Even The Joneses Can’t Keep Up With The Joneses!

You know those Joneses we’re always comparing ourselves too?

Well, not only were they apparently a real family, but their long desired mansion just crossed the auction lot – and in bankruptcy at that!

It’s known as the Wyndclyffe Castle, and was built in 1853 for Manhattan socialite Elizabeth Schermerhorn Jones – a member of a wealthy family and aunt of American novelist Edith Wharton (who wrote “Ethan Frome,” “The House of Mirth” and “The Age of Innocence.”). Per AP News:

The property’s elegance is said to have prompted owners of nearby Hudson Valley estates to build even bigger mansions, giving birth to the idiom “Keeping up with the Joneses.”

Of course, these Joneses have long passed and I’m sure greatly enjoyed their spoils, but it’s pretty ironic that years later the house is in full disrepair and couldn’t even keep up with itself. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that the last owners tried to keep up with the Joneses and failed miserably? So what if it’s 163 years old ;)

Here’s a couple more pictures of it per Maltz Auctions – the auction house who sold it – as well as some of its features:

wyndcliffe mansion castle

joneses mansion sky view

The “Keeping Up With The Joneses” House:

  • 25 Wyndclyffe Court, Rhinebeck, Dutchess County, NY 12572
  • 2.5 acres (used to be 80 acres, including waterfront access)
  • 3 stories
  • 7,690 sq ft
  • 9 bedrooms
  • 5 bathrooms
  • 4 fireplaces
  • Full basement
  • Designed by George Veitch
  • Also known as Linden Hall and Finck Castle named after subsequent owners

It was last appraised at $312,900 but ended up going for a paltry $120,000 – down from millions back in its day. With annual real estate taxes of currently $7,311.83.

Oh, and it was only a “summer home.” #UltraWealth

Here’s more fascinating background on it, along with super freaky inside pics and what Edith Wharton herself truly thought of the place (spoiler alert: she thought it was “intolerably ugly”): Inside The Haunted Abandoned Wyndcliffe Mansion in NY’s Hudson Valley

I swear if I was retired already I’d have snatched it up and built my headquarters in it! What better place to blog about personal finances than the home that started it all? I’d have opened it up for all my loyal readers too, and even hosted FinCon 2017 at it.

Perhaps I’ll talk to the new owner and see what we can work out :)

harry potter boyhood home

On the flip side of the spectrum, if you’re a Harry Potter fan you’re gonna love another house currently up for sale which has fared much (much) better over the years.

It’s known as “4 Privet Drive” and was where Harry Potter spent his first 11 years living under the stairs in the cupboard, courtesy of his cruel aunt and uncle, Vernon and Petunia Dursley.

The cost of this house? $620,000 (£475,000) for a modest, newly refurbished, 3 bedroom house. Real address: 12 Picket Post Close, situated in the quiet suburbs of Bracknell in Berkshire, England, 25 miles west of London. The sales page is so humble it doesn’t even make note of its famous history!

So the lessons today are quite clear: Wizards rule and Joneses drool.

If you’re going to be chasing anything, make sure it’s your destiny. Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light – Albus Dumbledore.

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  1. The Green Swan October 5, 2016 at 5:46 AM

    Wow that castle is in ruins! Surprised they aren’t just tearing it down and rebuilding.

    On the other hand, I’m also pretty surprised they aren’t marketing the Harry Potter house with the history! Wouldn’t it boost the price a bunch!? Do you think that would fit Fincon 2017? :)

    1. Fiscally Free October 5, 2016 at 10:54 AM

      Yeah, pretty crazy not to mention the movie fame of the house. I guess they’re just more modest in the old world.

      1. J. Money October 5, 2016 at 2:57 PM

        Maybe they knew the media would report on it? (Or they hate Harry Potter? :))

  2. Gwen @ Fiery Millennials October 5, 2016 at 6:10 AM

    I feel like going to see the Privet drive house since I’m in the area, but I’ll have to content myself with seeing the Cursed Child play instead :)

    1. J. Money October 5, 2016 at 2:58 PM

      Ack – so cool you’re there right now!

