 individual tiles.
66. Well over 10 million bricks were used to build the Empire State Building
67. The tallest building in the world in 1885, with only 9 floors, was the Home Insurance Company of Chicago.
68. The world’s most expensive Monopoly set has been valued at $2 million.
Created by Sidney Mobell, a jeweler from San Francisco, CA, this exclusive Monopoly set was made using 23 carat gold houses, chimneys made of precious stones such as rubies and sapphires, and dice that have 42 full cut diamonds for spots.
69. Boeing’s main assembly plant has a total capacity of 473 million cubic feet.
70. With a height of 2,717 feet, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE, is the tallest building in the world.
71. The Empire State Building, standing over 100 stories high, was the tallest building in the world from 1931 until 1972.
72. Half of the Pentagon’s 6,500,000 square foot floor space is used as offices.
73. The word “skyscraper” was originally used to refer to a type of sail on a ship.
74. Mongolia, with a 100% owner occupation rate, has the highest percentage of private housing.
75. Standing at 1,483 feet, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, are the world’s tallest twin buildings.
Most Expensive Homes in the World
76. The Duke Semans Mansion, located in Manhattan, New York, is currently on sale for $88 million.
77. Kensington Palace Gardens, located in London, UK, has been valued at $140 million.
78. Buckingham Palace, located in London, UK, has been estimated to be worth $1.55 billion.
79. The Antilia, located in Mumbai, India, has a hefty price tag of $1 billion.
80. Villa Leopolda, located in Cote D’Azure, France, has a current value of $750 million
81. Four Fairfield Pond, located in Sagaponack, New York, has been valued at $248.5 million
82. The Ellison Estate, which is located in Woodside, California, is valued at $200 million.
83. Hearst Castle, located in San Simeon, California, has an approximate value of $191 million.
84. Seven The Pinnacle, located in Big Sky, Montana, is reported to have a value of $155 million.
85. Beverly House, located in Beverly Hills, California, comes with a price tag of $135 million.
86. The Manor, located in Holmby Hill, California, was purchased for $85 million.
87. Oprah Winfrey’s home, known as Promised Land and which is located in Montecito, California, has been valued at $90 million.
88. The Broken O Ranch, located in Augusta, Montana, produces 700,000 bushels of small-grain crops per year and is valued at $135 million.
89. The Silicon Valley Mansion, located in Los Altos Hills, California, has a market value of $100 million.
90. The Copper Beech Farm, located in Greenwich, Connecticut, was sold in 2014 for $120 million.
Hauntings, Murders, and Other Bits of Trivia
91. People have reported hearing windows and doors being opened and shut at Sturdivant Hall in Selma, Alabama.
92. The John Sowden House, where it is believed the murder of Elizabeth Short, known as The Black Dahlia took place, is currently on the market for $4,795,000,
93. The house of convicted murderer Robert Coleman, located, in Columbia, Illinois was bought by Wells Fargo Bank for $256,419.96.
94. The five bedroom “Amityville Horror House” is currently on the market for $850,000.
95. Jeffrey Dahmer’s childhood home, located in Akron, Ohio, has been on the market since 2014 2014 with an asking price of $295,000.
96. There is a service called Died In House that will research any property and let you know if there were any violent deaths on the premises
97. Once a private residence, and currently serving as a museum, the Whaley House in San Diego, California is said to be haunted.
98. It is said that the ghosts of Abraham Lincoln and Abigail Adams roam the White House.
99. The Villisca Ax Murder House, located in Iowa, is said to be haunted by the ghosts of the children murdered there.
100. The House of the Seven Gables, immortalized by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, was built in 1667, and is said to host a good number of ghosts.
101. The Battery Carriage House Inn, in Charleston, South Carolina, is a well-known spot for ghost hunters who claim to have seen apparitions and strange lights.
Real estate isn’t just about buying and selling homes anymore. It’s an industry filled with fun and interesting facts that can enthrall even the most reticent reader. With a history almost as long as civilization itself, the world of real estate has shown it can evolve with the times, changing from one era to another to fit the needs of homeowners and landlords, as well as buyers and tenants at any given moment in time. At the end of the day, whether your sole purpose is to purchase a new home or to sell the one you have, nobody can tell you it will be a boring experience, and it is bound to give you the home of your dreams.