You have 2 remaining free articles this month
Try unlimited digital access
link your account for free access. Start here
By Sally Slack
Thinking about remodeling your home? Make your move carefully and think with a potential buyer in mind. Some upgrades might be exactly what you want but might be a complete turnoff to a buyer when it comes time to sell.
“Some people say updating a bathroom or kitchen can instantly add a certain amount of value to a home,” says Chris Vinci, broker at da Vinci Realty. “The truth is that it only adds value if it enhances the beauty and function of the home.”
Traditional remodels are being upended, adds Vinci. Instead, high-return on investment (ROI) projects such as an entry door replacement with a steel door top the list on Remodeling Magazine's annual Cost vs. Value report.
Second on the list is the addition of a wood deck. Garage door replacement, attic bedrooms, minor kitchen remodels, wood window replacement and vinyl siding are all appealing to prospective home buyers.
“Details will catch a buyer’s eye,” says Vinci.
A new item on the high-ROI project list is a back-up power generator. It shouldn’t be unexpected, however, as workers rely more heavily on home offices. There’s nothing worse than being expected at meetings and being unable to connect.
Vinci offers another piece of advice to would-be remodelers. Before making a decision on style, review the range of home design styles.
“The style of updates should be based on whether you’re remodeling for your enjoyment or because you’re selling your home now,” he says. “If it’s the latter, make your choices as neutral as possible. There is nothing worse than a buyer saying, ‘I’m not paying a premium for your updates when I want to change them.’”
Let the competition in your neighborhood guide you a bit as well. If you ever plan to sell, you’ll want the home to attract the most potential buyers. Look at homes on the market as well as recently sold homes before making major updates.
Combine that with the high-ROI projects you can manage and price your home accordingly to make it stand out. Remodeling can be fun. If you can do remodel with a buyer’s eye toward your own home, you’ll come out ahead – with updates both you and a future buyer both love.
Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed mortgages fell this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgages at 3.81 percent, down from 3.96 percent at this same time last week.
The 30-year fixed mortgage rate dropped Wednesday, then hovered around 3.88 percent for most of the week before falling to the current rate.
“Rates dropped to the lowest level since June 2013 on news that the Federal Reserve has more reservations about the health of the U.S. and global economy than expected, which in turn, may delay rate hikes,” said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. “With little economic news planned to overshadow the Fed’s latest comments, this week we expect rates to fairly remain stable, hovering just shy of 4 percent.”
Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate this morning was 2.96 percent, and for 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.70 percent.
By Laura Vecsey
Broadway Bound, Gyllenhaal Lists in L.A.
With a new gig in New York, it looks like Jake Gyllenhaal won’t need his mid-century modern in Los Angeles. The 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom Hollywood Hills home has hit the market for $3.5 million.
The home’s great room offers views of the city — “sensational panoramic views,” according to the listing — and the outdoor space includes a patio, private yard and pool. It’s nestled on almost two acres.
While Gyllenhaal has several movie winners under his belt, his next project is a Broadway production, Constellations, in which he’ll co-star with Ruth Wilson.
Kelly Ripa Is No Longer Pent Up
Talk show host Kelly Ripa and her husband, Mark Consuelos, have parted with their swanky New York penthouse for $20 million.
The 5-bedroom SoHo apartment had been listed for as much as $24.5 million, but the couple settled on a pretty decent deal for the 6,792-square-foot residence that was all about high ceilings, a huge gourmet kitchen, two dining rooms and a big master suite.
In addition to a media room and 3,000-square-foot deck, the home included an indoor gym for the eternally fit and perky Ripa.
Michelle Williams' Brooklyn Home for Sale
She was an early adopter of the Boerum Hill neighborhood in Brooklyn back in 2005. And it was there on Smith Street that actress Michelle Williams stayed after the tragic death of her then-boyfriend Heath Ledger in 2008.
Now the “My Week with Marilyn” star is ready to sell the corner home, which is listed for $7.5 million. The 4-story home is 22 feet wide and has a 3-car garage and a rooftop garden with a waterfall. It contains 6 bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms and a 1,000-square-foot parlor.
Who needs Brooklyn when you’ve got the Upper East Side and a swell home called Gracie Mansion?
Not the new mayor of New York City.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has listed his Brooklyn home for rent, now that he and his family have moved into the famed mayoral residence along the East River. The mayor’s 4-bedroom, 1-bath home was the kind of working man’s abode that fit de Blasio’s populist image during last year’s mayoral campaign. But now it’s for rent for $4,975 a month, according to StreetEasy.
By S.E. Slack
There are many predictions about whether the housing market will still be on the rise in the coming years. Time will bear out the truth of those predictions. A new question to ask is, “Who will be buying the homes that are available in 2018?”
The economy still not bouncing high enough for many people to consider a home purchase. Real estate firm Zillow states that low mortgage rates are keeping homes within reach of some consumers across most of the country for now, but affordability is fast becoming an issue within a number of markets.
“As of the first quarter of 2014 – the most recent data available at the time the third-quarter survey was fielded – the national homeownership rate was 64.8 percent,” says Meredith Miller, research analyst at Zillow.
Miller spoke with a number of housing experts, many of whom believe that homeownership levels will definitely drop below current levels by at least a percent or two. If so, the nation is hovering dangerously close to its lowest homeownership point on record, which was recorded in 1965 – 62.9 percent.
The affordability issue is significant to the problem. The typical age of first-time homebuyers is expected to rise in coming years as millennials enter their prime home-buying years. In 2013, the typical first-time homebuyer was 31. As the age of first-time homebuyers rises into the mid-30s, experts expect the homeownership rate to drop.
At the same time, more than 100 housing experts and economists expect home prices to end 2014 up 4.6 percent year-over-year, on average, and almost 20 percent cumulatively through 2018.
A byproduct of lower homeownership rates, of course, is higher rental rates. In currently affordable rental markets, such as Salt Lake City – one of the nation’s industrial banking centers – rentals are $959 per month. Pittsburgh rates are not too much higher at $1,195. Comparatively, the median rent price in Chicago is $1,700 each month.
By S.E. Slack
Few homeowners hold the bonus of hanging onto a home when moving. Equity amassed in the home is often necessary to fund a down payment on the next residence. Some homeowners, however, are benefiting by renting out their homes. They hope to cash in on the big bucks with an eventual sale in a stronger market.
As the homeownership rate has declined, more individuals are looking for homes for rent. Real estate firm Zillow found that among young adults age 25-35, only about one-third rented in 1980 compared to about half in 2013.
Zillow's recent study revealed that homeowners in five markets have the best shot at making a profit when renting out their home after living in it for a period of time. The firm ran several simulations to determine where landlords can make the most money.
Homeowners in Oklahoma City, Miami, Tulsa, Cincinnati and Denver earn the largest monthly dollar profits from rental income. That means their rental income is sufficient to cover their full mortgage payment after accounting for maintenance, taxes and vacancies. These cities are the best for short-term financial gain.
