House & Home

Highland Homes Cost Less Than NYC Apartments

Posted September 7, 2013

Thinking of taking the plunge and making a serious real estate investment? If you have around $1.5 million, you might just be able to afford a one bedroom in Manhattan, one of America's most notoriously expensive stretches of real estate, or you could plunge into the heated London real estate market. Or, you could buy a castle, reports The Wall Street Journal, pointing out that there's "never been a better time" to pick up the highland castle of your childhood desires.

Okay, maybe I'm the only one who used to dream of owning my very own castle. A looming, appropriately gothic building stretched out by the shores of a majestic loch, cradled by hills, surrounded by heather, perhaps with some obligatory ghosts to liven things up. Drafty stone walls, impossible to heat in the winter, insufferably hot when temperatures climb high enough, hard to clean, probably in need of modernization -- sign me up! The ultimate fix-it house, right?

The often damp environment of Scotland along with its sometimes harsh weather can be brutal on buildings, even ancient castles built to last. The skills of someone like a Chicago roofer wouldn't go amiss in a country where the elements often seem to be actively working against the long-term survival of historic homes. Working on castles requires not just a lot of experience and skill, but sensitivity to the needs of historic structures to ensure their fundamental character can be maintained.

Evidently there's a "glut" of country homes for sale in Scotland, which is bad news for sellers, but great news for well-heeled buyers, who can sweep in to snap up really astounding properties at very low prices. While the likes of me won't be affording castles any time soon, they are definitely within the price range of many wealthy buyers from around the world, and they're descending upon Scotland in droves to pick up vacation homes.

Of course, they're facing some of the very same problems I listed above. Many of them have to prepare for extensive remodeling of their new (to them) homes to modernize them and address decaying outbuildings and other issues. For those concerned about energy efficiency, it's also necessary to take some steps to address the massive heat loss that happens in the winter, where poor design and old materials combine to make castles extremely expensive to heat effectively. Fortunately, wealthier buyers have the resources to take these issues on.

For the rest of us, looking at real estate catalogs and dreaming will have to suffice; or you can take a tour for a taste of the real thing.

Katie Marks writes for

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