Kohler's new Numi is controlled by a tablet remote, which operates the toilet's functions and its sound system. Yes, it has a sound system.
Even in a recession, there are people who have money to spend.
For those who want the ultimate in bathroom fixtures, Kohler has unveiled its new Numi toilet. Price tag? $6,390.
For that price, you'd expect a toilet to do more than the appointed chores, and this one does. It includes a bidet, a dryer, a heated seat and a foot warmer.
And it doesn't just sit silently and do what toilets do. It will play a song for you (a peaceful, easy listening piano piece), or you can just attach your MP3 player and listen to your entire music library from the speakers in the back. Maybe you'd prefer to listen to the FM radio included in the toilet's music system – three words I have never typed together before.
Here's one feature that could prove invaluable in any bathroom shared by men and women: The lid automatically opens when you approach. There is a foot-operated sensor a man can tap to raise and lower the seat, and the seat and lid close when you leave. Of course, the toilet flushes automatically, but you expected that, didn't you?
Competition with low-priced distressed homes, plus tighter credit, keep builders pessimistic about sales prospects.
The nation's homebuilders, after months of gloomy housing reports, remain gloomy about the prospect of selling new homes as the spring homebuying season begins.
The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, released Monday, was at 16, down one point since last month, and matching the sentiment for the four previous months. An index of 50 indicates optimism. In other words, the homebuilders see no end in sight to a market bust that has crippled their business.
"The spring homebuying season is getting off to a slow start due to persistent concerns about home values as more foreclosures seem to be hitting the market, increasingly restrictive lending requirements for home buyers and builders, and the slow pace of economic recovery," David Crowe, the chief economist for the builders organization, said in a news release.
"While pockets of improving activity are appearing in some markets, the best sales activity appears to be happening in the lower price ranges, where first-time buyers have greater flexibility than repeat buyers who must sell their current home."
Architecture firm comes up with plan to create Ferris wheel-like vertical bike parking attached to buildings. Would cyclists use it?
One problem with riding bicycles in urban areas is having no secure place to park them once we reach our destination. In dense urban areas, where land is at a premium, it's hard to get developers to set valuable land aside for bicycle parking.
New York-based Manifesto Architecture has come up with a plan for space-saving bicycle parking in the dense cityscape, devising a Ferris wheel-like contraption that would park bicycles up the sides of buildings.
You can see more renderings and diagrams of the device at Arch Daily and at Manifesto's website. The project was designed for the 2010 Seoul Cycle Design Competition, which was seeking ways to improve the bike-friendliness of the South Korean capital.
As envisioned, each bike rack would hold 20 to 36 bicycles. The bikes would be moved up and down the building with pedal power.
Even in a down market, some actors are hoping to make a big profit on their real-estate investments. But even they may have to cut prices.
In a depressed real-estate market, expensive real estate can sometimes be the hardest to sell, often taking big price cuts along the way.
That hasn't kept some celebrities from turning big profits in their real-estate deals – or hoping to, if they can find buyers who will pay anywhere near their asking price. Zillow has put together a roundup of celebs who have made or are hoping to make big real-estate profits.
Country singers Faith Hill and Tim McGraw had to wait a long time for their Beverly Glen, Calif., mansion to sell, but they did well when it finally did. They listed the six-bedroom, eight-bath estate for $14.8 million in 2008 and cut the price to $10.8 million in December 2009. They finally sold for $9.5 million in July 2010, making $3 million over their purchase price of $6.2 million in 2003. We don't know how much, if anything, they spent on remodeling during their ownership.
Regulators and the mortgage industry have agreed on measures they say will improve how modifications and foreclosures are handled. But some are skeptical.
Federal regulators and the mortgage servicing industry have reached an agreement they say will change how banks deal with foreclosures and loan modifications.
Depending on who's talking, the agreement is "very demanding" or "vague and toothless." It includes no fines, though federal officials say fines are still likely for what the Federal Reserve called "a pattern of misconduct and negligence."
The investigation by the Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. began in November after it was revealed that loan servicers routinely engaged in robo-signing and other improper practices in seeking foreclosure. State attorneys general, many of whom started their own investigation, also have been involved in the negotiations.
From the 18-page report:
The reviews found critical weaknesses in foreclosure governance processes, foreclosure document-preparation processes, and oversight and monitoring of third-party law firms and other vendors. These weaknesses involve unsafe and unsound practices and violations of applicable federal and state laws and requirements, and they have had an adverse effect on the functioning of the mortgage markets. By emphasizing speed and cost efficiency over quality and accuracy, examined servicers fostered an operational environment contrary to safe and sound banking practices.
Realtor.com data find median price stable, but houses are staying on the market longer — in some markets.
The number of houses for sale rose in March, up 2.27% over February and up 9.75% compared with a year ago, but more people appear to be looking at houses, at least online.
Realtor.com, a housing search portal operated by the National Association of Realtors that shows homes from the Multiple Listing Service, reported that online searches were up 15.14% over a year ago, as the spring homebuying season begins.
The median list price remained stable at $199,500, just above February's $199,000 median list price and 0.25% below the median list price last March.
Not only has inventory risen, but in many cities houses also are staying on the market longer. The median number of days homes were on the market was 160 in March, down 2.44% from February, but up 40.35% from the 114 days on the market in March 2010. One major question that hangs over any discussion of market recovery is how much shadow inventory is still waiting to hit the market.
Seeking a quick, cheap fix for brown lawns, real-estate agents and homeowners are trying spray paint.
Anyone who has ever lived in a dry climate has had to make a decision: spend time and money to water the grass, or let it grow brown and hope it rains soon.
In Florida, I found that skipping water in the dry season didn't hurt the grass that much. In California, skipping water meant dead grass in no time.
Homeowners and real-estate agents seeking to green up grass in a hurry and on the cheap are finding another alternative: painting the grass.
That's right. In cities such as Phoenix and Perris, Calif., homeowners are keeping their grass green with spray paint. Marc Lacey wrote about this recently in The New York Times, but it turns out that spray-painting grass has been going on for several years.
Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House is the latest edifice to be constructed from the tiny plastic bricks. Yes, you can build one at home.
Do your kids like to play with Legos? Perhaps they're preparing for a career in architecture. Or Lego architecture.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House near Plano, Ill., is the latest architectural masterpiece to be created in Legos. And, yes, you can try this at home, if you buy the kit for $59.99.
Mies van der Rohe built the Farnsworth House in 1951. It is considered a pre-eminent example of minimalist, Modernist architecture.
The architect behind the Lego version of the Farnsworth House is Adam Reed Tucker, who has constructed a number of famous landmarks in Legos, including the World Trade Center and Fallingwater, the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece in Pennsylvania.