This Is a Test of the Redirect System On January 10, 2017

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The True Price of History: What a Historic Home Will Cost You

When is a house not just a house? When it carries the weight of history in its distinctive architecture and hand-crafted details that have lasted for centuries. How cool would it be to know that your home was once owned by Founding Father James Madison, that it survived the Civil War, or that it was the final design of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright?


But the flip side of owning a historic home is that owners often face restrictions that forbid them to make the renovations they might want for modern life, especially to the exterior. INDICATE THAT THESE RESTRICTIONS RUN THE GAMUT AND TELL US WHAT THE GAMUT IS Any modification has to respect the original architectural style. For example, homeowners may not be able to add a deck, or even replace the wooden windows. Depending on the location and type, a historic home may be subject to federal, state, or local restrictions.




“Anyone who’s interested in historic homes should pay special attention to the local regulations. Because they are the ones with far more teeth, and also the ones that involve your neighbors, your communities, and what you can do with your home,” says Katherine Malone-France, vice president of Historic Sites at National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Hmm … the chance to own a one-of-a-kind house versus the risk of losing authority over your own home. How can a history-loving buyer choose? And does that “historic” designation actually help property values—or could it hurt them? Our data team set to find out.

Prepare to shell out more for designated historic homes

A home can be designated as historic by local, state or federal agencies. The most prestigious designation comes from the National Register of Historic Places, which lists more than 90,000 sites, structures, and objects around the country. Based on the National Register, our data team identified 2,885 historic homes that were for sale in 2016. We found that those homes were 5.6% more expensive than similar-sized homes in the same ZIP code.

The penthouse was designed around the domed cupola.
The penthouse was designed around the domed cupola.

The priciest of all was a Manhattan penthouse atop the former police headquarters—one of the handful of properties in New York City that has a domed cupola. The home hit the market in July for $35 million. EXPLAIN THIS BETTER

“A property in the National Register gives buyers a sense of prestige, that they own and live in a home that has made history,” says Realtor Donna Baker, who specializes in historic homes in Monrovia, CA.

Baker sold the William N. Monroe House, a 1884 Victorian home with a nickname “The Oaks”—because it’s surrounded by lush oak trees—that’s on the National Register. Baker said the buyers specifically wanted an older property so that their children could grow up in a historic home, even though it was one of the priciest properties in town.

As an added perk, many states offer benefits for historic homeowners, from reduced property taxes to state income tax credits for restoring the property. For example, under California’s Mill Act, owners of qualified historic buildings can receive property tax relief if they actively maintain their property.




Historic districts have steady home values

There are historic homes, and then there are historic districts—and not every home in a historic district is, well, historically significant. Sometimes newcomers crop up inside the boundary of a historic district, and are less regulated (but again, check your local regulations!).

Historic districts tend to have steady property values. A 2007 analysis showed that designated historic districts saw property values increase by 5% to 35% per decade over the values in similar, undesignated neighborhoods. Author Jonathan Mabry, a historic preservation officer from Tucson, AZ, looked at 20 historic districts in his study.

Do we see this magical effect in historic districts across the country? Well, sort of, but the power is limited. Our data team used the historic district boundary map* from the National Park Service to identify homes located inside historic districts. From 2011 to 2015, homes in a historic district appreciates 1.4% faster than homes in the same county that are outside a historic district.

With a great pedigree comes a lot of responsibility

Sharon Hinson, of Savannah, GA, has always loved historic homes. Not only has she owned seven homes that are more than 50 years old, she also markets historic homes as a career. She currently lives in a 1812 Federal brick house—a solid brick house with intricately carved staircases—in the Savannah Historic District. But renovating the historically designated home wasn’t easy, even for someone as experienced as Hinson.

According to local regulations, she first had to put up a notice of her plans, then she had to present her modification plan to the board of architecture review for approval. Because her plan went a little “wild,” extending to installing several big glass windows, she had to explain how the new look could be in line with the original design. It took her six weeks just to get permission to go ahead.

