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News And Mortgage Reports

Inside Tommy Hilfiger's $75 Million Manhattan Penthouse

2015-04-24 07:05:00

Filed under: News, Buying, Celebrity Homes Zillow Tommy Hilfiger took three years to renovate his two-story, 6,000-square-foot penthouse at New York's famed Plaza Hotel. It is taking him about as long to sell it. The American fashion tycoon has dropped the price of the four-bedroom duplex to $75 million, the Real Deal reported. Hilfiger listed the penthouse in 2013 for $80 million just before he married his second wife, Dee Ocleppo. Before another round of renovations, Hilfiger once had it on the market for $50 million, according to Curbed. Hilfiger purchased the classic unit and a neighboring unit for $25 million in 2008 when it was marketed as a "fixer-upper," reported AOL Real Estate. Hilfiger says he likes that this residence is in an iconic building on Fifth Avenue, overlooking Central Park. "I always wanted to acquire trophy real estate because location, location, location is very important. As an investment you can't do better than that," he says in a CNNMoney video. The condo, on the 18th and 19th floors, has views of Central Park and Fifth Avenue from a private terrace. The Plaza is a fully staffed 24-hour white-glove condominium with a separate entrance from the hotel, according to the listing. Residents are offered the full complement of hotel services, including maid, valet and Todd English room service. "Only the most luxurious finishes and materials were used to restore this property to its original grandeur, complete with 21st Century conveniences," according to the listing. A round, domed room in a turret contains a custom mural paying homage to Eloise, a character from Kay Thompson's 1950s books about a girl who lives in the "room on the tippy-top floor" of the Plaza Hotel. "If you surround yourself with things you love, it makes for a great home design," Hilfiger told CNN. Zillow Zillow Zillow Zillow  Permalink | Email this | Comments


Renters Feeling the Pinch in Least Affordable U.S. Markets

2015-04-06 00:49:00

Filed under: News, Economy, Renting Alamy By Melissa Allison Waves of new residents are outpacing new housing stock in the country's least affordable rental markets, according to a Zillow analysis of U.S. rental and mortgage affordability. In Los Angeles, where renters spend an average of 48.2 percent of their monthly income on rent, only 187 new housing units were added for every 1,000 new arrivals between 2012 and 2013. In New York, it was 383 per 1,000 newcomers. In San Francisco, it was just 193. The middle class increasingly feels the pinch, according to Christopher Herbert, managing director of Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies. "Low-income people have always had trouble finding affordable housing, but now as rents have gone up, that's true of middle-income people as well," said Herbert, who cites income declines as a major culprit. Rentals are most affordable in places with slow population growth, such as Pittsburgh and St. Louis, and areas that have met new growth with a steady supply of new housing units. Chicago, for example, permitted 906 new units for every 1,000 new residents between 2012 and 2013 -- and renters there spend an average of 31.1 percent of their income on rent. Cities are trying to address the problem: San Francisco's mayor pledged 30,000 new and rehabilitated housing units by 2020. The Boston mayor's office issued a report recommending 53,000 new units by 2030, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has vowed to create or preserve 200,000 affordable housing units over 10 years. Although new units will help, Herbert said land prices are so high in New York, Los Angeles and other pricey markets that "it's hard to build at a [price] point that middle-income people can afford, let alone low-income people." Some cities are developing creative solutions, such as making it easier for homeowners to add "accessory" units -- places for renters to live in garages, storage units and other underused spaces. In the Bay Area, a nonprofit called SPUR is hosting an exhibit called "Urbanism From Within" that shows how accessory units work and how they preserve neighborhood identities. Kristy Wang, SPUR's community planning policy director, agreed that the middle class is facing challenges that it didn't in the past. That can be particularly tough, she said, because "it's hard to make an argument that the government should subsidize middle-income households, but it's also really important to have a middle class." Read more about this report at Zillow Research.  Read | Permalink | Email this | Comments


