After nine months of lockdowns across the country, it’s somehow fitting that the most popular home of 2020 on realtor.com® is a house with an actual nine-cell jail out back. This quirky Midwestern residence with an unusual amenity serves as a strange metaphor for this rotten year.
Other homes you clicked on like crazy this year were equally memorable, including the goth-rock fever dream mansion in Beverly Hills, CA, designed by and for Dr. Phil McGraw‘s rocker son, Jordan, and his bandmates. Or the “Silence of the Lambs” house, which returned to the market just four years after its last spin up our charts. Perhaps you’d like to forget a disgusting and uninhabitable home in Queens that wound up selling for $720,000.
But dystopia doesn’t dominate 2020’s most popular homes. Intensely personal properties with wild decor choices also rippled across the web this year. There’s the 1989 vaporwave dream mansion in the California desert, which was shared all over social media. You were also amazed by a pristine, green ’70s time-capsule condo in Southern California. And a puzzling home in Pittsburgh complete with a command center dining room captured interest thanks to its hand-made charms.
While we’re all ready to flip the calendar to 2021, we do want you to look back for a few minutes. Scroll down for the full list of this year’s 10 most popular properties.
Status: Listed for $298,500 in September (sale pending)
Why it’s here: Featured in the 1991 film classic “Silence of the Lambs,” this lovely riverfront property outside Pittsburgh is making its second appearance in our yearly retrospective. In 2015, the home was runner-up.
It was sold in 2016 to a retired FBI agent who initially just wanted to check out the famous house, but fell in love with the place and bought it. He listed the Queen Anne Victorian this fall, and clicks soon followed. It’s still drawing crowds of movie fans who want to know exactly what’s down in the basement.
Status: Still available for $13,000,000
Why it’s here: This spectacular private island connected to the mainland by a 2,000-foot road continues to attract looky-loos. It’s been on the market almost 600 days.
Called Terra’s Key, the 16-acre oasis juts out from Islamorada and offers a compound of homes, a pool, tennis courts, and just about anything else you’d need to escape the outside world.
When it debuted on the market, the fantasy isle topped our weekly list of most popular homes in May 2019, and it remains a perennial favorite of dreamers nationwide.
Status: Listed for $828,888 in June, sold for $720,000 in September
Why it’s here: Fresh hell in Fresh Meadows. This Queens listing went viral in June after a Twitter user bemoaned the state of the New York City housing market.
This uninhabitable house had some hall-of-fame horrible photos showing trees growing into the kitchen, peeled-up floors, holes in the ceilings, and bathrooms that look like a passageway to the netherworld.
The house wasn’t salvageable, but the 4,912-square-foot lot wound up selling for almost a three-quarters of a million bucks.
Status: Listed for $4.5 million, now off-market with no sign of a sale
Why it’s here: This mansion captured everyone’s attention in May thanks to listing photos that show an elaborate faux town built in the basement.
People demanded to know more, so we contacted the listing agent. The owner built the tiny town to host parties for his teenage kids, she said. It comes complete with a faux main street, vintage car collection, storefronts, and more.
It doesn’t look like a buyer has fallen for the whimsical basement yet. The mansion was taken off the market with no evidence of a sale in progress.
Status: Listed for $159,900 in May, now off-market with no sign of a sale
Why it’s here: The listing photos of this one-story residence—converted into a two-story home by hand—show one long, strange trip through one man’s limitless imagination.
Interiors were highlighted by a solar system mural, a DIY loft library, a full command center used as a dining room, and even a Tiki room with sand on the floor. There’s also a hippie crash pad room with water bed and tropical island bathroom.
The can’t-miss backstory of this artisanal abode is as wild as the house itself.
The $159,900 list price included the home’s furnishings, but there’s no sign that a buyer took possession of the command center.
Status: Listed for $375,000 in February, sold for $340,000 in March
Why it’s here: Remarkably stylish and uninhabited for decades, the green time-capsule condo just outside San Diego found a giddy following of fans who couldn’t believe the interiors from 1974 were so bold, beautiful, and practically new.
Earlier this year, the home became a sensation. Fashion photographers wanted to use the residence for photo shoots, and developers wanted to gut the place and build anew, much to the horror of lovers of vintage real estate.
Unsurprisingly, the green delight was snapped up soon after it hit the market.
Status: Listed for $110,000 in August, sold for $95,000 in October
Why it’s here: This condo is meticulously lined with Budweiser cans throughout, including the ceilings. The work was executed with such precision and passion, that even the Budweiser company had to tip its corporate hat.
The beer brand shared the listing photos on its Facebook page and offered to keep the condo’s fridge stocked with beer if a buyer kept the cans intact.
We hope the new owners have plans to turn it into a beer-themed, short-term rental on Airbnb.
Status: Still available for $5,999,000
Why it’s here: If an era could be represented by a single home, this neon-hued desert goddess precisely sums up the late ’80s.
Fans of colorful choices in architecture rocketed this throwback mansion to the top of our most popular list in April. Now the sellers have updated their listing photos, hoping another round of attention might court a buyer for this sherbet-shaded treat.
Status: Listed for $5,750,000 in January, sold for $5,750,000 in February
Why it’s here: This bonkers estate owned by Dr. Phil McGraw went viral at the beginning of the year. It’s worth noting that the TV doctor never lived in this rococo nightmare.
Rather, it was the home of his son Jordan and his bandmates. The mansion was custom-designed as a sort of Tim Burton–inspired acid trip with an edge. Highlights (or lowlights) included black velvet wallpaper, a custom dining room with a wall of machine guns, a snake fountain designed as an homage to “A Night Before Christmas,” and an “Alice in Wonderland”–themed bar at the base of the stairs.
Price: Listed for $350,000 in August, relisted for the same price in October, now off-market with no sign of a sale
Why it’s here: The year’s most popular home is a residence that dates to 1875, when it belonged to the local sheriff.
Today, it’s a fully renovated home with an amenity few homes have: a nine-cell jail out back. The internet went bonkers for the quirky Midwestern property with a criminal past.
The current owner said the home would make a great event space, an epic haunted house, or even a year-round escape room. When we spoke with the listing agent in August, he said he was bombarded with calls. But all that interest doesn’t appear to have locked up a deal. The insanely popular home has yet to change hands.