Real Estate Tips

Hibernate Luxuriously in This 5,572-Square-Foot Cave Mansion

When most people envision their dream home, they describe large kitchens, beautiful hardwood floors and clawfoot tubs. But not John Hay.

In the mid-1980s, Hay – founder of the Celestial Seasonings Tea Company and great-great grandson of U.S. Secretary of State John Milton Hay – purchased the Beckham Creek Cave in Parthenon, Arkansas. He had plans to transform it into a 10,000-square-foot bomb shelter, consisting of cinder-block walls, plywood flooring, 11 coats of clear epoxy on the natural formations of the cave, and an internal freshwater spring.

He stocked it with enough freeze-dried food to keep 50 people fed for up to two years, and he twice had his religious group sit out bomb scares in the cave. By 1987, Hay realized the end of the world wasn’t coming quite so soon. Various records indicate the property was sold to a man known simply as “Mr. Richardson,” who had a different dream in mind when he came into possession of the property.

Soon after turning the space into a $6 million clubbing venue, Mr. Richardson held a grand unveiling that welcomed over 250 esteemed guests, including Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Ross and many other Hollywood elite.

It’s no wonder that in 1994, John Hay repurchased his now illustrious cave.

In the decades following, several new owners have taken hold of the 257-acre property, each one undoubtedly in awe of the great room’s 40-foot rock ceilings and 2,300 square feet. Stalactites descend from overhead throughout the 5,572-square-foot home, and raw rock has been used wherever possible to maintain the unique character of the space.

Though it’s been renovated several times, the sprawling cave has kept its surprisingly cozy charm intact. Part of the reason the cave’s natural features have been preserved is surely thanks to Hay, who reverently told People magazine in 1988 that the home’s “original architect was God.”

The bad news – every dream home comes with its own downfalls, after all – is that a few of the stalactites drip. However, the whole property is climate-controlled thanks to geothermal units throughout.

The 4-bed, 4-bath cave home will run its next owners somewhere around $2.75 million. And while it doesn’t have those coveted hardwood floors or the clawfoot tub that fantasies are made of, we still consider this incredibly cool residence to be a real gem.

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Real Estate Tips

How to Move Cross-Country: See How These Renters Made It Work

When former New Yorkers Erica Warren and Cici Harrison drove across the country and settled in the Pacific Northwest, they had a list of criteria for their new rental.

They’d need a parking space, a home office so Erica could work remotely and, of course, a yard so they could adopt a dog. And this rental couldn’t be too splashy, because a cross-country move is expensive enough.

All of this complicated their search in Portland’s tough rental market. Luckily the couple were able to stay locally with friends until they found the right rental. And their new home ticks all the boxes – while requiring some minor compromises to make it all work.

We chatted with Warren to hear how she and her wife navigated a cross-country move, including finding a home in a new city and making their new rental feel like home.

Where is your home, and how long have you lived there?
We’re in the Southeast, specifically the Richmond neighborhood. We moved there in March of 2017, and we’ve been there a year and a half.

How did you find your rental?
When we got here, we were staying with Marty and Tera, our friends who live here locally. The day after we arrived, there was the biggest snowstorm Portland had ever had in 30 years. That put a damper on our apartment searching, because we couldn’t drive our car or get anywhere. This place was actually the first one we saw, because it was in walking distance from Marty and Tera’s house.

We heard about it because Tera had sent an email around at her job asking if anyone had a lead on a rental. Someone else who worked with her had recently purchased a duplex and was looking for renters for the other side.

We walked over and saw it, and it was a very nice place. But it was the first place we looked at. We had no context for if it was a good deal or not. Of course, it seemed like a good deal to us, coming from New York. I was like, “It has a washer and dryer, it has a yard – I’ll pay any amount of money for that!”

So we didn’t say yes right away, and then we probably spent the next two or three weeks looking at places. We looked at about a dozen places all over the city. We saw all the different variations.

