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Mansions like this one can be in a price range as high as millions or even billions of dollars. Image: Fotolia.
Mansions like this one can be in a price range as high as millions or even billions of dollars. Image: Fotolia.

How High Can Home Prices Get? Think Billions. Yes, Billions

JAN 3, 2014 11:18am ET
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The world's tallest house is also the world's largest. Built in India near Mumbai just four years ago, it is 568-feet high, about the height of your typical 60-story office tower. There are "only" 27 floors, including a two-story fitness center and six floors of family residences to house the owner, his wife, his mother and his three children.

Oh yeah, it has nine high-speed elevators and three rooftop heliports.

Estimates say it was close to $2 billion to build, which also makes it the world's most expensive house.

Otherwise, the most expensive house, or at least the one with the highest advertised price, is the $165 million that was asked for a former home of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. The 75,000-square-foot villa is set on 6.5 acres in Beverly Hills and has 29 bedrooms and 40 bathrooms.

(This is not to be confused with the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, Calif., which was the world's most expensive house until the place near Mumbai was built.)

Based on data from 2007, the Census Bureau estimates that the typical American moves a dozen times in his or her lifetime. But not Florence Knapp.

Knapp, who died in 1988, lived in the same house in Montgomery Township, Pa., for 110 years. And for that feat, she earns the title as the person who has lived the longest time ever in one residence, according to the 2014 edition of the “Guinness World Records.”

Perhaps the greatest coffee table book ever, Guinness' annual tome is a treasure trove of housing-related trivia, such as the oldest houses, the narrowest and the tallest.

While we're at it, a nod to the world's tallest real estate agents: Laurie and Wayne Hallquist are 6'6" and 6'10", respectively. She's a full-time agent with Prudential California Realty in Stockton, Calif., while he's a part-timer with the company.

Now back to the book, which doesn't always profile the places where we live. This year, it goes whole hog, with sections on palaces, hotels, shopping buildings, offices and urban spaces. Even elevators and escalators are spotlighted.

More about those houses: The oldest were built in a Neolithic settlement in Turkey and date back to 7,500 B.C. The mud-brick houses are entered through a hole in the ceiling that also serves as smoke ventilation for the fires that heat the places.

The skinniest house on record is in Warsaw. It is three feet two inches wide at its narrowest point and just about five feet at its widest. It contains a floor area of 151 square feet, and instead of stairs, occupants climb a ladder to reach the bedrooms above.

Then there's the smallest temporary house, a 1-square-meter wooden "sleeping" structure designed by a German architect two years ago. It weighs just 88 pounds and has wheels so it can be moved from one location to another.

From the smallest to the largest, or at least the one with the most rooms: That title belongs to a place called Knole in Kent, England. It has 365 rooms, or one for each day of the year. It was built around seven courtyards in 1456 by the then-archbishop of Canterbury and extended by the Earl of Dorset 150 years later.

But Knole doesn't hold a candle to Windsor Castle, the largest inhabited castle and the residence of the British Royal Family. Windsor measures 1,890 feet by 540 feet, for a total of more than 1 million square feet.

Windsor's not the largest palace, though. The largest is the Imperial Palace in Beijing, which covers 178 acres. Built by a Ming emperor in the early 1400s, the site now comprises 980 buildings with 8,886 rooms. It hasn't been used as a residence since the 1920s, when the last emperor of China went into exile.

The tallest resident-only building is in Dubai. Princess Tower is 1,356-feet high, with the highest occupied floor at 1,171 feet. But the title of tallest residential apartments belongs to Burj Khalifa, also in Dubai, which combines a hotel, offices and apartments. There, the highest residential floor—the 108th—is at 1,263 feet.

Also worth mentioning is that eight of the world's 10 tallest residential buildings are in Dubai. The other two are in Australia and Shenzhen, China.

The tallest hotel is in Dubai, too. The JW Marriott Marquis stands at 1,165 feet. But the largest hotel is in Las Vegas, where the Venetian and Palazzo towers have 7,017 rooms between them. The oldest hotel dates back to 705 A.D. in Japan, whereas the smallest is in Germany and can accommodate no more than two guests at a time.

Of course, those big houses have to be filled with furniture. So there's the world's largest chair—more than 98 feet tall—in Austria, the longest sofa—2,920 feet—in Norway, the largest rocking chair—42-feet high—in Cuba, Mo., and for the deck, the largest deck chair—31 feet wide and 27 feet high—on display in the U.K.

© 2014, United Feature Syndicate. Lew Sichelman is an independent journalist who has been covering the housing and mortgage markets for more than 40 years.

Comments (3)
Fun piece. With all the hard data on housing coming at us 5 days a week, it was a nice break to read this.
Posted by jim c | Friday, January 03 2014 at 1:35PM ET
Great article, Lew. How can I obtain permission to run a condensed version of this story and photo for my consumer mortgage newsletter, "Mortgage News" ? Thanks...Giovanna
Posted by GIOVANNA M | Friday, January 03 2014 at 3:36PM ET
Giovanna, Lew would like to answer your question. Can you provide him with an e-mail? He can be reached at lsichelman@aol.com.
Posted by Bonnie S | Monday, January 06 2014 at 5:13PM ET
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