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No Fairy Tale: Why Castles Are Actually a (Royal) Pain To Own, Maintain, and Sell

When most people are asked about their favorite type of architecture, the castle is probably not the first style that pops into their heads.

Unless, of course, the castle culture spell has taken hold. Right now, following the recent death of England’s long-ruling monarch Queen Elizabeth, castles are top of mind again.

Also pushing the castle wave are some high-profile TV shows that have recently premiered highlighting these regal residences. They include HBO’s “Game of Thrones” prequel “House of the Dragon,” and Amazon’s “Lord of the Rings” series “The Rings of Power.” Last but not least is Chip and Joanna Gaines‘ much anticipated new reality show “Welcome Home: The Castle.”

Many viewers tuning in may fantasize about what it would be like to live in a castle. And while such structures may be rare, particularly in the U.S., they do exist—just ask The Agency’s Jimmy Nappo, who recently listed “The Castle on Arbor Avenue,” built about 30 years ago by a Swiss architect and his team who came over from Europe.

The 4,508-square-foot, Tudor-style residence in Los Altos, CA, was on the market for $5,490,000 for less than 12 days before it had a pending offer.

“People love the storybook feel of [a castle] and the certain magic that comes with it,” Nappo says. “Living in a castle-inspired home is something that truly begins to permeate into your entire lifestyle. You basically get to live in your own fairy tale.”

Yet as beautiful as some of these posh properties are and as fantastic as living in one may seem, owners and real estate agents are quick to point out that they also come with a passel of castle hassles.

Why castles can be tough to own—and sell

Take, for instance, the grand Chris Mark Castle in Woodstock, CT, which has been on and off the market since 2016 (with a five-year break in the middle) at prices ranging from $32 million to $60 million—the latter price adding on large tracts of land to sweeten the deal. So far, no takers.

Mark Cross Castle
Christ Mark Castle in Woodstock, CT

Meanwhile, in Calabasas, CA, the ultraluxe Villa Bellezza, patterned after a palazzo (Italian for “palace,” it is close enough to “castle” for our purposes), has been on the market for almost a year now, starting at $29,995,000 and recently reduced to $23,995,000.

No buyers have stepped forward for this beauty, either. Why? Allow us to elaborate on the many reasons why castles might sit on the market.

Villa Bellezza in Calabasas, CA
Villa Bellezza in Calabasas, CA

Massive maintenance

A castle in Kansas City, MO
A castle in Kansas City, MO

“Owning a castle requires a lot of money, not only to purchase it but also to maintain it,” says Dave Chester of Custom Controls, a smart home enterprise. “To maintain a castle, you need a lot of labor, from cleaners to security.”

The larger castles require several full-time house staffers, as well as one or two full-time groundskeepers. We’ve all seen the PBS shows where large numbers of servants are required to keep the grand estates running. While footmen, stableboys, and lady’s maids may be out of date, they’ve been replaced by home tech experts, property managers, personal chefs, and security personnel.

Outrageous repairs

Custom ceiling mural in Villa Bellezza
Custom ceiling mural in Villa Bellezza

Many castles were built by European craftsmen, and as such, any ol’ handyman may not be able to repair them. Imagine, for example, a leak in the roof above one of Villa Bellezza’s hand-painted ceiling murals. Who’s going to clean that up?

“Not everyone is equipped to take care of such a special property,” says Nappo. “It’s very similar to a luxury European vehicle. Not every mechanic at your local corner auto shop is going to know how to best keep it running.”

“Same thing with atypical homes,” he continues. “Not every vendor or handyman is going to know how to best handle the custom-built elements of the home.”

Marauder magnets

Rocky Oaks vineyard in Malibu, known as the castle on the hill.
Rocky Oaks vineyard in Malibu, CA

“Given their value, castles are often a target for thieves,” says Jennifer Spinelli, founder and CEO of Watson Buys in Denver. “In addition, because they are often located in remote areas, castles can be difficult to protect. It’s important to have a top-of-the-line security system in place.”

Castles are usually well-known in the area and have often been featured in magazines and websites, giving thieves a blueprint for breaking in.

Just imagine being home alone in one of these prominent estates with nothing but a digital security system to protect you. A safe room is a must, and many have them.

Lonely locations

Lake Tahoe's Castle on the Hill
Lake Tahoe’s Castle on the Hill

“Usually castles and palaces are situated in places far from where the rest of the population lives,” says Ben Fisher, a real estate agent in Park City. He notes that the areas are often remote and covered with dense foliage, making them even more private, but not always in a good way.

Being far from crowds may add to their exclusive allure, but it also makes things complicated when you need to make a quick run to the store for milk or medicine. They could also be a tough commute for professionals.

Spooky speculation

This "not haunted" sign has generated buzz on social media.
This “Not Haunted” sign has generated buzz on social media.

Kaitlin Riordan, Taylor Viydo/

Since some of the world’s greatest literature has been calling up images of ghosts in castles for centuries (hello, Shakespeare), people can’t help but wonder about supernatural activity in castles—especially the older ones.

Theresa Raymond, a broker with Smokey Mountain Realty, says people actually ask if there are dead people roaming the halls at night, and whether the previous owners left of their own accord or were chased out by evil forces.

She knows of an incident where multiple buyers passed over castle-like properties “just for safety concerns from paranormal involvement—even when the prices had dropped by more than 30%.”

A small pool of potential buyers

Wish Castle in San Juan Capistrano, CA
Wish Castle in San Juan Capistrano, CA

Wish Castle in San Juan Capistrano, CA, was built in 1980 and has been on and off the market for more than two years. The price ranged from a high of $11,200,000 to a low of $4,000,000, its current auction starting bid.

“The biggest challenge in selling any type of one-of-a-kind-designed home is that it will often appeal to a smaller overall buyer pool,” says Nappo. “A castle-inspired property will have a very niche pool of potential buyers who are seeking out a home with these unique features and extraordinary design elements.”

“No matter the style of home, buyers always consider the potential resale, any challenges for updates and repairs, and market comparables to gauge the market value of the property,” says Nappo.

Castles don’t always have the resale value the original builders hoped for, and new buyers can’t help but take that into consideration.

Still, Studio City real estate agent Ken Sisson, with Coldwell Banker, is optimistic about the value of U.S. castles.

“Perhaps, with the premiere of ‘House of the Dragon,’ the market will soon shift in favor of castle homes,” he says. “One never really knows or can predict which way these things will go, right?”

The post No Fairy Tale: Why Castles Are Actually a (Royal) Pain To Own, Maintain, and Sell appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

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