At some point we were almost ready to sign a lease on a 1 bedroom in a new apartment complex. It was, on paper, everything we were looking for. And Cici, out of nowhere, goes, “Why didn’t we want that first place that we looked at?” The one we were going to sign a lease for was 1 bedroom, and this was 2 bedrooms, and it was bigger, and the monthly rent was less. And we were like, “Oh, that was a much better place!” So we emailed the landlords to see if it was still available, and it was.

What price range were you looking for, and what did you end up paying?
We were looking in the $1,500-$1,700 per month range. This place ended up being right in the middle. It was $1,600 when we started the first year we were here, and it’s now $1,685. It seems like a pretty reasonable price for the neighborhood we’re in, because the rental market in Portland seems to be growing so fast.

What was the application and approval process like?
It was really straightforward. Our landlords live on the other side of the duplex, and they’re really nice people. I think they were looking for good neighbors as much as they were looking for good tenants. So I think that also helped with the relationship.

Were there any surprise fees?
We paid first month’s rent and a security deposit. The only extra fee when we moved in – we had just adopted Billie, and they had a $25 monthly dog rent. Which they told us about beforehand, because we were very particular about wanting a building that would allow us to adopt a dog. We got her a month after we moved in.

What was your cost of moving across the country?
We paid about $5,000 total for a full-service moving company, which is a lot of money. It was our biggest moving expense, but all we had to do was box up our things. They sent a whole team of people, packed our stuff into a storage cube, stored the cube for us, and then when we found a place, shipped it across the country. We didn’t have to do any of the logistics, and we didn’t have to do any of the carrying of things – we just had to pack a few boxes and unpack the boxes when we got here.

New York is notorious for small apartments. Is your Portland space bigger or smaller?
It’s slightly bigger, and I feel like it’s most noticeable in the kitchen. The kitchen that we have here is two or three times bigger than what we had in New York. I didn’t know how much I wanted a really nice kitchen, but now that I have one, I’m like yes, this is exactly where we needed the extra space!

We also have outdoor space, which makes a huge difference. It’s not huge – it’s more like a patio than a yard. We have a little grill, and we can sit out there on a nice day. Plus, it’s got a fence, so we can let our dog out.

Did you have any challenges making the place functional?
Nothing major. It was built in the ’60s or ’70s, but the landlords had renovated our unit before we moved in, so the kitchen, bathroom and flooring were all brand new – you know, everything works and is nicely designed, so that helped.

I did a little bit of work in the yard, just because it was a little muddy, and it’s Portland, so it’s wet in the winter, and Billie likes to dig. I got some pebble stones to fill in some of the muddy areas. We got into some light container gardening, because we never had outdoor space in Brooklyn. So we have a little blueberry bush, some star jasmine and some other little things I’m trying not to kill.

What else have you done to make your rental feel like home?
We painted a couple accent walls, which our landlords were totally fine with. We have this wide picture window in the living room that faces the road, but because of that you can see right into our house. So we got a custom shade that you can pull up from the bottom or pull down from the top, just so that we can have privacy but also sunlight if we want.

How long do you think you’ll stay?
I don’t know specifically. When we moved in, we talked about how we’d love to stay here until we’re in a position to buy a house. One day I’d like to own a house – a dining room would be nice at some point in my life. But where we’re at right now, this is the right amount of space, and it’s a really great neighborhood.

What do you want from your next place, other than a dining room?
A big fenced-in yard for Billie! Cici’s mom sent us an article about how the thing that’s finally getting millennials to buy houses is their dogs.

I’d also like a little bit more guest space so we could have people visit more frequently, because all of our family is on the East Coast.

And this is 100 percent because Cici has already claimed it – whatever house we buy has to have a basement so that she can play drums there. Number one is a yard for Billie, and number two is a basement for a drum kit and band practice.

