Archive for January, 2012
Wild homes of the future that are for sale now
Modern design aesthetics combine with technology to create cutting-edge residences
We may not have flying cars yet, but a new residential construction project going up in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., may make you think otherwise.
The Porsche Design Tower will feature an elevator to lift owners — and their cars — to their front doors in seconds. A co-production of developer Dezer Properties and Porsche Design Group, the retail-oriented spin-off company of the luxury German carmaker, it will be the first residential project affiliated with the Porsche name. These car-friendly condos will range from $2.9 million to $9 million.
“You will drive into the building, onto the elevator ramp, shut the ignition off and be magically whisked to the front door of your apartment in 45 seconds to a minute and 15 seconds depending on what floor you’re on,” explains Gil Dezer, president of Dezer Properties. The elevator will cover all 57 floors and include technology that automatically identifies the car and the unit owner once both are on board.
It’s just one example of how modern design aesthetics have coupled with technology to birth innovative, cutting-edge homes that not so long ago would have been reserved only for the sets of films like “Minority Report” (or TV shows like “The Jetsons”).
We rounded up a selection of futuristic abodes that challenge traditional McMansion layouts. Some are relatively new homes designed with green living in mind while others are the decades-old brick and mortar visions of celebrated artists. Realtor.com, Zillow.com, Coldwell Banker Previews International, Sotheby’s International Realty and others helped us sort through listings to handpick the sleekest, most avant-garde, in some cases zaniest, homes on the market. They conjure images of science fiction lore, and in many cases, have actually been rented out by movie and television studios for that express reason.
Perhaps not surprisingly, many architecturally famous homes fall into this category. For example, the Gantert Residence, also known as “Case Study House #22,” graces our list. Constructed in the early 1980s, it was the last Pierre Koenig house constructed while the architect was still alive. The $2.3 million Los Angeles residence with its boxy upper floors and cantilevered base gives the impression of a residence floating, appearing “as a giant Cubist sculpture from Hollywood Boulevard,” according to its listing.
California has many ultra-modern abodes up for grabs, particularly in Southern California. “The trend in real estate right now is demand for contemporary homes,” says Chad Rogers, a real estate agent with Hilton & Hyland in L.A. (and formerly one of the stars on Bravo’s TV show “Million Dollar Listing”), noting that many of the most modern-looking structures tend to be “smart homes,” fitted to be energy efficient, as well. “People want easy living and these properties afford that: clean lines and open space so you can move about your house without having to go through a bunch of rooms.”
Rogers, who has listed a smattering of futuristic properties including a $9.5 million Malibu eco-estate, currently represents a $10 million Hollywood Hills mansion forged of steel, glass and concrete. The 10,000-square foot structure was built originally as an art gallery with live-in space. In addition to the stone display-ready walls, it boasts a home theater, a pool and 12-person spa, a koi pond and a detached guesthouse. The kitchen is comprised almost entirely of stainless steel, designed by Porsche Design Group.
“These concrete and steel properties are the most expensive type of architecture to build,” says Rogers, noting that foreign investors have shown much buying interest in ultra-modern estates. “To duplicate a property like this you’re looking at a minimum of $1,500 per square foot to do it.”
Constructing architecturally outrageous homes can rack up costs. Take the Pottery House in Santa Fe, N.M. Originally the brainchild of Frank Lloyd Wright, the adobe dwelling’s construction was resuscitated in the 1980s by a developer eager to complete the project that had been designed by the famed late architect but never finished (the original owner had passed away). The builder reportedly ran out of money mid-construction and with no buyer in sight, the bank assumed ownership. Eventually the current owners bought the foreclosed estate, which is now listed for $4.75 million, and finished it.
The Pottery House’s design hinges on concentric circles. About 24,000 adobe bricks make up the structure and Scandinavian ship builders were actually brought in to craft the ceiling. “It has a sort of mystique. Prior to listing, this house seemed more like a local rumor,” says David Fries, an associate broker with Santa Fe Properties and the listing agent for the Pottery House. It had remained quietly tucked away behind multiple gates in an anonymous subdivision. “Even if someone could get their hands on the address, it no longer really relates to where it’s located since no one could really find the place without directions and gate codes.”
