Seth Lynn

Cell: 404.229.2100


Fax: 404.795.9079


Mailing Address:
Penguin Properties, C/O The UPS Store,
2897 North Druid Hills Road, Box #341
Atlanta, GA 30329


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The latest news from AOL Real Estate - Blog

Joan Rivers' Fifth Avenue 'Palace' Sells for $28 Million

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The Corcoran Group

UPDATE: Late comedian Joan Rivers' glitzy New York home has sold for its asking price of $28 million to unnamed "Middle East royalty," CNBC reports.

ORIGINAL POST 2/9/2015: Can we talk real estate? Joan Rivers' Versailles-esque condo on Manhattan's Upper East Side has hit the market for $28 million.

Rivers, who received a posthumous Grammy award earlier this year (see the video about daughter Melissa's acceptance below) lived in high style in the palatial penthouse just off Fifth Avenue at 1 E. 62nd Street. She used to quip it was a condo fit for Marie Antoinette -- if Antoinette were a rich New Yorker.

Melissa Rivers Tearfully Accepts Posthumous Grammy for Joan Rivers


Rivers' 11-room condo incorporates the top three floors of a seven-story, Gilded Age mansion built in 1903. The building was converted to condos in the 1930s.

It's a palace that was fit for the Queen of Comedy, who died in September after undergoing what was expected to be a routine endoscopy. The 5,100-square-foot home features a Louis XIV-inspired ballroom/music room with Greek columns, 23-foot ceilings painted with clouds, gilded antique paneling, and crystal chandeliers. The music room, which doubles as a dining room, features three French doors opening onto a south-facing terrace.

The condo also includes:
  • Four bedrooms, 4.5 baths.
  • Central Park and Manhattan skyline views.
  • Private elevator.
  • Wood-paneled library.
  • Huge master suite.
  • Separate two-bedroom guest apartment with living room and kitchen.
This is the third time Rivers' condo has been on the market: In 2012 and 2013, it was listed for $29.5 million.

Rivers is gone but was not forgotten when she won a Grammy for best spoken word album for her 2014 memoir, "Diary of a Mad Diva."

 

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Posted on 5 July 2015 | 5:05 am

Cash Buyers No Longer Overcrowding the Housing Market

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money house
Alex Kalina/Getty Images

By Bob Sullivan

In many parts of the country, housing prices gave returned to pre-recession levels. That's good news for sellers, bad news for buyers. But buried within the latest housing data is some good news for everyone -- everyone on Main Street, anyway.

All-cash buyers seem to be finally retreating. The percent of homes purchased by all-cash buyers in May was close to its long-term average going back to January 2000 of 24.8 percent, and well below its recent peak of 42.2 percent in February 2011, according to data released Thursday by RealtyTrac. It's one sign that the housing market is on the road back to a normal, "how do we find a place to live?" market, and away from the "how do I make a quick buck?" market.

What's an all-cash buyer? Someone -- or something -- with a lot of money. All-cash buyers don't need mortgages. They just show up with a check and buy a home. Generally, they are big investors such as hedge funds and foreign entities, buyers with no intention of living in the homes. They skew the market by soaking up inventory that could be purchased by a young family looking for a first-time home purchase. They also make such buyers look bad. If you were a seller and had two offers -- one all-cash, and one that still required financing to be arranged -- which would you choose?

"As housing transitions from an investor-driven, cash-is-king market to one more dependent on traditional buyers, sales volume has been increasing over the last few months and is on track in 2015 to hit the highest level we've seen since 2006," said RealtyTrac vice president Daren Blomquist.

The out-of-whack housing market has been suffering from a record level of all-cash buyers for the past several years -- well above historical norms, according to mortgage expert Logan Mohtashami. He says the retreat of cash buyers is a positive development.

"This is a positive as total sales are rising with less cash buyers as a part of the market place.... Less cash means more traditional buyers in the system, which means the supply and demand balance is more correlated to Main Street economics," Mohtashami said. "[This year] is trending between 24-27 percent, which is still very high, but this is the first time it's under 30 percent in every report."

Of course, the shrinking number of cash buyers doesn't mean prices are going down. In Manhattan, for example, the average sales price for an apartment just hit a record high -- $1.87 million. And it's not just New York. Home prices in Dallas, Denver, and San Francisco are positively bubble-icious, rising about 10 percent last year, soaring past pre-recession levels.

But with more first-time homebuyers and less inventory, at least the dynamics of home buying might change a bit.

"The competition in the marketplace is ... different," said Craig King, chief operating officer at Chase International brokerage, covering the Nevada markets of Lake Tahoe and Reno. "While inventory is tight, many investors have dropped out of the market and cash deals are not as prevalent as they were. Even in multi-offer situations, much has been equalized. This is great news for first-time buyers."

If you're looking to buy a home this year, make sure you know how much home you can afford (here's a calculator). And be sure to check your credit, since improving your credit scores can save you thousands of dollars in interest over the life of your mortgage. You can get a free credit report summary every month on Credit.com to see where you stand.

 

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Posted on 4 July 2015 | 6:54 am

Dennis Miller Sells Beach House for $3.5 Million Below List

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Riskin Associates via ZillowThe house features 6,000 feet in a beautiful cottage-style white but the real selling point is the 63 feet of beachfront.


By Melissa Allison

UPDATE: Comedian Dennis Miller and his wife sold their oceanside California mansion south of Santa Barbara for $19 million -- $3.5 million less than they were asking for the stylish estate.


ORIGINAL POST 1/4/2015: The beach retreat Dennis Miller and wife Carolyn Espley-Miller are listing for $22.5 million has an office -- but the buyers should expect to accomplish very little there, she warned.

"We joke that no work ever gets done, because we're either staring at the view or talking on the phone about how beautiful the view is," Espley-Miller told House Beautiful. "I had such a strong vision of a serene, whitewashed house on the sea. So I just gave the whole place a big dollop of white, from floors to ceiling."