Erica’s tips for finding a rental in a new city

1. Look around to get a sense of the market

Look at as many places as possible. Because even if you don’t want that unit, it gives you a sense of the market. So when you do find a good deal, you know that you have a good deal.

2. Know where you’re willing to compromise

If you have enough money that you don’t have to make sacrifices in renting, you probably don’t need to be renting. So everything’s a trade-off. There’s not a perfect rental out there. So it’s like, “This place has 2 bedrooms, but it’s more expensive, or this place has a bigger yard, but it’s farther out.”

3. Get a little help from your friends

We were so lucky to stay with Marty and Tera in their guest room until we found our own place. And Tera emailed co-workers to see if they knew of any rentals, which is how we ended up finding this place.

4. Conserve your energy and hire a full-service moving and storage company (if you can)

There’s enough stress in moving at all, amplified by moving cross-country. We probably could have gotten a U-Haul, packed it up, driven it cross-country and put our stuff into a storage unit here. But the logistics, let alone the physical labor, were not extra pieces of stress we needed. And even though it was really expensive, it was worth every penny.

Apartment photos by Erica Warren.

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Real Estate Tips

The Popsicle Place Program in Seattle Helps Families in Need

It’s tough to afford housing in many cities across the U.S., but in Seattle, it’s a particularly competitive market.

Living in an urban area with such a high cost of living can break a family when emergencies arise, but luckily for the people of Seattle, Mary’s Place has been relieving housing burdens since 1999.

Initially established as a women’s day center, Mary’s Place has evolved and expanded into a housing facility. It now provides a warm bed for 680 family members every night of the year.

As the shelter’s website states, “The Mary’s Place model is simple – partner with anyone and everyone who can help to address the issue of family homelessness: congregations, individuals, cities and counties, and businesses of all sizes.”

It seems to be a phenomenally successful model – and it only continues to grow. The Popsicle Place program, formed in 2018, is a Mary’s Place program focused on assisting families who are simultaneously experiencing homelessness and caring for medically complex or critically ill children.

A devastating statistic says that 1 in every 285 children in the U.S. alone will be diagnosed with cancer before the age of 20, and many more will be hospitalized for serious illness and injury. Additionally, 60 percent of people with the highest rent burden can’t cover three months of expenses.

Serious illness can put many families in financial crisis, and the stress of caring for children in need of medical intervention as well as maintaining livelihood for the whole family can be debilitating.

But at Popsicle Place, families don’t have to worry about costly emergency housing options, like motels, or choosing between having a place to live and having a healthy child. They also don’t have to worry about spending the night apart, since the Popsicle Place has a medical staff and volunteers on hand so that every member of the family can rest comfortably, in private rooms, all under one roof – regardless of health status.

While a small housing operation can’t alleviate every concern for families in medical and financial distress, simply having a bit of support can provide immense relief – relief that those families need to take their next step.

“Not only do they have their own private rooms,” says Marty Hartman, executive director of Mary’s Place, “but they also have access to our healthcare clinic. They have a Popsicle Place lounge, where if their children aren’t feeling so well or if they have immunocompromised conditions, they can go in there and relax. [We] just want to set them all up for success.”

And that they do, with excellent results.

The Mary’s Place blog recently shared the story of a single mother of three named Nycolle. When she found black mold in her apartment, she was forced to immediately leave with her children, each of them with their own unique and demanding healthcare requirements, leaving them in need of emergency housing. That’s where the Popsicle Place program came in.

“Being at Mary’s Place gave me peace of mind,” says Nycolle in the article, “knowing we had electricity for Karlah’s treatments and refrigeration for Krystoffer’s medications. It let me focus on keeping them well!”

With their basic needs managed, the family members soon found a large, affordable 3-bedroom house in Spokane and happily relocated. They now enjoy a large yard, as well as a home to call their own.

That’s exactly what the program is all about, according to Hartman. “Let’s get you the housing options that you need and then move you forward.”

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