Estate Planning Tips to Know After Robin Williams Saga

2015-03-31 23:57:00

Filed under: News, Celebrity Homes ZillowRobin Williams left his vineyard estate in Napa Valley to his three children. It is on the market for $25.9 million. On Monday, a judge gave the grieving children and widow of Robin Williams until June 1 to settle out of court their battle over items in his estate, eight months after the highly acclaimed actor died in August at his home in near Tiburon, California, of apparent suicide. Williams probably believed he had an airtight will and testament to settle and divide his estate among his wife and three children from previous marriages. But where there's a will, there's still a way for families to dispute the wishes of their loved one. Here's what we can learn from the Williams case about estate planning. Williams' trust provides that his wife, Susan Schneider, can reside in the couple's home in the Paradise Cay community near Tiburon for the rest of her life. An estate planning attorney and an accountant in charge of the trust must establish a fund to pay all of the expenses of the residence for Susan's benefit. Susan also receives the furniture, furnishings, and some of the contents of the Tiburon house. Williams left his five-bedroom, 12-bathroom, Mediterranean-style Napa Valley home, including its guesthouse, stable and fishpond, to his children, along with its contents. The home, named Villa Sorriso (translated "House of Smiles") was on the market at the time of his death. Williams originally priced the luxurious 640-acre property at $35 million, admitting that he felt that he could no longer afford it. He then took it off the market before re-listing it in April 2014 at $29.5 million. "Because Robin Williams' estate plan was carefully crafted, it initially appeared that his heirs would avoid the bitter family squabbles that affect many mixed-marriage families," say Andrew Mayoras and his wife, Danielle, co-authors of "Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!" "[Williams'] trust carefully describes what he wanted to pass to his three children, which included all of his 'clothing, jewelry, personal photos taken prior to his marriage to Susan as well as Robin's memorabilia and awards in the entertainment industry,'" Mayoras reported. The trust gives the rest of the contents of the Tiburon house to Susan, specifically excluding the items gifted to his children under the trust. Schneider, who married Williams in 2011, filed action in court in January claiming that the children wanted to take certain items in the Tiburon home that she believes were willed to her. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Andrew Cheng told lawyers for both sides during a recent hearing to meet before April 10 and enlist the help of a mediator if necessary before returning to court. Below are some estate planning tips from the American Bar Association you should know that may help lessen a family battle over your own estate after your death. Right to Designate Versus Heirship Laws A will provides for the distribution of certain property owned by you at the time of your death, and generally you may choose how to divvy up such property in whatever manner you want. "Your right to dispose of property as you choose, however, may be subject to forced heirship laws of most states that prevent you from disinheriting a spouse and, in some cases, children. For example, many states have spousal rights of election laws that permit a spouse to claim a certain interest in your estate regardless of what your will (or other documents addressing the disposition of your property) provides," according to the ABA. Beneficiaries and Titling Your will does not govern the disposition of your property or assets that are controlled by beneficiary designations or by titling. These designations are decided outside of your probate estate. Such assets include property titled in joint names with rights of survivorship, payable on death accounts, life insurance, retirement plans and accounts, and employee death benefits. Jointly Owned Property and the Law If you own property with another person as joint tenants with right of survivorship instead of as tenants in common, the property will pass directly to the remaining joint tenant upon your death and will not be a part of your probate estate governed by your will (or the state's laws of intestacy if you have no will). When There is Not a Will If you die intestate (without a will), your state's laws of descent and distribution will determine who receives your property by default. These laws vary by state, but typically the distribution would be to your spouse and children, or if none, to other family members. The Truth About Wills When people prepare wills, they often believe the will governs who will inherit their assets. However, certain items are exempt or should be handled with a trust. For example, the ownership of various accounts or real property -- or the beneficiary designations on an IRA, life insurance or certain other assets -- control the distribution regardless of what you put in a will. That's where a trust could help. Putting Trust in Trusts Trusts are legal arrangements that can provide flexibility for the ownership of certain assets. Trusts are not just for the wealthy. A testamentary trust and its trust provisions are contained in your will. A living trust and its trust provisions are contained in the trust agreement. The provisions of a living trust (rather than your will or state law default rules) usually will determine what happens to the property in the trust upon your death. When setting up a trust or a will and testament, it is best to consult with attorneys who specialize in these matters. Although Williams adhered to that advice and it still didn't keep his heirs out of court or prevent them from squabbling over the definition of words (e.g. is a watch a piece of jewelry or not?), having a will and trust should help diffuse the situation. Just ask Dennis Hopper's widow, Victoria Duffy. Sheree R. Curry is an award-winning, 20-year veteran journalist who has been writing for AOL Real Estate since 2009. Send her your tips & ideas. Follow her on Twitter at shereecurry. Permalink | Email this | Comments


