Land Grab: Buying a City

  • The Other Housing Market

    The housing market may have bottomed out (for now), but what a ride it’s been. Real estate prices in cities like Las Vegas and Detroit have been trampled by the economic downturn. And even Manhattan, whose real estate once appeared invincible in the past, has seen prices plummet and entire apartment buildings remain empty. To say that it’s a buyer’s market is an understatement. During the past two years, house hunters could have purchased a small town for the price of a nice house. And many people did. Here is our list of the most insane urban land grabs from the Great Recession … so far. We say “so far” because some of the properties on this list are still on the market. Will you be the next one to get a thousand acres for the price of a studio apartment? Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks
    Central Park
  • Central Park

    One of the sad truths about Manhattan is that if you want to have a shot at living in a room with a view of Central Park, you will probably have to sell your soul and first-born child. And that will only get you the first month’s rent. But what if you could just buy the park instead? Well, according to one 2005 estimate, Central Park is valued at $528,783,552,000. Give or take.But we’ve got a good runner-up option. Photo Credit: Oquendo
  • Detroit

    Don’t close this window out yet! We know Detroit isn’t quite as luxurious as the Upper West Side, but now you can buy half the city and make it your own. According to a recent estimate, you could buy a piece of land in Detroit the same size as Central Park for just $4.5 million. That’s less than buying one apartment with a view of Central Park. Sounds crazy? explains the math:  “9,000 Detroit properties were auctioned … with opening bids of $500. Only 20% received bids. The total land area of these properties was equivalent to Central Park. If all 9,000 properties received a bid of $500 (which is probably not far off if you assume the 20% that received bids were over $500 and the rest $0), that represents a total value of $4,500,000. Photo Credit: toddalert
    Stuyvesant Town
  • Stuyvesant Town

    If you do feel a need to snatch up a large piece of property in New York, there may soon be an entire neighborhood up for sale. In 2006, Black Rock Realty Advisors purchased two large apartment complexes near the lower east side of Manhattan for $5.4 billion. The buildings were part of Stuyvesant Town, a comparatively low rent residential block of buildings. This was the most expensive real estate purchase in history, but now it seems to be going belly-up, which means it may be back on the market in the near future.However, if that sounds out of your price range, consider buying up the hundreds of condominiums that are currently vacant throughout the five boroughs, many in prime locations.  There are 59 in the West Village and Chelsea alone. Photo Credit:
    Albert, Texas
  • Albert, Texas

    This small 13-acre town sits just an hour outside San Antonio and can be yours for the price of buying a Manhattan studio apartment. The asking price was originally a generous $2 million, but as the housing market became more unsteady this year and the town remained unsold, the price dropped, first to $883,000 and now to $595,000. So what exactly comes with this town? According to Albert’s official Web site, you get an 85-year-old dance hall, a creek that runs through town, peach orchards and beer gardens, and of course, a house with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. This historic town also sits “adjacent to” the schoolhouse that President Lyndon Johnson attended in 1921. Hopefully your politics won’t make this last piece of information a deal breaker. Photo Credit:
    Monse, Wash.
  • Monse, Wash.

    A for-sale sign put this town on the map. Monse became famous as Washington’s infamous “Town For Sale.” This 60-acre parcel, which comes with a schoolhouse, post office and seven homes, was first put on the market back in 2003 for the modest price of $575,000. The realtor advertised it as a place where the owner could be the “mayor, the police chief,” a place where you could “do whatever you want.” But even with these selling points, Monse could not find a buyer after five years, though there were some well-publicized suitors. So last year, the town started to be sold off piece by piece. Photo Credit:
    White's City, N.M.
  • White's City, N.M.

    The White family owned this small city for four generations, but in 2008 the current owners decided they wanted to pack their things and move elsewhere, so they put White's City on the auction block. White's City is 366 acres and has a saloon, museum and even its own water park, not to mention star power. Bonnie and Clyde passed through the town and Pat Boone spent a night there. Plus, it’s on the way to Carlsbad Caverns Natural Park in New Mexico, one of America’s premier natural wonders.The city was successfully sold for $1.5 million. I’d pay that much just for the water park. The saloon is just a bonus. Photo Credit: nttrbx
    The United States of America
  • The United States of America

    Earlier this year, the senate approved a bill allowing the government to confiscate 2 million acres from nine different states and set the land aside for wilderness protection. While objecting to this bill, Sen.Tom Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma, noted that this land grab was probably worth about $4 billion. Amazingly, that’s still more than $1 billion shy of what Stuyvesant Town sold for. It seems like the U.S. government got a pretty good deal. Photo Credit: Arthur Chapman
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