In general, it takes time to find the right buyers who are willing to take up the responsibility of caring for a historic home. In 2016, a nationally designated historic home typically stayed on the market for 143 days. That’s 3.4% longer than similar-sized homes in the same ZIP code, according to our analysis.

“Many buyers and young people want a home that is ready for move-in immediately; they don’t have the time to work on it,” says Micéal Chamberlain, who owns a boutique residential real estate marketing firm in Newton, MA. Historic homes, on the other hand, need “that group of people who want the history of the home, who are willing to take a year to restore it.”

“It’s just a matter of appreciating that they just don’t build homes like in the 1900s anymore,” Chamberlain adds.

Historic Victorian Revival home awaits buyers for three year
This historic Victorian Revival home has been awaiting a buyer for three years.

In Montrose, MO, a 1913 home on the National Register has been on the market for almost three years. After several rounds of price cuts, the current price of $104,900 is not even half the $300,000 it was originally listed for.

“Oftentimes the issue is location—in some places, a historic home may be in a very remote location. But in Washington, there are several urban historical cores, and those homes sell quickly,” says Ross Bradford, senior associate general counsel of National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Old homes have old problems. And it can be costly to maintain historic homes—to find a replacement hand-crafted hinge for a Craftsman home or the elaborate trim for a Queen Anne home. According to Bankrate, installing slate roof costs up to $750 per roofing square, while asphalt shingle costs only up to $112.

In other cases, a neglected home is not even in livable condition. You might have heard of the historic home that a California town was trying to sell for just $1. No one stepped up with a buck, so now the crumbling home is scheduled for removal.

So where can you find the most historic homes?

We ranked all U.S. cities by the number of buildings or districts that make it onto the National Register, and New York grabbed the top spot with 899 places.

New York also has the most historic homes for sale. In 2016, a total of 46 were on the market, from a $12.5M West Village brick mansion where photographer Diane Arbus used to live to a studio in the Hotel des Artistes that’s steps away from the Central Park.

Row houses near Dupont Circle
Row houses near Dupont Circle


Washington, DC, came in second with 577 pedigreed properties on the National Register. The capital city is famous for the vast majority of multi-colored historic row homes. No. 3, however, was a surprise: Portland??!!

“It’s probably because of the city’s progressiveness and efforts to save historic buildings led by preservation-minded people,” says Tim Cannan, president of in Portland.

The city’s Irvington District and Alphabet District harbor an amazing array of Craftsman homes, according to Cannan.


Bottom line: Historic homes aren’t that different

But for all the special considerations involved in buying, maintaining, and selling historic homes, they still adhere to the basic rules of real estate, experts say. If you’re planning to buy one, you should hire an inspector, look at comps, and shop around for mortgages.

“Unless George Washington slept in the house, a historic home is not that different from other homes,” says Hinson. “It all comes down to location, square footage, and number of bedrooms, like anything else.”

* The National Park Service provides a downloadable boundary map of historic districts. But it’s not perfect for delineating some historic districts. For example, the Delaware Boundary Markers is located on the state boundary lines between Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, but it appears on the map that the whole state of Delaware is inside a historic district. To roughly root out this error, we excluded the top 5% largest districts in our analysis.

Top 10 Cities Where the Dirt Beneath Your Home Is Way More Valuable Than Your Home

Fire damage has left gaping holes in the floors and ceiling, dust and molds cover every surface, exterior walls are crumbling. The home in San Francisco’s Sunset District is not inhabitable in any way. Yet it was sold for just under $1 million last February. Why on earth would anyone buy it?

Because in the land-strapped San Francisco, the real value lies in the land. Just seven months later, the home was transformed into a contemporary four-bedroom, 4.5-bathroom home and was sold for $1.77 million.

An unlivable tear-down was transformed to a $1.7M home in San Francisco.
An unlivable tear-down was transformed to a $1.77M home in San Francisco.

