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Cave dwelling family in US hit by economic crisis

A LOT of people are struggling to keep their homes in these tough economic times. One US family is trying to keep its cave.

That is, a cave that's also a home. Curt and Deborah Sleeper bought 3 acres (1.2 hectares) of property and a cave in Festus, Missouri, in 2004, after they spotted it online. They fell in love with the unique geography of the old mining cave and figured out how to build a house inside of it.

But they've got a big payment coming due on the property and don't think they can afford it. If they can't secure new financing, they've got a backup plan - auctioning their cave home through eBay. Bidding starts at US$300,000.

"I get the financing, or I sell the property, or I lose everything," Curt Sleeper, a self-employed Web designer and small business consultant, said Thursday while giving a tour of the home.

Missouri has its share of homes built into the geography - houses built into the ground or in a hillside. The Sleepers' home is unique even among them.

In the late 1800s, limestone mining created their bowl-shaped yard at the base of a hill. The 17,000 square foot (1,580 sq. meter) foot cave where they live was hollowed out by sandstone mining through the 1930s.

The Sleepers enlisted friends to help build the unique structure. A gray timber frame exterior was constructed in the 37-foot-tall (11-meter-tall) opening of the cave. Thirty-seven sliding glass doors also are used as windows throughout the three-story, three-bedroom home, allowing natural light throughout the finished sections of the home.

Inside, the walls and ceiling are comprised of the natural cave stone. A huge umbrella is positioned above the living room furniture to catch grit that falls from the rock. Three large dehumidifiers keep the interior from getting too damp or musty. The family ran several tests to make sure the air quality was OK before moving in.

The home has electric, water and sewer, a decked-out kitchen and a whirlpool tub. It also has a goldfish pond.

Behind the living quarters sits a large cave chamber that serves mainly as storage.

Curt Sleeper said there are no bats in the cave, and no bugs beyond the normal stuff. "Nothing a cat or two won't handle," he wrote on a Web site.

One plus to living in a cave is climate control. The cave is at a constant 62 degrees. In fact, the home doesn't even include a furnace or air conditioner.

Sleeper said he'd never want to own a traditional house after his time in the cave home.

"I'd never live in a box again," he said.


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