Now's your chance to buy a historic lighthouse—if you're willing to deal with the upkeep

By Virginia K. Smith  | October 13, 2016 - 11:59AM

Whether you see them as spooky or merely quaint, to find an available lighthouse on the market is one of the rarer real estate opportunities out there. Thanks to the National Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, however, the Coast Guard has sold or auctioned off 120 lighthouses across the country over the last 16 years, citing expensive upkeep and decreased need in the age of GPS. 

But this is a case of buyer, beware: Rather than a quirky waterfront getaway, owning a lighthouse generally means expensive, effort-intensive restoration and upkeep, a project that isn't for the faint of heart, as The Daily Mail reports. And while some lighthouses have sold for as little as $10,000, owners can end up sinking hundreds of thousands of dollars—sometimes more—in order to get them back into working condition. 

 "People who are into this I believe have to have an internal fire, an internal passion, a conviction that these that these buildings and the history they represent are worth saving," Terry Pepper of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association told the paper. For instance, Pepper cites an 1870s lighthouse, abandoned since 1922, that his organization spent 20 years and $1.5 million fixing up.

"The roof had huge holes in it. Somebody had lit a fire on the floor in one of the bedrooms on the second floor and embers from that fire dripped down to the first floor and started burning that floor also," Pepper says.

When approached by prospective lighthouse buyers seeking advice, Pepper says, "I will tell people if you end up spending $100,000 to get that lighthouse, that's a lot of money. But $100,000 is the tip of the iceberg." Redoing one can also take years, as was the case for one Michigan lighthouse caked with feet of pigeon droppings that, says the buyer who purchased it, involved basically "shoveling manure."

So, not necessarily everyone's idea of a cozy historic second home. But then again, buying one of these lighthouses doesn't just mean owning a unique, historic piece of America's past—it means saving it from destruction.

If the lighthouse-owning life sounds up your alley, you can check out the current list of availabilities here, and if you find something you like, send a "letter of interest" and begin the application process. 


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