  3. theFIREstarter October 5, 2016 at 6:31 AM

    This is brilliantly ironic!

    They’re definitely missing a trick not mentioning HP on the sales page but looks like word has “somehow” slipped out about it anyway seeing as it’s made it onto CNN ;)

  4. Jon @ Be Net Worthy October 5, 2016 at 6:36 AM

    Fun post J. Money, it’s always fun to learn where those sayings that have been around forever come from. Who would’ve known that there were actually REAL Joneses!

  5. MoneyMiniBlog October 5, 2016 at 7:00 AM

    That’s pretty awesome about the Joneses. I figured it came from some where, but I’ve never thought about where. I always picture the Jeffersons when I think of the phrase. Haha, “we’re movin’ on up… to the East Side, to a deee-luxe apartment in the sky!”

    I saw, on The Consumerist, that the house from “Full House” is currently being rented out for $14k a month! So that would be pretty sweet to check out, but seems a little pricey. Lol

    1. J. Money October 5, 2016 at 3:32 PM

      I believe it!! And it surely helped coming back on again to Netflix :)

  6. Mrs. Mad Money Monster | @madmoneymonster October 5, 2016 at 7:08 AM

    That was an awesome little history lesson! How ironic that it is now in ruins and sold for an embarrassing $120k. My failed quest to keep up with The Joneses inspired the creation of my own blog :) It’s a tough habit to beat!

  7. Roy Largo @ Band of Savers October 5, 2016 at 7:14 AM

    Thanks for the history lesson. I never knew (or even thought about) where that saying about the Joneses came from. It’s sad to see the disrepair that it has fallen into over the years. Hope the new owners can keep up and restore it to some of its former beauty.

  8. Full Time Finance October 5, 2016 at 7:21 AM

    Very interesting and definitely ironic. I couldn’t help but think given my prices 120ks damn cheap and with proper refurb it would be a cool bed and breakfast business. I’ve been to a number of BBB lately where a former mansion became a inn, I always wonder about the economics of such a move. Anyway I digress thanks for sharing.

    1. J. Money October 5, 2016 at 4:12 PM

      I would TOTALLY spend a night (or 10!) in there if it were a B&B. I’d imagine it costs a butt ton to restore such a palatial place like that, but as a guest in the house I wouldn’t have to worry about it :)

  9. Dividends Down Under October 5, 2016 at 7:25 AM

    Funny how things can get into disrepair.

    I was just saying to my wife the other day, it’s funny how the ‘rich’ people back in the day spent their money on huge houses. Imagine if they’d invested that many in businesses instead. You don’t see old money being at the very top of the rich lists these days.


    1. J. Money October 5, 2016 at 4:29 PM

      True true… But they had to invest into something in order to get all that $$$ to begin with :) And probably was in business – their own!

  10. Apathy Ends October 5, 2016 at 7:34 AM

    That house looks pretty creepy – not sure I would be ready to “summer” there.

    I am going to have to keep the HP house hidden from Mrs AE – she loves Harry Potter

  11. Ms. Montana October 5, 2016 at 8:08 AM

    That is crazy! (And kind of a heck of a deal) What a cool story.

  12. Taylor October 5, 2016 at 8:09 AM

    This philosophy still holds true today… Here in Minnesota, there are many suburbs that have brand new housing developments with HUGE houses! With each new development, the houses get bigger and bigger… People keep trying to portray this perception to show they have a lot of money, but the truth is that 99% of these people are taking out loans for these housing and killing their net worth!!

  13. Mr Crazy Kicks October 5, 2016 at 8:10 AM

    $120,000 is a steal! Funny thing is we once looked at a place like this. It was tempting because I was offered an incredibly low price to buy the house from a developer, and it was in much better shape than this one. The only thing is I would have had to replace 70 oversized windows and a slate roof just to get the place weatherproof. Not to mention the rest of the restorations costs of a massive kitchen and 6 bathrooms. The restoration dream quickly faded when I added up the potential costs and they were another 2X the cost of the house.

