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Top 10 haunted homes in the U.S.: Buying any one of these properties may include ghostly consequences

by Roberts Johnson and Rachel Diedrich, Real Estate B

We like to be creeped out, don't we?

To kick off this Halloween season, we have chosen 10 homes in the U.S. notorious for their haunted history and spirits who like to visit. Some are privately owned homes, some are now bed-and-breakfasts, some have historic designations, and one is even the seat of our government.

Take a deep breath and let's visit some of the most notable haunted homes in the U.S.

Image: Winchester House
Courtesy of Zillow

Winchester House
Location: San Jose, Calif.

Notable ghost: Sarah Winchester

As one of two homes in California sanctioned by the U.S. Commerce Department as being haunted (the other is the Whaley House, below), the magnificent Winchester House stands alone as perhaps the most bizarre haunted home in the U.S. It was inspired and designed by Sarah Winchester, widow of William Winchester, founder of Winchester rifles. Legend goes that Sarah was deeply affected by the deaths of her daughter, Annie, in 1866 and then her husband, William, in 1881. Sarah consulted a medium who instructed her to build a house to ward off evil spirits. Construction on the Winchester House started in 1884 and continued for 38 years — until Sarah's death in 1922.

Sarah reportedly held nightly seances to gain guidance from spirits and her dead husband for the home's design. What resulted was a maze-like residence full of twisting and turning hallways, dead-ends, secret panels, a window built into a floor, staircases leading to nowhere, doors that open to walls, upside-down columns, and rooms built, then intentionally closed off — all to ward off and confuse evil spirits.

Image: Lizzie Borden House
dbking  /  Flickr photo

Lizzie Borden House
Location: Fall River, Mass.
Notable ghosts: Andrew and Abby Borden

Who killed Andrew and Abby Borden with an ax on the morning of Aug. 4, 1892 in this Fall River, Mass., home? To this day, no one truly knows. Lizzie Borden, the daughter of Andrew and stepdaughter of Abby, became the prime suspect and eventually, the subject of a popular children's rhyme.

Andrew was a widowed cabinet-maker and had two daughters, Lizzie and Emma Lenora. In 1865, he married Abby Durfee Gray and then in 1872, he bought the home so he could be closer to the city's downtown district. Reports say the Bordens were not a loving family unit and the stresses of step relatives created much tension in the house, which were only escalated by the Borden girls' fears that their father was bequeathing his assets and property to the stepmother's side of the family. Lizzie was indicted for the crime, and then acquitted by a jury. It was the trial of the century. She and her sister eventually moved to a home on French Street, and the murder home is now a bed-and-breakfast where Andrew and Abby are said to still roam.

Image: LaLaurie Mansion
Courtesy of Zillow

LaLaurie Mansion
Location: New Orleans, La.
Notable ghosts: Victims of Madame LaLaurie

Horrific stories of torture and abuse inflicted on slaves who worked in this house were reported in the 1830s and the abuser was said to be Madame Delphine LaLaurie, a socialite of great wealth and prominence in New Orleans. Delphine and her husband, Dr. Louis LaLaurie, would host elaborate parties at the house, but soon, stories of vicious cruelty emerged. In one tale, Delphine was whipping the child of a slave when the child broke away and ran to the roof, falling to her death. But the turning point came when a fire broke out in the mansion and when help arrived, they witnessed horrific scenes of punishment and torture inflicted on the slaves. Delphine fled, never to be seen again.

The home has undergone many changes and owners over the years, with one of the most recent owners actor Nicolas Cage. Cage said of the LaLaurie house, "You know, other people have beachfront property; I have ghost-front property." Unfortunately, Cage lost the property in a foreclosure auction.