In Oklahoma City, where homeowners can make a $536 profit through renting, the median rent price is $855 per month. Further south in Miami, the second best place to own a rental property, homeowners can net around $515 in profit monthly. The median rent price in Miami is $2,250.
Tulsa, Okla., took third place for short-term gain. Homeowners in that city can pocket $396 each month. The median rent price in Tulsa is $887.
Number four on the list, Cincinnati, has happy homeowner/landlords, too. They see an average profit of $385 every month in a city where rents average $775 each month.
Denver rounds out the top five best places for homeowners to rent out their homes. Those landlords can squirrel away about $355 each month. The median rent price in Denver is $1,599.
Although Pittsburgh did not make the top 5 list, Zillow estimates that the city’s landlords can expect to make a short-term monthly profit of $110 and a long-term monthly profit from both rent and equity of $1,094. The median rent in Pittsburgh is currently $1,195.
The worst places in the nation to rent out your home are all located in the West: San Jose (-$1,211), San Francisco (-$789), Los Angeles (-$544), Honolulu (-$379) and Sacramento (-$350). Locales such as Detroit (+$169), Kansas City (+$62) and Las Vegas (-$20) are examples of the moderate sections in the market.
By Laura Vecsey
Los Angeles Rental Fit for King & Queen
Well, so what if the monthly rent was $200,000? The Los Angeles-area home that rapper Jay Z and his fierce wife Beyonce camped out in this summer was the picture of modern luxury.
Now that the touring twosome is onto Paris, the 16,000-square-foot spread they temporarily called home is on the market for $45 million in the exclusive Holmby Hills area of Tinseltown.
The big stars no doubt appreciated the European flair, including the 20-foot ceilings in the grand entryway, plus the 7 bedrooms, 8.5 bathrooms, the tennis court and pool.
Daryl Hannah Ready to Sell Malibu Retreat
It’s not exactly built for a mermaid, but Daryl Hannah’s Malibu retreat is quite unique. Now the “Splash” star and long-time environmental activist is selling her sustainable retreat for $4.25 million.
The listing isn’t on the MLS. The Los Angeles real estate group, The Agency, is quietly shopping the 17-acre estate.
The new attempt to sell the oasis comes as rumors of a romance between Hannah and rock master Neil Young.
While Hannah, 53, and Young, 68, hit the road to save the planet on various causes, her California beach escape may attract a buyer who appreciates the property’s unique indoor/outdoor/naturalist features.
The compound contains three buildings: a house with an art studio; a standalone master suite with a Japanese-style soaking tub and a fireplace; and a guest room with a loft and views of the ocean. There’s also plenty of stained glass, a stone cottage and several gardens.
She Built Her Case, Now Nancy Grace Is Selling
After 18 years and a steady parade of contractors, legal commentator and host Nancy Grace is parting with her Atlanta residence. The home is pending sale at $1.599 million.
Grace bought the home in 1996 for $407,500, but has cycled through almost as many remodels as CNN has broadcast criminal trials.
Baseball Star Pitches AZ Estate Onto Market
San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum has listed his Arizona mansion for sale for $4 million. But, for anyone who thinks the 30-year-old Seattle native’s desert retreat might reflect his “The Freak” nickname, forget it.
The 4-bedroom, 5.5-bathroom contemporary at 4793 E Charles Dr in Paradise Valley is a very mature and serene abode, even with its indoor basketball court with a retractable batting cage and theater room with an adjoining bar.
The 11,000-square-foot home is slick and tricked out with wood built-ins, limestone flooring, a granite-packed kitchen and sweeping views of the desert. Outdoors, there’s a pool with two waterfalls, a whirlpool spa and sundeck, plus a built-in grilling station.
By Laura Vecsey
Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick Relist Home
They have been proud “Village People,” but Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick are still looking for an exit plan.
Newly relisted at $22 million, the couple’s 25-foot-wide, 6,800-square foot Greenwich Village townhouse was first on the market in 2012 – one year after they purchased the place for $18.995 million.
(Real Estate) Moves Like Jagger
Newlyweds Adam Levine and Behati Prinsloo are getting down to consolidating their holdings. First up: Selling Prinsloo’s East Village duplex for $1.65 million.
The decision to sell the 1-bedroom apartment comes as the Maroon 5 front man and the Victoria’s Secret model complete the purchase of a 2,700-square-foot loft in SoHo, which is reported to be under contract for $4.55 million.
The 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom apartment is in an historic cast-iron building awash in sleek glass and steel – a smooth move for the hot couple.
'The Big Unit' Selling Huge Arizona Home
Future Baseball Hall of Famer Randy Johnson is looking to downsize in the desert. The former Mariners and Diamondbacks ace is listing his 25,000-square-foot estate for $25 million in Paradise Valley.
Situated on a 5-acre parcel, the main residence features 24-foot ceilings, 7 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms – including a secluded master retreat with his-and-hers oversized vanities.
There’s also a detached guesthouse; 1,700-square-foot fitness facility; a temperature-controlled wine cellar; an oversized 8-car motor court, billiards parlor and a dedicated “pet suite.”
Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed mortgages rose this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgages at 4.05 percent, up from 3.96 percent at this same time last week.
The 30-year fixed mortgage rate gradually increased last week, peaking at 4.19 percent on Saturday before coming down to the current rate.
“Rates rose steadily last week despite the lackluster jobs report released on Friday,” said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. “This week, with little domestic economic news slated for release, we expect international news to determine whether rates will keep rising, or fall back below 4 percent.”
Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate this morning was 3.11 percent, and for 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.88 percent.
Purchase Mortgage Application Activity
Zillow predicts tomorrow’s seasonally adjusted Mortgage Bankers Association Weekly Application Index will show purchase loan activity increased by 4 percent from the week prior. To learn more about this Zillow analysis, click here.
By Laura Vecsey
Tennessee Calls Reese Witherspoon Home
Oscar-winning actress Reese Witherspoon has a new project: Renovating a historic mansion she bought last month in her hometown of Nashville, Tenn.
The stately white home sits at the end of a long driveway on a 6.5-acre flat lot in the upscale Oak Hill area. Witherspoon paid $1.95 million for the 4-bedroom, 3.5-bath property.
The 3,855-square-foot abode has an elegant staircase, three fireplaces and a paneled library, but needs major renovations. The nice part? Witherspoon will be near her parent’s home when she undertakes the project.
Witherspoon put her Los Angeles-area estate on the market earlier this year for $10.5 million, according to Variety.
Rocky Mountain High Retreat For Sale
The man whose ode to Colorado made a huge splash in the airwaves back in the 1970s continues to be a legend in the Rocky Mountain state. Now John Denver’s Aspen estate is for sale for $10.75 million.
The blond-haired singer, who sported wire-rimmed granny glasses, released his song “Take Me Home, Country Roads” in 1971. He built a unique estate the next year. He entertained there and attracted so many fans that his neighbors asked him to build a gatehouse to keep down the commotion.
