Bargain Buys

Madison Mansion

Begun a decade ago by a family that ultimately abandoned the project and moved to Hunting Valley, this stone stunner, which has never been finished, is now owned by an investment group.

According to property records, the investors bought it for $925,000 in 2007. It's now listed for $1,495,000, which may lead you to think the price is inflated. The thing is, you haven't seen the house.

The exterior stone, which is also used on some of the seven fireplaces inside, is a foot thick. The slate roof was salvaged from an old school in Cincinnati.

This home sprawls across four acres, so many rooms benefit from a lake view and cheery sunlight pouring in through the south-facing windows.

The 14,000-square-foot home obviously feels large, yet 12-foot ceilings help living areas feel intimate. From the kitchen, a spiral staircase leads to a third-floor ballroom with vaulted ceilings and a cupola for stargazing.

Upstairs, a 6-foot-wide hallway leads to seven bedrooms, a study area and a large laundry room. Above the four-car garage is a game room with a separate entrance and a balcony.

A 300-foot-long naturally sandy beach gives the feel of a summer resort. Elaine DiPasquale of Howard Hanna, says potential buyers have expressed interest in using the house for everything from a bed-and-breakfast to a restaurant. The owners, she says, have intentionally left it unfinished (all of the drywall, plumbing and wiring is done). "Anybody can design it, do what they want with it," she says.

She estimates that to finish the house nicely but not extravagantly would cost about $300,000.

Price: $1,495,000

Year Built: Started in 2000

Style: French country

Size: 14,000 square feet

The lot: 4 acres, with 300 feet of lakefront

Baths: 9

Bedrooms: 7

Can you buy it? With a down payment of $300,000 and a 30-year loan at an interest rate of 5.5 percent, your mortgage payment would be $6,785.08 a month.

River Tudor

It's the classic River Tudor. The West Side dream. The home is within walking distance of River's pretty downtown. Mature trees line the roads, which ramble this way and that in lazy twists. The children run in packs here. The dogs are friendly.

A Rocky River address means something. North of the tracks means more. On the north side of Avalon or Frazier (where this house is) means there's nowhere up from here on the West Side.

It's for those reasons that this house — at this price — is so astonishing. Originally listed for $2.2 million, the house is now selling for just more than $1.3 million.

About the home itself: The dining and living rooms are large with thick crown molding and wood floors. There's also a cozy den lined with windows and a sunroom.

The kitchen is newly renovated, as are most of the bathrooms in the house. The bedrooms are on the big side, and the third floor has been used as a playroom but would also make a nice office.

The basement, though it has low ceilings, boasts a bar, home theater and sauna. There is a three-car garage.

A new owner might want to change some paint colors or rip down some window treatments, but nothing major would need to be done. In other words, there are no obvious flaws in the interior to explain the price.

The problem is the market, not the home, says Mary Frances Weir of RE/Max Real Estate Group. When times were good, "you couldn't even get a tear down in River for less than a million," she says. "It's never been cheaper to own a home on the lake."

Price: $1,325,000

Year built: 1928

Style: Tudor

Size: 4,088 square feet

The lot: Just more than .5 acre

Baths: 3 full, 2 half

Bedrooms: 5

Can you buy it? With a down payment of $300,000 and a 30-year loan at an interest rate of 5.5 percent, your payment would be $5,817.28 a month.

Willoughby Beach House

It's not terribly hard to find a home for $349,000 on the lake if you steer clear of Bratenahl, Bay Village and Rocky River. But the place is likely to be a wreck, requiring extensive remodeling and erosion control. This home is described as "like new" by Howard Hanna real estate agent Lenny Vaccaro for good reason. The previous owner gutted the place, installing blond hardwood through the first floor and new cherry cabinets and granite in the kitchen.

The real showstopper, though, is outside. The home boasts a sand beach as well as a front porch and large deck. The seller, a concrete contractor, added a stamped-concrete patio and driveway. What's more, "It's got one of the best break walls on the beach," Vaccaro says.

So why so cheap? Willoughby's lakefront began as a summer cottage community. Homes and lots are small and many have become tired. The seller isn't leaving because of that, though. He's moving next door, where he's built a brand new home on an empty lot. "It's a renewal over there," Vaccaro says. "There's at least three brand-new houses right down the street. Many of the homes are getting torn down, very similar to the West Side."

While we think the home is a deal, such bargains may be short-lived in Willoughby if Vacarro is right about a renaissance. "It'll bring up the prices in that area," he says.
Price: $349,000

Year built: 1930

Style: Bungalow

Size: 1,700 square feet

The lot: .33 acre

Baths: 2

Bedrooms: 4

Can you buy it? With a down payment of $100,000 and a 30-year loan at an interest rate of 5.5 percent, your payment would be $1,418.90 a month.
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