For a single family home, the total value is comprised of its physical structure and land. Over time, the physical structure usually depreciates in value as it gets older, while land appreciates. That’s because land is limited supply. Developers can stack more homes onto the land by building high-rises, but they can’t produce more land. The value of land naturally goes up when population growth creates more demand.

Using data from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, we discovered 10 housing markets where the land makes up more than half of a home’s total value. In the research, total home value is obtained from Metropolitan American Housing Survey, and structure value is extrapolated based on the age and square footage of the home using construction cost indexes.

If a home’s land value exceeds its structure value, it makes a good opportunity for not just a fixer-upper, but a tear-down. The determining factor is that the home is located in sought-after communities and near other more valuable properties.

In San Francisco, the average home value in 2016 was $1.35 million, and $1,09 million—or 81%—of that went into the land, according to the study. With the only exception of Portland, all cities on the list are located on the coast, where build-able land is more scant compared to inland cities. For example, in St. Louis, land is only 10.1% of a home’s total value.


Should Lane Kiffin Really Buy a House?

You will need to interview at least three real estate agents to get their take on whether it makes sense for a person with a history of never staying in one place for a while to actually BUY a house. If they want to take jabs at Kiffin, all the better!

Here’s a woman in Florida we’ve used many times as a source:

Here’s an L.A. guy who’s very quotable:

Feel free to start cold calling other realtors if you don’t have sources yet. Would be nice to get one or two in Florida.

600 words min – pays $200. Due Monday

What happens if you fall out of love with your house?


Five years ago, Kirsten Rota bought her dream house in Rockland County, NY. The stone and log cabin-inspired home is set on three lush acres, has three bedrooms, plus a tennis court and a swimming pool. Plus there’s a bonus: the place was once lived in by some Old Hollywood legends, so it also has a major cool factor.

“It was exactly what I was looking for,” explains Rota. “It isn’t a cookie cutter home, but rather it has a story.” She was also seduced by the fact that her son would be able to grow up outside New York City, with the luxury of outdoor space and amenities.

Unfortunately, however, the love hasn’t lasted. Because like many older homes, Rota’s has had maintenance issues she couldn’t foresee before buying. There have been pest infestations (Lady bugs. Everywhere. They even flew into her baby’s mouth. Also: squirrels and woodchucks can and apparently do eat through logs). In addition, hurricanes Irene and Sandy felled trees on the house and into the pool, which caused significant damage. And then the power company put up a giant transformer on the empty eight acre lot across the street from her property. (Can you say Property Value Hit?). Worst of all: the unique, historical nature of the house means most updates/repairs require pricey specialists, which has Rota wondering, should she renovate or cut bait?

Well, that depends says Paige Rien, author of Love the House You’re In: 40 Ways to Improve Your Home and Change Your Life and the former host of HGTV’s Hidden Potential.

“The emotion we have tied to our homes is immeasurable,” says Rien. In fact, there can be such an intensity of feeling involved that is can be hard to see things clearly. Which pretty much sounds like the blueprint of a stormy love affair, right?

So if you’re no longer sure about your house, how can you figure out if you should love it or leave it?  Rien suggests starting with these essential questions, which can help you figure out how you really feel.


Why did you buy it?

There can be so many reasons to buy a house: An architectural style you’ve always loved, a specific feature—like a roof deck or a kitchen island—that you’ve always wanted, or even a unique setting or view.  But don’t let those elements eclipse the bigger picture. Because features can be added into homes, but amenities like desirable schools or a walkable neighborhood can be just as important as the house itself.

This distinction is something that Levi Ball wishes he and his wife had better considered when they bought their dream home—a fixer upper in Fargo, North Dakota. Because though it was exactly what they wanted and they enjoyed the three-year customization and renovation process, Ball and his wife realized they missed being closer to the region they grew up in and family and in the Pacific Northwest. “Basically, we came to understand that our dream home needed to also be in our dream location,” says Ball, who eventually sold his house and moved back to Oregon.


What are your expectations?