The estate was sold to its new owners after Denver’s death in 1997, and while they have made some adjustments, the home still maintains the timeless and peaceful features that made it his Rocky Mountain oasis. There are four indoor fireplaces, an outdoor fireplace and decks looking over magnificent Rocky Mountain views. The singer had a recording studio in the guesthouse on the property.
Secluded Literary Masterpiece For Sale
J.D. Salinger was one of the most notoriously reclusive writers in America. Now, four years after his death, the writer’s former New Hampshire home is for sale.
Situated on 12 acres at 342 Lang Road in Cornish, the home of the “The Cather in the Rye” author is 2,900 square feet and listed for $679,000. There are 4 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms and a separate apartment over the garage. There are gardens and many private trails.
Salinger moved to Cornish in 1953 and eventually died in the town, though not at this address.
By Paul Tooher
While the Pirates may be struggling at the moment on the field, the team’s hit a home run with its vegetarian fans.
That’s because PNC Park has been named as one of the 10 most vegetarian-friendly ballparks in the major leagues for 2014 by animal-rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
To compile its rankings, PETA states it assessed the vegan and vegetarian options at every major league stadium across the United States and Canada.
PETA ranked PNC Park third, finding that in addition to the more traditional ballpark offerings, fans could chow down on “veggie burgers, fish-free sushi, seaweed salad, vegan coleslaw and Sloppy Janes.”
According to VeggieHappy, vegetarian foods available at general concession stands include veggie burgers, fruit cups, veggie wraps, veggie hoagies, chopped salads, soup of the day, various pizzas, french fries, onion rings, nachos (can be ordered vegan with just salsa), egg rolls, cole slaw, veggie roll (sushi), vegetable fried rice, udon noodles, edamame and seaweed salad, various salads, sweet potato fries and pickles.
And of course, there’s always peanuts and Cracker Jack available for the traditionalist.
It’s not surprising that the park ranks high for its food offerings. The 42,180-seat facility, which opened in 2000, was ranked as the best in major league baseball by ESPN.
AT&T Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants, was rated as the most vegetarian-friendly ballpark, based on offerings that include field roast frankfurters, portobello sandwiches, made-to-order vegetable tacos and burritos, hummus, and rice, bean and vegetable bowls with pineapple salsa.
Citizens Bank Park, where the Philadelphia Phillies play, ranked second with menu items that included faux-chicken patties, black-bean burgers and broccoli rabe, seasoned with garlic, lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil.
For those looking for another home in a city that has vegetarian-friendly ballparks, consider others in the top 10 including Citi Field, home of the New York Mets; National Park in Washington, D.C.; Coors Field in Denver, home of the Colorado Rockies; the Seattle Mariners’ Safeco Field; Fenway Park, the 102-year-old home of the Boston Red Sox; and Turner Field, home park of the Atlanta Braves.
Despite an extensive selection of vegetarian offerings, Comerica Park in Detroit, known as the Motor City, failed to make the top 10.
By Paul Tooher
Pittsburgh is one of the best cities in the nation for pets.
That’s according to WalletHub, a financial news website, that ranked the Steel City 13th out of the 100 largest cities in the nation it reviewed.
To create its ranking, WalletHub states it used 14 different metrics including veterinary care costs, the number of pet-friendly restaurants per capita and the number of dog parks per capita in each city.
The city ranked 34th when it comes to the cost of keeping a pet and 33rd in health and wellness categories. But the city ranked 16th when it comes to dog parks per capita and pet friendly trails.
According to American Veterinary Medical Association, 36.5 percent of Americans households had a dog while 30.4 percent were cat owners in 2012, the most recent figures available. There were nearly than 70 million dogs in the United States and more than 74 million cats, according to the website.
According to the American Kennel Club, the Labrador Retriever is the most popular breed of dog in America.
And, according to the American Pets Products Association, Americans spent nearly $56 billion on their pets in 2013, including $21.57 billion on food, $13.14 billion on supplies and over-the-counter medicines, $14.37 billion on veterinary care and $4.41 billion on boarding and grooming.
According to WalletHub, Milwaukee had the lowest veterinary costs while Boston had the highest. Cincinnati had the greatest number of veterinarians per capita while Newark, N.J., had the fewest.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, six to eight million cats and dogs enter the nation’s 3,500 animal shelters each year. While three to four million of those animals are adopted each year, another 2.7 million are euthanized.
Considering a move to another city in the nation that’s friendly to pets? Cincinnati was ranked as the most friendly, followed by Las Vegas; Scottsdale, Ariz.; Irvine, Calif.; Sacramento, Calif.; Atlanta; Tampa, Fla.; St. Louis; Orlando, Fla.; and Glendale, Ariz.
Pittsburgh is among seven of the top 35 U.S. metro areas noted for its rise in home values over the past year.
According to Zillow, the online real estate marketplace, the Steel City joins San Jose, Austin, Dallas, Denver, San Antonio and Houston in housing markets where values are above their pre-recession peaks or will exceed them in the next year.
This is in addition to many cities (versus the larger metropolitan regions), like San Francisco, Washington and Boston that have also surpassed their pre-recession peaks.
Pittsburgh city homes have a median value of $86,000; up 11 percent over the past year with an additional 2.8 percent increase in the coming year.
Within the extended metro Pittsburgh area, Squirrel Hill North has seen a 7.5 percent increase over the past year, with a median home value of $431,000. Shaler Township is up 4.8 percent; McCandless is up 5.1 percent. Home values in the Oakland neighborhood are up a whopping 20.5 percent this year.
In the 508 metro markets covered by the Zillow’s Real Estate Market Reports, 301 markets showed quarterly home value appreciation. Sixteen metros remained flat, while 191 metros show home values losses. Approximately 82 percent of the metros covered by Zillow posted annual increase in home values.
Among the largest metros, Riverside, Calif., showed the largest annual increase with home values rising 23.3 percent from the first quarter of 2013 to the first quarter of 2014. Riverside was one of the metros hardest hit during the housing recession and home values are still down 34.9 percent from their June 2006 peak, despite the recent extreme increases in home values.
Zillow reports that overall, national home values are back to December 2004 levels, down 13.5 percent since their peak in May 2007.
By Laura Vecsey
A Sign of Better Times for Zeta-Jones & Michael Douglas?
Parting ways with the past might be quite profitable for Catherine Zeta-Jones. The Welsh-born actress has listed the Bedford, NY home where she lived during her separation from Michael Douglas.
The $8.1 million brick colonial is for sale and the couple is reportedly back together.
The couple rented the 6-bedroom, 6-bath brick colonial at 541 Guard Hill Rd for about six months before buying it for $5.075 million in 2010. According to the listing, the home was recently renovated. There is a new guesthouse and a master suite with huge closets and a dressing room.
Zellweger Lists Her Connecticut Yankee Retreat
It completed her – for a little while. Now Renee Zellweger is ready to give the ultimate cold shoulder to the 1770s Connecticut country home.