Fries and Rogers both think their listings will ultimately sell to affluent buyers who collect art or at least appreciate architecture as an art form. Some of the homes on our list will require buyers to appreciate geometry as well. A $19.5 million Vermilion, Ohio, spread called the Waterwood Estate is comprised of a series of triangular and rectangular buildings parsed together along the shore of Lake Erie. In Crystal Bay, Nev., a $43 million Dr. Seuss-esque house touts walls of glass, a glass elevator, a six-story glass stairwell and hidden garden rooms, all suspended off the edge of a promontory.
Towering over Maine in your own lighthouse
The lighthouse was a specific part of this Maine home’s design.
By Erika Riggs, Zillow
85 Buck and Doe, Deer Isle, Maine
For sale: $2,873,000
Long before GPS and smartphones, sailors depended on the blinking light of a far-off lighthouse to guide them. Although ships no longer rely on lighthouses, there’s still something alluring about a lighthouse, sitting alone as a beacon on the shore.
The romanticism and appeal of a bygone era is captured in this Maine home for sale, which is located on Maine’s Penobscot Bay. Although the statwe has more than 60 lighthouses, this home was not converted from a previous working lighthouse. Rather it was built as an unusual, private residence with a lighthouse tower affixed.
The current owner bought the residence partially unfinished and completed the construction in 1990. Listed on the Hancock County real estate market, the lighthouse home sits only 10 minutes from two local towns, but has a private and remote feel, explains listing agent Story Litchfield.
The 5,859-square-foot home features enormous living areas with floor-to-ceiling windows and of course, an attached tower that has 360-degree views from its top look-out point.
“The top floor is totally surrounded by windows and you can see so far because it’s so high,” Litchfield said.
On the floor of the lighthouse is an enormous chart and map of the area to explain the surrounding views.
In addition to views of the Atlantic Ocean, islands and Camden Hills, the 4-bedroom, 4-bath home has a gourmet kitchen, two-story granite fireplace and cathedral ceilings. Two of the bedrooms are located in the lighthouse tower on the first floor.
A granite two-story fireplace dominates the living room of the home.
The stone lighthouse is located on Maine’s Penobscot Bay.
|December Existing-Home Sales Show Uptrend|
|Existing-home sales continued on an uptrend in December, rising for three consecutive months and remaining above a year ago, according to the National Association of REALTORS.
The latest monthly data shows total existing-home sales1 rose 5.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.61 million in December from a downwardly revised 4.39 million in November, and are 3.6 percent higher than the 4.45 million-unit level in December 2010. The estimates are based on completed transactions from multiple listing services that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said these are early signs of what may be a sustained recovery. “The pattern of home sales in recent months demonstrates a market in recovery,” he said. “Record low mortgage interest rates, job growth and bargain home prices are giving more consumers the confidence they need to enter the market.”
10 tips to boost your home’s appraisal
Lowball appraisals can kill deals. Here are the top ways to keep your home’s look, feel and condition as updated and cared-for as possible.
By S. Mitra Kalita of The Wall Street Journal
© Joshua Lott/Reuters
The appraiser was due in an hour. The beds were unmade, breakfast dishes in the sink and toys scattered about the playroom. Would she care?
I got moving — and cleaning. At 34 weeks pregnant, that’s not so easy.
After all, I know lowball appraisals can kill deals.
They can also kill a refinancing application, which we are in the midst of for our 1920s Georgian-style house in Queens. If an appraisal comes in too low, it’s not worth refinancing, or you might need to put in a whole lot more equity.
We don’t know how ours turned out yet, but after talking to a handful of appraisers, I felt great regret at not doing more to plan and prepare. Here are some tips based on those conversations.
Caution: Some of the advice — like home valuations themselves these days — might seem contradictory. But what all the appraisers agree on is the importance of keeping the look, feel and condition of the property as updated and cared-for as possible.
1. Spruce up the house. Appraisers say that you don’t need to deep-clean under couches and that a few dirty dishes won’t hurt your home’s value. But rats, cockroaches and that car you’ve been tinkering on might. “Things like overgrown landscaping, soiled carpeting, marks on walls — those do affect value and are part of the property’s overall condition rating,” said Dean Zibas, the president and chief appraiser for Zibas Appraisal in San Clemente, Calif. In other words, think broom clean, not set design for a home-decorating magazine.
