The popularity of urban foraging, on public lands and at foreclosed homes, raises some questions about when it's OK to pluck. When in doubt, ask.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Sep 30, 2011 5:19AM

@CorbisIn the interest of full disclosure, let me say that I am here in the United States today because my earliest known ancestor reportedly was deported from the British Isles to America for stealing turnips from her neighbor's garden.


I would never do that. But apparently ,many people would.

As community gardeners harvest their season's bounty, thieves are brazenly carting off tomatoes, plums, peppers and cucumbers by the bagful from plots others have lovingly tended. So far, no thieves have been shipped off to new countries.


"Last August someone stole every pepper in the garden," longtime gardener Joanie Freedom said in The New York Times. "We’ve lost not only ripe veggies but whole plants and garden ornaments to these folks who want to take an easy way around growing their own. I caught a woman taking all of our honeysuckle blossoms because it was cheaper than buying them in Chinatown."


When fruits and vegetables are at their peak, gardeners are often inundated with more than they can eat, and many are happy to share — at least with those who ask.


Neighborhood Fruit, based in San Francisco, was created to help people find and share fruit. It provides a way for those facing a too-abundant harvest to share the wealth. It also provides tips on where to find fruit growing in public places that is free for the taking, though the rules vary city by city. It even has a mobile phone application and a video on fruit-gathering etiquette.


With the real-estate crisis has come a new type of urban foraging: taking fruit and vegetables planted by the previous owners of foreclosed homes, figuring that the lenders won't care.

Tags: gardening

Contracts to buy homes declined in August but were up over last year. At least one analyst says things are better than they look.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Sep 29, 2011 10:54AM

© moodboard/CorbisThe number of pending home sales fell in August, for the second month.


Trot out the usual suspects: Economic uncertainty, unemployment and tight lending standards are keeping many would-be homeowners out of the market.

The National Association of Realtors reported that contracts to buy existing homes fell 1.2% from July to August, though the level was 7.7% above that of August 2010.


Mortgage rates hit a new low Thursday, 4.01% for a 30-year mortgage, the lowest rate since 1951, but few buyers are able to take advantage of those rates to buy homes or refinance.


"We continue to experience a pattern in which financially qualified homebuyers, willing to stay well within their means, are being denied credit – a factor in elevated levels of contract failures," Lawence Yun, chief economist for the NAR, said in a news release. "The unnecessarily restrictive mortgage underwriting standards are attenuating the housing recovery and are a risk factor for the overall economy."


He predicted that about 4.9 million used homes would be sold this year, but that 5.5 million could be sold if more buyers could get financing. The number of homes sold in a good year is about 6 million.

The largest decline in pending home sales, 5.8%, was in the Northeast, where home shopping was curtailed by Hurricane Irene. That rate was 1.3% above August 2010.


Trulia finds that real-estate search traffic peaks on Mondays. Sundays are the busiest days for mobile searches.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Sep 28, 2011 7:42PM

© Comstock /Getty ImagesWhen do people search online for real estate?


Sundays and Mondays, real-estate website Trulia says, based on its analysis of three months of searches.

Reflecting the increasing use of smartphones and tablets in real-estate searches, Trulia reported that the peak use of mobile devices is on Sundays. This may show that people are apt to be out driving around looking at homes and neighborhoods, using their mobile devices to find homes in their desired neighborhoods or to find details on homes they drive past.


On Mondays, however, the bulk of the traffic came from desktop and laptop computers.


The Trulia "Insights" blog explains: "After a weekend of endless open houses, people who are trying to find their dream home are still on what you could call a 'house-hunting high' once Monday hits. Back at the daily grind in cubeland, many are itching to keep their search alive."


The search traffic peaks at 9 p.m. Mondays.


I may be looking at real estate after midnight, but most shoppers are not – unless they are in Washington state, where people search later into the night.

Tags: buying

One analysis finds the French capital has the highest real-estate cost per square foot. An analysis of luxury properties finds Hong Kong the most expensive.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Sep 28, 2011 1:12PM

We've all read stories about foreigners snapping up U.S. real estate we could never afford, classifying properties we see as expensive as bargains.


Compared with what they're paying at home, those $1,000-per-square-fo​ot condos may be a bargain, at least for some international buyers.

Credit Sesame, an online consumer-credit service, analyzed a variety of home price data and came up with a price per square foot for real estate in 34 cities around the world. The analysis found the most expensive real estate in Paris, where the average price per square foot is $3,287. The cheapest real estate was in Santiago, Chile, at $160 per square foot. The median price

was $890 per square foot, or what you'd pay in Athens, Greece.


In the U.S. cities it analyzed, Credit Sesame found the highest price was in New York, where real estate is $1,069 per square foot. The lowest price was in Houston, at $54. The median price was $158, and you can find that in Chicago. You can see other U.S. and world cities on a chart.