    I still dig old places like this, but I’ll let someone else restore them :)

    1. J. Money October 5, 2016 at 4:31 PM

      That’s right – and then crash there for free or when they turn into an AirBnB :)

      1. Mr Crazy Kicks October 5, 2016 at 5:46 PM

        Dude! Now that’s thinking.

  14. Paul October 5, 2016 at 8:21 AM

    My perfect house would be an 100 year old giant farm house with a wrap around porch. I would then gut it an completely modernize it inside, while keeping the exterior architecture mostly in tact. it would need to be right in the middle of 20 acres or more thus maximizing my distance away from neighbors.

    1. J. Money October 5, 2016 at 4:34 PM

      I’d come help!! Sounds awesome!

      (And by help, I mean come keep you company while downing some adult beverages…. But I’m really good at talking!)

      1. Paul October 6, 2016 at 1:31 PM

        Drink all my beer AND distract me from the work that needs to be done. How very generous of you, lol!!!

  15. Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies October 5, 2016 at 8:30 AM

    I might have to share this with my students who are done with their work early in study hall today. They will probably try to take up a collected to purchase 4 Privet Drive ;) Harry Potter fever is back! Also, that Dumbledore quote is on my classroom wall!

    1. J. Money October 5, 2016 at 4:34 PM

      Hah! Awesome!

  16. CPA Housewife October 5, 2016 at 8:32 AM

    It’s the perfect metaphor for what can happen when you jump into the ‘stuff’ race. I’ve watched the lives of people who I thought were fabulously wealthy fall into this sort of disrepair. The Joneses are never quite what they seem…granted, they’re not usually haunted.

  17. Andrew October 5, 2016 at 9:55 AM

    Wow pretty interesting. Also would have loved it if you had bought it and hosted Fincon 2017 there. Being that it’s in NY, I definitely would have made the trip up there.

  18. Fiscally Free October 5, 2016 at 10:53 AM

    That castle is pretty cool, although the tax rate seems outrageous.

  19. Mike B. October 5, 2016 at 11:38 AM

    I can’t believe that it went for a cool $120,000? Maybe because it’s “only” 2.5 acres now, down from the original 80 acres in it’s heyday. Very cool. Lawn party anyone?

    1. J. Money October 5, 2016 at 4:35 PM

      All the walls are crumbling and probably has to be torn down and built back up, haha… so I guess you’re just getting the land? (Or yes – a kick-ass place to party, especially if you’re a vampire!)

  20. Financial Canadian October 5, 2016 at 1:02 PM

    The phrase “keeping up with the joneses” is something I’ve heard since I was a child. So interesting to finally discover where is actually comes from!

  21. rosie October 5, 2016 at 2:30 PM

    I always find it strange how the history of a house affects its price. I knew someone who put their (absolutely enormous and beautiful) house on the market years ago and still hasn’t sold it, even at a very low price. People won’t buy it because a murder happened outside and the owner was a suspect. It’s crazy.


  22. Steven October 5, 2016 at 4:59 PM

    So I couldn’t read the article I was easily distracted by Jackie Chan! Please explain why Jackie Chan is hanging out on your blog.

    1. J. Money October 6, 2016 at 9:58 AM

      I have no idea what you’re talking about, haha..

      Was it in an ad or something?

  23. Finance Solver October 5, 2016 at 9:43 PM

    #The Ultra Wealth, wow this is a great piece of information, maybe they tried to out do themselves and succeeded. I would go with you, J Money, to talk to the new owner to host FinCon… ;)

  24. Linda @ Brooklyn Bread October 5, 2016 at 9:48 PM

    There are so many stunning old mansions that you can visit along the Hudson. They’re emblems of old-timey inequality, but they really were interesting and beautiful in a way that McMansions just aren’t. And they are amazing cultural spots to visit now that everyone can enjoy. I wonder why this one fell through the cracks. What a shame, such a beautiful piece of architecture headed to the dustbin of history.

    1. J. Money October 6, 2016 at 9:57 AM

      For real!

      If I were ever to blow it all on a large house, it would def. be on an holder one with TONS of character vs the newer stuff that comes out… The history is the most beautiful part!

