Village in the Hamptons mandates that hedges between properties be trimmed annually, in an effort to mandate a neighborly approach.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Sep 12, 2011 2:19PM

© Mel Watson/Garden Picture Library/Getty ImagesWe've all dealt with neighbors who don't keep up their yards, making the neighborhood look bad and bringing down the values of everyone's home.

In the tony Long Island town of Southampton, N.Y., that sort of thing will not be tolerated. In fact, if you don't trim your hedges by July 31 every year, you could go to jail.


"It’s a practical matter," Village Attorney Richard DePetris said at 27 East. "The adjacent neighbor has to either tolerate an expanding, growing hedge overhanging onto his property or has to cut it himself — or has to go out and hire somebody to cut it himself, and there’s no recourse for getting that expense back from the actual owner of the hedge."


Job loss and medical bills force a Chicago-area woman who moved and restored a historic Victorian house to put her dream home up for sale.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Sep 12, 2011 11:53AM

Photo courtesy of Realtor.comBack in 1989, Linda Hatchell bought her dream house for $1.


The catch: She had to move the two-story Victorian home to a site a mile and a half away in the suburban Chicago town of Glen Ellyn, Ill.

She did that, at a cost of more than $50,000, and then restored the 1895 home, doing much of the work herself. To help pay for the restoration, she took out a mortgage.


Now, unemployment and medical bills mean she can no longer keep the home.


With just one year left on the mortgage, she is hoping to sell the 2,623-square-foot house before the bank forecloses. It is listed for $549,999.


"It wasn’t that it was a mistake," she told Stefan Holt of NBC Chicago of her decision to buy and restore the home. "It was just that my future wasn’t as bright."


The epidemic of foreclosures is often blamed on loose lending standards, people who bought more home than they could afford or homeowners who used their property as a "piggy bank" to finance cars, vacations and other fun. That may be the case for some, but certainly not all and maybe not the majority.


According to one study, almost half of those facing foreclosure in four states were brought to that point by a medical problem. Another study, in Pennsylvania, found that job loss and medical issues were the top reasons for foreclosures there.


The 4-story Tribeca home where IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn spent his house arrest is for rent for $50,000 a month and for sale for $13.99 million.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Sep 9, 2011 5:24AM

153 Franklin Street (© TOWN Residential LLC)We love stories about buildings that started as one thing and then became something else.


So we present as our Listing of the Week a former New York City firehouse turned luxury townhouse. Built in 1865, the building in Manhattan's trendy Tribeca neighborhood had a number of industrial and commercial incarnations between fire station and luxury abode.

The four-story townhouse enjoyed its 15 minutes of fame this spring when former International Monetary Fund Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn rented the place, at a reported $50,000 per month, while he was under house arrest after being charged with sexually assaulting a hotel housekeeper.


Now that the charges have been dismissed and Strauss-Kahn has gone back to France, the 6,804-square-foot townhouse in Manhattan is for sale for $13.99 million or for rent for $50,000 a month.

The listing shows more than a dozen luscious photos of the four-bedroom, four-bath property, which underwent a $4 million, 18-month gut renovation by architect Leopoldo Rosati a few years ago, emerging with a streamlined, modern style.


The floor plan shows a home theater, gym, spa steam bath and laundry room on the lower level, and an open living/dining and kitchen area, plus a small bedroom and 1.5 baths on the main floor. The third floor has two bedrooms — one with a fanciful mural of sea creatures painted on a wall — and a bath, plus a large private terrace. The master suite takes up the fourth floor.


There is a shared roof deck.  A private garage is also possible, according to the listing.


Even borrowers with good credit find they can't get home loans at the published rates. This week's rates are the lowest in six decades.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Sep 8, 2011 11:03AM

© Steven Errico/Getty ImagesThe average rate for a 30-year mortgage hit 4.12 percent this week, the lowest rate since Freddie Mac began keeping records in 1971 and about the rate you would have gotten 60 years ago.

But don't count on actually getting a mortgage at that rate.


According to SmartMoney, "The gap between the lowest advertised mortgage rate and the average rate that borrowers actually get is as high as it has been in two years," except for one week last September.


Is that because more people have bad credit?

No, says Annamaria Andriotis of SmartMoney. It's because lenders are seeking higher profits.


"Lenders say they haven't lowered rates further because, simply, they don't have to," she writes. "The mortgage market is not the cut-throat business of years past." 


Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey for the week ending Sept. 8 found that the average interest rate for a 30-year mortgage was 4.12%. The last time we saw rates that low was in 1951, when loan terms were shorter.


The rate for a 15-year mortgage was 3.33%, the lowest since Freddie Mac began keeping records in 1991 and likely the lowest on record.


The rate for a five-year adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) was 2.96%, the same as last week.

Tags: loans

In crowded urban areas, prices for parking spots can exceed $100,000. They've risen at the same time that prices for condos have stagnated or fallen.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Sep 7, 2011 8:34AM

© Philip and Karen Smith/Getty ImagesPerhaps you're wondering what sort of real estate you could have invested in and actually seen significant appreciation in recent years.