People Dennis Miller Show
Associated PressDennis Miller

The 6,063-square-foot home has views of the Pacific Ocean and the mountains. It sits a little back from the beach on a half acre along Padaro Lane in Santa Barbara County, with five bedrooms, 5.5 bathrooms and 63 feet of beachfront.

"Besides it being right on the sand, the Padaro location is the crème de la crème of beach locations for this area," said Dina Landi, who listed the property at Riskin Associates.

"One of the things that makes that particular house on Padaro Lane special is its very open floor plan, the incredible amount of natural light that comes into the house and the privacy you get" from it being set a little back from the beach, Landi said.

The light extends all the way to the master suite, where the bathroom is "very white and very simple," Espley-Miller told House Beautiful. "I wanted nothing to detract from the incredible view and the light."

Miller, perhaps still best known for his roles on "Saturday Night Live," appeared in the television series "House of Cards" in 2013 and narrated the reality series "Forever Young."

 

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Posted on 2 July 2015 | 8:09 am

5 Ways to Handle the Eyesore Next Door Before You Sell

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Rundown house , Prince Edward Island , Canada
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By Laura Agadoni

You're almost ready to put your house on the market when you realize it: The neighborhood eyesore is going to pose a problem.

Sure, we know some people might view any attempts to hide an eyesore from view as being underhanded, sneaky, and designed to fool unsuspecting buyers. They might envision unscrupulous sellers and agents who keep their fingers crossed, just hoping no one spots the eyesore next door.

If you feel that way, by all means, point out the junkyard behind you that's worthy of "American Pickers," the yard next door that looks more like a prairie than a lawn, or the bail bonds sign spray-painted on the wall across the street.

For the rest of us, here are five ways to resolve these eyesore neighbor issues so would-be buyers won't be scared off. And who knows? Maybe if you tackle these unsavory sights, you'll decide not to sell your home after all.

1. Ask your neighbor to fix the problem.

This solution can be tricky. There's really no easy way to tell someone that his or her house is the neighborhood eyesore. But there are some methods that might help.

"Just writing a friendly note (dropped off with a bottle of wine or another small gift) can sometimes do the trick," says Ross Anthony, a San Diego real estate agent.

It also can't hurt to mention to your neighbor that the more your home sells for, the more his or her home will be worth.

2. Be neighborly.

You know how people can become desensitized to certain smells? ("How did you know I had a cat?") Well, people can become so accustomed to the condition of their house that they don't notice when it looks run-down.

This sometimes happens with elderly homeowners: Either they haven't realized the condition of their home or they simply can't manage the upkeep. You might think a condo or townhouse situation might better suit your overwhelmed neighbor, but steer clear of that suggestion.

Instead, offer to spruce up the house yourself. "If it is an elderly person, I offer to help," says Sarah Bentley Pearson, an Atlanta real estate agent.

But it's not just elderly neighbors with houses that could benefit from a little TLC -- just think of all the work you did to get your house in selling shape.

Alexander Ruggie of 911 Restoration in Los Angeles says that if the next-door neighbor has a poor paint job, a wobbly fence, or a caved-in garage, there's no reason you can't offer to help fix the problem. "Most people would be surprised how much they can convince people to do when they offer to help do it."

3. Notify your HOA.

If you live in a community with a homeowners association (HOA), let it know about the unkempt house near you. One of the main reasons HOAs exist is to prevent homes in the neighborhood from becoming eyesores that could drive down the value of other homes.

Your HOA might send a letter to the offending neighbor warning him or her to fix the problem or face fines. Or the HOA might take care of the problem and then bill the homeowner.

4. Call the city.

If your neighbor won't mow his or her lawn, get rid of the junk outside, or let you help tidy up, you can always call your local government.

"If there is a really bad problem, like the grass is a foot tall and there are junk cars on the front lawn, your neighbors are probably in violation of local codes and can be forced to clean up," says John Z. Wetmore, producer of the TV show "Perils for Pedestrians."

Do this well in advance of putting your house on the market. The city could give your neighbor up to 90 days to meet housing codes.

Wetmore also suggests that you "walk around the block and pick up any litter along the public streets and sidewalks."

If the house is a bank-owned foreclosure, find out which bank owns the property by checking county title records. Insist the bank maintain the property.

5. Plant view-blocking trees or install a fence.

It might be worth the investment to block an unsavory view. If you plant trees, choose ones that are at least six feet tall to give you an immediate sense of privacy. Privacy fences should also be six feet high.

If your neighbors are noisy, putting in a small water feature can drown out the racket.

"You only have one first impression," says Anthony, the San Diego real estate agent. "You want potential buyers to fall in love with your home before writing it off due to an unkempt neighboring property."

 

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Posted on 2 July 2015 | 7:41 am

Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick Sell at $750K Loss

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ZillowThe Greenwich Village townhouse features six bedrooms and seven fireplaces, including this one in a bathroom.

By Melissa Allison

Maybe Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick should stick with flipping their hair.

The savvy New Yorkers bought this Greenwich Village townhouse in 2011 for nearly $19 million. They put it on the market the next year, and after almost three years of trying to unload it, have finally found a buyer -- at $18.25 million, as first reported by Curbed.

The couple and their children reportedly never lived in the 6,800-square-foot home, which is 25 feet wide and has six bedrooms and seven -- count 'em, seven -- fireplaces.

There are twin fireplaces on the "parlor" floor, a marble fireplace near the kitchen, a Victorian fireplace in a guest suite and a stone fireplace -- plus a hand-carved stone tub -- in the master suite. Photos indicate a couple more fireplaces in bedrooms.

The ground floor opens onto a split-level, landscaped garden that is also visible from a Juliet balcony off the second floor, and the master suite boasts a large, private terrace.

The listing agent for the home was Fredrik Eklund of Douglas Elliman.

 

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Posted on 30 June 2015 | 3:16 pm

Why Mom and Dad Should Charge Millennials Rent

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Man walking through door in house outline
Getty Images

By Erin Lowry

The cliche of 20-somethings taking up refuge in their parents' basements is a now tired way to describe millennials. Unfortunately, it became a stereotype because it's true. Millennials have been known to graduate college, quit work or just opt out of adult life and scurry back to the nest.

