Where’s the Love? 5 Homes Built Out of Spite

Home is where the heart is…not. Spite houses—homes built to draw the ire of onlookers—have been a gesture of contempt for centuries, directed toward neighbors, local authorities, developers and other adversaries left wondering, “Where’s the love?”

Take a look at some of the most obnoxious spite homes below. Turns out good fences dont make good neighbors!

The Froling Spite House


Located on a spit of land in Alameda, Calif., a city between Oakland and San Francisco, this 10-feet deep home was erected around the early 1900s by Charles Froling, whose dreams of building a home were dashed when the city seized the majority of the land to make way for a street.

The Hollensbury Spite House



















At (an imposing) 325 square feet, this 1830 Alexandria, Va., home was built by John Hollensbury, owner of the neighboring properties pictured above, to prevent horse-drawn carriages and ne’er-do-wells from accessing the alley between the homes.

The Randall Spite House


Constructed in the 1800s by developer John Randall, this Long Island, N.Y, home, located in Freeport, sits on a triangular plot of land outside the parameters of a grid set by a rival builder.

The Skinny Spite House



















Situated in the North End of Boston, Mass., this post-Civil War era home has more than one origin story. Locals say the entry-less home, 10.4 feet at its widest, was built by a soldier left with a sliver of land after his brother took the lion’s share of their father’s inheritance.

The Montlake Spite House


Constructed in 1925, this 860-square-foot home in Seattle, Wash., is shaped like a slice of pie. Depending on who you ask, the home may have been built by an insulted land owner after a low-ball offer from the neighbor, or by a jilted divorcée left with a slice of land by her ex-husband.

This post was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. Check the blog daily for winning real estate tips and trends.

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RV Living in the City: Dodging the Rental Affordability Crisis


No one has to tell Ellen Sims that Seattle rents aren’t affordable.

The massage therapist and nonprofit executive knows firsthand that for many people, it’s impossible to pay rent here and get ahead.

That’s why she extracted herself from the rent race a year ago, plunking $2,000 down on a recreational vehicle that now costs her a manageable $240 a month — plus roughly $300 in insurance, propane and gas, depending on the season and her travel plans.

‘I’m not stressed out, and that’s priceless’


Ellen Sims

“For living alone, I pay about a third to a fourth of what other people are paying, so it’s affording me the ability to pay off debt and save money at the same time, so that I can hopefully get to purchase some land,” Sims said.

She specializes in craniosacral therapy, runs a nonprofit that provides free health care to homeless and low-income people, and teaches wellness and mindfulness to University of Washington law students — all part of a broader aim (via her company, Divine Roots Wellness) to encourage the world to slow down and be well.

Sims notices how tense her clients are from working so much.

“We have an epidemic of stress that’s causing a lot of problems,” she said. “People are on edge, and when we allow ourselves time to relax, that’s when we digest and can sleep.”

She’s relieved that the RV has eased her money worries and made it possible for her to relax and spend time on projects she finds meaningful.

“I’m not constantly checking how much I have. I’m not stressed out, and that is literally priceless,” she said.

Sticker shock in an old blue-collar town

It’s not easy to be chill when the rent keeps rising. Seattle’s median rent climbed 7.2 percent in December 2015 over the previous December, to $1,931. It’s expected to hit $2,018 this year.

The ramifications are dire for a region that was historically blue-collar and not prone to the same sky-high housing prices as other coastal hubs.

This past year, Seattle and its surrounding county saw a major increase in homelessness. Even before five people were shot in “The Jungle,” a longtime homeless encampment, this winter, Seattle’s mayor issued a homeless-emergency order to create two safe-parking lots for people who live in vehicles.

Sims clearly isn’t the only Seattleite who’s taken up RV living in the face of skyrocketing rents.

All over the city, people are cobbling together nontraditional living situations that address their financial strain and, in the process, give them greater peace of mind.

‘A different set of conversations’


Reba Wirtel

Reba Wirtel says she hardly remembers not “living in community,” with multiple roommates sharing the bills and often a particular lifestyle.