A common mistake many of us make: putting expectations from our old house onto our new one. In other words, we move into a new home with all the bells and whistles we’ve been wanting, but expect that all the other pieces (feeling at home in a neighborhood, having a sense of belonging to the community) will still be in place. “It depends on what you’re used to and where you’ve come from,” explains Rien.  “There are tradeoffs.” Which means really drilling down to what’s important–ie lots of space vs. the whole experience of living in your old home–is key.


Have you made it your own yet?

Having a little buyer’s remorse over your home purchase? Don’t sweat it, says Rien. “Some discomfort over a home purchase is natural,” Rien explains. “Especially during the first year or so. That’s because it takes time to make a house into a home.”

The whole process is made even harder, Rien argues, by the fact that the home buying experience–and our expectations–have been homogenized by the trends popularized by virtually every home renovation or design show. “We’re all part of this narrative where we’re told what’s considered desirable and what to want,” contends Rien. “And though there might be a certain formula that dominates a specific market, you can’t let it dominate your life.”

Rien believes it’s important to really put your stamp on a place before trying to decide if you should leave or stay. And to do that, you need to know what you like. So if an architect suggests knocking down walls to create an open plan kitchen, which is something that you’re just not into, then say no—because you’ve got to live in the space your way to really know if you’re going to like it.


Are you ready to make mistakes?

Every house has something to love or some redeemable qualities—but you have to be willing to dig in to find them, says Rien. And sometimes that means sticking around to see if the perceived flaws evolve into something you didn’t expect. “Maybe the intended use of a space isn’t what ends up working for you,” Rien says. “It might require some tinkering and a mindset that allows you to see the potential in a mistake.” Think evolution, says Rien, and don’t be afraid.


Are you living in fear of resale?

Rien wants us all to get over the idea of tailoring the spaces where we plan to live, possibly for years, to the tastes of an unknown buyer. Because tastes change, trends come and go, and markets shift. “If you’re planning on being in a place for at least five years, then sink your teeth into the house and do what you need to do to be happy in it,” says Rien. Besides, she adds, if how you like to live is so vastly out of sync with the vibe of your market, you can always do last minute changes or staging efforts in the lead-up to listing your house.


As for Kirsten Rota, she’s still conflicted about her feelings for her home.  “If I could sell my house tomorrow without losing any money, I probably would,” she admits. “But If I could fix everything in one fell swoop, then I’d probably stay forever.”

What Is a Promissory Note? What You’re Really Promising, Revealed

If you get a mortgage to buy a home, you will end up signing something called a promissory note. So what exactly is a promissory note?

In the most basic terms, it’s a legal document you sign containing a written “promise” to pay a lender, says Scott A. Marcus, a shareholder in Becker & Poliakoff’s Real Estate Practice Group, in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Promissory notes are a standard part of all real estate financing contracts and include basic information such as:

  • The amount due
  • The terms of repayment (e.g., do the payments include principal and interest, or only interest)
  • The interest rate and whether it can change or is fixed
  • Whether there is a prepayment penalty
  • The loan maturity date
  • The names of the lender and borrower


Promissory notes are an important yet often misunderstood part of the loan process.

“The worst mistake someone signing a promissory note can make is to sign a note without reading and understanding all of its terms,” says Marcus.

So let’s clear up a few common misconceptions, shall we?

Promissory note vs. a mortgage: What’s the difference?

Many home buyers mistakenly think that the mortgage—another contract they sign—is their promise to pay back the loan.

Well, they’re wrong! The promissory note is your promise to do that, plain and simple. The mortgage, on the other hand, is a contract that kicks in more when things go wrong.

In a nutshell, a mortgage (also called a deed of trust) is a pledge you sign to put up your property as collateral in case you default on your loan, according to David Reiss, professor of law at Brooklyn Law School and editor of

In other words, if you suddenly find yourself unable to repay your home loan, your lender will eventually confiscate your property and sell it as a foreclosure to help it recoup its losses from lending you all that money.

Another difference between these two documents: The lender holds the promissory note until the loan is paid off. A mortgage or deed of trust is part of county land records and remains there indefinitely.

