The biggest real estate blunders ever …

Excerpted from, “Worst Business Blunders” Nov. 11, 2008

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Ken’s Take: As we all lick our wounds with home prices down, consider these …

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Blunder: The sale of Manhattan island
Blunderer: The Canarsees
Size Of Blunder: $1 trillion

In 1626, Canarsee natives traded for trinkets a now rather stylish plot: Manhattan (then called New Amsterdam). The 23 square miles many New Yorkers consider “the center of the universe” is now valued at a cool $1 trillion.

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Blunderer: Napoleon, On Behalf Of France
Blunder: The sale of the Louisiana Territory
Size Of Blunder: $750 billion

In 1803, Napoleon was struggling to defend all the land France had acquired in the New World, specifically Haiti, which was in the midst of a slave revolt. With his army stretched thin, and unwilling to relinquish Haiti, Napoleon offered to sell the entire territory of Louisiana, rather than just the port of New Orleans, as had previously been discussed. The offer: $15 million–3 cents per acre–or about $284 million today. The current value of that land (now including portions of 15 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces): around $750 billion.

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Blunder: Sale of Alaska
Blunderer: Czar Alexander II, On Behalf Of Russia
Size Of Blunder: $100 billion 

Fearing he would lose Alaska by force, Czar Alexander II advised Russian minister Eduard de Stoeckl to offer a 586,412 square mile ice block–Alaska–for sale to the U.S. Following an all-night negotiation, the agreement was signed March 30, 1867. The U.S. paid $7.2 million–1.9 cents per acre–for a land rich in oil and gold, currently valued at $100 billion, At the time of the sale, famed journalist Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune called the purchase both “inconvenient” and “dangerous” for the U.S., as the territory offered “nothing of value but furbearing animals.”

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