Rents Are Rising, and Not Only in Pricey San Francisco

2015-02-23 13:28:00

Filed under: News, Buying, Renting Vincent Besnault/Getty Median monthly rents rose in January, and in a lot of places you might not expect. Along with the usual hot West Coast housing markets such as San Francisco and the Silicon Valley, the metros with the biggest year-over-year increases included Denver, Kansas City (Mo.), Nashville (Tenn.), Birmingham, (Ala.) and Portland (Ore.). The new data shows the spread of rising rents -- and decreasing rental affordability is likely to follow. Zillow, the online real estate site, reported last year that renting is now half as affordable nationally as buying, on a monthly basis. "Since 2000, rents have grown roughly twice as fast as wages, and you don't have to be an economist to understand why that is hugely problematic," said Stan Humphries, Zillow's chief economist. "The rental market used to be, and should remain, a stepping stone to homeownership. But given how widespread rental affordability problems have become, the rental market could be acting more like a barrier to buying." Check out Zillow Research for more information about the January Real Estate Market Reports. Zillow  Read | Permalink | Email this | Comments


'Up' House Set to be Auctioned

2015-02-05 11:04:00

Filed under: News, Foreclosures Getty ImagesA developer offered Edith Macefield $1 million for her house. She turned it down and the building went up around her. Edith Macefield's circa 1900s farmhouse in Seattle, which became famous when Macefield refused to take $1 million from an urban developer planning to tear it down, may be going on the auction block, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The current owner reportedly owes $185,956 on the property, and unless he pays the debt, the property will be auctioned at 10 a.m. on March 13. Macefield received worldwide attention in 2006 when she refused to sell her 1,000-square-foot home, which stood in the way of a commercial development. So the developer of Ballard Blocks built a five-story office and retail building around her. Disney/Pixar Disney capitalized on the Macefield buzz and tied balloons to the house in 2009 to promote "Up," a film about a man who uses balloons to lift his home out of the way of development. (Don't remember? See the trailer here.) Macefield, who was more a homebody than an anti-development protestor, died in 2008 at 86. She left the house in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle to the new building's construction superintendent, Barry Martin, who had been kind to her during construction. Martin sold it to Reach Returns in 2009, which provides real estate coaching. According to a foreclosure report, Reach Returns owner Greg Pinneo must pay the money he owes on the property, or it will be auctioned. The Post-Intelligencer said one possible solution is that the owner of Ballard Blocks will buy the site and incorporate it into the new building, which was designed to someday expand onto the property. Permalink | Email this | Comments