But for every millennial who ran home to mommy and daddy, there is a set of parents who allowed a grown child to linger in a state of arrested development without consequence. Which begs the question, what is a loving parent to do?

Charge the kid rent, of course.

Before boomers and millennials alike end up in a blind rage, understand that extolling a little tough love is exactly the way parents can lead a stray millennial back to the expressway toward adulthood.

The Return Home Trend

There is no shame in needing to head back home for some time to figure out the next steps. A lot has changed in how the world works. Not that long ago, it was standard that many young men and women would graduate from college and get married just a few months later.

Today, few millennials are leaving college and heading straight down the aisle. Plus, the job market was slow moving for those who graduated four to eight years ago. And let's not forget to mention the massive student loan burden. So a precedent was set that those who elected not to leap into graduate school or who were struggling to find employment would return home -- for a little while.

A little while sometimes turned into years. And hordes of graduating millennials each May still return home (even though the job market has warmed up again).

This phenomenon has been aided by parents willing to let their children take up residence at home and return to a life of mom and dad cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and fulfilling other parts of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Living at home is just easy.

Why Millennials Need to Cough Up Rent

Just because living at home is easy doesn't mean it should be free. The easier the lifestyle, the harder it will be for a child to feel motivated to strike out on his or her own and learn the life skills necessary to survive outside the protective bosom of mom and dad.

This is why millennials living at home need to pay rent.

The demand for rent means the millennial needs to get a job -- even if the job is stocking shelves at the grocery store or whipping up drinks at Starbucks. Keeping idle hands busy and dealing with obnoxious customers in exchange for a paycheck barely above minimum wage will help motivate young millennials to find a career and put that degree to good use.

Paying rent will also force a child living at home to learn how to budget for paying student loans, going out with friends and purchasing whatever they consider necessities. This assumes parents aren't back on the allowance bandwagon and subsidizing the child's stay at Resort de Mom and Dad.

Asking for rent from a child doesn't mean it needs to be at market value. You don't need to charge the same amount he or she would pay to live in an apartment in your town. About $100 or $150 a month would do just fine.

What to Do with the Money

The money a child contributes to rent could go toward paying household bills. If you use this method, be sure to share with your child how you are spending his or her money. It will help rationalize the need to pay rent if your child sees their money is helping to pay off the mortgage, pad the grocery budget that dropped since he or she went off to college or pay off a parent PLUS loan taken out to help him or her through college.

Parents who don't feel the need to use the money collected from a child can quietly create a "parental 401(k)." This will force a child to save money without him or her knowing it. When it comes time for the child to move out, parents can present the nest egg in the form of a check, or deposit it into a bank account. If parents are feeling really generous, they can provide a percentage match like an employer would. This is a great way to plant a seed to encourage a child to put money in an employer-sponsored retirement plan once he or she starts a job.

Alternatives to Charging Rent

Many parents have trouble with the idea of charging their child rent. It doesn't feel right. That's fine, but it doesn't mean your nesting millennial should get off without contributing to the family pot.

Instead of asking for an upfront monthly fee, you could require a child to buy the family groceries or put money toward one of the monthly bills such as water, electric or cable. Or you could just return to the glories days of the chore wheel.

 

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Posted on 30 June 2015 | 2:16 pm

Mortgage Rates Break 4% Again Before Falling Back to 3.93%

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ZillowThe weekly mortgage rate chart illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest rate in six-hour intervals.

By Lauren Braun

Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans fell this week, with the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgages at 3.93 percent Tuesday, down 2 basis points from the same time last week.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose to 4.03 percent Friday and remained there through the weekend, then dropped to 3.88 percent Monday before returning to the current rate.

"After moving higher on Friday, rates fell as markets absorbed the shock of Greece's decision to close its banks leading up to a referendum on its debt negotiations," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "Greece will likely dominate financial headlines again this week, but Thursday's early jobs report could move markets if lenders don't clock out early for the Fourth of July holiday."

Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 3.04 percent. For 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.88 percent.

Check Zillow Mortgages for trends and up-to-the-minute rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.

 

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Posted on 30 June 2015 | 12:41 pm

The 11 Questions You Need to Ask Before Signing a Lease

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handing over of keys after...
Shutterstock

By Niccole Schreck

If you've found your dream apartment and you're getting ready to sign the lease, all of your biggest questions should have already been answered. You don't want to agree to live somewhere without knowing how much it's going to cost you per month and whether all the appliances are working properly, right?

But there are a number of questions you'll want to ask before you sign your apartment lease, which is a legally binding document and shouldn't be taken lightly. Ideally, the property manager or landlord will walk you through the process. When they do, keep these 11 questions in mind:

1. How do I pay rent? This is something that differs from company to company and landlord to landlord, so it's an important question to ask every time you move somewhere new. You may have to send a check to a specific address or P.O. Box, but some apartment communities will have you drop off a check in a box at the main office. Others will let you pay online. Make note of the preferred payment method for your new apartment.

2. What utilities should I take care of? Some apartments include utilities in the rent and some don't, so make sure you know which ones to handle independently, including electricity, Internet, cable, water and gas. You'll have to call each company and set up an account for the apartment under your name. You should also see if the building already has deals with any of the providers. Cable and Internet companies often make deals with property management companies, which usually means the residents get cheaper monthly bills.

3. What Is the late rent policy? Is there a grace period? Many landlords allow residents until the third or fifth of the month before they deem the rent to be "late," but make sure you know your apartment's specific policy so you don't end up paying additional fees.

4. Is renters insurance required? Renters insurance is always a good idea, and it typically doesn't cost that much per month. However, some management companies require residents to have a policy, so double check with yours.

5. What happens if I have to move out early? It may not seem like it, but 12 months is a long time to commit, especially if you think you may move for your career or family in the near future. So, what happens if you need to leave before your lease is up? Ask if getting out of your lease early is possible, how much notice you need to give and whether you're allowed to sublet. If moving out early isn't an option, make sure you know the fee for breaking the lease.

