Tiny Home, Huge Price Tag in the Swanky Hamptons

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ZillowThe 600-square-foot home and free-standing artist’s studio sit on a very well-manicured fifth of an acre.

By Melissa Allison

Some people escape to the Hamptons to party, others to catch a wave.

Reading and basking and generally behaving like a writer on retreat appear to be the speed for this little cottage in the Long Island enclave of North Haven.

The 600-square-foot dwelling is listed for $550,000, which Curbed Hamptons says is about right for the neighborhood. (We’ll do the math for you: It’s $917 per square foot.) The cottage has two bedrooms and one bath, plus a free-standing art studio.

Located in easy walking distance to shopping and beaches on Sag Harbor and Noyack bays, the home sits on a smidge more than a fifth of an acre, perfect for retreating into the quiet of nature — or for building a bigger home.

The listing agent is Mary Ann Cinelli of Brown Harris Stevens.


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Jersey Home Where Springsteen Wrote ‘Born to Run’ for Sale

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ZillowThe ramshackle 828-square-foot cottage on the Jersey Shore is listed at $299,000.

By Melissa Allison

It ain’t a beauty, but, hey, it’s all right — and it’s getting lots of attention as the home where Bruce Springsteen wrote “Born to Run,” “Thunder Road” and “Backstreets.”

This 828-square-foot cottage, listed for $299,000 in Long Branch, The Boss’ hometown in New Jersey, is a couple of blocks from the beach.

Born To Run
Getty ImagesBruce Springsteen

In the mid-1970s, the neighborhood was bohemian and the songwriter was under pressure to write a breakout album — which he did. The songs are iconic, and they are tied to their place in much the same way Springsteen is.

He was sitting on the edge of his bed in this home when the words “born to run” came to him, Springsteen said in the documentary “Wings for Wheels.”

“I worked very, very long on the lyrics to ‘Born to Run,’ because I was very aware that I was messing with classic rock ‘n’ roll images that easily turned into cliches,” he said.

The current owners bought the home six years ago because of its rock legacy.

Saving it from possible demolition, they planned to renovate and turn the home into a tribute to Springsteen. Marriage, divorce and work got in the way, although the home does have a new roof and new wood floors.

They hope the next owners will preserve the spirit of the 40-year-old album that started here. While it’s no mansion of glory, one of the owners told NJ.com, “I hope it doesn’t just become some house on West End Court.”

The listing agent is Gloria Nilson & Co. Christie’s International Real Estate.


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‘Eat Pray Love’ House Feels Like Home to Norah Jones

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By Natalie Wise

Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Norah Jones snapped up a breathtaking new home that is sure to be a place where lyrics are inspired. While Jones is notoriously private, records show the house was purchased in May for $6.25 million through an LLC tied to her name.

Star Max Archive
Star Max via AP ImagesNorah Jones

The home, located in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighborhood, is a star in its own right: It served as the set for scenes featuring Julia Roberts’ character in the 2010 movie adaptation of “Eat Pray Love.”

The unique structure originally was an 1840s firehouse and retains much of that charm, including a fire-engine red door.

Jones recently applied for a permit to convert the existing two-family structure into one larger living space for herself, her unidentified beau and her young son. There should be plenty of room: The main floor of the house alone is 2,125 square feet. Entertaining will pose no problem in this wide-open space with double-height ceilings.

The living spaces are cozy but spacious, making the most of the home’s architectural charm and views. And there are plenty of windows, which should please Jones, who once fought to have windows installed in a previous historic brownstone.

The house could make a powerful muse for Jones, as there is much to wax poetic about: 12-foot-wide plank floors, huge brick fireplaces, exposed beams and brick, a generous kitchen and a decidedly 19th-century flair. The home boasts a glassed-in greenhouse and private porch, terrace and perennial garden as well.

Should Julia Roberts need a place to crash in between selling her Hawaii home and her Greenwich Village apartment, perhaps Jones would lend a room to the star who graced the halls of the home on the big screen.

Deborah Rieders of The Corcoran Group was the listing agent.


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Fire-Tower Style Living at its Finest

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Tom Hanny/Zillow

By Catherine Sherman

They saw it coming: the mushroom cloud of smoke.

Dabney Tompkins and Alan Colley were on their deck enjoying the view when the Stouts Creek Fire broke out earlier this month. They’d read about moments like this — spotting a forest fire from a 40-foot-high tower — but nothing could have prepared them.

They weren’t staffing a fire lookout, after all. They were at home.

Tom Hanny/ZillowAlan Colley, left, and Dabney Tompkins wouldn’t trade their life above the trees for anything.

Treehouse Without the Tree

Tompkins and Colley’s lives changed course on a ferry ride several years ago. Quite literally stumbling upon a book about fire lookouts used by the U.S. Forest Service, they learned how the structures on stilts were used to spot forest fires throughout the 20th century. Now largely replaced by satellites, very few lookouts are still standing.

