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."


The latest S&P/Case-Shiller numbers seem to indicate price declines are slowing, but the foreclosure pipeline is still flowing.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Aug 30, 2011 10:35AM

© Gregor Schuster/CorbisYou may be puzzled by reports about the latest S&P/Case-Shiller housing statistics. Some headlines say prices rose and some say prices fell. And some say prices may be stabilizing.


All of those things are true. Here's the bottom line: We don't yet see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Prices in the 20 major metro areas tracked for the indexes rose 1.1% in June, the third straight month of increases. That looks like good news, but prices usually rise in the summer. Looking at seasonally adjusted figures, prices fell 0.1% in June.


Prices are down 4.5% compared with last year at this time. Prices rose 3.6% in the second quarter of 2011, after falling 4.1% in the first quarter. The second quarter 2011 prices were 5.9% below second quarter 2010 prices.


Prices are down to their 2003 levels nationally and lower than that in some cities. In Detroit and Las Vegas, prices are below 2000 levels, and they're barely above 2000 levels in Cleveland and Phoenix.


With short sales and foreclosures making up 30% of the market, and another 1.7 million foreclosures likely still to come, there is a good chance prices will fall further in many areas. But all real estate remains locals, and the cities won't move in sync.


The pending sales numbers add to the evidence that recovery in housing is a long way away. Problems with loans, appraisals and short sales mean more pending sales don't close.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Aug 29, 2011 6:51AM

© moodboard/CorbisAfter three months of increases, contracts to buy existing homes fell 1.3% last month, another sign that a housing market recovery is not yet in sight.

Looking at the bright side, the National Association of Realtors, which produces the data, pointed out that July sales were 14.4% above sales in July 2010. The data measures contracts to buy homes, not closed sales.


"The underlying factors for improving sales are developing, such as rising rents, record high affordability conditions and investors buying real estate as a future inflation hedge," NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said in a news release. "It is now a question of lending standards and consumers having the necessary confidence to enter the market."


As he does every month, he also noted that tight mortgage underwriting standards, problems with appraisals and difficulties with short sales are all dragging down the market.


“Housing is still on the ropes,” Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, said in a note to clients quoted by Bloomberg.


Sales of existing homes were at their lowest level of the year in July. Sales of new homes are headed for their lowest level in nearly 50 years.

Tags: selling


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