Image: The White House
Courtesy of Zillow

The White House
Location: Washington, D.C.
Notable ghosts: Abigail Adams, Abraham Lincoln

It makes sense that a home this old and with so much history has a lot of ghosts. Abigail Adams, wife of second president John Adams, is considered to be the "oldest" ghost in the White House since she and John were the first to live in the big, drafty home that was still unfinished when they moved in on Nov. 1, 1800. She was known to hang her laundry in the East Room and is still "spotted" there to this day. But perhaps the most notable ghost is 16th president Abraham Lincoln, who reportedly had psychic powers and even anticipated his assassination days before. Many former presidents, residents and heads of state have seen Lincoln or felt his presence throughout the White House, including British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, who fainted at the sight of him.

Other famous ghosts include Dolley Madison, who stands watch over her Rose Garden; seventh president Andrew Jackson has been heard laughing in the Rose Bedroom; third president Thomas Jefferson plays his violin in the Yellow Oval Room; ninth president William Henry Harrison haunts the White House attic; and British soldiers are seen walking the hallways.

Image: Franklin Castle
Tabitha Kaylee Hawk  /  Flickr photo

Franklin Castle
Location: Cleveland
Notable ghosts: Babies crying

Finally, a haunted home that really looks haunted. Complete with a tower, turrets, balconies, stone outcroppings, gargoyles, wrought-iron fixtures and fences, this imposing, Gothic-style Franklin Castle is said to be Ohio's most haunted home. It was built in 1860 for Hannes Tiedemann, an immigrant from Germany who became a wholesale grocer-turned-banker. Depending on who you believe, Tiedemann was either an evil tyrant who had a hand in mysterious deaths that occurred in the home between 1865-1895 — including the deaths of three babies — or he was a decent and hard-working man, but faced unfortunate circumstances. There have been many owners of the home including a German singing society and a church group.

Presently, it is owned by an Internet businesswoman who wanted to renovate the home, turn it into a B&B and hold "haunted mystery weekends" — but a fire in 1999 derailed her plans. It is rumored that Franklin Castle will be listed soon. In the market for a haunted house? Amenities include sounds of footsteps, babies crying, and doors slamming … and no one's there. How many agents dare to appear for this broker's open house?

Image: Sprague Mansion
Cranston Historical Society

Sprague Mansion
Location: Cranston, R.I.
Notable ghosts: Amasa Sprague, Charlie the butler

One of Cranston's most prosperous families, the Sprague family, owned Cranston Print Works, a textile mill that was the first to make calico prints and help pioneer chemical bleaching. When William Sprague died in 1836, he left the business to his two sons, Amasa and William II. Amasa concentrated on the family business while William II focused on politics, serving as a U.S. Representative, governor and U.S. Senator. On Dec. 31, 1843, Amasa was found shot and beaten on the road between his textile mill and his mansion. A man was hanged for the crime, but later found to be innocent. The true killer was never found. The Sprague family's fortunes eventually faded and the Sprague Mansion changed ownership many times until the Cranston Historical Society saved it from demolition in 1967.

Hauntings of the mansion most often observed include Amasa in the wine cellar and a spirit thought to be "Charlie the butler" descending the main stairway. Legend goes that Charlie's hopes and dreams of riches were dashed when his daughter did not marry the wealthy homeowner's son.

Image: Chambers Mansion
San Francisco Properties

Chambers Mansion
Location: San Francisco
Notable ghost: Claudia

In the prestigious Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco is the Chambers Mansion, which was built in 1887 and named after its first owner, Richard Chambers, who was a silver mine tycoon. Legend goes that Chambers lived here with his two nieces who hated each other. When Chambers died in 1901, the nieces inherited the mansion. One reportedly bought the house next door and moved in while the other sister, Claudia, stayed. Claudia reportedly loved pigs but met her fate one day when she was nearly cut in half from what her family called a "farm implementation accident."

Ghost expert Jim Fassbinder, who conducts haunted home tours in San Francisco, "claims that an insane member of the Chambers family, who was kept in the attic, chased Claudia downstairs into the Josephine room and killed her." The mansion was eventually converted to the Mansion Hotel in 1977, where celebs such as Barbra Streisand, Robert DeNiro and Robin Williams stayed. Many guests have reported strange occurrences while staying there.

