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What It's Like to Be Stuck Living in a NY Castle

Phemisters struggle to flip this New York house
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 23, 2013 8:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – You don't even need a cool million to purchase a 36,000-square-foot castle in Upstate New York. Just $895,000 will do. The New York Times today takes a look at this most unusual piece of real estate—and the unusual consequences of a common problem: homes that buyers intended to flip and, more than five years later, still find themselves stuck with. Susan and Manfred Phemister had done a few flips before buying the Albany-area castle (in truth it's the 119-year-old Amsterdam Armory, though it does have two turrets) for $800,000 in 2005. Their plan: Sink $400,000 into renovations and list it for $2 million in 2007. "Then we'd sell and make the extra million we’d need to buy a brownstone," says Susan.

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You can predict where the story goes from here: The home has been relisted a handful of times, with the price sinking ever lower. Now, just $24-a-square-foot will get you, per Sotheby's, a massive gymnasium, two kitchens, and staff quarters. The Times looks into how the Phemisters are managing in the meantime: A second downturn, in the music industry, hurt Manfred's CD music distribution business; to keep their income up they've rented the castle to TV and film crews and now operate a bed-and-breakfast out of it. That helped to pay the not-insignificant $13,076 utility bill last year. And for now, they'll keep paying it. "We love living here," says Susan. "It’s just that it’s someone else’s turn to live in a castle." (Read more real estate stories.)

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