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Climate House Hunting: Novelty Homes Edition

The week’s buzziest real estate listings, ranked by climate risk.

A for sale sign.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Glued to real estate posts on The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Dwell, or Architectural Digest and wondering how those gorgeous homes will hold up in the next decades? I have you covered.

Heatmap has partnered with my new climate risk platform, Habitable. Every Friday, we add a climate risk score to the real estate listings featured in the news this week and ask: Could you live here as the climate changes?

Using a model developed by a team of Berkeley data scientists at Climate Check, Habitable scores each property for heat, flood, drought, and fire risk on a scale of 1-10. One represents the lowest risk and 10 is the highest. Our rating for each hazard is based on climate change projections through 2050. (You can check your own home’s climate risk here.)

For today’s edition, I apply the Habitable Index to check the climate risk of houses in a category of their own: novelty homes. These are houses “built around a personal passion.” Many of these homes — inspired by space ships, Jurassic Park, and Barbie — would be quite risky to sell in any climate. But will the climate risk of these novelty houses in the news this week make it even harder?

1. “... I had a wall in Georgetown.”

Georgetown wall.BrightMLS

A crumbling wall in Georgetown went on the market this week for $50k. The wall was listed with a hilarious description: “Own a piece of Georgetown. The opportunities are limitless.” To be clear, this brick wall does not come with a buildable lot or even a parking spot. It quickly became a punchline pretty much everywhere on social media and in the papers from the NYPost to The Washington Post. The only positive we’ve found about the very UN-Habitable wall is that there’s only risk of severe heat so it will be standing for a while. Someone, get creative!

Featured in The Washington Post and listed for $50,000.

2. Another Brick in the Wall.

Round house.Zillow

Once the water tank for the mansion next door, the ‘Round’ House is unique (one of the adjectives often used for novelty homes.) Dried out, modernized, and renovated, there is still quite a lot going on inside — with curved 8-brick thick walls, wood beamed ceilings, even interior window shutters. This New Hampshire house will definitely be quiet (no one will hear you screaming about all the overlapping textures in here). And the climate risk is minimal, except for extreme heat.

Featured on Sea Coast Current and listed for $849,900.

3. A Whale of a House

Whale House.Sotheby’s Realty.

The Whale House went on the market this week — and this Santa Barbara home lives up to its name. The entrance is the whale’s mouth (above) and the belly of the whale is an interior courtyard with a pool that flows into the whale’s tail. The sad tale of this whale, however, is one of extreme fire risk and high drought risk.

Featured on @zillowgonewild and listed for $3,250,000.

4. Cleared for landing.

Utah Real Estate.

Another novelty house on the market this week is The Airplane House. The family home of Eugene Haycock, the architect who built Logan Airport, is available to buy for the first time. Built in 1967 in Utah, The Airplane House has a high drought and heat risk and minimal flood risk which makes it just habitable enough to avoid having to take off.

Featured in @thecreativesagent and listed for $820,000.

5. Space Age Suburban in Sacramento


A “curiosity” of a house in a Sacramento suburb was built by a man grieving the death of his wife of 40 years. He threw himself into building a futuristic home that really stood out in the neighborhood. Floating above the hillside, the house’s front door is actually at the back. Sadly, he never lived in it and within a week of being on the market, someone bought the house for $2.4 million. Still, the house is in an area of severe fire risk and will be quite hot even if it is a very cool house.

Featured in Dirt and sold for $2,395,000.

6. Do you love dinosaurs ... ?

Jurassic Park-themed room.Zillow

This massive 11,000-square-foot fun-house in Reunion, Florida, listed for $4.899 million has many surprises. Entertain yourself in the Casino Room, the Arcade Room, and the Multimedia Extravaganza area. But the fun doesn’t stop there. There is a Steamboat WIllie Mickey Mouse room that sleeps eight and the piece de resistance: a “Jurassic Park” room’ with a real Jeep and a life-size Tyrannosaurus rex head. And even though the house is the most climate friendly county in Florida, the heat risk is as extreme as the decor.

Featured in Mansion Global and listed for $4,888,000.

7. It’s a Barbie World

Barbie house.Zillow.

In this futuristic 1957 mid-century ranch home, which just hit the market for $549,000, there is not a pastel brick out of step. The retro, technicolor home has been featured in movies and news stories and booked out for photo shoots. Shame it can’t remain in its time warp forever since severe drought, high flood, and heat risks might someday spell the end of Barbie Land.

Featured on @zillowgonewild and listed for $549,900.

Ann Marie Gardner

Ann Marie Gardner is an award-winning editor and entrepreneur. She writes about design and climate and just launched Habitable, a newsletter and tool to assess your home's risk from climate change. You can read it here: Read More

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