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The real cost of upkeep for a TV show home


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    "Downtown Abbey" may look beautiful, but it's likely to be drafty. A website in the U.K. says logs to toast your toes by run $45,997 a year.

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    Doune Castle, featured on the TV show "Game of Thrones." Real estate on the show isn't about mortgage payments. Who will reclaim the throne?

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    Sure the plot of TV show "Dallas" had drama, but what about the drama of running the ranch? The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation says potential horse lovers, beware: Land buyers frequently overestimate the "carrying capacity" of the land.

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    Real estate website Trulia.com says the median sales price for homes in the zip code 90210 for Jun. 13 to Aug. 13 was $2,000,000. Brenda Walsh had it good.

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    The Zillow.com Zestimate, in case you're interested in buying into the lifestyle, is 1,514,485 for Tony Soprano's home. But, please note, unless you know someone, it's not for sale.

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    Sorry "Friends" lovers, but anyone who has ever lived in New York City can tell you that the size of the apartment on the show is about as unrealistic as Monica living in a dirty apartment.

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Living in a stately, old English home may seem romantic (we’re looking at you Earl of Grantham!), but have you ever thought about the cost of keeping up those epic lawns? There are more acres than plot twists at the famous stately home.

“They obviously have someone full time on staff.” Perry Guillot, a landscape architect in New York's Hamptons, says "Downtown Abbey" is set in an English park, which means the job of the caretakers there is primarily to look after grass and trees, rather than flowers and shrubs. So, while all that trimming and mowing and pruning could potentially rake in bills in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, acre-by-acre it's not half as labor intensive and costly as maintaining a formal planted garden. 

Still, it’s a far cry from the lawn care costs associated with 10336 Dunleer Drive in Los Angeles. That's the house, according to the research team at Zillow.com, that's featured on the show "Modern Family." The website lists property taxes as $23,538 for last year and shows that the home was last sold in 2006 for just under two million dollars. Guillot estimates that maintaining the gardens there would run about $150 a week for all the lawn care: mowing, leaf blowing and doing the fall cleanup. But he notes while that isn’t even close to the costs associated with the upkeep of a British stately home, it isn't necessarily the same in every American home either.

"I’m in Southhampton, that’s a little bit skewed," he says.


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While location can affect prices, it's not always what has the biggest impact on cost. There’s the human factor, which can have people with expensive tastes driving expenses far higher than those inclurred by frugal types. Just imagine the complex and contorted negotiations that must go on between Bill Henrickson and his three wives, Barbara, Nicolette and Margene, on "Big Love," HBO's take on polygamy.

"Three wives? Interesting. Maybe nothing would get done." Atilla Ozturk, owner of a residential contracting firm in New York says most of the decisions, especially about details on the jobs he works on, are made by the women of the family and that involving three, especially competing love interests could get complicated, quickly. "If they work together it would be fine, but if they worked against each other… it could really drive you up the wall," he says.

But Ozturk is quick to point out that maintenance work on a house like the one in "Big Love," would be relatively inexpensive. Relative, that is, to an English estate. Most of the materials in the "Big Love," complex type of house, he says, are generic and inexpensive. Off the shelf moldings and windows and kitchen cabinets that you can pick up at a big box store like Home Depot. He notes that per square foot, doing  repair jobs would probably run only about a quarter of the price of repairs at "Downtown Abbey."

And in case you're wondering, according to Zillow, the average price for a home in Sandy, Utah -- a suburb of Salt Lake City, near where "Big Love" is filmed -- that could accommodate a largish family, is $356,800. A home like this, says Zillow, would need a mortgage payment of about $1,500 a month. But that doesn't seem much to pay for so much triple the love and, if it seems high, hopefully your script writer can write you in a new mortgage.

About the author

Sally Herships is a regular contributor to Marketplace.

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