Two senators propose granting special visas to foreigners who spend $500,000 on U.S. homes. But would the plan lure any additional international investors?

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Dec 7, 2011 12:09PM

Two U.S. senators have a plan to boost the housing market: give visas to foreigners who buy U.S. homes.

A bill introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, would create a new kind of visa for foreigners who spend $500,000 on U.S. real estate. That could be one $500,000 primary residence house or one $250,000 primary residence and additional rental property.


The visas would not provide a path to a green card and permanent residency and would not allow the foreigners to work here. The proposal is part of a bill to streamline visa requirements for foreign visitors.


The idea apparently stemmed from the E-5 investor visa, which is granted to foreign investors who create jobs.

Tags: selling

More economists are advocating write-downs of underwater mortgages to boost the economy. Is that the right move?

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Dec 6, 2011 4:39PM

During the foreclosure crisis, some people have asked: Why not write down the principal of all the underwater borrowers to what their homes are worth and refinance their loans at today's low rates? Wouldn't that be the quickest way to stop the tide of foreclosures?

Opposition has been strong because of the potential "moral hazard" of such an action. Opponents argue that it would reward people who used their homes as piggy banks or who bought more home than they could afford. Plus, it would not be fair to people whose homes hadn't lost value or who owned their homes outright and had suffered steep declines in equity.

But more economists are arguing that, fair or not, principal reduction is what the U.S. economy needs. Plus, it could keep another wave of foreclosures from pulling home values down even more.


Twenty new markets, including San Jose, Calif., and Washington, D.C., were added to the list. But 9 small cities dropped off, mostly because of falling prices.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Dec 6, 2011 10:24AM

Here's a little cheer from the National Association of Home Builders to brighten your holiday season.


The number of improving markets in the National Association of Home Builders/First American Improving Markets Index rose from 30 to 41 this month. While nine cities dropped off the list, 20 new cities were added.

"The December IMI results are very much in keeping with the latest government housing data and our own builder surveys, which have shown modest signs of improvement in certain individual markets where employment is gaining and distressed properties are not as numerous," NAHB chief economist David Crowe said in a news release.


State gives up on federal negotiations and accuses five lenders of 'unlawful and deceptive' conduct in foreclosures and loan modifications.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Dec 5, 2011 2:15PM

© SuperStockTired of waiting for the federal government to take action on robo-signing foreclosure documents and other lender abuses, Massachusetts has become the first state to file suit accusing five big banks of "unlawful and deceptive conduct" in handling foreclosures and mortgage modifications.

"Our suit alleges that the banks have charted a destructive path by cutting corners and rushing to foreclose on homeowners without following the rule of law," Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said in announcing the civil lawsuit.


Disney fans were already looking for a house with an 'Up' vibe and had considered returning to Utah: 'Adventure is out there.'

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Dec 5, 2011 12:34PM

Photo courtesy of Bangerter HomesClinton and Lynette Hamblin of Petaluma, Calif., knew what they wanted in a house: They wanted a house like the one in the animated movie "Up," with a brightly colored exterior.

When the Disney fanatics started their house search, they had no idea that such a house had been built.


They found their dream home during a trip to Utah to visit Clinton Hamblin's dying grandmother — a replica of the fanciful two-story home inhabited by Ed Asner's character in the film. The couple already had been considering a return to Utah, and the house sealed the deal. They're scheduled to close Jan. 4. The purchase price wasn't revealed, but the asking price had previously been reported as $399,000.

Tags: celebrity

Some memorable holiday homes were created on Hollywood sets, but others were real homes, and one is still for sale.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Dec 2, 2011 2:25PM

Credit: Courtesy Everett CollectionOne common feature of Christmas movies is their décor. That often includes beautiful homes, beautifully decorated.

The home is often a key ingredient in a holiday movie. The Chicago-area house where "Home Alone" was made, for example, remains famous 21 years after the film was made. It's still for sale, by the way, with the price cut from $2.4 million when it was listed this spring to $1.95 million.


Fan of old homes wax nostalgic over the white Victorian that Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed threw stones at on their first date and then inhabited as a married couple who never made it out of Bedford Falls in "It's a Wonderful Life." We can't update you on the history of that house because it never existed; it was created on a sound stage.

Tags: celebrity

Unusual house rented by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck while they were writing their hit screenplay is offered for $779,000. The 'French cum Nordic' abode needs some work.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Dec 2, 2011 11:02AM

Courtesy of Realtor.comI'm always drawn to writers' houses. For one thing, they're usually less ostentatious than movie stars' homes.

Today's Listing of the Week is where Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote the Academy Award-winning screenplay for "Good Will Hunting." The house, in Los Angeles' Eagle Rock neighborhood, is listed for $779,000, down from $1.35 million in early 2010.


Eagle Rock is in the eastern part of Los Angeles. It's where the ordinary people live. Damon and Affleck were still young, struggling actors when they rented the four-bedroom, two-bath house in the early 1990s.


Inventory is down 21% from last year, which could account for more stable prices. It also explains why, in this depressed market, it's hard to find a home to buy.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Dec 1, 2011 2:04PM

When it comes time to search for a home, would-be buyers are often surprised by how few nice homes are available for sale.

In fact, reports that inventory is at its lowest point in four years, since the company began collecting data in 2007. A total of 2.12 million homes were listed for sale in October in multiple listing services. That's 3.5% fewer than were listed in September and 21% fewer than a year ago.


Two major factors are contributing to the lack of inventory: Sellers don't want to put their homes on the market at today's low prices unless they absolutely have to sell. And homes headed for foreclosure are taking longer to be offered for sale.


While prices are still dropping in many markets, they are dropping more slowly, and the lack of inventory may be one reason. Buyers who have read a lot about the depressed housing market are often surprised how difficult it is to find a good house.






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