Hobbit Crisis: The Shire in Foreclosure

Lord of the Rings-themed village development hits financial turmoil.

By SHARE

The nation's housing bust hit a painful new milestone last week with the initiation of foreclosure proceedings against The Shire, a once blissful land of hobbits and happiness inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien.

From the Bulletin, in Bend, Ore.:

The rise and fall of Bend's real estate economy has resulted in foreclosure proceedings against The Shire, a village-themed concept in southeast Bend patterned after J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" series....

The project—whose features include unique stonework, artificial thatched roofs, terraced gardens and a network of streams and ponds with a pathway leading to what's called "The Ring Bearer's Court"—captured media attention outside Central Oregon, including a December 2006 feature on BBC Radio.

You think L.A. was overpriced? Check out the listings in The Shire.

From the Bulletin:

One home has sold for $650,000 since the project broke ground in fall 2006.... Another home, called Butterfly Cottage, is nearly completed but has not been sold. It's listed for $899,000. The 3,200-square-foot home overlooks an amphitheater, has 26-foot-high ceilings and interior finishes that include bamboo flooring, a Japanese soaking tub and granite countertops. The house has a "hobbit hole" in the backyard for storing garden supplies.

Both of the homes have artificial thatched roofs and a storybook look that includes dragon-shaped support beams.

Like other, more mainstream developments, the project was impaled by the credit crisis and a dearth of sales. But The Shire was also hurt by its own unique shortcomings.

Quoth the Bulletin:

"Some people were turned off by living in 'Disneyland,' " said [Ron Meyers, who came up with the concept]. "It's more of an artists' community for a certain market segment that wanted something different. There's been enough people that have come through that would say, 'What a wonderful concept.' But then the market crashed, and everyone [went] home."

Greg Steckler, a designer of the project, is the lone owner of a Shire home, where he lives with his wife and mother-in-law. He calls himself the resident greeter and hobbit, after the joyful characters who occupied a magical village called The Shire in The Lord of the Rings.

I'm not writing this Steckler off yet. Anyone who can persuade his mother-in-law to move into a home for make-believe creatures can certainly talk a banker out of foreclosure.