Granted, there are also some similarities between promissory notes and mortgages (thus adding to many people’s confusion between the two). For instance, some of the terms of the promissory note are included in the mortgage, including the date of the note, amount due, and other terms (five years, 30 years, five-year fixed then adjustable). But items such as the interest rate or the amount of the monthly payment are not typically included on the mortgage or public record.

What happens once you fulfill your promise?

Once you’ve paid off your loan, the lender will give you the promissory note. Consider this your receipt for paying off your loan—and stash it in a safe place, lest you encounter any snafus down the road where you have to prove you’ve paid off this debt. But probably the most important thing to do with promissory notes (as with any real estate contracts) is to really look at what you’re signing instead of just dashing off your autograph on any line placed in front of you.

Make sure you understand what you’re promising in this pivotal transaction, and ask your real estate agent or lender for any clarification before you sign on the dotted line.

Future Schlock: 7 Weird, Must-Have Home Tech Gadgets From CES

The future has arrived, and it’s strange. No, we’re not talking about the prospect of yet another “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie. We’re talking about technology!

The next wave of home products is on ample display at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the country’s largest and glitziest annual technology expo.

We rounded up the top seven must-have home gadgets and appliances featured this week at CES, and we can almost guarantee you’ll be fantasizing about a home robot you can call your own by the time you reach the end of this list. Almost.

1. Speakers that levitate

These levitating speakers are sure to impress guests.
Are you levitating or are you just glad to see me? These speakers are sure to impress guests.

Provided by LG Electronics

Nope, this isn’t a low-budget sci-fi movie. It’s reality. LG’s PJ9 Levitating Speaker does just that, hovering above its charging station while playing your favorite party, cardio, or chill-out music mix. The small, 360-degree speaker stays afloat using electromagnets. When it runs low on battery charge (it lasts about 10 hours), it reattaches itself to its charging station so the music keeps on playing.

Why levitate? Because it can!

So let’s get this party started—just as soon as LG announces when it’ll be released and how much it will cost.

2. The snore-destroying, toe-warming smart bed

This smart bed automatically adjusts itself to ensure you get a good night's sleep.
Ready for a bed that could be smarter than the people who sleep in it?

Sleep Number

Does your partner snore loud enough to keep the shar-pei next door awake?  Or move around restlessly and endlessly throughout the night? Instead of gorging on Ambien to catch some much-needed sleep, you can turn to this smart mattress to warm your feet, wake you up at just the right moment during your lightest stage of morning sleep, and automatically adjust to contour to your body and your partner’s.

It can even detect if someone’s snoring and automatically raise the head of their side of the bed a bit to discourage it. The bed is slated to hit the market in the first half of 2017. Relationship saved (maybe).

3. A home robot that really knows you

The Olly robot uses artificial intelligence to recognize members of your household.
The Olly robot uses artificial intelligence to recognize members of your household, in case you can’t.

Provided by Emotech

The Olly is similar to the Amazon Echo: It’s able to connect and control your home lighting, heating, and security systems. But this nifty little robot, which looks like a futuristic speaker that sits on a table, has a twist. It’s equipped with artificial intelligence allowing it to recognize individual faces, voices, and even moods of everyone living in the home—and then adapt its personality accordingly.

The device was created by London-based startup Emotech and developed by a group of neuroscience and machine learning scientists. It’s expected to be released this spring.

4. A go-anywhere ‘screenless TV’

Want to watch a movie in bed? Then why not project it onto your wall?
Want to watch a movie in bed? Then why the hell not project it onto your wall?

Provided by XGIMI

Chinese-based company XGIMI has created what it’s billing as the “entertainment center of the future,” which will beam movies, TV shows, and even video games onto nearly any surface imaginable. So why not ditch the TV and binge-watch all of your favorite episodes of “The Walking Dead,” “Game of Thrones,” or even “Kevin Can Wait” on the walls, window shades, or the refrigerator? The Z4 Aurora Screenless TV, which raised $100,000 from the crowdfunding site, features an up-to-300-inch screen, top-notch speakers, and an Android-powered computer.

