Even Caves Aren't Safe From Housing Crisis

If you've threatened to ride out the recession in a cave, you might want think again.

Curt Sleeper

One man in Missouri thought he was safe, buying a cave for his family to live in five years ago. Now, the recession is threatening to smoke him out of his cave and he's been forced to put it up for sale on eBay.

The Festus, Mo., cave was a former mine that was later turned into a roller rink and music venue before it became a home.

Selling it on eBay was simply bringing the story full circle: Curt Sleeper, a self-employed computer consultant, bought the 15,000 square-foot cave for $160,000 on eBay in 2004.

He converted it into a three-bedroom, two-bath home that has all the rustic charm of a cave but modern amenities, including, ironically, granite countertops. A chamber behind the "home" still has the stage from when it was a music venue where Ted Nugent, Bob Seger and Ike and Tina Turner and others performed. It's also energy efficient, using geothermal and passive solar, and costs about as much as the family's 800-square-foot-starter home to heat and cool, according to the eBay listing.

It comes with 2.8 acres of land surrounding it and during heavy rain, there may be as many as 14 waterfalls inside.

But the financing on this subterranean dwelling was somewhat subprime. Sleeper had scraped together a 50-percent downpayment and borrowed the remaining $80,000 from the seller. In the five years before the final balloon payment was due, he also spent $150,000 to turn it into a home. He never dreamed that the balloon payment would come crashing down in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression.

He wanted to refinance, but as you might imagine, there aren't any "comps" in the neighborhood.

"Right now, banks are not interested in anything odd," Sleeper told ABC in an interview.

So, instead of losing all the equity he already invested, he's hoping to sell it on eBay, pay back what he owes the seller and pocket the rest.

The starting bid is $300,000. At least 10,000 people are watching the auction, but so far, no bids.

Just goes to show you, there are no safe hiding places in this recession.

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