6. Can I make changes to the apartment? Some landlords couldn't care less if you painted the walls black and the trim purple, while others would dock your security deposit if you tacked a poster to the wall. If you're planning on decorating your place, make sure you double check the apartment's policy for making changes to the space. If your landlord says you can paint or make changes that aren't spelled out in the lease, be sure to get everything in writing.

7. How do I submit a maintenance request? What if it's an emergency? Is there a maintenance staff member on-site 24/7? If not, what happens if your heat stops working in the middle of winter, your pipes burst, your toilet floods or some other unimaginable maintenance issue arises? Ask for an email address or phone number for basic requests (like if one of your burners stops working or your faucet drips) and if there is separate contact information for emergencies. Some apartment communities even have online maintenance request systems.

8. What can I expect when lease renewal time rolls around? It's a good idea to find out upfront what to expect when it comes time to renew the lease. Are you allowed to extend the lease on a month-to-month basis? Will the lease automatically renew if you don't give notice of move-out? Is the rent going to go up? And if so, by how much? Knowing the answer to these questions now will prepare you better when it's time to decide between renewing and moving out.

9. What is the pet policy? Say you don't already have a pet (if you did, you should already know the pet policy way before signing a lease). If you think there's even a slight possibility you'll want to adopt a furry friend within the next year, find out now if pets are allowed. If they are, discuss how much more you'll be paying each month and if there are any deposits or fees involved.

10. Can you document any current damage in the apartment? If your landlord or management company doesn't bring it up, make sure you do a walk-through of your apartment to make a detailed list of any scratches, holes or other damage currently in the apartment. That way, you won't be blamed for damage you didn't do.

11. What are some reasons you wouldn't refund my security deposit? Finally, it's a good idea to find out the circumstances in which you wouldn't get your security deposit back. Some wear and tear to the floors and walls is normal and shouldn't affect your deposit too much, but how does the management define damage that's beyond normal?

The answers to these questions will hopefully leave you with all the information you need to make the move-in process a success.

 

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Posted on 29 June 2015 | 4:43 am

Chrissy Teigen, John Legend List NYC One-BR for $4.5 Million

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ZillowAt 2,000 square feet, the home isn't tiny by Manhattan standards, but it still has only one bedroom and two baths.


By Natalie Wise

Only two superstars like Chrissy Teigen and John Legend -- and few cities in the world but New York -- could command $4.5 million for a one-bedroom apartment.

Recently, the most expensive condo in San Francisco sold for $2.3 million in less than a month. But the couple's Nolita apartment in the Brewster Carriage House just hit the market for nearly twice as much, the New York Post reported, and it could sell quickly too.

Though only 2,000 square feet with one bedroom and two bathrooms, the modern luxe apartment has the added cache of being the abode of the glamorous supermodel and musician. The home itself is also a star: Architectural Digest recently featured the unit on its cover.

Exposed brick and wood keep the historic details of the carriage house front and center, though every decorating detail says "celebrity." The open floor plan is enhanced by plenty of windows, a cozy gas fireplace and smart home technology.

Reclaimed wood, cast iron columns and brass lighting feature prominently in the chef's kitchen and bar that open into the living and dining area. Despite the small space, the home includes a butler's pantry, laundry room, walk-in closet and a large alcove that can flex between being an office and guest quarters.

The master suite is anything but cramped or devoid of luxury. A deep cast iron soaking tub, walk-in shower and radiant floor heating keep the bathroom extravagant.

Despite the home's apparent charms, Teigen and Legend are ready for a change of scenery. Not long ago they sold their Hollywood Hills home, too. Kids are soon to come, Teigen commented recently, and for that, they'll need more space.

Jason Walker of Compass holds the listing.

 

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Posted on 27 June 2015 | 11:59 am

Queen Elizabeth II Reportedly Buys an Apartment in NYC

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ZillowThe Royal Family reportedly owns a unit on the 18th floor of a building designed by British architect Norman Foster.

By Streeteasy

What kind of pied-a-terre would an 89-year-old British monarch require to make New York City feel like an extension of the royal palace? According to The Real Deal, that would be an $8 million, three-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom apartment on the 18th floor at 50 United Nations Plaza.

Germany Britain
APQueen Elizabeth II

Is it Buckingham Palace East? Well, no. The Norman Foster-designed building in Turtle Bay is far more sleek and modern, and there's nary a beefeater standing sentry in this luxurious, secure and private building adjacent to the U.N.

With Buckingham Palace in need of serious renovation, Queen Elizabeth II might be plotting getaways beyond her current options including Windsor Castle, Balmoral Castle in Scotland and Sandringham House in Norfolk.

What drew the queen to this unit? It might have something to do with the 50-foot long dining room and grand foyer, suitable for large-scale entertaining. There's also a private motor court and garden entry to the building. Last, but not least, the queen has tapped the shoulder of architect Foster before -- when she knighted him back in 1990.

And if the queen winds up making only rare use of the place, perhaps she'll allow her grandchildren and great-grandkids to use the pad the next time they're in town to hang out with Jay Z and Beyonce at a Brooklyn Nets game.

 

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Posted on 25 June 2015 | 5:12 pm

This Couple Paid Off a 30-Year Mortgage in Just 7 Years

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Courtesy of Andrea Stewart via Credit.comJerimiah Honer and Andrea Stewart paid off their 30-year mortgage on a $300,000 California home in just seven years.

By Christine DiGangi

The idea behind paying off a loan faster than scheduled is pretty simple: It saves you money. That's a huge part of the reason California couple Andrea Stewart and Jerimiah Honer decided to repay their 30-year mortgage in just seven years -- by doing so, they saved more than $130,000 in interest. Now the couple has an opportunity to achieve other goals, like invest beyond their property and existing retirement funds, travel and maybe do a little shopping. The frugal pair hasn't done a lot of that in the last several years.