For the past few years, she has lived with her teenage daughter, Alli, in a rented home with a single mom, her daughter and, typically, three other roommates. They are among the 32 percent of working-age adults nationally who live with people to whom they are not married or partnered.

Doubling up” has increased over the years and is particularly common in pricey markets.

The foundation of Wirtel’s community is nonviolent communication, a style that assumes good intent and that whatever is upsetting or not working can be handled with a conversation, or several.

“I’ve found that eliminates so much stress and confusion and chaos in my life,” Wirtel said.

The community shares the cooking, which means that “four nights a week, there are homemade meals being cooked, and I’m not part of that at all but get to come upstairs and have a delicious meal, and it’s incredible,” she said.

They also split the rent, which recently rose to $2,500 a month.

“Seattle housing is just so outrageous. If we were not living in community, I’d probably be having a different set of conversations with my husband, because I don’t think Alli and I could live,” said Wirtel, a longtime counselor/social worker who now runs the business side of Be-Possible.com.

For now, she doesn’t live with her husband, who’s busy running another intentional community — of artists. She lived there for a while, but she decided artists’ 24-7 hours were not ideal for raising Alli.

‘You’d never know you live with 30 people’


Michael Craft

Her husband, Michael Craft, is committed for a while to managing a 25-bedroom artists’ enclave called InArtsNW, or “The In” for short.

Rents start at about $625 a month, and Craft says he’s “been preaching the goal of quitting your job and making money at your passion, because you’ll have much more time to follow your passion if you’re not giving 8-plus hours away to the corporatocracy.”

A few people were already making a living as artists when they arrived; for others, “it’s a process,” he said.

Craft is aware that The In is one of the least expensive places to live in Seattle and says there’s no shortage of people wanting a room there.

The home has two kitchens, 12 toilets, four or five showers and a couple of bathtubs.

“You’d never know you live with 30 people,” he said. “Everybody has a busy life and different schedules.”

Although the enclave used to host five musical shows a night — and got into some trouble for it — things are different now, and residents are not permitted to make noise in the middle of the night on weeknights, Craft said.

The community has been trying for a while to raise money for a down payment on the home, largely to stave off fears of a future sale to a developer.

Craft figures they need about $1 million, but they stopped active fundraising because “it was like trying to herd cats,” and the pot stands at just over $1,500.

That’s one pressure that Sims sidesteps by living in an RV.

“At one point,” she said, “I started looking at apartments again after being in here, and as I was looking, I just realized that it wasn’t worth it to me anymore.”

Video and photos by Erik Hecht


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Mike Tyson Bites Off Another Mansion on His Vegas Street

shutterstock_270271730Mike Tyson is racking up homes along one Las Vegas street the way he used to collect heavyweight titles.

The vicious-boxer-turned-jokey-entertainer just forked out $2.5 million for a 10,400-square-foot mansion a short walk from his current home in a suburban golf course community.

The 6-bedroom, 6.5-bath Mediterranean-style villa has all the pomp and luxury you’d expect in a Vegas mansion, including a grand piano in the chandeliered marble foyer.

An open floor plan on the first level combines an expansive kitchen with a casual eating area and a family room with a wet bar big enough to deliver a punch. For knockout events, there’s a grand dining room and a great room with an ornate fireplace.

The massive master bath features lots of mirrors where Tyson can check out his facial tattoo, and a hot tub looking out onto a wide deck and the backyard swimming pool and spa.

Lest you worry that Tyson has bitten off more than he can chew, listing agent Ken Lowman from Luxury Homes of Las Vegas said he plans to list the champ’s smaller house down the street.


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Insurance 101: Review Your Insurance Policy at Renewal

By Shannon Ireland

Home insurance can be confusing. Policies are customized to fit the needs of each policyholder, so coverage can vary widely. If you’ve never read your policy cover to cover, stop what you’re doing and find the time to do so.

Do you know if you’re covered in the event of a meteor hitting your home? What about if heavy rainfall leads to a flood in your basement? If the former occurs, you’re likely protected, as this seemingly random coverage is typically included in standard policies. The latter? You may not be as lucky, as flood insurance often is a completely separate entity.

