Trick or treat: The million-dollar home challenge
Forget flying candelabras and ghoulish apparitions—home prices are the scariest thing in real estate right now. Values are up over 12 percent annually from a year ago, thanks to limited supply and investor demand.
Foreclosures used to frighten potential buyers, concerned that too much distress in the market would keep downward pressure on prices, but the opposite is the case: Hungry investors are fighting for what foreclosures are left and are in turn bidding prices ever higher.
Since investors are largely using all cash, first-time buyers, who have a harder time getting mortgages, have been priced out of the market. Credit continues to be tight and could get even more so with new mortgage rules coming down the pike. That may be why so much of the action now is on the high end, with the lower end faltering.
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Sales of homes priced under $100,000 fell 7.4 percent in September year over year, according to the National Association of Realtors, while sales of homes above $750,000 were up 42 percent. The luxury market—residences priced at over $1 million—is also seeing a resurgence, with sales up 40 percent from last year.
Just a year ago, 20 percent of all sales were of houses priced under $100,000, but that share is down to 17 percent, while the share of pricier homes continues to climb.
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With this new competition in the high-end market, we wanted to see what buyers are getting for a cool million. It may buy a mansion in Mobile, Ala., or a stuffy studio in San Francisco.
In an effort to gauge differing values, CNBC is creeping through the million-dollar market again, this time in our Halloween edition. The houses aren't haunted, but locations, facades, even market realities may send a chill through buyers and sellers alike.
(Read more: Want a million-dollar home? Tips from a megabroker)
Starting on CNBC's "Squawk Box," two reporters will show two homes without disclosing their locations; they will document the interiors, exteriors, marketed features and one unique bonus offered by each home.
Real estate maven Dolly Lenz will decide which house gives buyers a better bang for the buck.
We will then reveal where the two houses are located, and with that added to the mix, Lenz will choose a winner. That house will then go up against the next mystery location on the next show.
We will crown a winner on CNBC's "Closing Bell."
Located on Elm Street, this home is no nightmare. It's in Glen Ellen, Ill., and priced at $998,900. Built in 2001, this 3,800-square-foot home has five bedrooms and 3½ bathrooms on a quarter of an acre. The family-friendly house has an oversized mud room with lockers and laundry, as well as a finished basement complete with a wet bar, guest bedroom and bathroom.
The open-floor plan features floor to ceiling windows in the kitchen's breakfast nook view to the landscape's gorgeous gardens.
Going against the dream house on Elm Street is a 110-year-old mansion in Portland, Maine, priced at $1,050,000. This 4,200-square-foot colonial-style brick house with stained-glass windows sits on just over 0.10 acre. With one less bathroom than the first home, this house features five bedrooms, 2½ baths, four fireplaces and original woodwork throughout.
A dramatic stairway leading to a master bedroom features spectacular views from a bay window. Added to the charm of this historic place is a spacious kitchen with stainless steel appliances and a six-burner stove. This grand home includes an exposed brick attic and a basement with an original billiard room as a great spot for entertaining.
"It's an undersized lot for the house," said Lenz. "It's a tough sell. It's only 2½ baths."
The winner: Spooky Splendor
Spooky Splendor, near Chicago, moved onto the next round against a nature lover's colonial house in Blairstown, N.J.
Nestled in the forest down the street from the site of "Friday the 13th," this 6,300-square-foot custom-built colonial is priced at $985,000. This grand estate has an in-ground freshwater pond that sits on 14-plus acres and includes a guest house and a stable.
This wooded retreat has an open floor plan that features three fireplaces including one off the kitchen. Mountain views can be seen from all four bedrooms and each of the 4½ baths are fitted with skylights and Jacuzzis.
"It has low taxes in New New Jersey a tri-state area. It has everything going for it." Lenz added. "How do you beat 14 acres? It comes with two horses."
The winner: Eerie Estate