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2. Curb appeal also matters, so mow the lawn, hack those weeds and trim those hedges. This can also help offset your house from unfair comparisons with foreclosures nearby. “In today’s climate, I can’t stress enough: condition, condition, condition,” said Doreen Zimmerman, an appraiser in Paradise, Calif. “An hour or two, for the most part, will set your home apart in the actual picture that the lender gets from the appraiser versus the actual picture that the appraiser will provide of the (foreclosure) down the street.”
3. Keep a list of all the updates you’ve made and be ready to hand it over; a sketch plan of the house indicating square footage also helps. “Have a list of updating done within the past 15 years. Itemize each update with the approximate date and approximate cost. Also highlight the notable features of the property,” says Matthew George, the chief appraiser of Eagle Appraisals in Denver. Remember the items that an appraiser might not notice, such as a new roof or insulation. Don’t forget the minor items. For example, I mistakenly told the appraiser we hadn’t updated one bathroom, but actually we had installed a new sink and had the tub sealed. That counts, the experts say.
4. Have comps on hand. Yes, this is the appraiser’s job, but every little bit helps — especially if you are aware of a nearby property that sold without the aid of a real-estate agent, says Mark T. Smith, the owner and president of Smith Appraisal Services in St. Augustine, Fla. That can mean it wasn’t posted on the multiple listing service, and can result in other delays by the time it gets posted through other government data sources.
5. Be mindful of peeling paint. Loans insured by government agencies, such as the Federal Housing Administration or the Veterans Administration, will require peeling paint to be removed in houses built before 1978. But don’t worry too much about a child’s scrawling on his bedroom wall, unless it’s going to require a whole new paint job.
6. Focus. “Don’t spend money that won’t yield a return on the investment. The best expenditures for most markets are paint, carpet, light and plumbing fixtures,” George says. Prioritize what you do; if you’re the type of homeowner who has upgraded and fixed items as they broke, you should be fine.
7. Location still matters. If there have been changes to the neighborhood, mention them, from a new playground to a new Whole Foods. If the area has been declared a historic or landmark district, let the appraiser know.
8. Keep the $500 rule in mind. Appraisers often value houses in $500 increments, so if there’s a repair costing more than $500 that can or should be made, it will count against the property. Fix leaky faucets, cracked windows, missing handrails and structural damage.
9. Remember the concept of “effective age,” the age the appraiser can assign to a home after taking into consideration updating and condition. “Say you have a cracked window, threadbare carpet, some tiles falling off the shower surround, vinyl torn in the laundry room and the dog ate the corner of the fireplace hearth,” says Zimmerman, who wrote the book “Challenge Your Home Appraisal” and runs a website by the same name. “These items could still add up to an overall average condition rating as the home is still habitable. However, your effective age will be higher, resulting in comparables being utilized which will have the same effective age and resulting lower value.”
10. Lock up Fido and Fifi. Appraisers say they get annoyed enough by homeowners following them around, but a snarling, growling dog is even worse. Along the same lines, try to make the appraiser comfortable — if it’s cold out, put the heat on; if it’s hot out, the air conditioning. “If it’s 100 degrees out and you never put the air conditioning on, put it on for the appraiser so they don’t question that your unit is broken,” Zimmerman says.
With those things in mind, let the appraiser do his job. “Questions and banter may make the inspection go slow or make the appraiser miss something,” said James R. Gerot, a residential appraiser in Ottumwa, Iowa. “My inspections have a rhythm to them, so once I get started, interruptions are just that. Save questions until after.”
Foreclosures fall to lowest level since 2007
By Les Christie @CNNMoney January 12, 2012: 8:18 AM ET
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Foreclosure filings and repossessions fell to their lowest level since 2007 last year.
Total filings, including default notices and bank repossessions were down 33% for the year to 2.7 million, according to RealtyTrac, the online marketer of foreclosed properties.
One in every 69 homes had at least one foreclosure filing during the year, while 804,000 homes were repossessed. That’s a significant improvement from the peaks reached in 2010 — when 1.05 million homes were repossessed — and the lowest levels seen since 2007.
More than 4 million homes have been lost to foreclosure over the past five years.
While the declines seem like good news for the housing market, where a flood of foreclosed homes has depressed home prices, much of it is due to processing delays caused by fall-out from the “robo-signing” scandal that broke in late 2010.
During the year, banks spent more time making sure paperwork was legal and proper, creating a backlog in the foreclosure pipeline. As a result, the average time it took to process a foreclosure climbed to 348 days during the fourth quarter, up from 305 days a year earlier.