About 32 million households throughout the country do not have appropriate insurance, according to Trusted Choice, an Independent Insurance Agent company. Some have far too much coverage, while others are rolling the dice with holes in their policies that could lead to financial hardships.

To know the situations in which you are and aren’t covered, review your policy. The following are some tips for when, with whom and how to comb through your coverage.

How much coverage should you have?

There are three main coverages you need to have in order to protect your home — structure, contents and liability.


This coverage is the amount it would cost to rebuild your home if it were completely destroyed by a covered peril.

Determining your home’s value can be tricky, because it’s not exactly the same as the amount you purchased your house for. For example, the cost likely includes the plot of land, and if your home was destroyed, you wouldn’t need to rebuy the land.

Also, you have to factor in the cost of materials, which can change quite often. It’s important to review your policy regularly to ensure you have the correct amount of coverage to rebuild the home from scratch.


Contents coverage is typically set between 50 percent and 70 percent of your home’s value, and can help pay to repair or replace your belongings if they’re damaged or destroyed at the hands of a covered peril.

Again, determining the amount of coverage necessary can be tough, as there’s often a cap of $1,000 to $2,500 for high-value items. Meaning that if you have a rare art collection, an extensive number of antiques, or gems aplenty, you may not be adequately covered if your home is the victim of a burglary or fire, for example.

The best way to determine the amount of coverage that fits your needs is to create a home inventory — an itemized list of everything you own and the value of each item — and go over it with your insurance agent. You may need to add a floater policy to cover your more expensive possessions.


Liability coverage is an absolute must. If someone is injured on your property and racks up costly medical bills, you could be on the hook. To determine the amount of liability coverage that’s right for you, it’s important to be completely transparent with your insurance provider.

For example, if you own a dog, your insurance carrier needs to know. Your monthly payments may be a little higher each month, but if your provider doesn’t know that you have a pup and it bites a guest, you likely won’t receive any help with the resulting medical expenses. And dog bites account for about one-third of all home insurance claims, with the average claim costing $32,072, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Speak with a licensed agent to accurately assess the risks in your home so you have exactly the amount of liability coverage you need.

There are additional home insurance coverages that you can add to your policy. Said protections include other structures (such as detached garages or sheds on your property) and additional living expenses, such as hotel rooms and meals if you’re displaced due to a covered peril.

Discuss additional coverages with a licensed professional to determine if they should be added to your policy.

When to review your policy

When it’s time to renew your coverage with your insurance provider — likely an annual occurrence — walk through your policy with an agent and ask questions. Walking and reading through your policy with a professional will help ensure that you have coverage that’s accurately tailored to your individual needs.


Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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Preparing Your Home for Severe Winter Storms

By Joseph Truini

Winter is here, and with it comes beautiful snow and comforting fireplaces. However, this time of year also brings the very real chance of severe winter storms. Blizzards, ice storms and dangerously low temperatures can pose serious threats to you and your home.

Having your home ready to combat the worst of winter weather is something no homeowner should take lightly. The mercury is dropping — are you prepared?

Inside the home

Make sure these indoor winterizing tasks are squared away before it’s too late.

Add weather stripping to windows and doors. Once the wind starts whipping through the neighborhood, you’ll be able to feel the cold air slipping through cracks and gaps in windows and doors. The first step to sealing out drafts is to measure the gap around the window or door. Then buy weather stripping that’s wider than the widest point of the gap. That way, when you close the window or door, it’ll compress the weather stripping, plug up the gap and seal out any drafts. And don’t forget to block gaps beneath exterior doors. Specially designed door sweeps and tubular rubber weather stripping are highly effective at blocking out wind, rain and snow.

Flush the water heater. Sediment and gunk can accumulate in the bottom of a water heater, causing its efficiency to dip considerably. It’s fairly easy to flush the water heater yourself, but always consult a professional if you have any questions. Water heaters all have a drain valve at the bottom of the unit. If your water heater is electric, make sure you turn off the electricity to the heater before it’s flushed. Hook up a hose to the drain valve, attaching it carefully to prevent flooding, and run it outside to a safe place to drain the water. Then open the valve and let it drain before cleaning out any gunk and rust.

