An economist who did the math estimates that only 500,000 borrowers will be eligible for principal reductions under the terms of the $25 billion mortgage settlement reached last month.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Mar 8, 2012 11:48AM

House in stormy water (© Steven Puetzer/Getty Images)One major feature of the $25 billion mortgage settlement reached last month among the five big banks, the state attorneys general and federal housing officials was the money set aside for principal writedowns.

 

The settlement negotiators estimated that as many as 1 million homeowners would be eligible for that help.

 

Try half that, says Ted Gayer, co-director of economic studies at The Brookings Institution. He calculated that the number of eligible homeowners is closer to 500,000, or fewer than 5% of the 11.1 million U.S. homeowners who owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth.

 

The landlord is arguing that the city's rent-stabilization laws are unconstitutional. In his building, one tenant is paying about $1,000 a month and another is paying $2,650 for similar apartments.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Mar 7, 2012 1:34PM

House for rent in the middle of winter (© David Joel/Getty Images)If you don't live in New York City, this may sound unbelievable: You can live in an apartment for half or less of the market rate, forever, and if you die, you can leave the apartment — with its low rent — to your children.

 

The rent-stabilization laws that New York City enacted in response to a housing shortage after World War I are facing a new challenge, in a case that may go to the Supreme Court.

 

James and Jeanne Harmon inherited a five story townhouse in Manhattan's Upper West Side. The building has six one-bedroom apartments, in addition to their unit. Three are rented for market rate. Three, considered "rent-stabilized" are rented for 59% less, according to a case filed by the Harmons in federal court.

 
Tags: rentals

Design gurus have been predicting the decline of granite countertops for several years, but the surface remains popular. Will we still love it in 10 years?

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Mar 7, 2012 12:20PM

I resisted the lure for years. My first kitchen redesign, back around 2001, most definitely did NOT include granite countertops. We choose a tasteful tile.

 

But by the next redesign (different house), in 2004, granite's falling price and rising popularity had lured me in — despite my fear that the popularity of granite wouldn't last nearly as long as the stone.

 

People have been predicting granite's demise for years, despite the enduring love for the material expressed by clueless couples on HGTV's "House Hunters." A new poll by Julia at Hooked on Houses on whether granite has had its day or is here to stay inspired me to do a little research.

 

Has granite had its day?

 

Obama's plan would save homeowners about $1,000 a year on fees, in addition to what they save with the refinance. The program is limited to FHA loans issued before June 1, 2009.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Mar 6, 2012 2:10PM

Man writing check, calculator, bills (© Dana Hoff/Getty Images)President Barack Obama announced a program today to save homeowners who refinance their FHA mortgages an average of $1,000 a year in addition to whatever they save by refinancing.

 

The plan cuts the upfront mortgage-insurance premium from 1% of the loan amount to 0.1%. The annual fee will be cut from 1.1% to 0.55%. The White House estimated 2 million to 3 million homeowners would be eligible, though it predicted that only several hundred thousand would refinance.

 

To take advantage of the discount, homeowners must be current on their FHA mortgage payments. They do not have to have any equity in their homes; underwater homeowners can also refinance under the plan, which requires no appraisal or income verification. Loans must have been taken out before June 1, 2009, and be done through the streamline program. The Associated Press has a Q&A.

 

Resigned to staying in their current homes, owners are looking at ways to make their abodes more what they want. Replacing windows and doors are among the projects with the best return.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Mar 6, 2012 12:32PM

© Bill Reitzel/Getty ImagesHomeowners who can't buy the homes they want are taking steps to create them, adding bedrooms and baths within existing footprints and remodeling kitchens.

 

While remodeling fervor is not at the fever pitch it was in the go-go days of the real-estate point, the pace is picking up.

 

"I feel like people are starting to say, 'Well, we're not going to move any time soon because, if we do, we're going to get 30% less than the house is worth. Why don't we do something in the kitchen or bathroom for our own enjoyment, since we're not going anywhere real soon?'" Joe McKinstry, president of Joseph McKinstry Construction Co. in Seattle, said to syndicated columnist Kenneth R. Harney. McKinstry said inquiries about remodeling projected have nearly tripled in the past year.

 

Companies promised to rent out Indianapolis homes for up to $10,000 a day. Instead, they took money from homeowners for listings, but failed to find tenants or issue promised refunds.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Mar 5, 2012 2:31PM

© James Lauritz/Getty ImagesIndianapolis residents thought it sounded like a great deal: Rent out your house for Super Bowl weekend and earn up to $10,000 a day.

 

Apparently, it was too good to be true. Not only did the companies fail to find renters for the homes, but they also absconded with the supposedly refundable money homeowners had paid upfront to have their homes listed.

 

Indiana's attorney general sued two Arizona companies last week, alleging that the companies took payments ranging from $450 to $5,544 from homeowners, failed to rent the homes and had not issued the refunds it had promised if the homes were not rented.

 
Tags: rentals

Buyers of custom homes are demanding two bathrooms for every bedroom, plus three to five powder rooms. A house designed with 15 baths now has 41.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Mar 5, 2012 12:37PM

Perry Mastrovito/Getty ImagesOne thing that has changed dramatically in home design in my lifetime is the role of the bathroom.

 

Not only can you never be too thin or too rich, but you also can never have too many bathrooms.

 

A luxury home needs baths in the double digits, at least two per bedroom, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times.

 

Purchase a town with rental income in Montana for $1.4 million. Or, perhaps you'd prefer an overgrown, abandoned French village for $400,000 or less.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Mar 2, 2012 12:40PM

(Courtesy of Mason Morse Ranch Company)Perhaps being mayor of your local sub shop on Foursquare isn't enough. You own a house, but you want more.

 

Maybe you should buy a town. We found two towns for sale, one in France and one in Montana.

 

You can pick up the village of Pray, Mont., for $1.4 million, and that may be negotiable. If you'd like something more exotic, we suggest Courbefy, France, which was offered for $400,000 and got no takers. Now it's up for auction.

 
 

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