U.S. Foreclosures Drop to a Level Last Seen in 2006

2015-01-15 05:00:00

Filed under: News, Foreclosures, Home Equity Andy Dean Photography/Shutterstock The inventory of distressed U.S. properties has fallen to the lowest point since 2006, before the financial crisis sent foreclosure filings, default notices, property auctions and bank repossessions soaring, according to RealtyTrac, a housing data company. RealtyTrac's new Year-End 2014 Foreclosure Market Report shows that U.S. foreclosure filings were reported on 1,117,426 properties in 2014, down 18 percent from 2013 and down 61 percent from the peak in 2010. The number represents the lowest annual total since 2006, when 717,522 properties had foreclosure filings nationwide. The report also shows that 0.85 percent of all U.S. housing units -- one in every 118 -- had at least one foreclosure filing in 2014, the first time since 2006 that the annual foreclosure rate had fell below 1 percent of all housing units. Stabilization Forecast The numbers show "a foreclosure market that is close to finding a floor and stabilizing at a historically normal level," said Daren Blomquist, a RealtyTrac vice president. However, the housing market isn't doing cartwheels just yet. After 27 consecutive months of decreases, U.S. foreclosure starts in December increased 6 percent from the previous month and 14 percent from a year ago -- the second month in a row that showed increases. December foreclosure starts increased from a year ago in 26 states, including Massachusetts (up 323 percent), New Jersey (up 262 percent), Nevada (up 194 percent), Missouri (up 88 percent) and New York (up 33 percent). Blomquist said that a year-end surge in foreclosure starts and scheduled foreclosure auctions indicates that lenders in some markets are gearing up for "a spring cleaning of deferred distress" properties in the first half of 2015. This could flood some local markets with distressed sales and impact home prices. This recent uptick largely reflects failed attempts to rescue distressed properties, rather than new loans going bad, he said. "Many of these properties have been in mediation, loan modification, efforts to try to prevent foreclosure. Unfortunately for some of these homeowners, none of those solutions stuck, so they're finally going into foreclosure ... casting a lingering shadow on the housing market." Permalink | Email this | Comments