Stewart, 32, and Honer, 36, worked hard to save money as they tried to accelerate their loan repayment, but they acknowledge they also had a lot of luck. Paying off debt is a different journey for everyone, but here's how they quickly achieved their dream of owning their own home.

The Details

Stewart and Honer bought their house on a 0.10-acre lot in Sacramento for nearly $300,000 in 2008. Their combined annual income from their full-time jobs amounts to roughly $150,000, but they received supplemental income from a variety of sources along the way to repaying the mortgage. They made a 10% down payment and received a 30-year mortgage with a 6.75 percent interest rate, but they refinanced twice, to 5.25 percent and then to 3.875 percent. Honer calculated their estimated savings of $130,000 using the lowest rate. The couple had some student loan debt when they took out the mortgage, but by paying an additional $200 a month toward their education debt, those loans were paid off by the end of their first year in the house.

That's when they switched their attention to the mortgage.

How They Paid Off a 30-Year Mortgage in 7 Years

The property itself had a huge impact on the couple's ability to put a lot of money toward their home loan. The house is close to downtown Sacramento, allowing them to easily commute by bicycle and sell their second car. Honer and Stewart also grow most of their own food.

"It's actually easier to go into your backyard and pick things than go to the grocery store," Honer said. "We like the organic element as well as it's a huge bill cut."

Not only did they save a lot on gas, vehicle expenses and grocery bills, they also budgeted as if they made less money in the first place. Honer crunched the numbers, and even though both he and Stewart have full-time jobs, they figured out they could manage under one income. The second income went toward the mortgage, and Honer made his own amortization schedule to determine how much they could afford to pay (and eventually save).

Much of their success stems from their mindset toward money.

"I think we were always frugal to begin with -- we're both savers," Stewart said. "One of the things we asked ourselves when we made a purchase was, 'Is this really going to make us happy?' ... We try to have experiences like traveling and things like that, yeah, but I don't think [we like] a lot of stuff."

Or, as Honer puts it: "We don't know how to spend money anymore. We kind of forgot." He also said that they're not "big credit people," and even though a mortgage is a helpful credit instrument, it was important to them to be out of debt as soon as possible. (You can see how your debts and your payment history are affecting your credit by getting your free credit report summary on Credit.com.)

Tips for Paying Off Debt Fast

For anyone interested in trying to replicate the couple's success, there are a few things to know. First, they paid off their other debt obligations (student loans). In addition to cutting out expenses and keeping to a strict budget, Honer and Stewart received some money besides their regular income, which they put toward the loan. The two are aspiring writers and made some money from side gigs, but they also received personal-injury settlements from two separate times a car hit one of them while riding a bicycle. Getting hit by a car isn't exactly good fortune, but the settlements amounted to $37,000, which helped cut down the debt. Inspired by a friend's successful pregnancy through egg donation, Stewart twice donated eggs and received about $6,000 each time.

Their story is a combination of hard work, a solid financial situation and luck, but a lot of their success comes down to decision-making: They could have done a lot with their regular income and the additional money they came into, but they chose to put it toward a specific goal. That means their home cost them thousands of dollars less than it could have if they paid for it on schedule.

There's not much they would have done differently, though they admit they could have saved more, rather than just pay off the home loan and contribute to their retirement accounts. Honer and Stewart don't see themselves changing their spending habits now that this huge loan is behind them, and they plan to stay in the home for a long time. Now they're interested in exploring other investments and maybe even retiring early some day.

"I hope it helps some people," Stewart said of her decision to share their story. She posted about it on Reddit, where it generated a lot of conversation. Her advice? "I would say just think about what makes you happy." That's what drove their decisions, and it kept them on track for years.

 

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Posted on 24 June 2015 | 7:24 am

Whoopi Goldberg Is Selling Her Northern California Victorian

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ZillowTraditional on the outside, the 1890 home retains period details inside but has been updated for modern life.

By Natalie Wise

Whoopi Goldberg has eclectic real estate taste. She sold her Vermont estate in 2011, and before that, her Soho loft. Now it's a Northern California home in Berkeley that's up for grabs, as first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

Actress, comedian and "The View" co-host Goldberg is listing the 1890 Victorian for $1.275 million. Though the double lot is still small at only one-third of an acre, the property includes the main house, a detached barn/cottage, five garages and plenty of beautiful outdoor living space.

The main house features an updated but subdued family friendly space with three bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms. Comfortable but not overstated, the space retains many period details, including woodwork, hardware, a rolling library ladder and plenty of bookshelves.

The barn/cottage is a wide-open wooden space full of vintage charm. There are two fireplaces to keep things cozy in the winter, and skylights for ample natural light.

The outdoor areas really shine, and are perfectly suited to enjoying the Berkeley climate. The porch is well-shaded by mature landscaping, and a curving brick patio invites dining alfresco. There are also open grass spaces for pets and children to enjoy.

Real estate records show the house was last on the market in 1985 and purchased for a mere $335,000, right at the height of Goldberg's career. "The Color Purple" came out the same year, followed in 1992 by "Sister Act."

Colleen Larkin of Thornwall Properties holds the listing.

 

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Posted on 23 June 2015 | 3:40 pm

Mortgage Rates Fluctuate But Remain Under 4%

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ZillowThe weekly mortgage rate chart illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest rate in six-hour intervals.

By Lauren Braun

Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans rose this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgages at 3.95 percent, up 2 basis points from the same time last week.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell to 3.82 percent on Friday, then hovered around 3.86 percent before rising to the current rate on Tuesday.

"Rates fell last week due to continued uncertainty about Greece's fiscal situation and the Fed signaling it might wait longer than expected to raise interest rates, but recovered as negotiations with Greece continue," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "Rates will likely be volatile until a deal between Greece and its creditors is finalized."

Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 3.04 percent, and for 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.82 percent.

Check Zillow Mortgages for rate trends and up-to-the-minute rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.

 

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Posted on 23 June 2015 | 3:31 pm

3 DIY Projects to Try and 3 Times to Call for a Pro's Help

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portrait of happy african...
ShutterstockInterior painting is a project even an enthusiastic novice can handle, though careful prep will yield the best results.