The box is available on starting at $699.

5. A refrigerator that’s a cook’s best friend

Has your milk expired? Your fridge probably knows.
Has your milk expired? Your fridge will know.

LG Electronics

If you’re looking only for a place to keep your groceries cold, this probably isn’t the fridge for you. If, however, you’d like an appliance that can search for recipes, play music, place orders, and even talk to you, this one’s for you.

The InstaView Refrigerator comes with a 29-inch LCD screen that can allow folks to peer inside without opening the door and send screenshots of what’s inside to its owners while they’re food shopping. And yes, it can remind you when the eggs are about to go bad.

The only downside? LG hasn’t yet said when it will become available. We’re waiting.

6. Device charging that comes from above

This ceiling tile can charge devices within 30 feet of it.
This ceiling tile can charge your nearby devices wirelessly.

Provided by Ossia

It’s time to throw away the nightmare tangle of power plugs and charging wires. The Cota Tile can be installed like a ceiling tile and remotely charge most home devices such as phones and laptops.

And here’s the bonus: You don’t even need to tell it to do so. The tile uses receivers to detect when a device is low on juice and then automatically repowers it. (The devices must be Cota-enabled for it to work.) Its maker, Ossia, is licensing the technology to other companies to build it, so a production and release date is still on the horizon.

7. Clean composting right in your kitchen

Eco-conscious cooks can easily turn their food scraps into fertilizer.
Eco-conscious cooks can easily turn their food scraps into fertilizer. Because.

Whirlpool Corporation

The Zera Food Recycler may be a lifesaver for those who vigilantly separate their papers, plastics, and metals each week. The device, which looks like a sleek trash can, turns food scraps into fertilizer for the garden without the mess—or the smell! You just load it up with about a week’s worth of orange peels, leftover pasta, and chicken bones (as well as the moldy contents of that Tupperware container tucked in the back of your fridge), and it’ll all be ready to go in 24 hours.

The recycler will retail for $1,199. But a limited number of backers can snatch it up for $699 if they preorder on

For These Replica Homes, Imitation Is More Than Flattery

For her first home, self-described Disney fanatic Lynette Hamblin dreamed of buying an “Up” house—that is, a home resembling the ramshackle Victorian pulled skyward by balloons in the 2009 animated movie.

She was in luck. Home-builder Blair Bangerter had constructed just such a house in 2011 outside Salt Lake City, complete with a peaked roof, candy-colored exterior and old-fashioned mailbox. He had re-created the interiors as well, with custom armchairs, authentic knickknacks and a floor plan deduced from repeated viewings of the movie.

The project was part whimsy, part publicity stunt for little-known Herriman, Utah, in the depths of the housing crisis. (Mr. Bangerter signed a contract with Walt Disney Co. to use the “Up” design.) Thousands visited the house as part of an annual home show, Mr. Bangerter said. Soon after, Mrs. Hamblin and her husband, Clint, paid about $400,000 for the house and most of its furnishings. Mr. Bangerter said he roughly broke even.

While the property is one-of-a-kind, it isn’t the only copycat out there. A small group of homeowners across the U.S. live in replicas of famous properties—from knockoff White Houses to imitations of the Petit Trianon at the Palace of Versailles.

Mrs. Hamblin, an artist who has a Disney-themed blog, said that “Up” had always spoken to her. Like the Carl and Ellie characters, Mr. and Mrs. Hamblin, both 35, had suffered a miscarriage. She read about the house on a Disney message board in 2011, when the Hamblins were living in Petaluma, Calif. Mr. Hamblin had a chance to see it while visiting family nearby.

“He expected me to be like, ‘No, we can’t leave California!’ But I was like, ‘Yes we should!’ ” said Mrs. Hamblin. At 2,800 square feet and four bedrooms, the home was the perfect size for the couple and their two children, now 9 and 7, Mrs. Hamblin said. “It’s colorful, it makes people smile, it’s uplifting, it’s cheerful, it’s beautiful,” she said.

