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real estate

For Sale: Castle, Nearly Finished

Brian Colella is selling the castle he built himself, complete with moat, in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. Asking price: $3.4 million.

What inspired you to build a castle? Sitting in my high school English class in 1969, I saw a picture of a castle and decided I wanted to build one. In 1976 I bought three and a half acres of land for about $25,000 and started drawing floor plans.

Castles are usually big and drafty. It's big -- it has 13 bedrooms and 11 bathrooms. Some accessories -- doorknobs, gargoyles, and bits and pieces of hardware -- are from England, and I put a 100-foot moat in front with a bridge. But the floors are equipped with radiant heating, and there is a water-based cooling system under the castle's foundation. The bell tower has closed-circuit video surveillance.

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How long did it take to build? I started in November 1986. It's about 80% finished -- there's some flooring, drywall and painting to be done.

Did you ever live there? In the beginning, I lived in another house I'd built on the property. I worked on the castle during the day, and I ran my business recording videos and sound for TV commercials in the afternoon and evening. My wife and I lived in the castle from 1997 to 2000.

Why are you selling? I bought a weekend place on the Chesapeake Bay in 1997, and my family and I started spending more and more time there. When you are as busy as I am, it's hard to take the time to travel back and forth.

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Have you had any offers? Last April I listed it with a real estate broker, who didn't bring any serious buyers. Then I listed it on eBay and had nearly 40 inquiries. But it was word of mouth that brought two contracts, one for $3.4 million if I finish the building and one for $3 million as is.

What are the property taxes on a $3-million castle? The property-tax bill is $9,500, based on an assessment of $838,000. Until the house is finished, it can't be assessed for its full value.

-- Interview by Joan Goldwasser

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