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 window has narrowed a little bit for homebuyers,' mortgage expert says after Federal Reserve's interest rate news.

By MSN Real Estate partner 54 minutes ago

Arrow pointing upward © Fry Design Ltd/ Getty ImagesBy Prashant Gopal, Bloomberg http://www.bloomberg.com/

U.S. mortgage rates jumped to a four-month high, increasing home-loan costs as the economy shows signs of strengthening. 

The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage was 4.23 percent, up from 4.12 percent last week and the highest since early May, Freddie Mac said in a statement Thursday. The average 15-year rate rose to 3.37 percent from 3.26 percent, according to the McLean, Virginia-based mortgage-finance company. 

Federal Reserve policy makers Wednesday tapered monthly bond buying to $15 billion in their seventh consecutive $10 billion cut, staying on course for an October end to the program intended to keep rates low. The Fed maintained a commitment to keep the benchmark interest rate near zero for a "considerable time" after the asset purchases are completed, saying the economy is expanding at a moderate pace. 


Housing starts fell 14.4 percent in August.

By MSN Real Estate partner 1 hour ago

© CorbisBy Diana Olick, CNBC


Construction of single-family homes and multifamily apartments fell by over 14 percent in August from July, a far more striking plunge than analysts expected. Single-family housing starts are running at about half the normal, prebubble pace, and single-family building permits, an indicator of future construction, are flat. So how is it that some claim we are building too many houses?


"We're still building single-family homes faster than we can fill them," argues Trulia's chief economist Jed Kolko.


Using new numbers released this week from the U.S. Census, Kolko makes the following points.


Richmond, California, would buy mortgages — but not homes — to reduce residents' debt burdens.

By MSN Real Estate partner Wed 10:33 AM

By Nick Timiraos, The Wall Street Journal


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Forget appliances and china — couples headed to the altar are signing up for cash-gift registries to fund home projects.

By MSN Real Estate partner Wed 10:05 AM

© Jamie Grill, PhotolibraryBy Stefanos Chen, The Wall Street Journal


With their wedding approaching, the last thing Daryl Fox and Hootan Khatami, wanted was clutter.


"We really didn't need a toaster or any of the wacky gifts people give," said Fox, a 49-year-old book publisher. Before their 2013 wedding, he and Khatami were already settled into their penthouse apartment in New York's Chelsea neighborhood.


So instead of offering guests the typical choices, they signed up for an online cash-gift registry and netted close to $7,000 toward a home-renovation fund to update their three-story space. Wedding-day gift envelopes added to the fund.


Last week's 7.9 percent surge was driven mostly by people refinancing loans.

By MSN Real Estate partner Wed 9:45 AM

Red Arrow Pointing Upward © Fotosearch, Fotosearch, Getty ImagesBy Diana Olick, CNBC CNBC

Despite adjustments for the Labor Day holiday the previous week, mortgage applications surged last week, even amid rising rates.

Total application volume rose 7.9 percent week-to-week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), driven mostly by refinances, which doesn't jibe with the rise in rates.

Applications to refinance rose 10 percent from the previous week, but are still down 22.5 percent on year. Mortgage applications to purchase a home rose 5 percent from the previous week but are down 10 percent on year.

Tags: loans

An index measuring builder sentiment is at its highest point since October 2005, buoyed by wage gains.

By MSN Real Estate partner Wed 9:29 AM

© Associated PressBy Jeanna Smialek, Bloomberg


Confidence among U.S. home builders rose in September to a nine-year high, showing the industry is gaining ground and will be a source of momentum for the economy.


The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo sentiment measure climbed to 59 exceeding the highest estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists, from 55 in August, the Washington-based group reported on Wednesday. Readings above 50 mean more respondents said conditions were good.


The couple rented this Holmby Hills, California, mansion until moving to Paris. It's listed for $45 million after a price cut.

By MSN Real Estate partner Tue 11:14 AM

ZillowBy Emily Heffter, Zillow


Music super-couple Jay Z and Beyonce camped out this summer at this 16,000-square-foot rental, spending about a month in the luxurious spec house before moving on to Paris.


Variety first reported their stay in the Holmby Hills home, which has been on the market since April, originally offered for $48 million and now listed for $45 million.


Variety reported that the rent was somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000 for the month. That’s nothing for Jay and Bey, whose "On the Run" tour packed hundreds of stadiums across the country this summer. The tour was dogged by reports that their marriage was on the rocks.

Tags: celebrity

Christopher Plummer, known for his roles in "The Sound of Music" and other films, lived in the waterfront estate for about seven years.

By MSN Real Estate partner Tue 11:01 AM

ZillowBy Emily Heffter, Zillow


A Connecticut waterfront home that once belonged to actor Christopher Plummer is for sale, and you'd almost expect to see the von Trapp children marching around the property in their lederhosen.


Plummer has famously been critical of "The Sound of Music,' saying people are "unnaturally sentimental" about the film that made him a star.


Still, his former Connecticut home bears some resemblance to Capt. von Trapp's fictional waterfront residence in Austria. Plummer lived here from 1974 until 1981.

Tags: celebrity


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