Image: Myrtles Plantation

Fannie, Freddie could stop losing money by 2014

by Roberts Johnson and Rachel Diedrich, Real Estate B

WASHINGTON—Government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could start returning money to taxpayers by 2014, according to the latest forecast by the firms' regulator.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees the two companies, said Thursday the two companies have fared "substantially better" than expected over the past year.

Both Fannie and Freddie are required to pay 10 percent dividends on the government money they receive. Fewer foreclosures and delays in foreclosure processing because of a yearlong government investigation into mortgage lending practices have reduced their projected losses.

The government has already spent $169 billion to bail out the two companies. It will cost taxpayers at least $51 billion more to support the mortgage companies through 2014, and as much as $142 billion in the most extreme case.

Fannie and Freddie buy home loans from banks and other lenders. They package them into bonds with a guarantee against default and sell them to investors around the world. When property values drop, homeowners default—either because they are unable to afford the payments or because they owe more than the property is worth. Because of the guarantees, Fannie and Freddie must pay for the losses.

Fannie Mae, based in Washington, and Freddie Mac, based in McLean, Va., own or guarantee about half of all mortgages in the U.S., or nearly 31 million home loans worth more than $5 trillion. Along with other federal agencies, they backed nearly 90 percent of new mortgages over the past year.

By DEREK KRAVITZ AP Economics Writer
Updated: 10/27/2011 03:34:40 PM MDT

Read more: Fannie, Freddie could stop losing money by 2014 - The Denver Post
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New Solar plant brings Jobs to Denver

by Roberts Johnson and Rachel Diedrich, Real Estate B
GE picks Aurora for solar plant
The high-tech PrimeStar Solar factory for thin-film panels will employ 355 and open next year.
By Mark Jaffe and Greg Griffin The Denver Post