How about a parking space? In dense urban areas, where parking is at a premium, the value of parking spaces is rising.


In Philadelphia, real-estate agent and concert pianist Diane Sarkisian bought a $1.05 million condo and two parking spaces for $50,000 each in 2007. The value of her condo hasn't increased, but the parking spaces are now worth $75,000 each, The Wall Street Journal reports.


"My apartment is probably not quite worth what it was," Sarkisian told the newspaper. "I think it's going to retain its value pretty well, but not as well as my parking spot. I'm a parking profiteer."


In Boston, the parking space that Helen and Bob Alkon bought for $100,000 when they bought their $1.3 million condo two years ago is now worth $125,000. Their condo hasn't shown the same appreciation.


Parking is at a premium in most major cities, and even a million-dollar condo may come with only one or two spaces. An annual survey of parking rates in North America found that parking costs $533 a month in downtown Manhattan, $438 a month in Boston, $375 a month in San Francisco and $304 a month in Philadelphia.

Tags: buying

Singer alleges that seller, home inspector, real-estate agent and others failed to disclose defects that led to serious damage.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Sep 6, 2011 5:44AM

Back in 2009, pop singer Rihanna bought a 10,000-square-foot mansion in Beverly Hills, Calif.


Like most prospective home buyers, she hired a home inspector to look over the newly renovated home. But, she says, the inspector didn't do a good job: The first "moderate rainstorm" caused leaks that left the home uninhabitable. An umbrella was no help.

Now she is suing the inspector, the seller, her real-estate company, the engineer on the seller's renovation, the "John Does" who did the renovation and others, arguing that they failed to do their jobs.


That meant she ended up with a lemon, paying much more than the property was worth, she says.


"The rainwater pooled on the second-floor balcony and seeped into numerous rooms of the house, causing extensive water intrusion into various rooms," according to the suit.

She alleges that the seller knew of the defects and failed to disclose them.


She also alleges that her real-estate agent failed to perform the due diligence she expected, didn't provide her with information on sales of comparable properties and "became aware of or should have known of extensive construction defects in the property," but did not share that information with her client.


Flawed mortgage-modification programs haven't spent nearly all the money allocated. At a town meeting, an Illinois real-estate broker challenged the president on the programs' value.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Sep 1, 2011 10:42AM

©Peter Dazeley/Getty ImagesAs the housing market remains mired in recession and another million to 2 million homeowners are likely to lose their homes, federal money meant to help homeowners is going unspent.

That's right. Perhaps $30 billion allocated to help homeowners is instead likely to go toward paying down the national debt, according to a report by Pro Publica.


The Troubled Asset Relief Program included $45.6 billion to aid homeowners, but only about $2 billion of that has been spent and another $7.2 billion has been allocated, according to Pro Publica. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the government will spend $12 billion for foreclosure-relief programs, down from the $22 billion initially projected.


At a recent town meeting in Illinois, real-estate broker LuAnn Lavine rose from the audience to ask President Obama what he intended to do about housing and the economic problems that are eroding consumer confidence.


"Every week, I sit at the kitchen tables of families who are here today, and I listen to stories of lost jobs, being upside-down in their house, asking for help, (asking) what programs are out there," Lavine, who owns the Re/Max Hometown Advantage brokerage in Geneseo, Ill., said to the president.


She said she had been busy in May and June and thought she was seeing progress. But, she told Obama, "since the debt-ceiling fiasco in Washington, the phone has stopped. We have no consumer confidence. Interest rates are a record low. I should be working 15 hours a day, but I'm not."


The rapper turned remodeler is offering a free guide to real-estate investing, and says 'you can make it happen; you're the captain.'

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Aug 31, 2011 1:27PM

Photo courtesy of DIY The Vanilla Ice Project/Scripps NetworksWhen will the market turn around? By the end of this year, predicts rapper-turned-remodelerVanilla Ice.

"America needs goods and homes," he says. "Tomorrow's a mystery, yesterday's history."


Should you take real-estate advice that rhymes from a musician who has a DIY TV remodeling show?


Vanilla Ice, 44, whose real name is Robert Van Winkle, thinks you should. He has just put up a website, Vanilla Ice Real Estate, to share what he knows.


"During these times, knowing how to make money is more important than ever," he writes on his new site. "Real estate is one of the few opportunities in life that allows anyone to succeed. If you have the right attitude, the drive to win and the knowledge to succeed, you can make it happen; you’re the captain."


Van Winkle, star of "The Vanilla Ice Project," which will start its second season on the DIY Network later this year, has done well in real estate. For him, it has been much more profitable than the stock market.


"I made tons of money I didn't know what to do with when I was 16, so I bought houses," he told reporter Lisa Iannucci. "I never used them, so I sold them and made millions. So I bought some more."



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