The 5 Biggest, Best Homeowner Tax Breaks

2015-01-09 09:51:00

Filed under: News, Advice, How To Cassandra Hubbart, AOLLeaving off deductions you're eligible for, such as mortgage interest and property taxes, is leaving money on the table. Homeownership can pay off big time if you itemize your deductions. Use these five tax breaks to cut what you owe Uncle Sam: 1. Home Office Do you work at home? Collect a tax break either by using the simplified method explained below or doing some complicated calculations to claim your exact home office expenses. When you opt for the simplified method, you get $5 per square foot and can claim up to 300 square feet of office. (That's a $1,500 deduction!) The Fine Print: You can't deduct a home office just because you head in there after dinner to read AOL and answer emails from co-workers. You have to use your home office "substantially and regularly to conduct business." Your home office doesn't have to be in your home. A studio, garage, or barn can count as a home office. Where You Claim it: Form 8829 Where You Read About it: Publication 587 Business Use of Your Home 2. Energy-Efficient Upgrades Energy-efficiency home upgrades you made in 2014 can potentially cut your tax bill by up to $500, thanks to the residential energy tax credit. This tax credit lets you offset federal taxes dollar-for-dollar. You may be able to claim up to 10 percent of what you spent in 2014 on such items as insulation, a new roof, windows, doors or high-efficiency furnaces or air conditioners. The Fine Print: There's a $500 lifetime cap (meaning you have to subtract any energy tax credit you used in prior years). Where You Claim it: Form 1040, Form 5695 Where You Read About it: Form 5695 Instructions 3. Mortgage Interest Deduction This is the mother lode of tax deductions. You typically can deduct the interest you pay on your home loan of up to $1 million (married filing jointly). You have to use your mortgage to buy, build or improve your home. Using a home equity line or mortgage for something else, like paying college tuition? It's generally OK to deduct the interest on loans up to $100,000 (married filing jointly) as long as your home secures the loan. The Fine Print: An RV, boat or trailer counts as a home if you can sleep and cook in it and it has toilet facilities (if you're not sure what "toilet facilities" means, watching a couple episodes of the TV show "Buying Alaska" will enlighten and entertain you). Second home loans count toward the $1 million loan limit. Where You Claim it: Schedule A Where You Read About it: Publication 936 Home Mortgage Interest 4. Property Tax Deduction The property taxes you paid to the state, the county, the city, the school district and every other government entity that reached into your pockets last year are usually deductible on your federal tax return. If your mortgage lender paid your property taxes, look on your annual escrow statement to see the exact amount paid. The Fine Print: You can't deduct assessments (one-time charges for things like streets, sidewalks and sewer lines). Keep a record of the assessments you paid. When you sell your home, you can generally use the cost of those assessments to reduce any tax you owe on your sale profit. Where You Claim it: Schedule A Where You Read About it: Publication 530 Tax Information for Homeowners 5. Private Mortgage Insurance Did you put down less than 20 percent when you bought your home? If you did, your lender probably forced you to buy private mortgage insurance. Those monthly premiums are tax deductible, if you can clear a few hurdles. (See The Fine Print below.) If you have a Veterans Affairs, Federal Housing Administration or Rural Housing Service loan, you likely paid upfront mortgage insurance premiums at the closing table (they might have called it a guarantee fee). The deduction for those is pretty complicated. You get to deduct a part of that upfront premium each year. To figure out how much to deduct, you first check to see which is shorter: The length of your mortgage 84 months (seven years) If your mortgage lasts more than seven years, you divide the cost of that upfront mortgage premium by 84 months and then multiply by the number of months you paid it (so 12 months for a full year) to get your deductible amount. If you mortgage lasts seven years or less, you divide by the number of months it lasts and multiply by the number of months you paid it. The Fine Print: You have to have gotten your mortgage in 2007 or later. When adjusted gross income is more than $100,000 (married filing jointly) you start losing the private mortgage insurance deduction and it disappears completely when your adjusted gross income is more than $109,000. Where You Claim it: Schedule A Where You Read About it: Publication 530 Tax Information for Homeowners What About Everything Else? What about all the other home-related expenses you paid, but can't deduct, like your new deck or the pipes you replaced? Hang on to those invoices and receipts by scanning them (receipts fade over time) and storing them in a file or online. When you sell your home and you're figuring out if you owe federal tax on the profits, you may be able to subtract the cost of the improvements you made from your home's selling price. Tax laws are complicated and the devil is in the details. This article contains general information, so it may, or may not, apply to your situation. A tax professional or tax software can tell you how the tax rules apply in your circumstances. Permalink | Email this | Comments