Listed for $1.6 million, the historic rural retreat is set on 38 acres and overlooks the Quinebaug River in rural Pomfret Center.
There’s no roughing it in this luxurious updated farmhouse, which was re-done in 2004 and sprawls 3,463 square feet. There’s a chef’s kitchen, beamed ceilings, a family room and a swimming pool. There are also 7 fireplaces – plenty enough mantel space to hold the actress’s Oscar for her Best Supporting Actress award for “Cold Mountain.”
Klum Closes the Deal
“Project Runway” host Heidi Klum has sold her 8.5-acre property in Brentwood Estates for $24 million. Klum had bought the place in 2010 with her ex-husband, Seal, and had the place completely done over. The Mediterranean-style villa has 8 bedrooms, 10 baths and spans 12,300 square feet.
Klum bought it for $14.2 million but pumped a lot of cash into the remodel, restoring doors, windows and thresholds, designing her dream closets and adding home technology and security. She also added a master bathroom with a view of the Pacific.
The home has a motor court with a fountain, an infinity-edge pool and spa, a koi pond, a formal rose garden, a rolling lawn for golf putting and driving, a children’s playhouse and slide and “secret gardens.” And that’s just the outside.
By Laura Vecsey
Unfreezing Their Assets, Diggs & Menzel Selling in L.A.
With their impending divorce after 10 years of marriage, Taye Diggs and Idina Menzel are looking to unload their 5,000-square-foot Studio City home, listing the 3121 Oakdell Ln property for $2.995 million. The former couple bought the sleek, traditional 6-bedroom, 5-bathroom in 2010 for $2.09 million.
Menzel has had a huge year thanks to the movie “Frozen.” She voiced Elsa in animated film, and its signature song, “Let It Go,” was nominated for an Oscar.
Diggs is a stage, movie and TV actor best known for his roles in films such as “Rent” and “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” and the TV series “Private Practice.” He and Menzel met while filming “Rent” in the 1990s.
Leona Helmsley Estate Back on the Market
After a very “taxing” history, the Greenwich, CT summer home where hotelier Leona Helmsley died in 2007 is back on the market. The new list price from the owners who bought the Helmsley estate: $65 million.
It is a house with a story – a juicy tabloid kind of story.
The completely-renovated mansion was at the center of the tax evasion scheme that landed Helmsley in jail in the 1990s, leading Helmsley to be infamously dubbed the “Queen of Mean” and quoted as saying that “only the little people pay taxes.”
The 17,493-square-foot brick estate sits on 40 acres on Round Road, one of the most famous parts of Greenwich. Among the luxuries they added to the home: a marble dance floor above the swimming pool, a $45,000 silver clock and $500,000 worth of jade art objects, according to The New York Times.
Helmsley’s estate was originally listed for $123 million, but several price cuts led to its eventual sale to the current owners, for $35 million. The 1918 estate was soon re-listed at $42.9 million, and taken off the market for the massive remodel.
Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed mortgages rose this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgages at 4.08 percent, up from 4.03 percent at this same time last week.
The 30-year fixed mortgage rate hovered around 4.10 percent for the majority of the week, peaking at 4.17 percent on Thursday before easing back down to the current rate today.
“Mortgage rates were subdued last week as ongoing geopolitical concerns and economic softness in Europe encouraged investors to buy U.S. mortgage-backed securities as a safe haven,” said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. “This week, we expect international headlines, rather than U.S. economic data, to drive any meaningful changes to mortgage rates.”
Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate this morning was 3.12 percent, and for 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.77 percent.
By Laura Vecsey
Shirley MacLaine Coming to ‘Terms’ With Her NM Estate
With a bent for all things New Age, Shirley MacLaine is looking for new signs of life outside of Santa Fe.
The decorated actress, at age 80, is parting with her beloved Plaza Blanca Ranch in Abiquiu, the New Mexico town where another great American artist, Georgia O’Keefe, spent her later years drawing inspiration from the high desert light.
Unlike O’Keefe, who spent her 90’s in Abiquiu, MacLaine wants to move into town. She has listed the whopping 7,450-acre property for $18 million – a price she said came to her following a consultation with a psychic.
The estate includes an adobe-style main house, a yurt, caretaker’s house, swimming pool, horse barn and chicken coop — all of it off-the-grid and sustainable, with greenhouses for growing food.
MacLaine has always said that the ranch was a spiritual retreat for her, but she’s now looking for a less reclusive place to hang her auras.
Buyer Found for Megan Fox’s Family Home
Megan Fox, the actress known for “Transformers,” and her husband Brian Austin Green, best known for playing David Silver on “Beverly Hills, 90210,” are looking for a new home. The couple, along with their two-year-old son and new baby, as well as Green’s son from a previous marriage, will need plenty of play room.
While they look for the perfect new house, the couple has sold their Los Angeles Mediterranean at 2271 Glendower Ave. And home it was for the pair, who had transformed it from being “very vanilla” according to the listing agent when they purchased it in 2009, into a bold, modern abode. It features large-scale wallpaper in many rooms, as well as colorful and patterned tiles in the kitchen and bathroom. The young pair also had the home fully updated with projection screens, a sound system and a home security system.
The 4-bedroom, 5-bathroom house is listed for $3.995 million.
Akon’s Home of Some Heavenly Sounds For Sale
Akon is a five-time Grammy winner, but when he’s not in the studio, the rapper and music producer is hitting some high notes on home styling.
“Lifted. Inspired. Alive. Music, the muse, beckons. The sound. The soul. The studio. This is Heaven,” the listing description states.
Akon poured some heart and soul into an extensive “white-out” remodel after he bought the place last September for $1.9 million. Now someone has offered to purchase the heavenly abode.
In other words, Akon made everything bright white in the 4,098-square-foot home, including the interior and exterior walls, the furniture, patio, pool, floors, railings and accessories.
The home had been listed $3.5 million, but for $4 million, Akon said he would throw in the recording studio equipment and all the (white) furniture.
By Laura Vecsey
Supermodel-turned-powerhouse host Heidi Klum is selling the Brentwood Estates home she bought out of foreclosure in 2010 with her ex-husband, Seal.
The Mediterranean-style villa was done over in Klum style and includes 8 bedrooms, 10 bathrooms and more than 12,300 square feet. The 8.5-acre estate is just off Mandeville Canyon in one of L.A.’s most prestigious neighborhoods, hence the list price: $25 million.
The “Project Runway” host bought the place for $14.2 million, but then threw some major cash in to make it her own little piece of heaven.
The spread includes a motor court with a fountain, an infinity-edge pool and spa, a koi pond, a formal rose garden, a rolling lawn for golf putting and driving, a children’s playhouse and slide, ocean views and “secret gardens.”
Inside, the dining room was imported from Paris, where it was a private dining room in a hotel. The previous owner reconstructed it in the home. In the library, there is an ornate wooden bookcase that came from Napoleon’s French country home.
Golfing ‘Housewife’ Kyle Richards Scores Swinging Abode
“Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Kyle Richards and her husband, luxury real estate agent Mauricio Umansky, recently paid $2.35 million for a La Quinta getaway.