Other replica owners are less fanciful, enticed by period architecture.

Ellen Roberts spotted her ideal home on a trip to Richmond, Va. “We were walking in front of the governor’s home, having no idea whose home it was, and I just said, ‘Hey, I love that home,’ ” said the 62-year-old podiatric medical assistant. The Executive Mansion has been the governor’s official residence since 1813.

At the time, she and her husband, Ted, 64, a retail-industry consultant, were planning to build in a new subdivision in St. Charles, Ill. They bought blueprints for the original governor’s mansion and had a private tour of the first floor, taking hundreds of photographs, Mrs. Roberts said.

They completed their replica in 1995 on the 1¼-acre lot they bought in 1993 for $150,000. The five-bedroom, 6,400-square-foot house is smaller than the original, but has the same pillared portico and millwork, as well as rooms with at least two entrances for entertaining, and a staircase with a landing. (A spokeswoman for the Executive Mansion declined to disclose specific dimensions, citing security issues, but said the complex is 17,721 square feet.)

Mrs. Roberts, who said she loves older homes, added modern flourishes: for starters, an indoor kitchen and bathrooms. There is also a basement where her four children can retreat from the more formal upper levels.

The Federal-style décor includes authentic period colors and a few eagle designs. “I did my homework on this,” Mrs. Roberts said.

In McLean, Va., Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah and one-time presidential candidate, is selling his house for $4.2 million. The family plans to live full time at their Salt Lake City home, he said.

The five-bedroom home is believed to be modeled after the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg, Va., that housed the governors until 1780. (The property burned down in 1781, but it was reconstructed in the early 1930s and is open to the public.) Mr. Huntsman said he had heard about the resemblance but never verified it. “It’s a traditional, distinctive Williamsburg look,” he said. Mr. Huntsman bought the home in 2014 for $3.1 million from another former presidential candidate, Fred Thompson.

Though they were built more than 260 years apart—the palace was finished in 1722, Mr. Huntsman’s house in 1985—the homes share a symmetrical facade, Flemish-bond brickwork, double-hung windows and cupolas. However, at 14,400 square feet, the original mansion dwarfs Mr. Huntsman’s 8,852-square-foot house.

The buildings of Colonial Williamsburg have inspired countless copies across North America, said Jeffrey Klee, an architectural historian at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, which owns the palace. The foundation doesn’t offer architectural drawings to the public, he said, but homeowners can photograph and measure the properties, architect in tow.

They can also buy plans from Wilmington, N.C.-based William E. Poole Designs. The company offers designs that mix modern updates with precise reproductions of 18 properties in Colonial Williamsburg. The plans are available online for $700 to $3,000.

Home designs are protected under copyright law, with protections generally lasting 70 years after the creator’s death. That puts 18th-century mansions in the public domain, said Jeff Reichard, a construction and intellectual-property attorney with Nexsen Pruet, Greensboro, N.C.

Replica houses aren’t stress-free. In some cases, homeowners must secure certain building permissions. Another concern is finding a buyer when it’s time to sell. Shawn Elliott, of Shawn Elliott Luxury Homes and Estates, marketed a 21,000-square-foot limestone reproduction of the Petit Trianon in Centre Island, N.Y., to wealthy Chinese clients, who prefer traditional, European-style homes. It sold in 2013 for more than $9.5 million with furnishings. The buyers were Shanghai-based real-estate developers, he said. “It was not for everyone,” he added.

In other cases, homeowners feel a sense of responsibility to maintain their homes for the public. Some houses attract visitors daily. Judy Masson, 53, recently lived in a 1924 replica of the White House in Morgan’s Point, Texas, that she bought in 2013 for $3.2 million. Mrs. Masson, a stay-at-home mother, said that people often stopped to take pictures and that she frequently gave tours. After listing the home for $5.499 million, she and her husband, Marcos, auctioned it with Concierge Auctions without reserve. It’s under contract for an undisclosed price.