Mother of 14 hasn't made the $4,139-a-month payments on the four-bedroom home her father bought for her. 'Previously owned celebrity home' is listed for $525,000.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Sep 27, 2011 12:13PM

Nadya Suleman walks outside her house in La Habra, California, March 10, 2009 (©ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)Nadya Suleman, who became known as the "Octomom" after giving birth to octuplets in 2009, is facing a hard reality: She can't afford her house.


After nearly a year of being threatened with eviction by a man who holds a $450,000 note on the house, Suleman has finally listed the home for sale – though she is not technically the owner.

As near as we can figure it out, her father, Ed Doud, bought the house in 2009 from Amer Haddadin for $565,000. As part of the deal, Haddadin agreed to hold a note, or mortgage, for $450,000, with a balloon payment due in March 2010, a deadline that was extended for six months. The public record lists a sale price of $115,000 in 2009. Suleman was to make payments of $4,139 a month.


Apparently, she hasn't. And with no money coming in from Suleman, Hadaddin says he can't pay the bank (apparently he still has his original mortgage). He says the bank is ready to foreclose.


"She owes me close to about $13,000, and the bank has been calling me many, many times," Hadaddin told The Orange County Register. "She's giving me bad credit. I'm very glad if she can sell it."


The house is in La Habra, Calif., in Orange County. It's 2,583 square feet, with four bedrooms and three baths, plus a bonus room. It was built in 1978 and is on a cul-de-sac. Listing price is $525,000.

Tags: celebrity

Latest Case-Shiller data find values increased for the fourth straight month, but they're still lower than they were a year ago. And the increases are likely to end with the summer homebuying season.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Sep 27, 2011 10:23AM

© Exactostock/SuperStockThe latest S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices bring us good news and bad news.


You may be hearing reports that home prices are up, and you may be hearing reports that home prices are down. Both those things are indeed true. Prices in the 20-city index rose 0.9% from June to July, but were down 4.4% from last year.


In a nutshell, here is the latest on home prices:

  • Prices are up, for the fourth straight month.
  • Prices are down from this time last year.
  • Prices are expected to fall now that the summer homebuying season, such as it was, is over.
  • Prices aren't expected to plummet sharply.

"Although the worst of the housing downturn is clearly behind us, a decent rebound in either demand or prices is not yet in sight," Paul Dales, an analyst with Capital Economics, told The Wall Street Journal's "Developments" blog.

One of the big questions remains unanswered, as it has for much of the housing crisis: How much more shadow inventory of distressed properties has yet to hit the market?


The slowdown in the foreclosure process caused by the "robo-signing" scandal has – temporarily – cut the supply of distressed homes on the market. Since distressed homes typically sell at a 20% to 30% discount, the bigger percentage they make up of home sales, the more pressure on prices. Fewer distressed homes usually means higher prices.


That slowdown may be over, Dales notes. "With recent data suggesting that foreclosure filings jumped by as much as 30% [month-over-month] in August, it might not be long before an increase in the volume of distressed sales starts to weigh more heavily on prices again," Dales told The WSJ.


The WSJ has an interactive chart that lets you see how the 20 cities that make up the Case-Shiller indices fared.


Americans who can afford it are making improvements to turn their old home into the home they would like to have. But be careful with your cash.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Sep 26, 2011 12:22PM

© Bill Reitzel/Getty ImagesMany American homeowners are trapped in homes that aren't ideal for their situations.


But credit issues, underwater mortgages, job insecurity and more are adding up to make selling your old house and buying a new one much more unlikely than in normal times.

Homeowners who can't go out and buy the house they want are taking steps to create it instead.


According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, Americans spent $115.9 billion on remodeling in the year ended in June. That reflected a 4.6% jump from the year ended in March and was the largest increase in more than five years.

The number of residential remodeling permits sought by homeowners was up 24% in July compared with July 2010, according to BuildFax.


If you're one of the lucky homeowners who can afford to remodel and add features to your home, SmartMoney has put together some advice on how to use your remodeling budget.


Big supply of distressed properties and small number of buyers are moving homebuilding industry toward its worst year in decades.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Sep 26, 2011 11:26AM

New-construction homes with a small for-sale sign out front. © David Papazian/CorbisThe number of new homes sold declined for the fourth straight month in August, hitting their lowest point in six months.


The latest data from the Commerce Department was likely not surprising to anyone, but they are another reminder that new-home sales are going nowhere as long as the inventory of cheap, distressed homes for sale is big and few Americans are in a position to buy.

"The number of foreclosed homes on the market continues to pose major challenges, not just to builders who have to compete against that low-priced product, but also to buyers who need to sell an existing home before trading up to a new one," Bob Nielsen, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders and a homebuilder from Reno, Nev., said in a news release.


In response to the lack of demand, builders are cutting the number of new homes they produce; supply is at its lowest level in 49 years. The number of new homes sold this year is expected to be fewer than in any year since the Commerce Department began keeping records in 1963.


The number of new single-family homes sold in August was down 2.3% from July and was at a seasonally adjusted rate of 295,000 units. The August 2011 sale rate was 6.1% above the record low in August 2010.






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