The luxurious vacation home has 6 bedrooms, 6.5 bathrooms and overlooks the 9th fairway of a golf course, with a mountain view beyond the cascading pool. Most important: The home is studded with 10 TVs, 28 speakers and 6 control pads – plenty of ways to watch episodes of her reality TV show.
This Hollywood Listing’s Got Legs
Betty Grable continues to be a brand name in Tinseltown as one of the big stars of the silver screen in the golden era of moviemaking. Now the star’s former home at 1280 Canyon Rd. in Bel-Air is on the market for $13.295 million.
Grable moved in after the home was built in 1937, the same year she married actor Jackie Coogan. Soon after, the couple appeared in “Million Dollar Legs” and Grable became an American icon, thanks to her pinup popularity during World War II.
After Grable moved out in the late 1940s, the home went on to be owned by a couple of celebrities, including Jaclyn Smith from “Charlie’s Angels” and Stephen Stills, of Crosby, Stills & Nash.
The home is now owned by L.A. entertainment lawyer, Schuyler Moore, according to property records for the 6-bedroom, 7-bathroom home.
By Laura Vecsey
Jane Fonda Parting with Santa Fe Ranch
Actress and activist Jane Fonda is ready to part with her 2,000-acre New Mexico spread called Forked Lightning Ranch outside of Santa Fe. She has listed the home for sale for $19.5 million.
Fonda bought the ranch in 2000, around the time she separated for good from her ex-husband and CNN founder Ted Turner. He is the largest private owner of land in the nation, so it’s apparent that Turner’s love of Western lands rubbed off on Fonda. But now Fonda says she doesn’t have time to visit anymore, even though it was her sanctuary.
Before choosing the location for the house she built on the land, Fonda said she spent two years fly-fishing, hiking, camping and horseback riding to learn everything about the property and its sunrises, sunsets, views and weather patterns.
The main home is almost 10,000 square feet, and there’s also a guesthouse and stable.
Former Disney Estate Sells
The Carolwood estate in L.A.’s coveted Holmby Hills neighborhood once owned by Walt Disney has sold for $74 million.
The home was once listed for as much by $90 million and offered by the high-end brokerage to the stars, The Agency. But even at the final sale price, it was still the fourth most expensive home sale in the United States so far this year.
Carolwood measures 35,000 square feet and has 8 bedrooms and 17 bathrooms. The seller was investor Gabriel Brener, who co-owns the Houston Dynamo soccer club.
Sinatra’s New York, New York Pad For Sale
Frank Sinatra’s “glittering grotto” in the sky is for sale in New York City. Of course, it has been completely renovated since they days when the place served as party central for Sinatra & company.
Located in The Edgewater, a white-glove building on a cul-de-sac overlooking the East River at 530 East 72nd Street in the Lenox Hill section of Manhattan, the apartment was a party pad for the Rat Pack and other high-society figures, including regulars like Mia Farrow, President Kennedy and Sammy Davis, Jr.
The residence – nicknamed the “glittering grotto” by Andy Warhol –
had been listed for as high as $5.595 million, but its current list price is now $4.995 million.
The 3,200-square-foot residence has 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, floor-to-ceiling windows and two wraparound terraces. The master suite upstairs includes a wet bar, and the master bedroom is elevated.
Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed mortgages fell this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgage Marketplace at 4.03 percent, down from 4.06 percent at this same time last week.
The 30-year fixed mortgage rate hovered around 4.08 percent for the majority of the week, before dropping modestly to the current rate on Tuesday morning.
“Last week, mortgage rates remained stable as the Federal Open Market Committee’s policy statement contained few surprises,” said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. “With little anticipated economic news this week, we expect rates will remain steady, similar to the pattern they’ve held for the past few weeks.”
Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate this morning was 3.0 percent, and for 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.79 percent.
By Laura Vecsey
Fan Buys Whitney Houston’s NJ Estate
Whitney Houston’s home has finally found an owner who feels the heat for property’s unique past. Well, maybe not the “Being Bobby Brown” part, but all the success Houston did enjoy before she succumbed to addiction.
Emergency room physician Matthew Krauthamer may have been in second grade when Houston’s first big hit took the radio airwaves by storm back in 1987, but he became an enduring fan of the entertainer, who died of a drug overdose in 2012. He just paid $1.5 million for Houston’s mansion, which sits on 5 acres and has been vacant for years.
Krauthamer, 33, has had time to admire the property, since he has lived just a few doors down in the same neighborhood. He said he intends to restore the 1980s home to its original form and live in the place: Not a bad idea, considering its privacy, the pool house, Jacuzzi and other features.
The 5-bedroom, 6-bathroom home at 22 N Gate Rd in Mendham, N.J., sprawls a generous 13,607 square feet. It has languished on and off the market since 2009, only to be sold in February to an investment company that paid $999,900. The house had been listed for as much as $1.75 million at one point.
Winning? Charlie Sheen Lists in L.A.
Charlie Sheen is looking to dump a 1989 contemporary in the Westlake Village neighborhood just a year after the actor bought the place for $1.6 million.
The new price for the 4-bedroom, 4-bathroom home at 1896 Smokey Ridge Ave. is $1.695 million. That includes hardwood floors, custom granite kitchen and an infinity pool with views of the city.
Reports also indicate that Sheen has sold his Mulholland Estates home, which he bought last summer from producer Mike Medavoy.
"Friends" Star Selling Modern Home
Matthew Perry’s Malibu beach house has gotten a new slew of sleek furniture, just in time to help the TV star sell during a boom time in the Los Angeles housing market.
Perry has relisted his home at 3556 Sweetwater Mesa Rd for $12.5 million. The 4-bedroom, 6-bath home overlooking the Malibu pier had been listed for $13.5 million for about five months from 2011 to 2012.
This is just the latest real estate deal Perry is looking to make. In the past few years, he has sold other modern properties in Hollywood Hills and West Hollywood, and has also bought a new home on the Sunset Strip.
Lenny Kravitz Might Wonder: Is It Going to Go Developers Way?
Lenny Kravtiz may have hit it big as a rocker, but he’s long been working the investment and real estate game. But what does Kravitz make of a builder’s proposal to turn his childhood home in Brooklyn into a 6-unit apartment building?
The developer, who bought the building in December for $565,000, has appealed a ruling that went against his plan, so there’s still a chance the historic home at 368 Throop Ave in Brooklyn’s Bedford–Stuyvesant neighborhood could get an extreme makeover.
The building belonged to Kravitz’s grandparents, but a young Lenny spent weekends there until he was 10, when his family moved to Los Angeles, where his actor-mother co-starred in “The Jeffersons.”
By Laura Vecsey
Former Gov. Romney Sells Massachusetts Condo
So long, Massachusetts?
Mitt Romney, the former governor of the Bay State, and his wife, Ann, have parted company with their adopted home state. According to reports, the couple has sold their Belmont condo for $1.2 million.
