The lighter side of real estate

Romney’s Mansions v Obama’s Humble Beginnings: Candidates’ Homes Revealed

We’ve reported on Mitt Romney’s newest vacation home, and on Barack Obama’s current residence, but perhaps a more interesting glimpse into the candidates’ psyches can be found in the homes they grew up in.

Kate Folk

Kate Folk is a writer for Movoto. She's from Iowa and now lives in San Francisco. She also writes fiction.

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Exploring the Houses of Obama and Romney

We’ve reported on Mitt Romney’s newest vacation home, and on Barack Obama’s current residence, but perhaps a more interesting glimpse into the candidates’ psyches can be found in the homes they grew up in. By the time he was ten years old, Obama had lived in Honolulu, Seattle, and Indonesia. Romney’s crash course on world affairs didn’t come until he was 19, and traveled to France as a Mormon missionary. Perhaps more striking, though, are the similarities.

Barack Obama

Growing up, Obama moved around a lot. (And yes, he was born in Hawaii, no matter what Donald Trump tries to tell you.) The address listed on his original, long form birth certificate is that of his maternal grandparents, who lived in this house on 6085 Kalaniana’ole Highway in Honolulu.

Google maps image of Obama’s grandparents’ house in Honolulu.

Obama and his mother then lived briefly in Seattle before moving to Indonesia, then back to Honolulu, where Obama lived in a high rise apartment building at 1617 S. Beretania Street in Honolulu with his grandparents. The building is now in the process of being turned into a national landmark.

Google maps image of Obama’s grandparents’ building in Honolulu.

While a student at Columbia University, Obama lived in this building at 339 E 94th St in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan. He describes the experience in Dreams of My Father: “It was an uninviting block, treeless and barren, lined with soot-colored walk-ups that cast heavy shadows for the rest of the day.”

Google maps image of Obama’s former New York apartment.

Obama then moved to Boston to attend Harvard Law School, where he met his future wife, Michelle. The Obamas settled down in Chicago, first living in a condo at 5450 S. East View Park, and eventually buying this 6,500 square foot Georgian revival mansion at 5046 S Greenwood Avenue in Hyde Park. Obama still owes approximately $806,000 on the house, and though he doesn’t currently live there, he did get to go home for a single night in June.

Photo of the Obamas’ Hyde Park residence by Flickr user rosebennet.

Obama now lives in the White House. Since taking up residence there in 2009, the Obamas have made several important changes to the estate:

  • They changed the artwork on the walls, ditching the 19th century portraits for more modern, abstract works.
  • Michelle Obama planted the White House’s first kitchen garden since Eleanor Roosevelt’s tenancy. Michelle has taken on the cause of reducing the US’s childhood obesity rate, and recently published a book about her White House gardening experience: American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America.
  • Installed solar panels on the roof. These aren’t the White House’s first foray into solar energy. Jimmy Carter installed 32 panels in 1979, but Ronald Reagan had them torn down (Berlin Wall style) seven years later.

Photo of the White House by Flickr user MCS@flickr

Mitt Romney

Mitt’s been mocked recently for the size of his houses, much as John McCain was lambasted during the 2008 election for forgetting how many houses he owned. But hey, what do you expect him to do with all that money? With personal wealth that amounts to up to $265 million, Romney, if elected, would rank among the top four richest presidents in US history.

As far as housing goes, Mitt’s childhood was much more stable than Obama’s. The first five years of Mitt’s life were spent in this 5,500 square foot house in the Palmer Woods neighborhood of Detroit. The house was demolished in 2010.

Google maps image of Romney house in September 2009.

The Romneys then moved to the affluent suburb of Bloomfield Hills. Mitt attended Cranbrook School, starting in seventh grade, and started boarding there when his parents moved to the state capitol. He lived in Steven’s Hall on the Cranbrook campus.

Photo of Cranbrook School by Flickr user Conlawprof

After attending Stanford for a year, Romney lived in France for 30 months as a Mormon missionary. Mission Home, a 19th century neoclassical building in the French capital’s chic 16th arrondissement. Romney maintains a deep respect for French culture, and still speaks some French– a fact that Newt Gingrich gleefully maligned during the Republican primaries.

Google maps image of The Mission Home at 3 Rue de Lota, Paris.

Romney returned to the US to finish his undergraduate degree at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. There, he and his wife had their first son, Tagg. Ann Romney recalls living in a modest basement apartment while attending BYU.

Romney then earned a joint JD and MBA at Harvard. He and his growing family lived in a house off campus, in the Belmont Hill suburb.

In 1989, Romney bought this 7 bedroom, 6,434 square foot home in Belmont, Massachusetts. The Romneys sold the house in April 2009 for 3.5 million dollars, downsizing to a relatively modest 2 bedroom, also in Belmont.

Bing maps image of Romney’s Belmont mansion.

Romney’s vacation homes deserve their own post. There’s the summer house in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, acquired in 1997 for $3 million. There’s the ski home in Park City, Utah, bought in 1999 and sold in 2009 for around $5.25 million. But it’s the Romneys’ most recent acquisition that’s drawing controversy: this house in La Jolla, San Diego, was sold to the Romneys in 2008 for a whopping $12 million.

Google maps image of Romney’s house in La Jolla, CA.

Romney is doing some home improvements. In August 2011, Romney filed an application to bulldoze the entire existing 3,009 square foot house so he could build a 11,062 square foot, two story mansion in its place. The new version of the house will feature, among other amenities, an elevator for cars. Some of the neighbors are annoyed by the effect the Romneys have already had on the neighborhood.

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posted on: July 18, 2012
247 views, 4 comments


  1. Alec

    This article is basically “Don’t vote for Romney, he is successful and therefor EVIL.”

    Good job promoting class warfare guys.

  2. Kimmy

    Great article!

  3. Fran

    Where did it come from that being successful and rich was a crime? All these people are jealous. And…would probably not have a job was it not for these motivated and inspiring people who took a chance with THEIR OWN money and built their empires. I’m grateful for them, not whining!

  4. Poor Man

    The difference appears to be Romney earned his millions whereas the Obama’s income amazingly shot up after he became a Senator.


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