By Abby Hayes

Nearly one-third of Americans are planning a home renovation this year, according to a Liberty Mutual Insurance survey of 2,000 adults. Of those, 7 in 10 plan to do at least some of the work themselves. DIYing it can be a great way to save money, but you have to be careful with the projects you choose to tackle on your own.

Projects that look enticing and easy on Pinterest can easily go awry if you're an inexperienced DIYer. Even experienced DIYers can have trouble handling some of the more difficult home improvement projects.

So which projects should you tackle to increase your home's value, and which ones should you hire out to a professional? Master carpenter Chip Wade of "Ellen's Design Challenge" and HGTV's "Elbow Room" weighs in.

To DIY

Let's start with the hopeful side of this equation. You can give your home a boost this summer and save money by doing it yourself. You just have to be careful which projects you choose. Chip's top three projects for homeowners to DIY include landscaping, seating and interior painting.

1. Landscaping. This can be a huge project, but you can use a few simple tricks to add some curb appeal and comfort to your home. "A tip I always give is for homeowners or renters to start by removing dead plants, or trimming unhealthy plants that may bloom later on in the season," Wade says. This simple trick can make your home appear more pulled-together. Then, add splashes of color with easy-care perennials in a front garden bed, or place potted annuals on the porch.

2. Seating. If you're hankering to start hammering something, building multipurpose outdoor furniture is a good place to begin. Boxy, bench-style furniture is a great option for cutting your teeth on carpentry. It's fairly easy to build, and there are plenty of tutorials online. This easy, versatile seating can instantly update a front porch or back deck, and give you a more personable outdoor space.

3. Painting. The easiest of these projects is probably interior painting, and it can make a huge difference. The right paint can make a space look larger and more finished. Or you can simply update the look of your home by opting for a trendy color, like these in the Benjamin Moore Color Trends 2015 palette.

Not to DIY

When it comes to home renovation, Wade says, some projects are simply best left to the professionals. Certain projects, of course, are downright dangerous. For instance, you don't want to go around messing with electrical wiring if you don't know what you're doing. The top three popular projects Wade cautions homeowners against tackling alone include outdoor pathways, retaining walls and large landscaping.

1. Outdoor pathways. This can seem like an easy, cheap DIY project. Pinterest, after all, is full of cute ideas for outdoor walkways. However, Wade notes, homeowners often skimp on costs by using less expensive materials, which crack in a season and need to be replaced. Plus, ensuring an absolutely level underlayment is essential. Without proper tools and knowledge to level the walkway, even the best materials will crack.

2. Retaining walls. These are similarly difficult to install properly, though they can look effortless. Most homeowners don't understand the intricacies of properly installing a wall that will last for years to come. Engineering is essential, especially for walls over 2 feet high.

3. Large landscaping. The last project to steer clear of may seem contradictory. Wade did say that landscaping is a great DIY project, right? However, when it comes to planting medium-to-large sized trees, it's a whole different story. These trees and shrubs need particular care to help them take root. You don't want to spend hundreds on an ornamental tree only to have it die within a season.

If you decide to hire professionals for some must-do projects this summer, Wade gives some good advice: "A great way to find a professional is to ask friends or neighbors who they have used for their renovations or home projects. Additionally, if you have one trusted professional, he or she may be able to recommend a skilled worker they have worked with in the past."

DIY projects can be a great way to save on summer upgrades to your home. But you won't save a dime if you waste money on a project that's better left to the pros,

 

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Posted on 23 June 2015 | 7:31 am

Phil Collins Buys J.Lo's Former Paradise in Miami Beach

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Lou Novick via ZillowThe property features 200 feet of Biscayne Bay waterfront along with views of the lights of Miami.

By Melissa Allison

Phil Collins just snagged a slice of tropical paradise that once belonged to Jennifer Lopez. The $33 million deal was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Built in 1929, the Mediterranean-style estate in Miami Beach includes 200 feet of waterfront on Biscayne Bay. The home measures 12,153 square feet and boasts seven bedrooms, 9.5 baths, and views of the Miami skyline.

J.Lo sold the home in 2005 to businessman Mark Gainor, who told the Journal he spent three years renovating it. Against all odds, he removed the roof and reconfigured the second floor, including creating a roughly 1,000-square-foot master suite.

He kept the exterior's charming villa style, but remade the inside for contemporary living with an elevator, a giant wine cellar, custom walk-in closets and a three-car garage.

Built for privacy and entertainment, the gated, 1.2-acre spread features a royal palm forest, a pool and spa, a summer kitchen and a cabana, plus a large new dock with a boat lift and double jet-ski lift.

The listing agent for the sale to Collins was Nelson Gonzalez of EWM Realty International, an affiliate of Christie's International Real Estate.

 

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Posted on 21 June 2015 | 3:26 pm

8 Reasons Not to Set a Home Price High

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A 3D rendering of rising arrows with dollar signs
McKevin Shaughnessy/GettySetting a listing price too high above market value in hopes of getting a higher sales price for your home can backfire.

By Laura Agadoni

One goal when you're selling your house is to get as much money as possible. It can be tempting to overprice. There's always a chance you might score big. Right?

Technically, yes. But that doesn't mean testing the market by setting your home's price above what the house is worth is a good strategy. In fact, there are many reasons not to test the market this way.

1. You won't get offers (but your neighbors might).

It's great to be a good neighbor, but unintentionally sacrificing your sale to help your neighbors sell their homes might be going a bit far.

When you price too high, you're "helping sell the other homes in the neighborhood that have listed for less," says Brad Chandler, a Virginia real estate agent.

After seeing your high-priced home, buyers may be eager to get the better-value house nearby -- even if they liked your home better.

2. You lose credibility.

Buyers are savvy. They've usually done the research and have a ballpark idea of what homes in your neighborhood are worth. When you price too high, people might decide not to even look at your property.

3. Not everyone likes to play "Let's Make a Deal."

A common reason sellers price high is that it leaves room for negotiation. The problem with this tactic? If buyers overlook your house because it's out of their budget, there will be no one to negotiate with.

