Millions of homes across the U.S. are on the market. Some are cookie-cutter McMansions. Many more are your undistinguished Colonials. Search hard enough, though, and you'll find unique — and in some cases downright weird — properties up for grabs.
Forbes surveyed real estate experts at Realtor.com, Sotheby's International, Coldwell Banker and elsewhere to compile a list of strange homes on the market that defy the status quo.
One of the most bizarre? A residence retrofitted from the Cold War remains of an Atlas F Missile site. The former nuclear missile storage facility is nestled in the forested mountains of New York's Adirondack State Park.
The silo home is available for $2.3 million. On the surface it looks like an ordinary 2,000-square-foot mountain home — except, perhaps, for the private airplane runway. Descend the kitchen's spiral stairs, however, and you'll find two stories of nuclear apocalypse-resistant living space tucked inside three-foot-thick concrete walls reinforced with steel mesh.
"It's an 18,000-square-foot vault underground that you can live in ... like a 007 secret tower underground," explains co-owner Bruce Francisco, who insists its former warhead tenant left behind no radioactive contamination.
For a different type of off-the-grid lifestyle, you can buy a cave. Montezuma Canyon's Cave Palace Ranch peeks out of the base of a towering Utah mountain. The creators transformed the mountain's natural red rock cave into a three-bedroom home that's naturally insulated in the colder months and air conditioned in the hot ones. It operates on solar power and propane. One note: you may have to clean up after "the occasional minimal dust" shed by the ceiling.
Sometimes ultra-luxury estates are not quite what they seem. Looking out at the carefully manicured lawn of a Holmby Hills estate with a $28.5 million asking price, you probably wouldn't suspect a nightclub sits below the landscaping. The sprawling concrete-enforced discotheque is equipped with the latest sound and lighting systems, a stage and a secret entrance separate from the mansion's.
A handful of converted community-centric structures are also on the market. Firehouses are available in New York City and San Francisco; Chicago and Dallas offer converted churches. The Texas structure was formerly St. Johns United Methodist Church and sports a granite-topped altar turned kitchen centerpiece.
If you're seriously considering buying a quirky home, note that they can be tough to sell. Some of the properties on our list have been available for years, and such homes often get sold only after the owners aggressively slash their original asking prices.
"Unusual or highly customized homes can be difficult to sell in the best of markets, but when the general pool of qualified home buyers tightens up, as it has this year, it can be even tougher," explains Tara-Nicholle Nelson, consumer educator for Trulia.com.
Nelson says getting one of these homes sold depends on two important factors: price point and "whether the qualities which render it 'extreme' evoke a strong positive or negative reaction in the minds of the average person who is house-hunting in that price range."
Even in 2010's tough market, however, homes that got sold included houseboats, castles and a volcano dwelling. The owners even managed to get nearly $1 million for a Long Island, N.Y., home made famous as the setting for the movie "The Amityville Horror".
© 2012 Forbes.com