Tompkins and Colley, who had downsized from their big Dallas estate to 1,400 square feet in Portland, wanted to know more.

“It was a magical moment that the book sort of fell off the shelf to us,” Colley recalls. “We called the ranger district and said why don’t we rent this thing? That was the beginning.”

The urbanites rented several fire lookouts before purchasing 160 acres of meadow and forest land in rural Oregon, known as Summit Prairie. With the help of a local builder and engineer, their “treehouse without the tree” was completed in 2010.

For the first few years, it was just a weekend getaway, but those weekends quickly turned into something more.

“About a year and half ago, we decided to be totally irresponsible and quit our jobs and move here,” Tompkins says. “We were just going to do it for one year because we thought this might just be too isolated, too boring, too rustic. But then we got down here and we started to meet people and really enjoy the rhythm of it.” (See what life in the tower is like in this video.)

Life on the Prairie

Up four flights of stairs, the lookout is 388 square feet with a simple kitchen spanning the back wall and two narrow beds flanking the sides. Up a skinny wooden ladder, a “cupola” serves as a master suite — minus the bathroom.

In fact, there’s no bathroom to be found. Historic fire lookouts never had them, and Tompkins and Colley didn’t want to obstruct their 360-degree view of the Umpqua National Forest. Instead, they created a few alternative options and put the shower out on the deck.

“My favorite time to take a shower is when we have snow outside and you have to walk barefoot through the snow on the deck,” Tompkins says. “Then you turn that hot water on and that yin and yang of hot and cold – and looking out and seeing the meadow – it’s heaven.”

Courtesy of Alan Colley via Zillow

Without the luxuries of a typical single-family home, Tompkins and Colley find themselves retreating to the “hammock tree” or soaking in their wood-burning, spring-fed hot tub.

“It’s quiet — so quiet it allows me to hear things I wouldn’t hear in the city,” Colley says. “There’s no urban beat. You don’t hear sirens, you don’t hear traffic — you hear us.”

He says the experience has brought him and Tompkins closer, as they’ve allowed each other to grow and be different.

A Taste of ‘Off the Grid’

They’re also learning what it truly means to live off the grid, finding you often gain more than you lose.

“The saying we love to tell each other is ‘just because we live off-grid doesn’t mean we have to eat bad food.’ And we have made some amazing meals,” Colley says after making a blueberry pie from scratch.

Instead of buying organic produce from the grocery store, they have their own garden and are involved with the local farmers market.

Of course, living off-grid has its challenges — like figuring out how to install solar panels — but the biggest challenge came as a surprise.

“We’re so enmeshed in this community, as weird as that may sound, that we really have to back away and say I just want time on my meadow,” Colley says.

From vegan potlucks with the “old hippies,” as they call the neighbors, to looking for ways to stimulate a local economy still dependent on timber, Tompkins and Colley are keeping busy.

The View Never Gets Old

They laugh when they think about how they used to worry about being isolated and bored.

“Reading, cooking, hiking and splitting wood are much more entertaining to us,” Colley says. “If you’re interested in those kinds of things as a DIYer, you’re going to be fine in this situation.”

And in the wake of a recent forest fire, they’re even more thankful for the view.

“Every day, the sun is doing something different. There’s no repetition at all,” Colley says.

“Many mornings, we’ll get up, and the entire meadow is shrouded in fog. And then as the sun moves up into the sky, the fog starts to kind of slip into the valley,” Tompkins adds. “As you look out, it’s like you’re in an airplane where there’s just this lower level of clouds. To me, that’s magic.”

Photos and video by Tom Hanny for Zillow.


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Nixon’s ‘Western White House’ for Sale for $75 Million

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ZillowKnown as the “Western White House” during Nixon’s presidency, the home in San Clemente is privately owned.

By Melissa Allison

The oceanside estate in California where Richard Nixon hosted 17 heads of state and retired to write his memoirs is on the market for $75 million.

Nixon bought the San Clemente home in 1969 and dubbed it “La Casa Pacifica.” It was better known during that era as “The Western White House,” because the native Californian spent so much time there.

He wasn’t the first president to walk the halls of the sprawling estate. Franklin D. Roosevelt reportedly used it as a retreat while serving in the 1930s.

Roosevelt also reportedly played poker there with financier Hamilton Cotton, who built the main house in the 1920s, modeling it after a country home in Spain.

Nixon replaced the tennis court with a swimming pool and built a wall around much of the compound.

“It’s like owning a big boat on the ocean,” the current owner, Allergan Pharmaceuticals founder Gavin Herbert, told the Orange County Register.

The property covers more than five acres and has been featured multiple times in Architectural Digest. It boasts 480 feet of beachfront, where Roosevelt’s train used to make unscheduled stops.