3 Reasons for Military Homebuyers to Be Thankful This Year

2014-11-24 06:18:00

Filed under: News, Buying, Financing Getty Images Mortgage credit is thawing, VA loans are booming and interest rates remain within striking distance of all-time lows. For military homebuyers, there's much to be thankful for this year. They are a demographic group that continues to embrace both the opportunities and challenges of homebuying. The homeownership rate among veterans and service members is 81 percent, compared to about 65 percent for the nation as a whole, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. It's tough to predict what shape the housing market will take in 2015, with both home prices and rates almost certainly on the rise. But this Thanksgiving, there are a few key trends for which many military buyers can give thanks. Here's a look at three big ones. VA loan resurgence The historic VA home loan program celebrated its 70th anniversary in June. But in many ways its zero-down mortgage option is more important than ever. Veterans and active military members have turned to VA loans in record numbers given the tight conventional mortgage market. During an uneven year for many buyers, VA purchases increased nearly 13 percent year-over-year in 2014 (the VA's fiscal year runs Oct. 1 to Sept. 30), according to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs. These are more flexible and forgiving loans when it comes to things like credit, debt ratios and assets. It can be tough for many veterans and military buyers to build the kind of financial profile and nest egg needed for conventional financing. VA lenders often are looking for a FICO score around 620. Conventional lenders may set the benchmark more than 100 points higher, then also require at least a 5 percent down payment. Those can be tall hurdles to clear. Credit thawing But there's also positive news for military buyers wanting to take a hard look at conventional mortgage options. Signs continue to point to an overall relaxing of credit requirements as the economic outlook improves. Credit availability in the conventional mortgage market jumped 12 percent in September compared to March 2012, according to a Mortgage Bankers Association index. At the same time, conventional buyers had an average 755 FICO score in September, a four-point drop from last year's average, according to mortgage software firm Ellie Mae. The Federal Housing Finance Agency also unveiled plans recently to open lending to borrowers with as little as 3 percent down. The FHFA regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the giant government-sponsored entities that purchase two of every three new mortgages. "These loans will be underwritten more conservatively and will likely come with higher mortgage insurance costs," David H. Stevens, president and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association, told Bloomberg News. "History has shown that these loans, when properly underwritten, perform well." Interest rates After a stretch of historically low interest rates, many economists and housing experts expected the party to end in 2014. Heading into this year, the chief economist of the National Association of Realtors, Lawrence Yun, predicted rates would hit 5.4 percent by year's end. Instead, global political issues, a stop-and-start recovery and other factors combined to keep rates down. The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage was 4.43 percent in January, according to Freddie Mac. For October? Try 4.04 percent. Forecasts for 2015 vary, but it's likely the average rate will near 5 percent, if not top it. "The impact of rising interest rates on affordability will be minimal as long as job creation keeps pace," Yun, the NAR economist, said earlier this month at the trade group's annual convention. "Furthermore, if the credit box slowly begins to open up, that will also mitigate the impact of rising rates." To be sure, buying a home isn't the right fit for every veteran or military member. Military service can come with frequent relocation and unique financial strain, both of which can make homebuying untenable or flat-out undesirable. But for those eyeing a home purchase on the horizon, there's a lot to be grateful for this year. Permalink | Email this | Comments


Zillow: 30-Year Fixed Mortgage at 3.82%

2014-11-18 21:03:00

Filed under: News, Buying, Financing, Refinancing Zillow*The weekly mortgage rate chart illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest in six-hour intervals. By Lauren Braun Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed mortgages fell this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgages at 3.82 percent, down from 3.90 percent at this same time last week. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate hovered around 3.85 percent for most of the week before falling to the current rate. "Rates remained flat for most of last week, but dipped slightly early Monday on news that Japan fell into a recession in Q3," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "Despite incoming inflation and home sales data, we do not expect rates to move dramatically this week." Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate this morning was 2.99 percent, and for 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.82 percent. Purchase Mortgage Application Activity Zillow predicts tomorrow's seasonally adjusted Mortgage Bankers Association Weekly Application Index will show purchase loan activity to increase by 4 percent from the week prior. To learn more about this Zillow analysis, click here. What are the interest rates right now? Check Zillow Mortgages for mortgage rate trends and up-to-the-minute mortgage rates for your state.  Read | Permalink | Email this | Comments


House of the Day: Michigan Victorian With Lighthouse

2014-11-17 13:05:00

Filed under: News, Buying, House of the Day ZillowThis Bellevue Island home with three bedrooms is on the market at $415,000. By Emily Heffter The lakeside community of Lake Orion was a popular weekend getaway for the wealthy of Detroit in 1900, when this Victorian home was built. In its heyday, Bellevue Island had an amusement park with an old wooden roller coaster. Now the quiet community about an hour outside of Detroit is known more for its great school district. The sellers raised two daughters in the three-bedroom, two-bath home while restoring its unique features and have it on the market at $415,000. "They brought it back to life over the last 20 years," said Leslie Mihalak, the RE/MAX listing agent. Most notable are the home's two copper-topped towers: A five-story working lighthouse on the lakefront side serves as a hidden fort, accessible via ladder from one of the bedrooms. On the land side of the house, a second tower looks like a windmill. The owners painted the original cedar shake siding a raspberry color, and the bottom of the house is constructed of fieldstone. Inside, the home is modernized with an updated kitchen, granite countertops and wood floors. There are beautiful views of the lake, two docks and a patio.  Read | Permalink | Email this | Comments

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Last updated on Apr 27, 2015.