  25. Joe October 5, 2016 at 11:48 PM

    What the heck is with the real estate tax? That’s ridiculous. The state government should figure out a way to cut that back a bit. Nobody wants to deal with a money pit like that. It’s too bad.

    1. J. Money October 6, 2016 at 9:55 AM

      It’s probably super low too based on its condition… Imagine how much it would be if it were pristine again from back in the day? (I think that’s how property tax works? Based on value yeah?)

  26. Free to Pursue October 6, 2016 at 6:48 AM

    “Wizards rule and Joneses drool.” Priceless finale there my friend. I would love to know how you stumbled upon this amazing fact. Do you peruse AP News daily?

    As for the Joneses’ ancient history, it’s making me think of Alain de Botton’s book “Status Anxiety”. Aspirational anxiety is the only constant. What causes it changes over time.

    Here’s his definition of status anxiety: “A worry, so pernicious as to be capable of ruining extended stretches of our lives, that we are in danger of failing to conform to the ideals of success laid down by our society and that we may as a result be stripped of dignity and respect; a worry that we are currently occupying too modest a rung or are about to fall to a lower one.”

    Sounds about right, doesn’t it?

    1. J. Money October 6, 2016 at 9:45 AM

      Once again your obsession with reading pays off :)

      And no – def. don’t peruse AP News haha… A kind reader sent it to me as they thought I’d enjoy! And they were right!

  27. Jon @ Money Smart Guides October 6, 2016 at 9:20 AM

    Great story….made me think of a recent article I read about modern day McMansions. Many of the owners are having to lower their asking price to sell because of the trend of tiny houses. Not many people want a huge house any longer. Just goes to show that you need to really think about these large purchases before you buy as it can cost you a lot financially (and emotionally).

    1. J. Money October 10, 2016 at 9:48 AM

      Mmmmmm… tiny houses….

  28. Syed October 6, 2016 at 3:54 PM

    I once read some fan theories that the whole Harry Potter adventure is just a dream and Harry really is just a lonely boy living below the stairs with the Dudleys. How depressing!

    But then again, if the Matrix is right, then everything around us is a dream.

    *mind blown*

    1. J. Money October 10, 2016 at 9:49 AM


      I guess we can all have our own Pick Your Own Adventure ending :)

  29. ZJ Thorne October 7, 2016 at 11:45 PM

    I find it fascinating where great authors lived and played. I ache to visit the small home that Charlotte Bronte lived in. To see what struck her imagination. To listen for the wuthering over the moors to see if I can hear a voice cry out.

    1. J. Money October 10, 2016 at 9:49 AM

      yeah! Fascinating!

  30. Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore October 9, 2016 at 3:21 PM

    I occasionally find myself wondering how people afford things like tons of travel AND a nice house in a big city with high COL AND new cars for both spouses AND nights out on the town, etc. Then I remember they are probably where I was before – charging it to their credit cards and hoping they don’t go over their limits.

  31. Ten Factorial Rocks October 15, 2016 at 1:05 PM

    What an interesting story. Must be cool to have J Money HQ at that presumably haunted castle! You can charge $20 heritage tour tickets and become so rich soon that you can really keep up with the Joneses!

    1. J. Money October 23, 2016 at 4:10 PM


  32. [HCF] January 10, 2018 at 12:52 AM

    Wow, I like castles, You should have jumped into the auction anyway. You could have renamed it to the Sexy Castle and call the property Budgetland :D Maybe there is even a coin mint so you would be able to issue your own J-Money (silver and gold coins only of course). Soon it would become the place of pilgrimage for the PF community.

    I really like Harry Potter, but the property prices in England are insane. I like their nice towns, but I have claustrophobia in their tiny homes. Living there would be a reason enough to want to go to the Hogwarts as soon as possible. However, I would move into a hobbit-hole anytime without a second thought :)

    1. J. Money January 12, 2018 at 4:59 PM

      “Maybe there is even a coin mint so you would be able to issue your own J-Money (silver and gold coins only of course). ”

      STOP TEMPTING ME!! I was just reading a story on a guy who bought an island and then named himself “King” of it and minted coins with his face on them haha…. They could make for great business cards! ;)