Seth Lynn

Cell: 404.229.2100

Fax: 404.795.9079

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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

For Sale: Don Johnson's Sprawling Montecito Farmhouse

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don johnson's swimming pool
Courtesy of The Agency via ZillowThe home Don Johnson and his wife are selling in Santa Barbara County has a reverse-osmosis swimming pool.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic Opening Night Concert And Gala - Arrivals
Getty ImagesDon Johnson, right, and wife Kelley Phleger

By Emily Heffter

This Montecito view home is about as far as you can get from the vice beat in Miami. Actor Don Johnson bought this sprawling California farmhouse last year for $12.5 million but decided to sell it when he and his wife found another property with space for their horses.

The home they are selling -- it comes on the market for $14.9 million today -- is set on 2.5 acres but requires them to board their horses. The property has a pool and meandering trails, all with gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean.

Previous owners remodeled and updated the original 1959 property, which had also been expanded by the previous owners before that. Each renovation seemed to come with more amenities. The home has a one-bedroom, one-bath, two-story guesthouse, a reverse-osmosis pool, an organic vegetable garden, a gym, a media room and a glass solarium where Johnson liked to drink his coffee in the morning.

"They really love this house," said listing agent Kathrin Nicholson of The Agency. The children's bedrooms open up to view terraces, and the property includes an in-ground trampoline, a music room and an open family room that connects by glass doors to the patio by the pool.


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Posted on 21 October 2014 | 1:01 am

6 Home-Maintenance Musts for Autumn

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rain gutter full of autumn...
ShutterstockClearing rain gutters of leaves now will pay off later -- but it must be done cautiously and by hand.
The following post is by BrightNest:

1. Change your linens and move your mattress. Strip and vacuum your mattress and machine wash all of your bed linens, including your comforters, duvets, bed skirts and pillows. Then, turn your mattress front-to-back and end-to-end -- flipping your mattress prolongs its life by evenly distributing the wear. For more tips, read: Maintain Your Mattress.

2. Inspect your windows. Start by cleaning your windowpanes, then your drapes or blinds, and finish with the window tracks (a vacuum with a hose attachment works best for this last job). If your windows are older, you likely have weather stripping to help seal your windows and keep cold drafts and moisture at bay. Inspect this weather stripping to see if it's torn, damaged or needs to be replaced. Proper weather stripping can reduce your energy bills by as much as 30 percent! For a step-by-step guide to cleaning your windows, read: Inspect and Maintain Your Windows.

3. Inspect your exterior doors. For each exterior door, check the weather stripping that runs along the bottom and side of it for any cracks, leaks or wear. Close the door and place your hand along the bottom and sides of it. If you feel a draft coming through, you should replace your weather stripping. For extra insulation, purchase a few draft stoppers, which cost about $5 at your local hardware store.

4. Check your gutters. During the fall and winter, your gutters are filled with leaves, rainfall and snowmelt, so the clearer they are now, the better you'll fare come winter. Break out a ladder (always practice proper ladder safety) and remove all dirt and debris from your gutters by hand. For a step-by-step guide, read: Gutter Cleaning.

5. Clean and store patio furniture. It's always a good idea to clean your patio furniture before you store it inside for the winter. Different types of patio furniture require different cleaning techniques, so to learn how to properly clean your type of patio furniture, read: Clean Your Deck/Patio. Tip: Remove any stains from your furniture cushions before putting the chairs into storage, because if a stain sits on the fabric all winter, it'll be more difficult to get out.

6. Clean light fixtures and dust ceiling fans. It doesn't take long for dirt to create a film on your light fixtures and a layer of dust to form on the blades of your ceiling fan. To clean your glass light fixtures, denture tablets are actually one of the most effective products. To remove dust and dirt from your ceiling fans you simply need a ladder, canned air and all-purpose cleaner.


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Posted on 20 October 2014 | 9:05 am

As Mortgage Rates Dip Below 4%, Refinancing Looks Good Again

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ShutterstockA stock market rally on Friday suggested that the moment to refinance at rates below 4 percent might be fleeting.
By Josh Boak and Alex Veiga

A sudden plunge in mortgage rates last week raised an urgent question for millions of Americans: Should I refinance my mortgage? Across the country, homeowners and would-be homeowners eager for a bargain rate fired off inquiries to lenders. The opportunity emerged from the tumult that seized financial markets and sent stock prices and bond yields tumbling.

