5 Reasons It’s So Hard to Sell a Frank Lloyd Wright House

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We here at Mental Floss are known for lusting after Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs. We’d kill to buy a Wright house in Michigan or Minnesota, on a private island, by a waterfall, or anywhere else for that matter. Even if it wasn’t personally designed by the celebrated architect, really.

But we have wondered why so many houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright—arguably the most famous American architect in history—are up for sale, sometimes for cheap. (One of his houses in Michigan went on the market for less than $500,000 in 2016.) As it turns out, his houses are really quite hard to sell, as we learned from The New York Times. Here are some of the reasons why:

1. YOU GET A LOT OF GAWKERS.

If you’re the owner of a Frank Lloyd Wright house or the broker trying to sell it, you’ve got to sift through a lot of different visitors, not all of whom are serious about buying. For instance, a bevy of conference attendees at the annual meeting of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy in New York City this year are expected to trek out to Wright’s Tirranna, a house in Connecticut currently on the market for $7.2 million, to take a look around. (It’s the one with the waterfall.) Not a lot of those aficionados are going to have millions to spend on a historic house—although some super-enthusiastic Wright fans might.

While the broker selling Tirranna is fine with welcoming the sightseers, not all are so patient. When selling the Cooke House in Virginia Beach in 2016, the realtor only gave tours to prospective buyers that could prove they had the funds available to buy the house, which ended up selling for $2.2 million.

2. NOT EVERYONE WANTS TO PAY TOP DOLLAR FOR AN OLD-FASHIONED HOUSE.

Wright’s creations were thoughtfully designed for their occupants’ comfort, but in some respects, his work can feel dated to people looking to spend big bucks on a house. Real estate professionals, according to the Times, have “to develop a convincing argument for why someone should pay a premium to live in a house with small bedrooms and a snug kitchen, cinder-block walls, cement floors, narrow doorways, a carport instead of a garage and, quite likely, no air-conditioning.” Currently fashionable features like open kitchens and numerous bathrooms don’t exist in mid-century homes like Wright’s.

3. THEY’RE OFTEN IN FAR-FLUNG PLACES.

Wright’s studio in Wisconsin designed houses that were built all over the country. Given how cities have grown since the 1950s, fewer people are looking to live on giant estates in hamlets like Galesburg, Michigan (population: 2000)—site of the $500,000 Wright house—or Willoughby Hills, Ohio (population: 9500). While people might be ready to pay top dollar for an L.A. landmark, even the most dedicated architecture buffs might not be willing or able to relocate to the rural Midwest just for a great house.

4. OWNING A WRIGHT HOUSE MEANS DEALING WITH WRIGHT FANS.

Strangers don’t typically feel like they have a stake in your suburban tract home, but Wright has some pretty dedicated fans. And they have things to say about the way you’re handling your house. “It’s like dealing with a group of theater critics,” one Wright home owner who’s looking to sell told the Times. “You’ve got to put on a good performance to generate accolades, and if you don’t, you’re going to hear from them.”

5. YOU PROBABLY DON’T WANT TO SELL TO JUST ANYONE.

When you live in a piece of architectural history, you become a sort of steward of that history. So when it comes time to move on, you don’t want to hand it off to someone who won’t take care of it. Clients hoping to sell their Wright houses can be particularly vigilant about vetting prospective buyers. “It was no different than if he had a daughter, and the buyer wanted to take her hand in marriage,” one broker said of the client whose Wright home she sold in 2016.

Despite the challenges of living in, and eventually selling, a house by an architect as famous as Wright, for many people, the costs—financial and otherwise—are worth it. As one owner put it, “Would you believe it if somebody told you that someday you’d own a Rembrandt?” The only difference here is that Wright’s designs are art you can live in. Seems like a lot of pressure to keep the kitchen clean, honestly.

[h/t The New York Times]

Dreaming of Spending a Night in a Lighthouse? There’s a Website for That

Earth Trotter Photos/iStock via Getty Images
Earth Trotter Photos/iStock via Getty Images

Two hundred years ago, lighthouses to guide ships away from dangerous coastlines were a common sight. While lighthouses are rarely used for their original purpose today, many of the structures are still standing. If you're looking for an unusual way to celebrate National Lighthouse Day—today, August 6—consider booking a night in one of the dozens of decommissioned lighthouses across the globe that are now used for lodging.

BookaLighthouse.com is like Airbnb for lighthouses. To plan your seaside vacation, first choose the location you'd like to visit: the website's database features lighthouses on four continents including North America.

Once you've decided where you'd like to stay, Book a Lighthouse brings up all the available lighthouse options in the area. In Michigan, you and up to 13 guests can stay at a lighthouse-turned-bed-and-breakfast on the shore of Lake Superior. On the other side of the Atlantic, you'll find a lighthouse on its own island 15 minutes off the Swedish mainland. Rates range from as low as $38 to around $450 per night, and amenities like breakfast, sheets, and towels are often included.

The website is a great resource if you have your heart set on a nautical getaway, but it's not the only service that features lighthouse vacation homes. A quick search for "lighthouse" on Airbnb brings up listings around the world. And if you're looking for a more permanent situation, the U.S. government regularly sells old lighthouses to private citizens for low prices.

8 Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings Join the List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Mariano Mantel Follow, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
Mariano Mantel Follow, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The UNESCO World Heritage Center recognizes sites of great cultural, historical, or scientific importance, from manmade cities like Venice to natural wonders like the Great Barrier Reef. A group of new locations honored this month aren't nearly as old as some other sites on the list, but in just the past century or so, they've made a huge impact. During its 43rd annual session, the World Heritage Committee elected to add eight buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the American architect who pioneered the Prairie School movement in the 20th century.

The Frank Lloyd Wright structures joining the UNESCO list include Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona; Hollyhock House in Los Angeles; the Frederick C. Robie House in Chicago; Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City; Fallingwater in Mill Run, Pennsylvania; the Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House in Madison, Wisconsin; and Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Each building was constructed between 1905 and 1938, and they represent just a handful of the more than 400 Wright works still standing today.

The group makes up a single World Heritage Site known as "The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright." Together, the buildings are the 24th World Heritage Site recognized in the U.S., accompanying such places as Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Everglades National Park in Florida, and the Grand Canyon in Arizona. They're not the first example of modern architecture to be added to the list, though. The Sydney Opera House, the city of Brasilia, and the Bauhaus School in Germany are also World Heritage Sites.

According to organization's website, adding landmarks to the UNESCO World Heritage list "helps raise awareness among citizens and governments for heritage preservation," and that "greater awareness leads to a general rise in the level of the protection and conservation given to heritage properties." Countries that house heritage sites are also eligible for funding from UNESCO to preserve them. All of the sites included "The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright" are already protected as National Historic Landmarks, and many are open to visitors.

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