Prepare the fireplace. Whether you have a traditional wood fireplace or a gas fireplace, you’ll need to make sure it’s burning safely and efficiently.

  • Clean the chimney. Wood-burning fireplaces can produce a great deal of creosote buildup inside the walls of your chimney from casual use, which could cause problems with smoke and carbon monoxide escaping into the living area. If you use the fireplace frequently — say, three to four days per week all winter long — it’s smart to hire a chimney sweep to clean the flue once a year.
  • Prep gas fireplaces. Have the gas burner inspected by a professional to ensure there are no leaks or buildup in the lines.


    Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Find alternative heat sources. When the power goes out during a winter storm, it won’t be long before you start to feel the temperature in your home dropping. That’s why it’s crucial to have alternative sources of power and heat — ones that don’t require the electricity of your home to operate. Consider investing in a temporary wood-burning stove, or a kerosene or gas heater.

Prepare for ice dams. Ice dams are potentially the most damaging of problems that can arise from a severe winter storm, and although they occur on the outside of your home, preventing them actually begins inside. When snow and ice accumulate on your roof, they melt in locations where heat has built up and warmed the underside of the roof. That melted snow and ice will travel down to the cooler edges of the roof and freeze, causing a large buildup, or dam, of ice.

Water traveling from the top of the roof backs up against the newly-formed ice dam. That water then begins penetrating the roof, leaking down into the walls and ceilings, and damaging drywall. On top of that, the water can get inside insulation, creating excess moisture leading to further damage, and even dangerous mold.

To prevent ice dams from occurring, check insulation in your attic and top floor, including around electrical boxes and recessed light fixtures, and make sure the roof is adequately ventilated.

Outside the home

Now that your house is ready for winter weather inside, it’s time to prepare the outside of your home. Snowstorms can bring their own problems, but ice is a bigger winter storm worry, and power outages can cause serious issues if you’re not prepared.

Caulk windows. When you install weather stripping inside, check the exterior of your window for gaps as well. On occasion, the frame can separate from the exterior, allowing cold air to sneak inside. Grab some exterior window/door caulk in a color similar to yshutterstock_24341839our window frame, and run a bead around the gap to make sure you have the drafts covered from both sides.

Wrap pipes and faucets. Outside, your home likely has at least one exposed faucet used for watering and outdoor activities. But in the winter, these faucets can pose a hazard, allowing winter air to infiltrate the water running through your underground pipes. When it gets cold enough, the water could freeze and expand in the pipes, causing them to burst. Then you have major problems. Covering the exposed faucet heads with hard foam covers is a must when you get a “hard freeze,” meaning the temperature drops below 28 degrees.

Also, if you have any underground sprinkler systems, they may have an exposed supply line near the home. Wrap and tape these with pipe insulation and duct tape to make sure they don’t freeze as well.

Clean gutters and add gutter guards. Leaves can muck up the gutter works, so it’s important to make sure you get all the blockage out of the way before melting snow and ice backs up on your roof and causes damage.

Trim your trees. Take a minute to identify branches that may cause a problem in the event of heavy ice, and hire a professional to trim them away from your home.

Combat power outages with a generator. Power loss from iced-over power lines is an outdoor problem with big indoor consequences. A generator is the perfect way to avoid the hassle of finding an alternative heat source or overusing your fireplace. But be careful: Every winter brings news reports of deaths due to carbon monoxide from improperly used generators. Consumer protection agencies recommend that you never use portable generators indoors or in garages, basements, or sheds. They should always be used outside, well away from windows, doors, vents, or any other opening. Keeping a working CO alarm in your house is also a good idea.

Don’t let winter take you by surprise! Make sure your home is protected against snow, ice and freezing wind. Install your alternative heat sources and generators before a storm warning even arrives, and keep plenty of water and easy-to-store food on hand. When severe weather hits, you’ll be prepared for whatever comes your way.


Joseph Truini is a home-improvement expert and book author who writes extensively about do-it-yourself home remodeling and repair, woodworking projects, and tools and techniques for The Home Depot.

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