"While some buyers might enjoy the negotiation process, a solid buyer respects and appreciates a home priced just right," says real estate broker Denise Panza.

4. You're turning people into "yes men."

Some sellers who price high are given false hope by agents who are uncomfortable telling their clients the truth.

"Beware of 'sign agents,'" says Jerry Grodesky, an Illinois real estate broker. What's a sign agent? Some agents may agree to any price you want just to get their sign on your lawn.

Roh Habibi, star of the TV show "Million Dollar Listing San Francisco," says that some agents like the prestige of having a high-priced listing associated with their name.

Instead of listing at the inflated price, Habibi says, he gets sellers to "come to realistic expectations of what the home will likely sell for."

5. You squander the early days.

Sellers are in the driver's seat the first 30 days a house is on the market. The listing is still new, so you have buyers' attention.

The ideal scenario is that you price to sell in the first two weeks, says David Feldberg, a California real estate broker. That way, you stand to get multiple offers.

"When you price a home too high, you waste some of the time [during which] you have the most leverage with any potential buyer," says Feldberg.

6. Your house gets stale.

If your house is on the market longer than 30 days, buyers will start wondering whether something's wrong with it.

"Real estate agents refer to this as a stale home," says Texas real estate agent Sissy Lappin, co-founder of ListingDoor.com. She adds, "When you price your home too high, all you're doing is putting blood in the water for the sharks who will wait until you lower your price."

And here's the real problem: When you do drop the price, you often get less for your house than if you offered a realistic price from the start. California real estate agent Drew Nelson explains that the longer a house sits on the market "translates directly to a larger discount from list price to ultimate sales price."

7. People won't even see your listing.

People generally set up search parameters by price when looking online for a home.

Let's say your house is worth $319,000, but you're asking $330,000. You won't capture buyers who search for houses within the $300,000 to $325,000 range.

"But if the house were priced properly, it would show up in the buyer's search results," says Troy Balakhan, a Florida real estate agent.

8. The house won't appraise at the high price.If you're selling to buyers who are getting a mortgage -- in other words, most buyers -- the lender will need an appraisal.

"If comparable home sales over the last six months and current market conditions don't support your sales price, then your buyer won't get the mortgage," explains Lawrence Sanek, a Florida real estate agent.

 

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Posted on 17 June 2015 | 9:18 am

Rates Fall to 3.93% After Briefly Breaking 4% Barrier

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ZillowThe weekly mortgage rate chart illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest rate in six-hour intervals.

By Lauren Braun

Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans fell this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgages at 3.93 percent, down 3 basis points from the same time last week.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose to 4.01 percent last week before falling and then hovering around the current rate for the rest of the week.

"Rates retreated from their nine-month highs late last week as a new round of concerns emerged about Greece exiting the eurozone," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "This week there is the potential for a big rate move as markets focus on Wednesday's Federal Open Market Committee meeting and a resolution of Greek debt negotiation, two forces that could push rates in opposite directions."

Additionally, the 15-year fixed rate was 3.05 percent. For 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.93 percent.

Check Zillow Mortgages for trends and up-to-the-minute rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.

 

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Posted on 17 June 2015 | 9:14 am

Mortgage Rates Jump Higher, Approaching 4%

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ZillowThe weekly mortgage rate chart illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest rate in six-hour intervals.

By Lauren Braun

Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans rose this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgages at 3.96 percent, up 18 basis points from the same time last week.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose to 3.98 percent Friday, then hovered there before settling at the current rate on Tuesday.

"Rates jumped sharply last week -- first on the heels of news that the European Central Bank's bond buying program may end sooner than expected, then an exceptionally strong U.S. jobs report," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "We expect less volatility in this data-light week."

Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 3.09 percent. For 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 3.01 percent.

Check Zillow Mortgages for mortgage rate trends and up-to-the-minute rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to figure monthly payments at the current rates.

 

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Posted on 9 June 2015 | 3:27 pm

What a $1 Million Home Looks Like

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ZillowThis six-bedroom home in the Buckhead area of Atlanta listed for $995,000 and has 5,300 square feet of living space.

By Sharona Ott

Television shows like "Million Dollar Listing" display some of the hottest listings in Los Angeles and New York, but what will a cool million buy around the rest of the country?

Plenty of noteworthy million-dollar homes for sale can be found outside of these two metropolises. Whether your taste leans toward modern marvels, restored historics, or opulent Mediterraneans, these million-dollar listings will give you a thrill.

Denver

4251 Perry St.
For sale: $950,000

Denver, CO
Zillow

Built in 2015, this four-bedroom, three-bath modern home is perfect for those looking for the hottest architectural trends of the moment.

See more homes listed in Denver.

Miami

3060 SW 4th Avenue
For sale: $999,500

Miami, FL
Zillow

Surrounded by lush foliage, this three-bedroom, 3.5-bath Mediterranean home feels like a European villa and is equipped with a coveted modern interior.

See more Miami homes for sale.

Dallas

6405 Royal Lane
For sale: $975,000

Dallas, TX
Zillow

This five-bedroom, 4.5-bathroom brick home is waiting for you to make it your castle -- complete with an extravagant iron staircase, soaring ceilings, and landscaped backyard with a pool and spa.

See more homes listed in Dallas.

Seattle

6245 Chatham Drive South
For sale: $998,000

Seattle, WA int
Zillow

If the luxurious interior and the lush exterior of this midcentury modern home are not enough, the views of Lake Washington, Mount Rainier and the city will win your heart.

See more Seattle homes for sale.

Minneapolis

2215 Pillsbury Ave S
For sale: $999,900

Minneapolis, MN
Zillow

Built by famed Minneapolis-based architect Harry Wild Jones, this three-story colonial revival is a gem, boasting modern updates and an in-ground pool.

See more homes for sale in Minneapolis.

Chicago

5011 N Oakley Ave.
For sale: $999,000

Chicago, IL
Zillow

This newly constructed four-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom home brings comfort to city living with an enormous high-end kitchen and a spacious back deck.