General Electric’s selection of Aurora for a state-of-the-art solar-panel manufacturing plant breathes new life into a clean-energy sector in Colorado that has been battered by economic turmoil, global competition and shifting political priorities. GE will begin retrofitting an existing warehouse near Interstate 70 and Tower Road in January and start producing panels next year at the $300 million PrimeStar Solar plant, which will employ 355 people. “With a PrimeStar fabrication plant here, you see a really strong cluster of solar companies emerging in Colorado,” said Chris-tine Shapard, executive director of the Colorado Cleantech Industry Association. “GE wouldn’t have picked Colorado if we hadn’t had the workforce and the talent that they need. That differentiates Colorado from many other states.” Solar companies operating here include Longmont-based Abound Solar, Thornton-based Ascent Solar Technologies and Denver-based Abengoa Solar, which is owned by a Spanish company. The state also is home to the SolarTAC research park in Aurora. “This is big business, and we are ready to take it mainstream here in Colorado,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said Thursday about GE’s bet on solar in the state. He spoke to a crowd of roughly 1,000 at the Aurora Economic Development Council’s annual dinner at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Denver. New York had been Colorado’s primary competition for the PrimeStar Solar plant. Colorado won because it had a technology head start and a facility that could quickly be turned into a factory, said Victor Abate, head of GE’s renewable-energy business. The technology to be used in the factory was developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden and PrimeStar, an Arvada-based company GE bought in April. State economic development officials also identified a warehouse in Aurora that could be converted into a factory with annual production capacity of 400 megawatts of solar panels, enough to power 80,000 homes. “We could take the talent we had here, and we found a facility we could make work so we could get to market sooner,” Abate said. Abate said construction would start on the country’s largest thin-film solar plant in January and be producing panels for the market in 2013. GE will invest $300 million to retrofit and expand a 200,000-square-foot former L’Oreal Worldwide warehouse in the Majestic Commercenter. The company hopes to double the building’s size within the next two years. Many states interested When GE announced in April plans to build the plant — using technology developed by Colorado startup Prime-Star — it set off a pitched battle among 10 states. At the end it came down to Colorado and New York, which made a very generous bid, according to Colorado development officials. “There was a tremendous amount of interest across the country,” Abate said. Aurora will provide GE with up to $20 million in tax rebates on manufacturing equipment and sales taxes, provided GE makes the purchases. Adams County will rebate up to $6 million in personal property taxes. The state will provide $2 million, most of it for job training. The factory will be “highly automated, sophisticated, clean-room technology,” Abate said. It will provide a range of operations, inventory control and maintenance jobs. “It is a very high-tech thing,” he said. GE already has 1,200 employees in Colorado at its energy-services division in Greenwood Village, a medical-systems manufacturing facility in Englewood, an analytic instrument manufacturing plant in Boulder and an office for its control solutions services business in Longmont. In April, just after GE announced plans for the factory, Colorado’s congressional delegation, Hickenlooper and university leaders wrote a letter to GE highlighting the state’s commitment to renewable energy. “As state and federal collaboration can facilitate innovative economic opportunities such as GE’s proposal, we stand ready to provide any additional help to attract this facility to Colorado,” the letter said. PrimeStar was created in 2006 by Ken Zweibel, who worked at NREL for 25 years; Joe Beach, a Colorado School of Mines physics professor; and Fred Seymour, former director of technology for Newmont Mining. The company received $6 million in private capital, $780,000 from NREL and $3 million from the U.S. Department of Energy. GE took a minority stake in 2007. Industry difficulties Three U.S. solar-panel makers have filed for bankruptcy in the past three months. The highest-profile failure was California-based Solyndra, which had received a $535 million federal loan guarantee. The problem solar-panel makers face is declining prices in traditional silicon solar cells produced by subsidized Chinese manufacturers. GE will employ thin-film technology that applies a micro-layer of Cadmium telluride on a flexible substrate to create a solar cell. Positioning Colorado as a leader in clean energy was a priority of former Gov. Bill Ritter, but the effort lost momentum after the economic downturn and change in administration. Ritter said Thursday that credit goes to Hickenlooper for landing the GE plant. The effort began more than two years ago. He noted that tax credits created in 2009 helped lure GE and Arrow Electronics, which is moving its headquarters to Arapahoe County. “At the time, we believed the two things would work together — the tax credit and the new energy economy,” he said. “It allows companies to create high-paying jobs in a burgeoning industry.” Mark Jaffe: 303-954-1912 or [email protected]  ; Greg Griffin: 303-954-1241 or [email protected]

Gov. John Hickenlooper listens as Victor Abate, head of General Electric’s renewable-energy business, speaks at the Aurora Economic Development Council’s annual dinner Thursday. Karl Gehring, The Denver Post


Denver Inventory Dries Up

by Roberts Johnson and Rachel Diedrich, Real Estate B
Inventory of metro homes for sale plunges
By Margaret Jackson The Denver Post

The number of metro Denver homes on the market reached a new low in September, plunging 26.5 percent compared with a year ago as many homeowners decided now is a bad time to sell, according to Metrolist data released Monday. The economy, foreclosures and short sales still on the market and the difficulty buyers have qualifying for a loan are among the reasons the inventory plummeted to 17,139 homes for sale last month, said independent real-estate consultant Gary Bauer. “Right now, there is the appearance that the home sellers are saying, ‘With everything that’s going on, I’m not going to put my home on the market because I will not have multiple choices to look at when I sell my home,’ ” Bauer said. Even so, the number of homes sold in metro Denver in September jumped 12.8 percent compared with the same month a year ago, according to data released Monday. But the 3,337 homes sold was 16 percent less than the 3,973 homes sold in August. “School’s back in, people are getting settled and that affects sales,” said David Simonson, a broker for ReMax Professionals LLC. “I can’t picture that being a trend. I won’t read a whole lot into one month’s numbers.” The median price for a home in metropolitan area was $229,804, down 2.2 percent from August and essentially flat compared with the same month a year ago. “Prices are very reasonable,” Bauer said. “We haven’t seen any major adjustments.”