Rates on long-term mortgages tend to track the 10-year Treasury yield, which fell below 2 percent for the first time since May 2013. Accordingly, the average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage, mortgage

"It gets people excited. It gets mortgage bankers excited. It gets prospective buyers excited."

giant Freddie Mac reported, dipped below 4 percent to 3.97 percent -- a tantalizing figure. As recently as January, the average was 4.53 percent.

Ultra-low rates do carry risks as well as opportunities. Charges and fees can shortchange refinancers who are focused only on the potential savings. And falling rates are often associated with the broader risk of an economic slowdown that could eventually reduce the income that some people have to pay their mortgages. Yet the tempting possibility of locking in a sub-4 percent rate has a way of motivating people.

"It gets people excited," said Michelle Meyer, an economist at Bank of America. "It gets mortgage bankers excited. It gets prospective buyers excited."

The drop in rates could finally give homeowners like Issi and Amy Romem of Mountain View, California, the chance to refinance.

Amy Romem bought the condo at the peak of the housing boom for $400,000, using an adjustable-rate loan with an initial 5.875 percent rate that would reset after 10 years. The reset would amount to an extra $400 a month on the condo, which the couple now rents, Issi Romem said.

"Seeing rates go down even more is something I wasn't expecting," he said. "It reminds me that I need to do this now, before interest rates do go up."

Before last week, many bankers, lenders and borrowers had assumed that home loan rates would soon start rising closer to a two-decade average of 6 percent. That was based on expectations that the Federal Reserve would start raising its key short-term rate next year -- a move that would likely lead to higher mortgage rates, too.

But that assumption fell suddenly into doubt as stocks plunged Monday and Wednesday amid fears about global economic weaknesses, the spread of Ebola and the threat of the Islamic State militia

"It's likely to be the last time we see these rates for a generation, if ever again."

group in the Middle East.

Seeking safety, investors poured money into U.S. Treasurys. Higher demand drives up prices for those government bonds and causes their yields to drop.

The yield on the 10-year note traded as low as 1.91 percent Wednesday before ending the day at 2.14 percent. A stock market rally on Friday helped lift the yield to 2.20 percent. That suggested that the moment to refinance might be fleeting.

"It's likely to be the last time we see these rates for a generation, if ever again," said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist at

Even a slight drop in mortgage rates can translate into significant savings over the long run. For a median-priced home worth $221,000, a 0.5 percentage point decline in a mortgage rate would produce savings of $50 a month, according to a Bank of America analysis.

Still, it takes time for the savings to offset the costs of refinancing.

"There's no free lunch in this," noted Gary Kalman, executive vice president at the Center for Responsible Lending.

Lenders typically charge fees for paperwork on the loan and to pay for a home appraisal and title insurance, among other costs.

"You want to make sure the interest rate you're getting is dropping enough that it more than offsets whatever fees you may be paying," Kalman said.

Refinancing from a 5.5 percent rate -- which some borrowers still have -- to 4 percent would save $180 a month on a $200,000 mortgage. But the fees - averaging around $2,500 -- mean it would take about 14 months to break even.

Research done this year by economists at the University of Chicago and Brigham Young University found that 20 percent of eligible households failed to refinance when rates first made doing so profitable in late 2010. They essentially cost themselves $11,500 in potential savings.

Those who missed those late rates last year now have a second chance.

"When you get these little boomlets like we see now, most of that is what drives refinancing activity," said Bob Walters, chief economist at Quicken Loans.

While applications for refinancing were rising last week at Quicken, Walters added, it's unlikely that many would-be home buyers will be able to benefit. It can take buyers months to mobilize, because they need to first find a suitable house in the right neighborhood. That makes it hard for them to immediately snap into action when rates drop, though it might coax them into looking.

"It's a bonus if rates are lower," Walters said, "but it doesn't dictate the decision."

Boak reported from Washington, Veiga from Los Angeles.


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Posted on 20 October 2014 | 6:20 am

Lady Gaga Reportedly Buys a House With a 'Batcave' in Malibu

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exterior lady gaga malibu house
Courtesy of The AgencyThis entertainment-friendly house across from Malibu's Zuma Beach reportedly was just purchased by Lady Gaga.
Lady Gaga Seen At LAX
APLady Gaga
By Catherine Sherman

TMZ reports Lady Gaga has made her first California home purchase: a 6-acre estate across from Malibu's Zuma Beach. The home was listed for $24.95 million this summer by The Agency's Santiago Arana. Property records show it was recently purchased under a trust for $22.5 million.