See more homes for sale in Chicago.

Atlanta

2914 Wyngate Drive NW
For sale: $995,000

Atlanta, GA
Zillow

Perched on almost an acre of land, this six-bedroom, five-bath estate evokes the essence of a bygone era, with a spiral staircase, elegant crown molding, and a tranquil sunroom.

See more Atlanta homes for sale.

Portland

2260 NE 30th Avenue
For sale: $989,000

Portland, OR
Zillow

This lovely five-bedroom, three-bath Tudor home is loaded with unique architectural details, including arches and mahogany woodwork.

See more homes listed in Portland.

Charlotte

5100 Piper Glen Drive
For sale: $999,000

Charlotte, NC
Zillow

The special features of this five-bedroom, 6.75-bathroom brick home include a 1,000-bottle wine cellar and a guest apartment with elevator access to all floors.

See more homes listed in Charlotte.

San Jose

1669 Curtner Avenue
For sale: $964,900

San Jose, CA
Zillow

This three-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom home has a private courtyard entrance that leads to a completely remodeled interior with an open floor plan, with updates such as a large gourmet kitchen with high-end appliances.

See more homes for sale in San Jose.

 

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Posted on 8 June 2015 | 10:52 pm

After the Bust: Retired and Still Saddled With a Mortgage

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Senior Couple Calculating Budget
Andrey Popov/GettyAbout 30 percent of homeowners 65 and older were paying a mortgage in 2013, up from 22 percent in 2001.

By Paul Wiseman
AP Economics Writer


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Al and Saundra Karp have found an unconventional way to raise money and help save their Miami-area home from foreclosure: They're lining up gigs for their family jazz band.

They enjoy performing. But it isn't exactly how Al, an 86-year-old Korean War vet, or Saundra, 76, had expected to spend their retirement.

Of all the financial threats facing Americans of retirement age -- outliving savings, falling for scams, paying for long-term care -- housing isn't supposed to be one. But after a home-price collapse, the worst recession since the 1930s and some calamitous decisions to turn homes into cash machines, millions of them are straining to make house payments.

The consequences can be severe. Retirees who use retirement money to pay housing costs can face disaster if their health deteriorates or their savings run short. They're more likely to need help from the government, charities or their children. Or they must keep working deep into retirement.

"It's a big problem coming off the housing bubble," says Cary Sternberg, who advises seniors on housing issues in The Villages, a Florida retirement community. "A growing number of seniors are struggling with what to do about their home and their mortgage and their retirement."

The baby boom generation was already facing a retirement crunch: Over the past two decades, employers have largely eliminated traditional pensions, forcing workers to manage their retirement savings. Many boomers didn't save enough, invested badly or raided their retirement accounts.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Office for Older Americans says 30 percent of homeowners 65 and older (6.5 million people) were paying a mortgage in 2013, up from 22 percent in 2001. Federal Reserve numbers show the share of people 75 and older carrying home loans jumped from 8 percent in 2001 to 21 percent in 2011.

What's more, the median mortgage held by Americans 65 and older has more than doubled since 2001 -- to $88,000 from $43,400, the financial protection bureau says.

In markets hit hardest by the housing bust, a substantial share of older Americans are stuck with mortgages that exceed their home's value. In Atlanta, it's 23 percent of homeowners 50 and older, according to the real-estate research firm Zillow. In Las Vegas, it's 26 percent.

In the worst cases, hundreds of thousands of older Americans have lost homes to foreclosure. A 2012 study by the AARP found that 1.5 million Americans 50 and older lost homes between 2007 and 2011.

In mid-2010, Tod Lindner lost his oceanfront home in California's Marin County. He ran into trouble after the finance company that employed him was acquired and the new owners refused to pay him fees he contended he was owed.

Lindner had bought the house for $330,000 in the late 1980s. But he'd refinanced to pull out money to invest, swelling the mortgage to $680,000. Lindner tried to work out a modified mortgage, but his bank foreclosed instead. He and his wife sought bankruptcy protection, rented an apartment and slashed their spending.

"At age 70, I just started working for another company" in banking, Lindner says. "My plan would have been to retire."

Seniors fell into housing trouble in varying ways. Some lost jobs. Some overpaid for homes during the housing boom, thinking they could cash in later.

Prices crashed instead.

Some made unwise decisions to refinance mortgages and pull cash out of their homes to meet unexpected costs, help their children or embark on spending sprees.

Jim, 67, and LaRue Carnes, 63, moved to Sacramento, California, in 1978 and bought a house for $54,000. For 33 years, Jim worked as a newspaper reporter and editor. They refinanced their mortgage several times and pulled money out of the house and took on higher mortgage payments. "Foolishly, like so many Americans, we used the house as a bank," LaRue says.

In 2011, Jim was laid off, and the couple fell behind on mortgage payments. Three times, they dipped into retirement savings to fend off foreclosure. Eventually, with a $25,000 grant from a state program, Keep Your Home California, they negotiated a new mortgage they could afford.

Still, they're still struggling. Once a month, they eat free breakfast at a church, bringing home bagels and fruit. They "never thought we would be partaking of such," LaRue says.

The Karps, the Florida couple with the family jazz band, bought their three-bedroom home in North Miami Beach, Florida, for $77,000 in 1980. They refinanced, partly to pay down credit-card debt, and their mortgage swelled to $288,000.

Al kept working as a tax accountant into his late 70s. But Alzheimer's disease forced him into retirement.

The couple is getting by on about $2,500 a month in Social Security and Veterans Administration benefits, plus food stamps and help from their two sons. They stopped paying the mortgage and are fighting foreclosure in court.

To ease the stress and earn some cash, they perform old musical standards as the Karp Family -- Saundra on vocals, Al on sax, son Larry on keyboards.

"I'm trying desperately to stay here," Saundra says. As for Al: "He thinks the mortgage is paid. He hasn't got a clue."

 

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Posted on 5 June 2015 | 9:16 am

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