FEATURED POST

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.

 

If you're buying a home, you may face stiff competition. Here's how to beat out the other buyers.

By MSN Real Estate partner 4 hours ago

© Getty ImagesBy Susan Johnston, U.S. News & World Report

 

With low real estate inventory in many parts of the country, properties in some markets are receiving multiple offers and sparking bidding wars among eager buyers. National real estate brokerage Redfin reports that in March, 63.4 percent of offers submitted by Redfin agents across 19 markets faced competition from other buyers, up from 58.7 percent in February. That's below last year's bidding peak of 73.4 percent last March. Still, Redfin real estate agent Mia Simon, who serves Silicon Valley buyers, says in this climate, "it's very rare to have [an offer] where we're the only one." 

 

Here's a look at strategies for homebuyers competing in a bidding war. 

 

Mortgage applications increased 2.4 percent this week, buoyed by more refi activity.

By MSN Real Estate partner 11 hours ago

© Alex Stojanov/AlamyBy Diana Olick, CNBC

 

Mortgage rates didn't move at all last week, but more borrowers made applications to refinance their home loans.

 

A weekly measure of loan volume by the Mortgage Bankers Association showed a 2.4 percent gain in total applications week-to-week, with a 4 percent jump in refinances leading the charge.

 

Refinancing has been languishing for more than a year, after rates jumped a full percentage point in the spring of 2013. Refinance application volume is still down over 40 percent from a year ago, despite slightly lower rates currently.

 
Tags: loans

If homeowners aren't competing with banks when selling homes, the news may be good.

By MSN Real Estate partner Tue 10:23 AM

© Andy Dean / AlamyBy Nick Timiraos, The Wall Street Journal

 

The U.S. housing market appears to be finding its footing after a sharp rise in mortgage rates last summer, on top of some big price gains, deflated sales.

 

The National Association of Realtors reported on Tuesday that sales of previously owned homes rose 2.6 percent in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million units. That's the third straight monthly gain and the highest level since last October.

 

 

The Connecticut property was connected to the tax-evasion scheme for which the late 'Queen of Mean' served jail time.

By MSN Real Estate partner Tue 9:51 AM

ZillowBy Emily Heffter, Zillow

 

The Greenwich, Connecticut, summer home where hotelier Leona Helmsley died has been completely renovated and is back on the market for $65 million.

 

The mansion was at the center of the tax-evasion scheme that landed Helmsley in jail in the 1990s. The case took Helmsley and her husband, Harry, from glamorous to notorious as the case played out in the press. Helmsley was dubbed the "Queen of Mean" and famously was quoted as saying that "only the little people pay taxes."

 

The billionaire couple were indicted for claiming as business expenses things they purchased for the 17,493-square-foot brick estate, which sits on 40 acres on Round Road, one of the most famous parts of Greenwich. Among the luxuries they added to the home: a marble dance floor above the swimming pool, a $45,000 silver clock and $500,000 worth of jade art objects, according to The New York Times.

 
Tags: celebrity

With listings withheld from the market, the housing supply remains tight despite an increase in actual listings.

By MSN Real Estate partner Tue 9:34 AM

Post begins below video

 

Sales rose 2.6% to seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million in June.

By MSN Partner Tue 6:12 AM

Image: © John Raoux/APBy Josh Mitchell and Alan Zibel, The Wall Street Journal

 

WSJA broad measure of U.S. home sales climbed for the third consecutive month in June, a sign the housing market is gaining steam after a monthslong slump.

 

Sales of existing homes rose 2.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million in June, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday. That was the highest level since October.

 

Revisions showed May sales reached 4.91 million, up from an initially reported 4.89 million.

 

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected existing-home sales to hit a rate of 5 million in June.

 
Tags: buying

Despite the threat of websites and apps assuming their role, agents remain confident.

By MSN Real Estate partner Mon 12:32 PM

© Eye Candy Images/photolibrary.comBy Amy Xie, MainStreet

 

As real estate agents increasingly adapt digital tools in advertising, it is more and more common that homebuyers use a variety of online interfaces to search for their dream abodes. Yet when a Chinese investor recently bought a $13 million unit of the luxury Baccarat Hotels & Residences in Midtown Manhattan without visiting New York – merely communicating with his agent through social media platforms – an extreme question presented itself: Can real estate agents be replaced by online technology?

 

In fact, digital tools and the Internet have reshaped each section of our daily lives and penetrated deeply into the real estate industry – with no face-time required. The California Association of Realtors recently released a study showing that over 77 percent of homebuyers used social media in 2014 in their home shopping process, 1.5 times more than in 2011.

 

Here's how to know when to replace your roof, HVAC and siding.

By MSN Real Estate partner Mon 12:09 PM

© OceanFishing/Getty ImagesBy Iris Price, ImprovementCenter.com

 

Often the first sign that your kids are sick is that they aren't as playful as usual, or they might suddenly say, "I'm not feeling good," and without leaving you enough time to say, "'Well' -- you're not feeling 'well,'" they upchuck on your feet.

 

The health of your home components can be even harder to predict. Unless you're paying close attention, you may not realize anything is wrong until your house springs a leak, something falls off of it or you turn on your heat or A/C and ... nothing happens. You need to be vigilant to any signs something is amiss or the damage from one system failing can be compounded by affecting something else. If your house has no heat in the dead of winter, for example, your pipes could freeze, and then you'll have to call not only an HVAC technician but also a plumber.

 
 

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