"This beautiful estate was inspired by traditional homes in the South of France offering breathtaking views," the listing description stated. In addition to a prime beachfront location, the home has an 800-bottle wine cellar, home theater, bar and a 1960s-era two-lane bowling alley -- all accessible by a "secret door" from the living room.

The bowling alley has been called the "batcave" because of the home's seller, Dan Romanelli. As the founder of the consumer products division at Warner Bros., he's behind the toys and apparel linked to the "Batman" movies.

In 2010, Gaga leased a home in Bel-Air, but the singer been known to keep quiet about her real estate purchases.

The listing agent was unable to comment on this sale.


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Posted on 20 October 2014 | 2:03 am

A Case for Energy Efficient Housing

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Photo courtesy of Trent BellThis home cost about $175 a square foot to build and is close to net zero with the addition of more photovoltaic panels.
Years ago, it was difficult to build a very energy efficient house because there was a lack of technology and materials -- such as extremely energy efficient insulation and triple-pane windows. The cost for solar panels was also high and subsidies were non-existent. Today this is not the case.

We know how to build houses to substantially reduce the use of fossil fuel and energy costs. You might then ask: Why aren't all houses built to a much higher energy standard? There are several answers to this question.

People aren't being forced to build more efficiently because the codes are not that stringent. Although they have improved over the years, most municipalities have a long way to go to be encouraging

"The up-cost for a very energy efficient house should be $0."

people to build low-energy or net-zero houses.

Another reason given for not building to higher energy efficiency is the cost. Homeowners wrongfully assume that it will cost a great deal more to build a more energy efficient house. In 2010, Habitat for Humanity built a house in Vermont to Passive House standards, using a tiny bit of energy and at a minimal cost. Many other houses have also been built in this country and around the world that are moderately priced and extremely energy efficient.

According to architect Phil Kaplan of Kaplan Thompson Architects, who designs many energy efficient houses in New England, "the up-cost for a very energy efficient house should be $0." He says, "If you increase window quality, increase insulation, reduce air infiltration, you reduce the cost of mechanical systems." When designing a house, Kaplan also designs the mechanical systems to make sure that he gets the right efficiencies in the completed house.

John Colucci, vice president of sales and marketing at Westchester Modular Homes, says the up-charge is minimal. He claims that a modular home may cost 3 to 5 percent more for a house that is 50 to 60 percent more efficient than the typical home. A house that is net-zero energy may cost up to 10 percent more. He points out that in the factory they are able to build a very tight house with

There is an assumption that very energy efficient houses are not particularly attractive.

advanced framing and extra insulation.

Tessa Smith of the Artisans Group, a Passive House designer/builder says: "We see a zero upgrade in our custom energy efficient homes in which spending more on insulation gets recouped by less expensive but sophisticated mechanicals, and by buying better windows, which we would anyway in this type of house.

"In our production-oriented houses (that are equally as efficient as our custom homes), we see an upgrade of between 5 to 10 percent (compared to a normal tract home) and a payback of around 6 years, depending on the project. The windows and mechanicals on these less-expensive houses are more energy efficient, of higher quality, and more expensive than the cheapest windows and mechanicals than you would normally find in a tract house."

The Artisan Group currently has a Passive House under construction that will cost $135 a square foot.

Nobody can say exactly what the return on the additional investment will be for all houses -- it varies with the products and systems used, location and the efficiency achieved. Everyone I've interviewed, with a very energy efficient house, however, agrees that their heating and cooling bills are substantially less than those of their neighbors with less-efficient houses.

There is an assumption that very energy efficient houses are not particularly attractive. But evidenced by the houses I've seen in this country and around the world -- this is definitely not the case. (Just see some of the beautiful houses that have been built to high standards in my recent book -- Prefabulous World: Energy-Efficient and Sustainable Homes Around the Globe.)

Global warming is generally accepted today as a scientific fact. It is caused by the entrapment of gases resulting from the burning of fossil fuel. Forty percent of that fuel in this country comes from the heating and cooling of houses and other buildings. I believe the environmental and financial savings pose a strong case for building a very energy efficient or even zero-energy home.

The photos in the following gallery are from Prefabulous World and Prefabulous + Almost Off the Grid.