The bluffs above the beach were planted with cypress trees to diffuse the late-day sun. Behind them, sprawling lawns abut seaside gardens of various stripes, including rose, English, ornamental and vegetable.

The compound includes a main house that spans 9,000 square feet as well as an entertaining pavilion, a two-bedroom guest house, a swimming pool and — back again — a lighted tennis court.

There are nine bedrooms and 11.5 baths throughout the estate, including a single-level main residence with white stucco walls and a two-story tower. It’s adorned by wrought-iron flourishes and hand-painted tiles.

The listing agent is Rob Giem of Sotheby’s International Realty.


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Sticker Shock: San Francisco 1-Bedroom Sells for $2.3M

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ZillowThe view from one of the apartments in The Comstock, one of San Francisco’s most prestigious residential buildings.

By HotPads.com

It may have sold for eight percent under the original asking price, but when you’re talking about an 1,800-square-foot San Francisco condo playing in the $2.5-million club, who’s really counting by the tens of thousands?

When it debuted on the market last month, the Nob Hill apartment at 1333 Jones instantly became San Francisco’s most expensive one-bedroom listing — as in, of all time — at $2.495 million.

Granted, the apartment is in The Comstock, one of the city’s most prestigious residential buildings. But when it comes to San Francisco co-ops, a fancy address only gets you so far.

So what does this elaborate eighth-floor beauty have that (no offense) you probably don’t? For starters, the completely remodeled unit features hardwood floors throughout, as well as a modern, open-concept kitchen.

From there, turn your attention to two slab-marble bathrooms and a walk-in closet off the master bathroom. Finally, take in the northwest-facing floor-to-ceiling windows that give way to panoramic views of the Bay — the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Coit Tower, yada yada yada.

Some might say the ultramodern work-of-art/apartment does slightly resemble a life-sized fishbowl, but its sleek architecture and design are awe-inspiring. And there’s a bonus: The open floor plan includes frosted sliding glass doors that can be used to convert the office/den into a makeshift guest room.

Regretting not having put in an offer? Not to worry: another unit in The Comstock just popped up on the market. Measuring in at a cozy 1,200 square feet, but with larger balconies and a smaller price tag ($1.75 million), it’s a steal. Gregg Lynn of Sotheby’s International Realty – San Francisco Brokerage has the listing.


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Living Large in a Tiny Home on San Juan Island Near Seattle

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Tom Hanny/ZillowBrady Ryan and Leah Wymer’s tiny home measures less than 100 square feet but they have room to roam on the island.

By Catherine Sherman

Our boots sloshed around in the mud. It was a dreary Pacific Northwest day filled with slate-colored clouds and the feeling it could downpour any minute.

After several calls of “pardon me” and “coming through,” we got the tripod inside and forgot about the looming storm. We settled into a world of nooks and crannies, warm blankets — and the smell of chocolate.

It’s what you do when you live in a tiny home. You get cozy. And you make brownies on a rainy day.

Leah Wymer and Brady Ryan’s house-on-wheels wasn’t some big, planned project. Wymer’s dad, a carpenter, thought it would be fun, so they bought a used trailer off Craigslist for $500 and started building.

Two years later, the tiny home named Tina developed into “this huge thing.” Not a huge footprint — she’s only 98 square feet — but a huge, move-to-the-island and start-your-own-business thing.

Tiny Home Feature Final
Video by Tom Hanny/Zillow

Ryan insists they aren’t “hardcore tiny homies” because his parents’ house is nearby. But for many owners of tiny homes it isn’t about escaping normal life or community, anyway.

“We’ve had many times where we’ll sleep upstairs and then our friends, usually a couple, will sleep down here on the pullout and it’s like a sleepover,” Ryan says. “I love sleepovers. I’m still a little kid at heart.”

Tom Hanny/Zillow

Wymer says it instantly brings you closer because your proximity is so close, but she’s the first to admit living “tiny” isn’t for everyone.

“If you leave your laundry on the ground, it’s in the kitchen,” she says. “Everything kind of overlaps a little bit.”

Tom Hanny/Zillow

But if you don’t mind things — and people — overlapping, making do with less can be life-changing.

“Things don’t bring you happiness,” Wymer says. “Our lifestyle brings us happiness.”

Tom Hanny/Zillow

It’s not easy making money on an island. Wymer has her own wedding-flower business, and Ryan keeps busy making honey and sea salt.

“The tiny home is like the cog in the wheel that allows the whole thing to spin,” Ryan says. Not only are the couple’s living costs reduced significantly, but they’re able to do what they love most right in their backyard.

“There have been a lot of times where I wonder if I’m dreaming, really, because of the beauty that is all around us,” Wymer says. “I love when it gets later in the season, and the grass comes up to your waist. …There is nothing like walking out there and brushing your hands against it.”


