bin Laden home sale
While Pakistan's political and military leaders are keen to obliterate any memory of how the world's most wanted man evaded capture for so long, Shakeel Ahmed said his salvage yard in Abbottabad had become a tourist attraction for visitors looking for a souvenir.
"These bricks can be used by people to build new houses," he said, pointing to a heap of some of the 180,000 bricks he collected from the site. "Some come here looking for just one as so they can have them as a gift."
Bin Laden was shot dead a year ago, after the CIA traced the al-Qaeda leader to a three-storey villa in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad.
The site was sealed off and his neighbours were arrested by Pakistani security forces in the immediate aftermath.
Shakeel Ahmad told the British newspaper that his salvage yard in Abbottabad, where Bin Laden lived with his family for years before being killed in a U.S. operation on May 2 last year, had “become a tourist attraction for visitors looking for a souvenir.”
Ahmad holds under 200,000 bricks from the house which he says can be used to build homes, adding that some visitors were buying them as mementoes or gifts.
Pakistani authorities destroyed the Bin Laden compound in February this year, ostensibly to rid itself of all associations with the terror leader.
Bin Laden is believed to have moved to Abbottabad in 2004 with his wives and family, evading authorities in Pakistan and the United States until he was finally found and targeted by a special military force in May last year.
Pakistan deported Bin Laden’s widows and children to Saudi Arabia late last month.
Ahmad was hired as the contractor to demolish the house.
It is common for rubble to be auctioned off but in this case, no one wanted to bid on it, so Ahmad bought it for a cheap price of 500,000 rupees ($5,000).
People can buy individual bricks for about $10.
He has other items from the Bin Laden home but told the Telegraph he feared attracting the attention of Islamists.
“My family is very worried that my life is now in danger,” he told the paper. “Now, I always travel with a bodyguard.”
Location: Just 30 minutes north of DisneyWorld, on Johns Lake in Oakland, FL.
Notable history: Once owned by Khalil bin Laden, brother of the world’s once most-wanted man, Osama bin Laden.
Sound interesting? It is. Khalil bin Laden, one of Osama’s 54 siblings, once owned this hulking, 5,854-sq ft home, purchasing it in 1980 for $1.6 million, reportedly as a wedding present for his wife. However, shortly after attacks on 9/11, the wealthy businessman and his family fled the U.S. in fear of retaliation.They boarded a special charter flight to Saudi Arabia on September 19, 2001.
From that point, the home sat abandoned for many years, falling into a state of disrepair from the humid Florida weather, vandals, and lack of ownership.
Kahlil bin Laden’s former home finally sold in 2006, at the height of the Florida real estate boom, for $4,043,800. However, the new owner went bankrupt and was sentenced to prison for fraud.The mansion was then foreclosed on in 2007 and re-listed for sale in 2009, with several price changes until it settled in at its current listing price of $1,999,000.
Built in 1928, the home sits on over an acre and a half of water front property on Johns Lake in Oakland, FL. It has 5 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, a carriage and guest house.
Many Bin Laden family members have lived in the United States at one time. The family is closely connected to the Saudi royal family and operate the Binladin Group, a family construction business, one of the largest in the Middle East. Most family members severed ties with Osama bin Laden in the early 1990s. Around the time of 9/11, many members of the extended family were attending colleges in the U.S. or conducting business abroad. Osama bin Laden on the other hand, reportedly never left the Middle East, so any rumors of him visiting his brother’s Florida home are most likely false.
Unfortunately, the bin Laden home needs a major facelift. The home was marred by vandalism, including broken windows, and other “damages including a safe thrown down a stairway and bullet holes in the walls.” While there has been some interest in the home, real estate agent Autumn Norris-Maker told NBC News that finding financing for a home this run down has always been a sticking point.
That is a change from the past decade when people often headed out of state to buy vacation homes near resorts and areas that were tourist destinations, including Orlando near Florida's Walt Disney World and the gambling Mecca of Las Vegas.
But these days, many vacation-home buyers are turning back the clock and looking for properties in the more traditional—and less glitzy—vacation-home communities near where they live.
Jed Kolko, chief economist at Trulia Inc., a real-estate information website, said that increasingly "people choose second homes that are a shorter drive rather than a plane flight away."
A survey by the National Association of Realtors found that the median distance between a buyer's primary residence and his vacation home declined 19% to 305 miles n 2011 from 2010. It was the first decline since the group began keeping data in 2006.To be sure, vacation-home sales also are picking up in parts of Florida, Nevada and other states that have long catered to vacationers, although real estate agents say more of those buyers tend to be from nearby states and fewer are from far away. And plenty of retirees still want to vacation in climates that are warm year-round.
The shift in buying habits partly reflects the changing portrait of the typical vacation-home buyer. In the recent past, the vacation-home market was led by families looking for places with attractions for children as well as adults. But a growing number of buyers are older and seeking vacation homes that transition into retirement homes.
"People want to stay within driving distance because they're more able to maintain the homes, they have better networks in place and friends and family nearby to use and sustain the homes," said Jon Gray, vice president of HomeAway.com, a website that lists vacation rentals. A survey in March by site operator HomeAway Inc. found that the most popular markets among vacationers this year are those that can be reached in a drive of four hours or less from home. That makes those markets good investment opportunities for the 91% of vacation-home buyers who plan to rent their properties when they aren't using them.
Today's vacation-home buyers also are less affluent than in past years and more cost-sensitive. According to the NAR study, the average annual income of vacation-home buyers declined to $88,600 in 2011 from $99,500 in 2010. "If you have more typical vacation buyers coming into the marketplace, they're looking at the whole package, including the expense of getting there, as well," says Stan Humphries, chief economist with real-estate information company Zillow Inc.
Meanwhile, the values of vacation homes continue to fall, with the median sales price declining 19%, to $121,300 between 2010 and 2011, according to NAR. The trend is benefiting vacation communities near cities, including beach towns in the Northeast, from Massachusetts to the Carolinas, as well as lakefront enclaves in the Midwest and desert locales in California such as the Coachella Valley, according to real-estate agents.
Vickie Leese, a 53-year-old financial adviser in Westminster, Md., closed in April on a two-bedroom home in an Ocean City, Md., condominium complex that has a swimming pool and is three blocks from the beach. Over the past year and a half, Ms. Leese visited and considered buying homes in a number of places, including Fort Myers, Fla., and Myrtle Beach, S.C. But in the end, she decided to stay in Maryland.
"Florida would require a flight or a 24-hour drive for me, and the Carolinas are eight hours away," Ms. Leese said. "Even though the real estate in Ocean City is more expensive, in a way it's more affordable. Even with gas prices skyrocketing, it made more economic sense to buy there."
The rising cost of gas and airfares is a huge factor for many buyers. The average cost of a gallon of gasoline was $3.83 this week. Gas prices have been rising steadily since mid-December. Airfares, meanwhile, jumped 14% between March 2010 and March 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.