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4 Property Owners Who Refused to Sell Their Homes to Developers

"Up" House / Source:

By now, you must have heard about the two owners of Geylang terraces who refused to sell their property to a condo developer. Condo developers had to tweak their plans and build their project around the house. The owners’ reluctance to sell has caused a social media storm, prompting Singaporeans to liken the situation to a well-loved Disney movie, “Up”.

Properties like this, ones that did not become a part of a bigger real estate development, are called holdouts, and there are many examples of these properties around the world.

Wu Family

In China, holdout houses—or as the Chinese call it, “nail houses”—received an unusual degree of media coverage. Images of “nail houses” were widely publicised and had open a conversation about China’s rapid urbanisation and what is a just property valuation.

One example that stands out is the Wu Family House located in the Chongqing municipality. The couple, Wu Ping and Yang Wu, are among the 280 households asked to vacate the property to make way for a shopping mall project.


Wu Ping, who had been planning to put up a restaurant at the house’s ground floor, showed her resistance by appearing in numerous interviews and press releases. The couple even broke into the construction site, using nunchucks, Yang Wu built a makeshift staircase to their house, and reoccupied it. The couple survived on food and water deliveries.

In April 2007, after the couple agreed to move into a similar-sized apartment and received one million yuan, Chinese authorities torn down the couple’s house.


Perhaps the most famous holdout of all is the late Edith Macefield’s then 106-year-old 1,050 square feet home in Seattle, Washington, which became the inspiration for the Disney movie, Up.

Sources: (L), (R)

The developers initially offer Macefield US$750,000, and then it was raised to US$1,000,000 including finding her a similar home in another location, and paying for all her home healthcare, all of which Macefield refused.

Barry Martin, the project’s senior superintendent of construction befriended Macefield. When Macefield passed in 2008, she left the house and its contents to Martin. A year after, Martin sold the house for US$310,000

In May 2009, Disney publicists attached balloons to the roof of Macefield’s home, in promotion of the film Up, that tells a story of an aging widower whose home stood surrounded by a looming development.

Coffee House

Located in an old neighbourhood of Roubaix in Northern France, Salah Oudjani refused to sell his two-storey coffee house, also called Café Chez Salah, the one he’s worked in for 46 years. Once was part of an intersection of two streets, the café is the sole survivor of a serious air raid.

Sources: (L), (R)

A new eco-district is supposed to be built on the land where the coffee house and the rest of its neighbourhood stands. And though utilities such as telephone, electricity and gas have been unreliable, Oudjani continues to serve cups of coffee and pints of beers to his customers.

Project developers had to alter their plans just so they can include this old café.

Family Jewel

For 75 years, this family-owned jewellery business property, John Clarke & Son in the suburb St Leonards in Sydney, Australia, stood out from its ever-developing neighbours. The family refused to take less than AUD $3.5 million for the property (it was originally bought for 3000 pounds in 1960).

It finally sold in 2015, rumours have it that the selling price was around AUD $2.5 million.



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