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Posted on 20 October 2014 | 1:25 am

Muhammad Ali's Childhood Home Set for Restoration

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Ali's Childhood Home
The Associated PressBoxing great Muhammad Ali's childhood home in Louisville, Kentucky, as it appeared in 2012.
Ali Humanitarian Awards
APMuhammad Ali
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The owner of Muhammad Ali's boyhood home has partnered with a restoration specialist in a venture to completely restore the Louisville, Kentucky, residence to its original condition. The Courier-Journal reports Nevada-based real estate investor Jared Weiss, who brought the property two years ago, has joined with Lawrence, Kansas-based 19th Century Restorations to restore the home.

Dan Reidemann, who is CEO and founder of the restoration company, told the newspaper that the effort would cost about $250,000. The hope is to finish it in enough time to hand over the keys to the boxing great on his 73rd birthday in January.

Work is set to begin on the small white house with a sagging front porch overhang in western Louisville by the end of October.


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Posted on 20 October 2014 | 1:01 am

Sean 'Diddy' Combs Drops Price on Swanky Manhattan Condo

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sean diddy combs condo
ZillowSean 'Diddy' Combs' condo high above Manhattan is in one of New York City's most luxurious buildings.
W Hotels Worldwide and IMS Engage at W Hollywood
AP{Sean 'Diddy' Combs
By Emily Heffter

Is no one interested in a see-through piano and amazing views of the park? Sean "Diddy" Combs has dropped the price on his swanky Midtown Manhattan condo. The platinum-selling rapper and music producer is still the King of New York, trying a second time to sell the sky-high apartment. The price is now $7.5 million, down from just under $8 million.

Combs, who also has homes in Miami and California, is reportedly looking for a place he can host his famous parties without making too much noise for the neighbors.

The condo is on the 66th floor of the Park Imperial, one of New York City's most luxurious buildings (see the slideshow below). It has floor-to-ceiling views of Central Park, and, if you need a break from that, black-out shades. The two-bedroom, two-bath space is built for entertaining, with a piano room, wet bar and a corner living room with a 90-inch flat-screen television.

The entry and master bathroom are marble, and the sleek eat-in kitchen offers New York views with breakfast.


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Posted on 17 October 2014 | 8:03 pm

Ted Turner Lists Private Island for Sale at $23.8 Million

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st phillips island dock
Courtesy of Plantation ServicesThe dock on media magnate Ted Turner's private island, St. Phillips, a 4,680-acre property on South Carolina's coast.
Ted Turner's private, breathtaking island off the South Carolina coast is creating quite a buzz, now that he's listed it for $23.777 million. "My phone's been ringing off the hook," says Chip Hall, who is co-listing the barrier island with Lee Walters, both of Plantation Services.

Some of those calls are actually from buyers eager to grab the whole, or part of, St. Phillips Island -- 4,680 acres of totally private creeks, moss and white-sand beaches. The island also has a five-bedroom/five-bath main house, and separate caretaker's quarters.

"My family and I have owned St. Phillips Island along the South Carolina coast for many years now," Turner said in a statement released by Hall. "While we have enjoyed the island and made so many memories there, we, unfortunately, are not able to visit as much as we would like. Therefore we have chosen to sell the property, in an attempt to pass on St. Phillips Island to another family who will enjoy this natural oasis as much as we did."

Turner bought the island in 1979 for an undisclosed sum, says the The Wall Street Journal. It is protected under a conservation easement with The Nature Conservancy that permits the construction of 10 additional residences.

Hall says the value of the island, reachable only by boat, lies in its "natural maritime forest, the long white beaches along the ocean, the location and the total privacy."

"It is a perfect place for a modern-day Robinson Crusoe," Hall says -- a Crusoe with $24 million.


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Posted on 17 October 2014 | 2:17 pm

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Reportedly Near Deal to Ease Credit

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Debt Rating S & P
The Associated PressMortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reportedly are close to an agreement to loosen lending rules.
By Avik Das

Government-controlled mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are close to an agreement with their regulator and lenders that could expand mortgage credit while helping lenders protect themselves from charges of making bad loans, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have recouped tens of billions of dollars in penalties from lenders in recent years over claims that the lenders made underwriting mistakes on loans they sold to the mortgage giants. Lenders have blamed those penalties for tight credit conditions and for prompting them to make loans only to borrowers with near-pristine credit.

If the agreement is completed, lenders may be more willing to lend to borrowers with lower credit scores and smaller down payments, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Personnel at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were not immediately available for comment.


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Posted on 17 October 2014 | 12:43 pm

John Legend Lists Hollywood Hills House -- Wants More Room

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john legend living room
Sotheby's International RealtyJohn Legend and Chrissy Teigen's home was redesigned to have an Asian-inspired, open living plan.