The home served as the couple’s home base during Romney’s failed presidential run in 2012, and with much larger compounds in New Hampshire, Utah and California, it’s not as if the Romneys needed another place to hang their hats.
According to the Boston Globe, the Romneys bought Unit 65 in the Woodlands at Belmont Hill development about four years ago for $895,000. They had owned another Boston area home for 20 years before selling that place for $3.5 million several years ago.
A Very Miniature Dollywood in Hollywood for Sale
Dolly Parton is hitting the road to support her new album, “Blue Smoke,” but she first had to trim her real estate holdings. The darling of country music has listed her little ol’ gated adobe-style home in West Hollywood for $1.39 million.
While it’s no comparison to Dolly’s theme-park grand place back in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., the two-bedroom, two-bathroom home is stuffed with country decor. Parton bought the 1,091-square-foot adode in 2007 for $1.2 million.
Classic Beauty: Hepburn’s Connecticut Estate Gets Price Cut
Katharine Hepburn’s former beach house in Connecticut is back on the market for $14.8 million. That’s a far cry from the original $28 million once sought for the handsome residence in Old Saybrook.
According to listing notes, the place has also undergone a total renovation, which was overseen by New York builder Frank Sciame, who also restored such grand New York City gems like the Pierpont Morgan Library and Museum, St. Patrick's Cathedral and the Guggenheim Museum.
The 6-bedroom, 7.5-bathroom home is a grand 8,300 square feet and sits on a 1.5-acre parcel overlooking Long Island Sound, including its own stretch of beach.
The home has been in the Hepburn family’s possession for years, and the great actress lived there until her death in 2003.
Megan Fox & Family Need More Room
Hollywood couple Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green have listed their Mediterranean home in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles. The 4-bedroom, 5-bath home is on the market for $3.995 million.
The home has views of downtown L.A., Long Beach, Century City and the ocean, plus a swimming pool and lots of outdoor patio and yard space.
The couple styled it with bold wallpapers, Spanish tile and antique lighting. They also updated with technology, adding projection screens, a sound system and video camera surveillance.
Green, best known for playing David Silver on “Beverly Hills, 90210,” has a son from a previous relationship. Green and Fox, of “Transformers” fame, also have a 2-year-old and a new baby.
By Laura Vecsey
‘Winter White House’ Wows in Palm Beach
Once the winter home for John F. and Jackie Kennedy, the 15,000-square-foot mansion has hit the market after an impressive makeover that has apparently translated into a whopping price tag of $38.5 million.
According to Curbed, the Kennedy family last sold the “Winter White House” in 1995 to investment bank CEO John K. Castle for $4.9M. The 1920s Mediterranean revival mansion looks ready for its close-up, courtesy of a $6 million renovation.
With 11 bedrooms, 15 bathrooms, the home was built in 1925 by architect Addison Mizner for department store magnate Rodman Wanamaker. Curbed reports that John F.'s dad Joseph P. Kennedy “bought the place in 1933 for $120K.”
While the history of the place continues to unfold, and the renovations have spruced it up to new, glamorous heights, one thing about the property remains the same, regardless of how many Kennedy’s slept there: Sweeping, direct ocean views.
Blockbuster Listing for Spielberg’s Vacant Land in Hamptons
In Hollywood, Steven Spielberg is a creative force behind some of the film industry’s biggest movies. On Long Island – not so much.
In 2008, the mighty director purchased a 3.3-acre waterfront parcel in East Hampton for $20 million. The property at 94 Apaquogue Rd. sported a traditional-styled 1900s-era home – which Spielberg promptly had demolished.
But if the idea had been to replace the home with something far more fitting for an entertainment industry titan, it did not happen. Now the lot has been listed for sale for $24.5 million.
But don’t worry about whether Spielberg has a place to crash when he’s hanging with the rich and famous in the tony enclave. Word is he’s got two other properties in the area.
By Laura Vecsey
Let Him Ride! Dre Moving Up, Again
It’s a long way from Compton, but then again, music industry mogul and rap kingpin Dr. Dre has been living large ever since he and Snoop Dogg were extolling the virtues of rolling in their 6-4s and sipping on gin and juice.
Now it appears the Los Angeles native will be moving into the house that Tom built. Tom Brady, that is.
According to reports, Dre has agreed to buy the mega-mansion built by the Patriots star and his Brazilian model wife, Gisele Bundchen for $40 million. The 20,000-square-foot estate in Brentwood, CA was featured in an
Architectural Digest photo spread after they completed construction back in 2011, but with homes in New York, Boston and around the globe, the couple decided to give up the custom estate they built for a reported $50 million.
The Old World-inspired imported limestone mansion on four acres is a truly palatial retreat, with reclaimed cobblestones in the motor court, waterfalls and ponds, and views of the Pacific Ocean. It has five bedrooms and nine bathrooms, and is built for “large-scale entertaining.”
We believe when it comes large-scale, Dre’s got that covered.
Mad Deal for This Home Far From Madison Ave
January Jones, aka Betty Francis on the hit series “Mad Men,” has listed her Los Feliz Mediterranean for $1.495 million.
The remodeled abode carries a formal and contemporary style after she purchased the house for $1 million in 2009, and then undertook a mondo kitchen remodel.
The 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom, 2,200-square-foot home at 4969 Ambrose Ave in Los Angeles is no longer a fixer: Jones added a Carrara marble island and a big stainless steel sink.
The Real ‘Scarface’ Home Hits the Santa Barbara Market
The 1906 mansion where Al Pacino was featured in a role where he went absolutely nuts with drugs and power is for sale in the oceanside town of Santa Barbara. The California coastal manse’s list price is a Hollywood-esque real $35 million.
The Mediterranean estate is a stunner, and not only because of the immortal scene in “Scarface” where Pacino hoists his machine gun and shouts: "Say hello to my little friend!"
Despite its film history past, the 4-bedroom, 9-bathroom Roman palace-like home was designed by architect Bertram Goodhue. Its name, "El Fureidis," means "Tropical Paradise," according to the listing. The grand property includes a 10-acre lot and a unique pool complete with water fountains.
According to records, the “Scarface” mansion last sold for just $6.23 million in 2009, and in 2012 was listed for rent for $30,000 a month.
By Laura Vecsey
Changes for Nicole Richie
Nicole Richie and her musician husband Joel Madden have listed the Spanish colonial owned by Madden since before their wedding in 2010. The couple’s restored 1930s home in Glendale, Calif., is listed for $1.875 million.
The 4-bedroom, 4-bath is almost 5,000 square feet and is replete with thick crown moldings, beamed ceilings, an arched entryway and a custom-tiled fireplace.
With two kids and busy schedules (he’s the front man for pop-punk band Good Charlotte; she’s got a show called #CandidlyNicole) the couple is taking some time to make a move.
She’s a ‘Belieber’: Selena Gomez Thinks Her Home Will Fetch $3.495M
Selena Gomez, the singer-actress and off-and-on girlfriend of Justin Bieber, has listed her 6,000-plus square-foot home in Tarzana, Calif.