“Foreclosures were in full delay mode in 2011, resulting in a dramatic drop in foreclosure activity for the year,” said Brandon Moore, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac.
However, Moore said there were “strong signs” during the second half of the year that lenders are working through foreclosure backlogs in certain markets. He expects foreclosure activity to rise above 2011′s level but remain below the peak hit in 2010.
Low rates offer some help for homeowners
Early in 2011, many forecasters were predicting a wave of foreclosures due to resetting adjustable-rate mortgages, but low mortgage rates helped many borrowers refinance into more affordable loans, said Moore.
The government helped as well, through efforts like the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), which made refinancing easier for borrowers who owe more on their mortgage than their homes are worth.
Government foreclosure prevention programs, including HARP and the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), have started about 5.5 million mortgage modifications since April 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“Programs like HAMP and HARP have definitely made a dent in the foreclosure problem,” said Moore “However, they are certainly not living up to their billing of preventing several million foreclosures. In addition, many [HAMP] homeowners fall back into foreclosure later on.”
Of course, there were still plenty of factors working against homeowners in 2011, including the continued erosion in home prices. Falling prices rob homeowners of home equity, which they can tap if they need emergency cash.
Foreclosure hot spots
Hot spots for foreclosures remain mostly in “bubble states,” where speculative investors helped drive up home prices beyond their fundamental values during the mid-2000s housing boom.
Nevada, where one out of every 16 households received some kind of default notice during the year, was the worst hit of all, a distinction it has held for the fifth consecutive year.
Arizona had the second highest foreclosure rate and California came in third. Florida, which had been running neck-and-neck with the other “Sand States” in past years, fell to seventh, behind Georgia, Utah and Michigan.
Among metro areas, Las Vegas suffered from the highest foreclosure rate in 2011. California put seven cities in the top 10, led by Stockton in the second slot. Other cities in the top 10 included Phoenix, which finished sixth, and Reno, Nev. was eighth.
Listing of the Week: Were you raised in a barn? Now you can be
The 80-year-old barn sits on a four-acre lot.
By Erika Riggs, Zillow
W151S10182 Thode Dr, Muskego WI
For sale: $260,000
There’s quite a few barns dotting Wisconsin’s landscape — some are in use, some are abandoned, and at least one outside of Milwaukee has been converted into a gorgeous home.
When owner Ron Ricco purchased his Muskego home several years ago, the 14-acre property came with two barns — an enormous 125-year old barn and a second smaller hay barn that had been partially converted into a living space.
“When I bought the property there was makeshift living quarters in it. It was barely a studio apartment so I saw the potential and stripped it down to the outside walls and rebuilt it from there,” said Ricco.
It took Ricco four years to complete work on the 80-year-old barn.
“I did a lot of the work myself,” said Ricco. “The things I didn’t do were things that took permits, things over my capability like the electrical and plumbing were done by a professional.”
Ricco did most of the woodwork and finishing. He restored the barn’s original wood floors and kept the timbers of the barn ceiling exposed, retaining its rustic feel.
There was never any real purpose in the renovation, Ricco says. “It was a labor of love, with no real thought with ‘What am I going to do with this when I’m done?’”
Once the property was finished, Ricco used the home as a guest house and more recently has been renting it out. But maintaining the barn, as well as his residence and 14 acres is a little more than he wants to handle. He split the property, keeping 10 acres and his home on one lot and the remaining four odd acres and the barn on another.
While the hay barn still looks like a barn from the outside, its interior has been completely transformed into a dramatic three-level living space with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.
The main floor holds a gourmet kitchen with two-story living room and stone fireplace. Below, the ground level holds a family room, office and bedroom. The master suite occupies most of the third floor and includes a loft area and full bath.
Situated in a rural setting abutted by wetlands, the barn is only 25 minutes to downtown Milwaukee.
“It’s a reasonable drive to work, but when you get home it feels like you’re on a farm,” said Ricco.
The home is listed by agent Flora Campbell. According to Zillow’s mortgage calculator, the estimated monthly payment on the home would be $963, assuming a 20 percent down payment on a 30-year-mortgage.
Refinished original hardwood floors and exposed timbers keep the barn’s rustic appeal.
The master suite occupies most of the third level.