Mortgage Rates Hit Record Lows

by Roberts Johnson and Rachel Diedrich, Real Estate B
Mortgage rates hit record low of 3.94%: Freddie
Thursday, October 6th, 2011, 9:00 am

The average rate for a conventional 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage dropped below 4% for the first time in history amid increasing global concerns, according to Freddie Mac.

The 30-year FRM averaged 3.94% with an average of 0.8 point for the week ending Oct. 6. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.27%.

The 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage also fell to the lowest level on record for the sixth consecutive week, averaging 3.26% with an average 0.8 point, down from 3.28% a week ago and 3.72% a year ago.

The five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 2.96%, with an average 0.6 point, down from 3.02% last week and 3.47% a year ago.

Interest rates for 1-year ARMs, however, rose, as the Federal Reserve began replacing $400 billion of its short-term Treasury securities, which serve as benchmarks for many ARMs. The one-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.95% this week with an average 0.5 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.83%. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 3.4%.

Rates dropped amid growing concerns over a global recession. Consumer spending inched up 0.2%in August, but personal income fell 0.1%, the first decline since October 2009.

Write to Kerry Curry.


Homeownership Decreases!

by Roberts Johnson and Rachel Diedrich, Real Estate B

Home ownership: Biggest drop since Great Depression

October 7, 2011: 7:26 AM ET

Home ownership sees biggest drop since Great Depression

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The percentage of Americans who owned their homes has seen its biggest decline since the Great Depression, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The rate of home ownership fell to 65.1% in April 2010, 1.1 percentage points lower than it was in 2000. The decline was the biggest drop since the 1930s, when home ownership plunged 4.2%.

The most recent decade-over-decade drop, however, only tells half the story.

Home ownership during the 2000s "was really high in the middle of the decade, up to almost 70% at one point around 2004," said Ellen Wilson, a survey statistician with the bureau.

The crash from that peak was more than 4 percentage points in just about five years -- a far more dramatic decline than the 1.1% drop over the 10-year period.

A rough 10 years for the middle class

Certain regions have been hit harder than others. The West had the lowest home ownership rate at 60.5%, while the Midwest had the highest rate at 69.2%.The South came in at 66.7% and the Northeast at 62.2%.

Among the states, New York had the lowest home ownership rate of 53.3%, but the District of Columbia's home ownership rate was below that at 42%.

West Virginia (73.4%) led the way with the highest home ownership rate, while Minnesota (73%), Michigan, Delaware and Iowa (all 72.1%) were also well above the norm.

Number of vacant homes grows by 44%

Thanks to the housing bust there has been a substantial increase in empty homes. The number of vacant housing units jumped an astonishing 43.8% to 15 million (or 11.4% of all housing units) in 2010, up from 10.4 million in 2000.

During that 10-year period, the number of homes in the U.S. increased by 16 million to 131.7 million housing units, according to Census.

Many Sun-Belt states suffered large vacancy increases. In Nevada, ground zero for foreclosures over the past few years, vacancies grew nearly 120% to 14.3% of all homes. Georgia vacancies jumped 82.7%, Florida's 62.6% and Arizona's 61%.

Although vacancies in Maine grew by only 23%, the state had the highest percentage of vacant homes overall at 22.8%. Vermont was close behind with 20.5% of its homes empty. Florida was third with 17.5%.

Foreclosure backlog deepens

Many of the nation's residents have also become renters, especially in large metropolitan areas.

Of the 10 largest cities, New York had the highest ratio with a whopping 69% of all homes in the five boroughs -- Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island -- occupied by renters. Los Angeles had a 61.5% rental rate and Dallas was 55.9%.

San Jose had the lowest percentage of renters for any of the 10 largest cities with just 41.5%. San Antonio (43.5.%) and Phoenix (42.4%) had comparatively few renters as well. 


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