A design from the Jonathan Keats show at Modernism Gallery in San Francisco.
A design from the Jonathan Keats show at Modernism Gallery in San Francisco. - 
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KAI RYSSDAL: Here's today's indicator we're nowhere near bottom in the housing market: luxury builder Toll Brothers announced today its quarterly profits crashed nearly 70 percent. Of course if you're shopping for a home or an apartment, you might be thinking prices are still pretty healthy.In some places, owning property's still way too expensive. Which isn't to say there aren't deals out there.

If you've got a working knowledge of theoretical physics, you can buy near San Francisco for less than 20 bucks. From KALW, Nathanael Johnson explains.


NATHANEAL JOHNSON: Here's how it works: String theory says the universe is made of all these little strings that are vibrating in very complex ways. In order for those vibrations to work out, there have to be multiple dimensions beyond those we normally experience.

When artist Jonathan Keats realized these extra dimensions were out there, he saw dollar signs.

So Keats bought the extra-dimensional rights to several properties in the Bay Area. And he's selling them here at Modernism Gallery in San Francisco.

The problem is, the extra dimensions are . . . kind of inconvenient. You can't exactly build on your new plots. There's no way people, much less building materials, can get onto them.

So, Keats is offering a heavy discount. For Oscar Villalon and Mary Ladd, the price is right.

MARY LADD: Here's 12 and 50.

OSCAR VILLALON: When's the last time anyone used exact change to buy property?

(Laughs)

LADD: Thank you.

VILLALON: Thank you very much.

JOHNSON: Why would you want something . . . a piece of property that you can't actually fit yourself into?

LADD: We're buying the idea of having property. Which up until now has been nearly impossible.

VILLALON: Plus, you know, you can see most apartments around here it's not . . . it's not a stretch of the imagination to move into someplace you can barely fit into, you know. That's par for the course. Ya know, you never know. If it works out, you know, great. If not . . . no, I think in the end, it will pay off for us, one way or the other. Especially since it looks like other people are buying, so that's just going to drive up the price of our investment right now. It's already gonna be worth more than $12.40. Look, see?

. . . We could turn around sell it for 15, 20 easy.

LADD: The feeding frenzy will begin.

VILLALON: I . . . you know, I figure, you know, in 600 years, this thing will just be brilliant. You know, it'll be like the old Dutch buying up land in Manhattan. Oh yeah.

In tight real estate markets, the necessity of housing has been the mother of financial invention. You could say that this is just another innovation — like interest-only loans — to make the dream of property ownership possible.

In San Francisco, I'm Nathanael Johnson for Marketplace.

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