Completely redecorated, Gomez stripped out the plaid and farmhouse décor and instead tricked the place out in a very modern modality. The six-bedroom, eight-bath gated home sits on a full acre, with lots of outdoor amenities, including a pool, full basketball court, Bocce Ball court, pergola and even an orchard.
Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed mortgages fell this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgage Marketplace at 4.05 percent, down from 4.10 percent at this same time last week.
The 30-year fixed mortgage rate declined early last week to 4.03 percent, where rates hovered for the majority of the week before rising slightly to the current rate on Monday.
“Rates dropped last week, and briefly dipped below 4 percent for the first time since October, as expectations rose that the European Central Bank will ease monetary policy to stimulate growth,” said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. “With little domestic news scheduled for release this week, market observers will look abroad for news that could push rates back into the 3 percent range.”
Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate this morning was 3.06 percent, and for 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.77 percent.
By Laura Vecsey
Nothing But Net for This Sweet Penthouse
Marv Albert has hoisted his $16.5 million apartment on the white-hot Manhattan real estate market.
The longtime sports broadcaster has been dubbed the Voice of the Knicks, Nets and the NBA, but the 72-year-old New York native is now looking for a swish of a sale on his penthouse situated right near Lincoln Center and Central Park.
According to records, Albert bought the 3,500-square-foot condo for $2.93 way back in 1996. In addition to a generous indoor floor plan, which includes two master suites, the perk of this place is the expansive, 1,500-square-foot terrace, giving the residence a huge outdoor entertainment space.
It’s a long way from Mayberry, Opie!
Ron Howard, the former child star-turned-Academy-Award-winning-director, saw his road to stardom and economic glory lead him, his wife and family to an amazing estate in Armonk, N.Y., about an hour north of New York City and close to tony Greenwich, Conn.
But with the kids grown, and now 60 years old, Howard says it’s time to sell the family spread. The man known as Opie (The Andy Griffith Show) and Richie Cunningham (Happy Days) has listed the home at a staggering $27.5 million.
Howard and his wife, Cheryl, raised their family on this lakefront, country estate set on Converse Lake. The home has 6 bedrooms, 4.5 baths, a two-story library and office, a 14-seat movie theater, a gym, yoga studio and an indoor pool modeled after the pool in Howard’s hit movie, “Cocoon.”
The estate also includes a two-bedroom guest cottage, an indoor tennis and basketball complex, an observatory silo, barns, paddocks, a pond and waterfall, greenhouses and formal gardens.
By Laura Vecsey
Meryl’s Choice: Grand Dame of Film Selling in L.A.
Easy come, easy go for Meryl Streep. The Academy Award winner has listed the sleek Los Angeles modern home she bought last February. The plot twist? At a $6.75 million list price, Streep is seeking $2.25 million more than she paid for the 4-bedroom, 4-bathroom, 3,500-square-foot place last year. It comes with all the same furnishings Streep acquired with the property in Feb. 2013. There’s only one direction from the most decorated American actress: No open houses.
Eat, Pray, Sell
Author Elizabeth Gilbert, whose “Eat, Pray, Love” memoir was a bestseller and hit movie, is selling her 1869 Italianate Victorian in Frenchtown, N.J.
Luckily, Gilbert’s writing skills have come in handy: She has penned her own listing description and is selling the place For Sale By Owner. The 4-bedroom, 3-bath residence is on the market for $999,000, and features a wine cellar, 1,400-square-foot library and gardens galore.
Reggie Bush Rushing for a Sale
Now that he’s in Detroit playing for the Lions, NFL running back Reggie Bush is making a big push to sell his Hollywood Hills home. The list price is $6 million for the modern abode that features a penthouse master suite, roof deck and pool.
The former University of Southern California star, who brought on a monstrous scandal at his alma mater, has had his place at 1501 Vistaview Terrace redecorated in order to attract a buyer.
By Laura Vecsey
A Memorable ‘Homer’ For Yankees’ Great Yogi Berra
With the passing of his beloved wife, Carmen, this past March, Baseball Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra has decided to sell the Montclair, N.J., home the happy couple shared and made the center of their large family’s world for 40 years.
And if there’s any doubt that the home belongs to Yogi, the $888,000 list price says it all for the Yankee legend who wore jersey No. 8.
Their home at 19 Highland Ave in Montclair is a traditional colonial that boasts a three-story spiral staircase that caught Carmen’s eye back in 1974 when they purchased the home.
Like the MLB legend, the 1902 home is full of surprises. There’s a double-sided wood-burning fireplace, beautiful wood paneling, a tiny closet-sized darkroom on the third floor, an artist’s studio, views of New York City and a little covered porch off to the side.
Carmen Berra died March 7 as the result of a stroke, and the couple had been living in a nearby retirement home. But with Yogi’s wife of 65 years now gone, and with his 89th birthday coming on May 12, the family has decided to part ways with the 6-bedroom, 3.25-bathroom home.
Ellen Page Turns a Corner in LA
“Juno” star and activist Ellen Page has listed her Studio City home for $1.05 million. The move comes a month after Page bought a sensational Hollywood Hills mid-century modern for $1.7 million that had been owned and redecorated by tennis champion Venus Williams.
Page, 27, bought the 1,499-square-foot, 2-bedroom, 1.5-bath home at 11283 Canton Dr. for $885,000 in 2011. The Cape Cod has been updated with lots of windows, beamed ceilings and a pool.
Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed mortgages fell this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgage Marketplace at 4.16 percent, down from 4.19 percent at this same time last week.
The 30-year fixed mortgage rate peaked at 4.22 percent last Tuesday before plummeting Wednesday afternoon to 4.14 percent, where rates continued to hover for the remainder of the week.
“Last week, rates dipped to the lowest level in seven weeks as weaker-than-expected home sales and continued concerns over geo-political stability in Ukraine kept downward pressure on rates,” said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. “This week, we expect more volatility as both the mid-week Federal Open Market Committee announcement and Friday’s jobs report have the potential to move markets.”
Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate this morning was 3.15 percent, and for 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.81 percent.
Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed mortgages rose this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgage Marketplace at 4.19 percent, up from 4.14 percent at this same time last week.
The 30-year fixed mortgage rate steadily increased last week, peaking at 4.26 percent on Monday before dropping to the current rate this morning.
“Last week, rates rose slightly on improving unemployment and manufacturing data,” said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. “This week, fewer significant economic reports are slated for release, and markets are more likely to be swayed by the geo-political situation in Ukraine, which could affect rates.”
Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate this morning was 3.18 percent, and for 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.78 percent.
Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed mortgages fell over the past week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgage Marketplace at 4.14 percent, down from 4.20 percent at this same time last week.
The 30-year fixed mortgage rate plummeted on Wednesday from 4.24 percent to 4.12 percent, where rates have continued to hover into this week.