The 20,689-square-foot house is one of at least half a dozen miniature versions of the president’s home—some 70,000 square feet.

“We have 8-year-old twins, she said. “When we first moved into the mansion and there was something on TV about the White House, our kids would run to the TV and say, ‘Look! Our house!’ ”

3 Tough-Love Lessons From Hilary Farr and David Visentin on ‘Love It or List It’

Admit it: One of the top reasons HGTV’s “Love It or List It” is still going strong, 13 seasons and counting, is it’s downright riveting to watch Hilary Farr and David Visentin bicker like an old married couple. That may explain why rumors abound that the interior designer and real estate agent are actually hitched in real life—but they aren’t!

Farr, the interior designer, is divorced, and Visentin, the real estate agent, is married with one kid. They first met after they were cast for the show in 2007, and quickly developed what Farr calls a “genuine, deep affection” for each other.

“What you see is what you get,” Farr explained. “We do bicker. We are exact opposites. We adore each other.”

It’s no huge surprise, then, that fireworks fly in the premiere of Season 13, when these business partners compete ferociously to get homeowners Emily and Ryan in Raleigh, NC, on board with their individual plans. Farr’s M.O. is to fully renovate their house so the disillusioned homeowners will fall back in love with it. Meanwhile, Visentin hopes to tempt them to cut and run by selling their old home and purchasing new property elsewhere.

So who will win? Here’s how the drama unfolds—plus what we can learn about the art and business of real estate.

Lesson No. 1: When renovating, you can’t always have it all

The couple are delighted when Farr tells them that for their $110,000 renovation budget, she can add a guest room in the attic, borrow space from the massive master bedroom to add a walk-in closet and a more spacious master bath, and enclose the side porch to make room for a mud room and a laundry room. But the couple are also disappointed when Farr says she probably can’t redo the backyard landscaping and give them a new kitchen floor. Life is full of disappointments, it seems.

Sorry, guys—upgrades add up fast, so you often have to pick your priorities. But that’s not to say that as long as you check yourself along the way, there won’t be some fun money left over. In the end, after making all of the upgrades mentioned, Farr finds enough leftover cash to install a new slate kitchen floor, much to Emily’s delight.

Lesson No. 2: When shopping for a new home, you have a right to be picky

The first houses Visentin shows Emily and Ryan are well within their $400,000 home purchase budget. The problem? They’re either too far from Ryan’s work, too near a freeway, or not move-in ready.

So they hold out, as they should. Eventually along comes a place that checks off all of their boxes and then some, but it comes with another problem: At $489,000, it’s out of the couple’s price range.

Lesson No. 3: Renovations can really pay off

Lo and behold, once Farr has completed the renovations on the couple’s old home, Visentin tells them it’s now worth over $409,000—which is much, much higher than the $284,000 it was valued before the renovations.

The couple soon realize they could kick back in their fancy updated digs, or sell it for a huge profit, which could go toward buying the new home Visentin showed them. They decide to sell their old home, and put in an offer on the new one.

Visentin gloats. Farr simmers. And while there will always be friction between them, they’re clearly a match made in real estate heaven.

Jennifer Lopez’s Hidden Hills Estate Is Back on the Block for $12.5M

The beautiful and talented Jennifer Lopez has relisted her sprawling estate in Hidden Hills, CA. The Los Angeles Times reports that the home was under contract with a clutch of contingencies, but now it’s back on the block for $12.5 million.

The 17,129-square-foot mansion has nine bedrooms,13 baths, eight fireplaces, a dining room that seats 12, and a master suite with sitting area and terrace. There’s also a work/entertainment wing with a 20-seat theater, bar, and dance and recording studios.

The outdoor space features a resort-style swimming pool, access to hiking and equestrian trails, and a garage that can house eight vehicles.



The 3-acre estate was last sold in 2010 for $8.2 million. Built in 1993, the house returned to the market in February 2015 for $17 million, slid to $14.5 million in September of that year, and went under contract last month for $12.5 million. Alas, the house popped back on the market a few days ago.