Make Your Home Fit for a Spy

Creative Home Engineering Ever dreamed of secretly moving from the lounge to the library without anyone being the wiser? One Arizona-based company can make those dreams come true. The premier (and perhaps only) manufacturer of secret passages and hidden rooms, Creative Home Engineering specializes in building bookcases that revolve into secret rooms, remote-controlled staircases that reveal hidden basements and cloaked safes that rise out of the floorboards.

"It's pretty sophisticated stuff," says Creative Home Engineering President Scott Humble. "Right now we're working on a stone wall where certain stones are actually buttons. When you push those stones in the correct sequence, it's a code and opens a secret door."

The company currently offers more than 100 varieties of hidden passages ranging from simple room-behind-a-painting models to more complex engineering feats like clandestine draw bridges, armchairs that convert to secret slides and bulletproof bookcases that swing open only by an iris scan.As far as uses for a hidden room, Humble says that ranges. While approximately half of his clients reportedly use the rooms as vaults or panic rooms in case of emergency, the other half reserve his creations for novelty functions like a hidden children's play area, secret gaming room or home theater for adults.

Creative Home Engineering The drawback to having a hidden room is that they aren't cheap -- they range from $5,000 for a basic model to $50,000 for more technically challenging creations. Humble and the fifty plus clients from around the world that call on him each year insist that the rooms are an investment owners will recoup upon selling the house.

"Think about what people put into a house to make it sell for more," says Humble. "They'll spend $100,000 on landscaping or they'll bring in imported Italian marble instead of American marble. If your house has a secret passageway, it really stands out. That house might have millions of dollars in amazing features, but people will refer to it as the house with the secret passageway."

John Vaught isn't so sure. A real estate agent with MKB Realtors in Roanoke, Va., Vaught says that a secret room's value depends on a number of variables.

"Price range is a big factor," he notes. "If you have a $2 million room that's 10,000 square feet, a secret room would be a good place to put your nice things in when you're on vacation. If you have a modest home, it's different. It would depend on market, the price range, the square footage. There are a whole lot of variables that would have to be taken into consideration before one could justify putting in a secret room."

Vaught adds that mid-range home-owners who invest in having a secret room run the risk of over-customizing their pads.
"It's like putting in a swimming pool," says Vaught. "For every one person who would love to have a pool, there are ten that don't. When you put something that specific in your home, especially a room that will take up that much space, you could lose mass appeal. It's really up in the air."

Mass appeal or not, it's hard to deny the coolness factor of owning a home with superhero-esque charm.

"What we do is pretty James Bond," says Humble. "It's definitely a niche market."
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