Please Take This House

The Pontiac Silverdome

If you are a homeowner in the United States, you may have noticed that we are in the midst of a vast, nationwide experiment being conducted to determine what things are actually worth. In the recent past, no one worried much about what their things were worth, if those things were buildings and/or properties.

What were they worth? More than they were worth yesterday.

Unfortunately, those days are gone. They’re as gone as all those 2007 episodes of “Flip This House” which A&E was forced to pull permanently from syndication after it was revealed that featured local developer Sam Leccima was a fraud. Sam didn’t own those houses he claimed to have sold on the show, his renovations were fake, and his profits came solely from scammed investors in his “Leccima Real Estate Company.” Sam didn’t even own a real estate license.

A scant two years later, it turns out Sam wasn’t the only one with outsized notions of his own value. Now we’re all watching our neighbors hang out “House for Sale” signs, followed by “Reduced to Sell” signs, followed by “Make an Offer!” signs.

Optimists in the crowd keep saying that this is a great time to buy. And perhaps it is, especially if you’re looking for a larger home. Something on 127 acres of land and, say, seating for 80,000. Which brings us to today’s Real Estate Bargain of the Day, the Pontiac Silverdome. The former home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions.

Even if you don’t know a touchdown from a home run, you know the Pontiac Silverdome. It’s that stadium that was always on the TV in the other room on Thanksgiving Day while you were in the kitchen helping Aunt Sally mash the turnips. It’s the ancestral home of the Turducken, that vile turkey/duck/chicken thing John Madden was always foisting upon members of the winning football team on Thanksgiving Day.

In 2008, the Pontiac City Council approved the sale of the Pontiac Silverdome to one H. Wallace Parker, president and CEO of Silver Stallion Development Corporation, for $20 million. Parker had some fuzzy notion of building what he called a “horse-themed development” which would include a racetrack and “equine research facility.” He didn’t, however, have access to anything close to $20 million. So the Pontiac City Council reduced the purchase price to $17 million. Still, no go.

On Monday, the Pontiac City Council—which, like everyone else in the state of Michigan, is kinda hard up for cash at the moment—cancelled the existing sale to Parker and auctioned off the Silverdome. Bidding was less than spirited. Indeed, the final bid from an undisclosed Canadian buyer came in at $583,000. I’m betting that the buyer is some retired Saskatchewan wheat farmer who bought it so that he and his buddies can come down on Thanksgiving Day and play their own damned football game with two-hand-touch rules and tubs of Labatt’s beer on ice in both Silverdome end zones.

So there you have it. An accurate barometer of what things are worth in our Great Recession. Are you a little peeved that your $550K house is now worth $400K? Well, how many bathrooms does your house have? Do you have twenty industrial-sized facilities on three floors? How high is your entryway atrium? Can you fit a scoreboard in it? How’s your parking situation? Do you have 127 acres of asphalt, with easy highway access?

No? Then take heart! If Pontiac, Michigan is the future, then the future hasn’t quite arrived in your neck of the woods. Yet.

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