As Americans' tastes move to smaller homes, some are suggesting that it makes sense to split giant suburban houses into apartments for several families.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Oct 6, 2011 2:11PM

© Ariel Skelley/Getty ImagesThis is one of the most interesting ideas we've heard lately:


You know all those suburban McMansions no one wants anymore?

Turn them into affordable housing, suggests Arthur C. Nelson, director of the Metropolitan Research Center at the University of Utah.


"When you add up the spaces and how they’re distributed, the typical McMansion can be occupied by three to five households with their own splendid privacy, their own large space," Nelson said to Emily Badger at The Atlantic Cities.


The percentage of Americans who own their homes fell between 2000 and 2010, with the greatest decline in Southern states.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Oct 6, 2011 2:07PM

© Jupiterimages/Getty ImagesThe rate of homeownership in the United States dropped between 2000 and 2010. While it remained at the second-highest level in census records dating to 1890, the percentage drop was the largest since 1940, at the end of the Depression.

The percentage of Americans who own their homes fell from 66.2% in 2000 to 65.1% in 2010, according to data released by the U.S. Census Department today. The 10-year decrease was the largest since rates fell from 47.8% in 1930 to 43.6% in 1940. You can see a chart showing historic homeownership rates here.


Homeownership in 2010 was highest in the Midwest, at 69.2%, followed by the South, 66.7%; the Northeast, 62.2%; and the West, 60.5%. All the regions reported a drop between 2000 and 2010.

Tags: buying

Unlike high-end glossies, new publication offers tips to homeowners who don't have millions. It wants them to say, 'This is how I live, only a little better.'

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Oct 5, 2011 5:05AM

© HGTV/Hearst PublicationsWhen long-established magazines and newspapers are struggling to stay afloat, it's surprising to hear that there's a new shelter magazine in town.


Last week, HGTV and Hearst Magazines launched HGTV Magazine, 144 pages of glossy articles about the home.

Unlike Architectural Digest and House Beautiful, the new HGTV Magazine contains photos and stories about something you may actually be able to afford or projects you really could do yourself.


"This is not a magazine that wants to lecture you on how to have a perfect home or a perfect life, because there is no such thing," editor Sara Peterson told The New York Times. "It doesn’t feel intimidating and off-limits. This is an accessible and relatable 'you can live like this' magazine."


Ohio residents can pay $35 to $45 a month as a hedge against declining home values. But the policies may not be a good deal for most homeowners.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Oct 4, 2011 2:21PM

© Robert Llewellyn/CorbisHere's something you wish you'd bought five years ago: insurance against falling home prices.


A California firm is selling what it says is the first insurance against falling home prices, starting in Ohio and planning to roll the product out to 15 to 20 other states by the end of next year. Several companies sell similar products.

For $35 to $45 a month for the average Ohio home, Home Value Insurance Co. will sell you an insurance policy that will pay you if your home has dropped in value when you go to sell it.


The policy has some limitations: It has a deductible if you sell within two years, and the maximum protected loss is 25%, about half of what homeowners have suffered in the hardest-hit areas.


Audits of loan servicers found major problems with how they dealt with borrowers. But Pro Publica reports that the audits themselves were problematic.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Oct 4, 2011 12:05PM

© SuperStockOne of the many problems with the federal government's loan-modification programs is that lenders and loan servicers seem to ignore the rules.


That's apparently OK with the government, according to documents obtained by Pro Publica, a nonprofit journalism website that has done a lot of reporting on problems with the government's loan-modification efforts.

A look at audits of GMAC's performance shows that the mortgage servicer made many errors, including miscalculating homeowners' income in more than 80% of the cases examined. The government auditors levied no penalties for those errors, or for denying modifications in violation of the Home Affordable Modification Program's guidelines.


We don't know how the other servicers fared because the federal government won't release the documents under the Freedom of Information Act without the servicers' permission, which all but GMAC have refused to grant.


Diane Thompson of the National Consumer Law Center called the auditors’ mistakes “appalling.” She told Pro Publica: “It suggests the government isn’t taking the auditing process seriously.”


The Treasury Department denied that its audits, performed by a Freddie Mac team, were flawed, telling Pro Publica the program is "effective and unprecedented in many ways."


Studies find link between foreclosures and stress-related health issues. Should health care be part of mortgage negotiations?

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Oct 3, 2011 1:20PM

© Tetra Images/SuperstockWe know that foreclosures are bad for the health of a community. New research indicates they may be bad for the health of individuals as well.


Considering that economic woes can be very stressful that the poor health of a wage earner is often the reason a family's home goes into foreclosure, we could guess that there would be a correlation between health problems and foreclosures.

Janet Currie of Princeton University and Erdal Tekin of Georgia State University looked at foreclosures and health in Arizona, California, Florida and New Jersey, four states with a high rate of foreclosure.


"You see foreclosures having a general effect on the neighborhood," Currie told The Wall Street Journal. "Everybody's stressed out. There is a connection between people's economic well-being and their physical well-being."


Rat Island is nearly submerged at high tide, but the new owner doesn't plan to build. He plans to keep natural the island he had already been keeping clean.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Oct 3, 2011 11:53AM

Map showing location of Rat Island (© Microsoft Corporation/NAVTEQ)You might think that a private island off the coast of New York City would be scandalously expensive.


But Alex Schibli, a 71-year-old Port Authority retiree, got a deal: his own 2.5-acre island off the Bronx for just $176,000. It's a bit more than the $24 the Dutch paid for Manhattan in 1626, but not bad considering how much New York real-estate prices have risen in the past four centuries.

Schibli's new possession, Rat Island, is close enough to his City Island home that he can, and does, swim to it. Despite its name, there are no rats.


"I can see it from my window. My wife and I kayak around it all the time," Schibli told the New York Post. "I feel like it has always belonged to me. It’s so lovely out here. You wouldn’t even believe you were in New York."


Schibli has no plans to build on the rocky outcrop, which is fortuitous because it can be all under water during storms. If you wanted to build a home on it, you might need to be a millionaire, though bits of a cottage foundation are still visible there.


Instead, the new owner plans to keep the island as is.


"Rat Island is a flat rock, but it’s a very special rock, at least to me," he told the Post. "Some developers might build something on top of the island if they got their hands on it, but I believe it should be conserved, kept as is."

Tags: celebrity

'The largest family house in America,' built in the style of the French palace at Versailles, is ready for your finishing touches — like walls and floors — outside Orlando.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Sep 30, 2011 12:43PM

Photo courtesy of Realtor.comWe decided to go for wretched excess for this Listing of the Week: a home in the style of the French palace of Versailles outside Orlando, Fla. It's offered at $75 million.

Despite its hefty price tag, this Florida palace is not even completed — though for an extra $25 million, the builder will finish it for you. It's your choice whether you want it finished Versailles-style or to your own specifications.


The plan to build "the largest family house in America" was announced in 2003 by David Siegel, CEO of the Westgate Resorts time-share company, who has 12 children. But when hard times hit, the Siegels ceased construction in early 2009 and put the house on the market in 2010. Even though it has been for sale for more than a year, the price has not been reduced.


"This mansion is a great anecdote of the overconsumption that led to the housing bust, and it might be the poster child of such overindulgence," South Florida real-estate analyst Jack McCabe told The Associated Press last year.


The house has 13 bedrooms and 23 baths in 90,000 square feet, making it the largest home for sale in the United States. It's on 10 acres on Lake Butler, in the town of Windermere, about 20 minutes from Orlando.






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