Stone countertops may be past their peak, but their popularity still doesn't appear to be waning.

By Mai Ling at MSN Real Estate Nov 30, 2010 12:17PM

Stephane Fitch with Forbes says Americans' love affair with stone countertops has cost us more than the first Gulf War. (© Fuse/Getty Images)Since the late 1990s, granite countertops began sneaking into more and more homes until finally becoming a must-have in both new and resale homes during the boom.


Though the industry has slowed along with the housing market, the trend shows little signs of abating, which led Forbes personal finance writer Stephane Fitch to look into just how much money the stone countertop craze has cost Americans.

Although he was unable to pin down an exact figure, his conservative estimate was that the trend has cost at a minimum $12 billion — more than the U.S. spent on the first Gulf War. And he argues it's more likely that Americans spent at least $15 billion, and possibly as much as $60 billion.


The share of applicants seeking to refinance also declined.

By MSN Partner 3 hours ago

Toy house sitting on money © Vstock, Tetra Images, CorbisBy Michelle Jamrisko, Bloomberg


BloombergMortgage applications in the U.S. fell for the fourth time in five weeks as fewer Americans made home purchases or refinanced their properties as borrowing costs rose.


The Mortgage Bankers Association’s index decreased 3.3 percent in the period ended April 18 from the prior week, the Washington-based trade group reported today. The 2.6 percent decline in purchases marked the measure’s first drop in six weeks and ended the longest string of gains since November 2012.

Tags: loans

Last month's figure marks lowest annual pace since last July.

By MSN Real Estate partner 5 hours ago

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Keep snakes, rats, squirrels and other critters out of your home's walls and crevices with these techniques.

By MSN Real Estate partner Tue 10:21 AM

© Mike Kemp/Getty ImagesBy Geoff Williams, U.S. News & World Report


Frustrated by the occasional mouse in your house? You're not alone.


When Pablo Solomon, an artist and sculptor in Austin, Texas, and his wife moved into their home, which was built in 1856, they knew they would need to fix it up. However, they didn’t realize how much of their home improvements would be dedicated to keeping animals from coming inside. In 1988, shortly after moving in, they found a den of copperhead snakes living under the house. The copperheads never came indoors, but over the years, rat snakes, ribbon snakes, sand snakes and ringneck snakes – none of them poisonous – all managed to work their way inside the house.


One study says staging doesn't affect value. Here's why real estate agents disagree.

By MSN Real Estate partner Tue 9:37 AM

© BilderLounge/SuperStock;By Michael Estrin, Bankrate.com 


Nearly all real estate agents give sellers this advice: Stage your property before showing it to buyers. While that advice is a truism in the real estate business, an academic study says that staging:


• Might not be as important as many real estate agents think.
• Likely doesn't raise the home's sale price.


Study used virtual tours on computers

The study surveyed 820 homebuyers, walking them through a series of six virtual tours of a single home. Each tour focused on either wall color or furnishings, which are two of the most popular staging elements, according to study co-author Michael Seiler, professor of real estate and finance at the College of William & Mary.


March's existing-home sales are down 0.2 percent from February and fell 7.5 percent from March 2013.

By MSN Real Estate partner Tue 7:56 AM

By Ben Leubsdorf, The Wall Street Journal


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Here's a look at the 'greenest' areas in the country, according to Redfin.

By MSN Real Estate partner Mon 6:24 PM

By Christin Camacho, Redfin


With Earth Day upon us, Redfin has released a list of 10 neighborhoods across the U.S. with the largest number of "green" homes and a list of the top green neighborhoods within 20 major metropolitan markets. To compile the list, Redfin data scientists searched through homes for sale on Redfin.com to find those with green features mentioned in the listing.


Green features include solar panels, low-flow faucets, dual-pane windows, energy-efficient appliances, environmental ratings and certification from programs such as Energy Star, "Built Green" and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The ranking is based on the proportion of green listings out of total listings in the neighborhood over the past two years.


These areas' increasing home values make them attractive for investment properties.

By MSN Real Estate partner Mon 12:35 PM

© Getty ImagesBy Juliette Fairley, MainStreet


The international market that is most prime for investment now is Panama, according to a new report.


"U.S. markets are heady and uncertain," said Lief Simon, an international investor and author of Live and Invest Overseas. "Therefore, the most important agenda for any U.S. investor as we head into 2014 is diversification and real estate overseas is the best possible strategy."


A Live and Invest ranking placed Panama at the top of a list of five due to its property values that have appreciated in key waterfront areas. These districts include Balboa Avenue, Punta Pacifica and Costa del Este.


In these cities, homeowners devote well more of their income on their mortgage than average.

By MSN Real Estate partner Mon 10:45 AM

 © Mark Lewis/Getty ImagesBy Emily Heffter, Zillow


Boulder real estate agent Tim Goodacre said he sees it on the faces of his clients all the time: sticker shock.


It's going to cost more than they thought to live the idyllic, walkable life they envisioned when they moved to the Colorado city.


"If they're coming from the Midwest or other lower-income places, frankly they can get a little mad and irritated," Goodacre said. "And I say, 'Well, you have to make your sacrifice.'"


Goodacre's clients aren't alone. While median-income buyers are paying a higher percentage of their paychecks than the national average of 15.1 percent for median-price homes in New York, San Francisco and other historically expensive cities, they also have to put a larger portion of their income toward their house payments in college towns and vacation spots.






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