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The Pure House

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Courtesy of The Pure HouseEnergy efficient homes can cost about 10% more to build, but can pay off dramatically in savings over time.

An optimistic view of housing in the future is that all homes will be built to require minimal energy to operate and to be healthy living environments. One example is the Pure House in Westport, Connecticut. Built using a prefabricated, high-efficiency panel system, it meets the criteria. Although the builders opted not to have the house certified, it follows the concepts and engineering requirements of the rigid Passive House standards, first developed in Germany.

The house is equipped with four zoned high-efficiency heat pumps, the main source of heating and cooling. People sometimes are skeptical that these heat pumps are sufficient for cold New England climates, but because the house was built with such a tight thermal envelope, a more elaborate heating and cooling system was not required. All insulation in the house is thicker than required by Connecticut building codes.

To minimize the need for electricity, the house is equipped with LED lights, which use far less energy, and Energy Star-rated appliances. The house even has a charging station for an electric car.

American-made products were used throughout the construction, including high-performance, triple-pane windows and doors, as well as sustainable materials such as EcoTimber, a type of engineered wood flooring. The materials sourced for the construction and interior design were chosen for their healthy, non-toxic composition. As an example, the kitchen and bathroom fixtures by Grohe are all lead-free. All the paint, stains, glues and other materials used in the construction are as non-toxic as possible, to maintain a healthy environment inside the house. A heat recovery ventilator exchanges the stale interior air with the outside fresh air continuously through the day and night. The landscape is designed for zero runoff and the native planting requires no irrigation system or fertilization.

“What I like most about building Pure Houses is the incredible air quality. Breathing fresh air all the time, that is what it’s about” says Doug Mcdonald, founder of the Pure House​. Although, Mcdonald admits there is a small up-charge (approximately 10%) for building such an efficient house, he also conveys the long-term savings in energy costs. He says his houses use about 90% less energy than the conventional houses in the area.

Mcdonald says the Pure House “is born from the same model that brought you restaurants that serve ‘farm-to-table’ food and the reason why you shop at your local farmers market. You want to know that the ingredients are pure and natural and good for you.”


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Billy the Kid’s Hideout for Sale in New Mexico

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Courtesy of Sotheby’s International Realty – Santa FeThe 1878 adobe home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is for sale for less than $600,000.

Here’s a listing you don’t see every day: Billy the Kid’s former New Mexico hideout is for sale at $545,000.

The adobe house, nestled in the Bonito River Valley in historic Lincoln County, is a bona fide piece of Old West history and lore. It’s where Billy the Kid — thief, gunfighter, participant in the Lincoln County range wars — hid in a kitchen flour barrel and later under a bed to avoid capture by soldiers from nearby Fort Stanton.

Part of the property was once owned by Sheriff Pat Garrett, who eventually caught, killed and immortalized Billy (originally from New York City) in the biography, “The Authentic Life of Billy, the Kid.”

The house for sale, built in 1878, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of only three historic homes remaining in private ownership in Lincoln, where others are owned by state and federal governments.

The 4,505-square-foot house on .84 acres features:

  • Three bedrooms, two baths
  • 12-foot coved ceilings
  • 22-inch thick adobe walls
  • Kiva fireplace with arched firebox
  • Zoning for business or residential use.

It’s listed by Mary Joy Ford of Sotheby’s International.


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Crazy Connecticut Colonial Has Lighthouse and Tugboat

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ZillowThe four-bedroom West Haven home has a lighthouse and a tugboat, but it lies about a mile from Long Island Sound.

If you agree with Jacques Cousteau, that the sea “holds one in its net of wonder forever,” you’ll love this crazy Connecticut colonial home with a lighthouse and tugboat attached. Price: $425,000.

This is not an historical, working lighthouse. Rather, it’s a lightless replica that a West Haven couple attached to their 3,184-square-foot colonial so they could gaze at Long Island Sound about a mile away. The couple loved the seafaring theme so much, they later added a restored tugboat to the project, which they use as a recreation area.

“Considering the price, it’s not a bad deal,” said listing agent Lucy Morgan. “You’re getting a four-bedroom, three-bath home with great light for painters, artists, and people who just want to look at the water.”

The first two floors of the lighthouse — which has its own elevator — are attached to the colonial, adding a sunroom on each level. Then, when the house ends, the lighthouse elevator continues to the fourth level, where a spiral staircase leads to a catwalk with water views.

A ground floor deck leads to the tugboat, which features a wet bar and a spiral staircase climbing to a re-created captain’s deck with a ship’s wheel — as if there were anywhere to steer the landlocked boat.

The property is famous in West Haven, where gawkers routinely knock on the door and ask to ride to the top of the lighthouse, Morgan said.


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