As millions of Americans head home for the holidays, home sales will likely fall into their usual seasonal slumber. While a new house might be on many wish lists, it is not historically a popular holiday gift.
Housing sales actually began to slide in September and October as rising mortgage rates and uncertainty over the D.C. budget crisis left many potential buyers wary about added financial risk. The positive momentum of last spring and summer "continues to lose steam," according to a Fannie Mae report on attitudes toward housing in November.
Prices are also playing on consumers' concerns. While the sharp jump in the first half of the year was welcome news and returned millions of homeowners to a positive equity position on their mortgages, by August the gains were so large that they began pricing some buyers out and sparking debate over a potential new "bubble." The gains are now expected to ease as we head into 2014.
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All the uncertainty has some wondering what the new year will bring, and what better place to find out than right back home for the holidays … on Main Street. The latest edition of CNBC's "Million-Dollar Home Challenge" will feature seven $1 million homes with "Main Street" addresses.
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On Wednesday, reporters on CNBC shows are displaying two homes without disclosing their locations. They are documenting the interiors, exteriors, marketed features and one unique bonus of each home. The anchors are guessing where the homes are. Real estate maven Dolly Lenz then decides which house gives buyers a better bang for their buck. After revealing the two houses' locations, Lenz chooses a winner. That house then goes up against the next mystery location on the next show.
The winner will be crowned on CNBC's "Closing Bell."
(Read more: Best bang for your buck: $1 million home challenge)
On "Squawk Box," the first house was in Montrose, Ala., and priced at $995,000. This quaint, two-story bay cottage sits on 2.5 acres and features magnificent waterfront views from either the screened-in porch or a private platform. This 2,300-square-foot house features original woodwork and four fireplaces. The kitchen includes granite countertops and beadboard cabinetry.
The cottage has three bedrooms and two baths. The master bedroom is downstairs, with two spacious guest bedrooms up the cherrywood stairway.
"Montrose is a beautiful place, gorgeous beaches—almost the Hamptons," Lenz said. "The problem with the property is it has a fatal flaw.
"The house abuts the house next door, so you can look right in. ... The value is suddenly destroyed."
Built around 1850, this Greek Revival mansion sits on 2.3 acres in Camden, Del. About 7,000 square feet, it is priced at $960,000.
While the ample kitchen needs some renovation, there are 11 potential bedrooms. The real selling point, however, is the main level, which features ceilings of nearly 13 feet and original stencils that match the house's stained glass.
"It has a lot of potential uses," said Lenz. "Both as a bed and breakfast, as a wonderful compound for a family."
The winner: Mammoth Manor
The Mammoth Manor moves to the next round on "Squawk on the Street" against a charming antique colonial house in Atkinson, N.H.
Nestled on five acres and an hour from Boston by train or car, this sprawling property makes the perfect country retreat. It has facilities to board up to 16 horses. Priced at $950,000, this 4,800-square-foot house has four bedrooms and two baths.
The open floor plan showcases a gourmet kitchen complete with granite countertops, high-end appliances, cathedral ceilings and wood beams. A comfortable den is located upstairs, and every bedroom has a fireplace.
"It is a fabulous house, but the fact that it's a horse farm makes it a very particular buyer," Lenz said. "Mammoth Manor really resonates to people who are value buyers."
The winner: Mammoth Manor
The Greek-style Mammoth Manor returns for another round on "Fast Money: Halftime Report" against a home in Aspen, Colo., famous for its world-class skiing.
Built in 1881, this quaint Victorian charmer sits on a 3,000-square-foot lot. Fully renovated and priced at $1,050,000, this one-bedroom, one-bath home in 912 square feet is surrounded by beautiful mountain views.
The living room has a 9-foot ceiling, which features crown moldings, as does the kitchen. Flexible zoning allows the owner to use this property as as a residence or business, or both.
"That's over $1,000 a square foot," Lenz said. "One bath means you have to wait in line."
The winner: Mammoth Manor
Back for a third round, the Camden, Del., manor faces off on "Power Lunch" against a New England lodge with small-town charm in Amesbury, Mass.
Built during the Revolutionary War, the classic clapboard is set on a quarter acre and is listed at $1,030,000. It includes a two-car garage, side porch, private riverfront and huge backyard. It also features two kitchens, the second of which displays vintage pieces.
The 3,500-square-foot property has three bedrooms, three and one half baths, eight fireplaces and an office with a Jacuzzi tub.
"It represents a better value," Lenz said.
The winner: Lavish Lodge
The Lavish Lodge in Massachusetts appears on "Street Signs" to compete against a house with historic charm in the artsy community of New Hope, Pa.
Built in 1875, this home was renovated and expanded to 3,100 square feet of living space on 1/10th of an acre. Priced at $998,500, the riverfront house has a fenced backyard and a modern chef's kitchen outfitted with high-end Thermadore appliances.
The house has three bedrooms and three and one half baths with floor-to-ceiling windows and a great balcony. The open design incorporates a front and back staircase; and a large home office can be converted into a fourth bedroom.
"That house can probably rent for $5,000 a month," said Lenz. "It's a New York suburb—you can go there for weekends."
The winner: River Retreat
The River Retreat in New Hope, Pa., gets into the ring with a bungalow in Huntington Beach, Calif., in the final round on "Closing Bell."
May the best house on Main Street win.
Walking distance from the seashore, this 1,500-square-foot house is decked out 1920s style. Priced at $998,000, it was bought out of foreclosure and turned into a triplex that can produce rental income.
The main unit has a galley kitchen, two small bedrooms and one bath. The second unit is similar to the main apartment. A brand-new studio unit is in the back. In total, the property has five bedrooms and three baths.
"There are three apartments in this house that rent for over $5,000 a month," said Lenz. "You can use one and rent two."
"I love the flexibility and the exit strategy on that," she added.
The winner: Beach Bungalow