“Last week, rates dropped to their lowest levels in six weeks as investors shifted out of stocks and into safer assets, like U.S. Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities,” said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. “This week, there is a full slate of economic reports scheduled for release, with the potential to nudge rates up.”
Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate this morning was 3.15 percent, and for 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.80 percent.
By Natalie Wise
With our country’s fast pace of life and technology-saturated culture, reading can often take a back seat to work, schedules packed with extracurricular activities and social media. But a new report states that residents of some cities are more literate than others, engaging their reading skills more often.
The report determined that reading culture is defined by how residents use their reading skills, not by how their reading skills test. For instance, the percentage of adults with college degrees, newspaper circulation, use of library resources, and the number of bookstores are all important factors in determining how literate a city is.
The city most interested in reading is Washington, D.C., for the fourth year running. The city features a high level of educational attainment and tech-savvy readers who enjoy using mobile devices to read.
Second on the list is Seattle, which boasts the highest percentage of adults with college degrees (57.7 percent). Thirdly, residents of Minneapolis are avid readers in a city that boasts 41 libraries, a large newspaper circulation and a high concentration of bookstores.
Atlanta (No. 4) and Pittsburgh (No. 5) also have residents who display a high level of reading engagement. Denver (No. 6) boasts high numbers of both weekday and Sunday newspaper readers and their library system is top-notch and well-used.
St. Paul (No. 7), the capital of Minnesota, boasts a high concentration of book stores and is a particular boon for collectors of rare books (and lovers of the reading-and-writing patriarch of the city, Garrison Keillor of “A Prairie Home Companion” fame). Tech-savvy and educated Bostonians helped their city rank No. 8. St. Louis, at No. 9, features high-quality libraries and high magazine circulation numbers.
Last but not least, San Francisco is the No. 10 most literate city. The city ranks second in the number of adults with college degrees (53.6 percent).
By Randi Petrello
Pittsburgh has been named one of the most affordable major metropolitan markets in the world, according to a new report.
The annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey found that the most affordable markets among major metros were all in the United States. Pittsburgh led the list, followed by Detroit, Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Rochester, N.Y. Hong Kong is the least affordable, followed by Vancouver, San Francisco and Sydney.
Among the 360 metropolitan markets surveyed in nine countries, 95 were considered affordable, and 84 of those were in the United States. There were 122 moderately unaffordable markets, 67 seriously unaffordable markets and 76 seriously unaffordable markets.
The survey determined affordability using the “median multiple,” which is found by dividing the median house price by gross annual median household income.
Pittsburgh’s median multiple was 2.3. The survey found the median home price here to be $116,000, and the median household income was $51,400.
Josh Caldwell, president of the Pittsburgh Real Estate Investors Association, said that there are a lot of affordable options here and that it is still a buyers’ market.
“You can get a lot of house for a little money here,” Caldwell said.
The Zillow Home Value Index estimates home values in Pittsburgh at $87,000 up 10.7 percent year-over-year, as of January 31.
Also on the list was Kansas City, Mo., which ranked No. 12 on the major market list. Kansas City had a median multiple of 2.9. The median price for a house there was $162,300 and the median household income was $55,500.
As for affordability in other countries, Ireland had the most affordable housing, followed by the United States and Canada. The least affordable were China, Australia and New Zealand.
The survey found that the smallest houses were found in the most expensive market, Hong Kong, while the biggest houses were found in the United States.
By Randi Petrello
Homes are being flipped faster and for higher profits, according to a recent report.
RealtyTrac’s year-end and Q4 Home Flipping Report found that flips were up 16 percent in 2013. Flips accounted for 4.6 percent of all single-family home sales.
Flips raked in an average gross profit of $58,081 in 2013, up from $45,759 in 2012. The average gross profit in the fourth quarter was $62,761, up from $52,746 in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to the report.
In Pittsburgh, the average gross profit for a flip was $57,674, up from $38,475 the year before.
Josh Caldwell, president of the Pittsburgh Real Estate Investors Association, said there are a few different ways to flip houses.
“Some people go for low-end, very cheap houses,” Caldwell said in a written statement. “I like to work in the $200,000-plus areas of town. So there are opportunities all over town, but you have to search for them. The goal of a flip house is to find one with significant upside to it.”
Caldwell said he sees a lot of homes in the Pittsburgh area being flipped, but that not all flippers are doing the same thing.
In the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News area, the average gross profit in 2013 was $91,262, up from $88,581 in 2012. The number of homes flipping here was up 141 percent in 2013, compared to 2012.
The average time to complete a flip was 84 days in 2013, according to the report.
RealtyTrac created the top 15 markets for profitable flipping by narrowing the list to those metros with at least 100 flips in the third quarter and where flipping increased from the previous year, sorted by total gross profit. The report considers a flip as a home that is purchased and sold again within six months.
By Nora Tooher
If you’re looking for a bicycling challenge this spring, try pedaling in Pittsburgh.
Steel City has two of the steepest streets in the nation, according to a graphic listing the “Top 10 U.S. Steepest Streets,” compiled by Fixr for Urban Velo, a bicycling publication.
The steepest street in the country is Waipio Road in Honokaa, Hawaii, a muscle-busting road with a 45-degree incline, rising 800 feet from the historic Waipio Valley to the plateau above in just six-tenths of a mile. Only four-wheel drive vehicles are permitted on the road.
Pittsburgh, located 107 miles southeast of Cuyahoga Falls, is home, however, to the steepest public street in the country – Canton Avenue. With a 37 percent gradient, Canton Avenue is ranked the second-steepest street in the Guinness Book of World Records only because of a miscalculation, which gave that honor to Baldwin Street in New Zealand. It turns out that Baldwin Steep has a mere 35 percent gradient, not the 38 percent gradient originally calculated.
Another Pittsburgh thoroughfare, Dornbush Street, made the list, coming in at No. 8 with a 31.98 percent gradient.
Surprisingly, Los Angeles had four steep streets on the list: Eldred Street, 33 percent gradient; 28th Street between Gaffey and Peck, 33 percent; Baxter Street, 32 percent and Fargo Street, 32 percent.
San Francisco, known for its hills, has only two streets on the list, Nos. 9 and 10: 22nd Street between Church and Vicksburg, and Filbert Street – two of the steepest navigable streets in the Western Hemisphere, both with a 31.5 percent grade.
Spring Valley, Calif., was the other community to make the list, claiming the sixth spot with Maria Avenue, a street so hilly the list’s authors wondered if the planners who laid out the road had “ever even visited the site.”
For local bicyclists looking for a challenge closer to home, an article in the latest issue of Urban Velo says simply trying to ride a bike in downtown Cleveland is difficult: “Streets, even those cutting through the heart of downtown, are as much as six lanes wide with cars regularly traveling 10 miles per hour over posted speed limits. Cyclists are often left to figure it out for themselves among the pothole-laden asphalt, often without a bike lane to offer even some notion of protection.”
Critical Mass, a local bicycling advocacy group, however, has successfully organized a group bike ride in Cleveland on the last Friday of every month.