Even before the U.S. financial crisis, Detroit was known for having undervalued real estate. Now, a bad situation is even worse. The median Detroit home price in 2011 was about $54,000. That's more than $100,000 less than the national average. Sometimes in Detroit, housing prices don't seem to make much sense at all.

NPR's Sonari Glinton reports.


SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: If you were rich and important and lived in Detroit, at some time you probably lived in Detroit's Boston-Edison neighborhood. Think Berry Gordy or Henry Ford. Both Motown moguls called the neighborhood home. With its tree-lined streets and its Tudor Revival mansions, it looks like it could be any wealthy neighborhood - think Greenwich, Connecticut, or Beverly Hills.


ANNETTE FOREMAN: Sorry about the glove.


GLINTON: Annette Foreman and her brother, Michael Bradley, have spent the last several months cleaning their mother's home. She died Christmas Eve last year.

FOREMAN: (Calling) Michael!



FOREMAN: We have visitors.

GLINTON: The house they now have up for sale is the home that was originally built for Walter O. Briggs in 1915. Briggs was in the car business. His company built auto bodies, and he owned the Detroit Tigers. Michael Bradley agreed to show me around.

BRADLEY: This is a two-part kitchen. There's this part of this kitchen and then there's this part, which is the butler's pantry. The room that we were just in is the working kitchen. Those ovens down there - about 15, 20 feet away - those are actually little warmers for plates.

GLINTON: This four-story house has about 10,000 square feet. There's a room just for linens. There's an elevator, a solarium, a cold closet for fur coats.

Bradley and Foreman's parents bought the house in 1976 for about $65,000. They filled their home with collectibles, and they enjoyed entertaining.

So what would this room be used for?

BRADLEY: Ballroom.

FOREMAN: This is the ballroom. You are standing in the ballroom. You want to two-step, or you want to waltz?


GLINTON: I assume the band would be over here somewhere? Oh, the band would - that's the bandstand.







FOREMAN: Up here is where the band would be.

BRADLEY: Little did they know, but behind the doors were walk-in safes.


FOREMAN: That is an actual bank vault. And right there is the silver vault for the house.

BRADLEY: Yes, the silver vault.

FOREMAN: That's where you would lock up all your silver.

GLINTON: So what do you think all that costs - stained-glass windows, servants' quarters, a coach house; all that on one of Detroit's most historic streets? Well, it'll run you less than about $450,000. A comparable home in Silicon Valley is selling for $15 million.

Walter Maloney is with the National Association of Realtors. He says the Bradley family is facing the same problems that millions of Americans are.

WALTER MALONEY: I mean, this is perhaps an extreme example of a home being worth - really - a mere fraction of what it would cost you to build that property. In fact, in most of the country today, we are seeing homes selling for less than replacement construction costs. And this is really an over-correction of the housing boom and bust cycle.

GLINTON: In 2000, the Bradley family had the home appraised and at the time, it was worth $1.5 million. The question for them now is, why sell now?

Bradley and his siblings are all underwater on their own homes.

BRADLEY: We have homes of our own that we can't get rid of because of their upside-down-ness. And we don't, you know - I'll be quite honest; this is not a cheap house to run, utility-wise.

GLINTON: For Annette Foreman, there's a lot more at stake than the price tag.

FOREMAN: I'm going to miss it from the historical point of view. You know, to have something that is a living antique. I'm going to miss...

BRADLEY: Dinners and things that we had here. We had a lot of...

FOREMAN: (Voice breaking) Baking in the kitchen with my mother. My mother and I, for the holidays, would start baking in October. This was a part of my mom.

GLINTON: Annette Foreman and her brother, Michael Bradley, say they're looking for someone who wants to take care of the home. They don't just want a buyer who's looking for a sweet deal. They say they've already turned those people away.

Sonari Glinton, NPR News.


SIMON: This is WEEKEND EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

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