2014 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Kick Off Event
APChrissy Teigen, left, and her husband John Legend
What becomes a Legend most? Apparently not the Hollywood Hills home that R&B singer/songwriter John Legend and his supermodel wife, Chrissy Teigen, are selling for almost $2 million. Legend bought the Los Angeles house in 2007 for $1,512,500, says listing agent Sotheby's International Realty. He gutted the 2,200 square-foot-space, built in the 1960s, and replaced it with an Asian-inspired, open living plan that was featured in an Architectural Digest spread.

Legend uses one of the home's three bedrooms as a studio where he reportedly recorded several songs for his current album, "Love in the Future." (See a slideshow of the property below.)

The young couple, who married last year in Italy, want to move up. Legend told the Wall Street Journal the home feels a bit small. Could that mean another Legend is about to be born?

Pregnancy rumors were sparked recently by a suspicious looking photo of Teigen. But the photo was a "bad angle," not a baby bump, Legend reportedly told "Extra" last January. He then added, "We're practicing every day."


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Posted on 17 October 2014 | 9:38 am

Why You Can't Trust Today's Mortgage Rates to Stay Low

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house of dollars. on chart...
Shutterstock A problem with waiting for interest rates to 'hit bottom' is that you can only know what that is after rates rise again.
The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reported this week that the average interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate conforming mortgages decreased to 4.20 percent (the lowest since June 2013!) from 4.30 percent. Fifteen-year fixed loan mortgages fell to 3.41 percent, and 5/1 hybrid ARMs dropped to 3.05 percent.

The MBA's chief economist, Mike Fratantoni, said in a press release, "Growing concerns about weak economic growth in Europe caused a flight to quality into US assets last week, leading to sharp drops in interest rates. Mortgage rates for most loan products fell to their lowest level since June 2013. Refinance application volume reached the highest level since June 2014 as a result, with conventional refinance volume at its highest since February 2014."

3 Reasons You Can't Trust Today's Mortgage Rates: Homeowners mulling a mortgage refinance may regret it if they wait for interest rates to "hit bottom," because a bottom becomes apparent after rates begin rising -- and rates tend to increase much faster than they decrease. Interest rates are subject to sudden changes under most circumstances, but here are three particular reasons to suspect that today's rates may suddenly get shifty:

1. Mortgage rates have already defied the odds for a long time. Before 2009, 30-year rates had never dropped below 5 percent, but they've mostly been below 5 percent since. This unusual state of affairs is due primarily to two things: a stubbornly weak economy, and active Federal Reserve intervention. As the following points show, those two things are changing.

2. The economy finally seems on the mend. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth has topped 200,000 in seven of the first nine months of 2014.

3. The Fed is already winding down the bond purchases that helped drive mortgage rates lower. The next step: liquidating the bond positions it accumulated during this program, which will really start to put upward pressure on mortgage rates.

These conditions not only imply that interest rates could be headed higher, but with the latter two factors influencing the transition, expect the rate environment to be more variable than it has been in recent months.

[Shop for free competitive mortgage rates]

How to Manage Changing Mortgage Rates: Here are some tips on what to do if mortgage rates suddenly become a moving target before you have a firm rate commitment.

1. Shop around. When mortgage rates start to move, lenders don't all change to the same degree and at the same time. The more changeable the rate environment, the more potential value there is in shopping -- and it's easy to do so online.

2. Lock in a deal when you can afford it. Don't play chicken with mortgage rates, holding out in the hopes they will go back down. A move in the wrong direction can quickly turn a deal from a little pricey to out of your range.

3. Get pre-approved now. Don't wait until you've decided to lock in before applying for a mortgage refinance. Get pre-approved so you only have to lock in for a short time. You'll close faster, avoid glitches and save money, because rates with 15-day locks are lower than rates with 30-day locks.

[See today's mortgage rates now.]

The great thing about fixed-rate mortgages is that they let you grab today's low interest rate for the 15- or 30-year duration of your loan. However, you may have to sweat a little bit first, as interest rates jump around while you are house shopping or going through the refinance process.


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Posted on 17 October 2014 | 8:25 am

'Harry Potter' Author J.K. Rowling to Build Own Hagrid's Hut?

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JK Rowling (Harry Potter Author), Aberfeldy Home
Delboy1940Essex/FlickrHarry Potter author J.K. Rowling's property in Scotland, the Killiechassie Estate, reportedly will add a new structure.
Britain Scotland Celebrities
APJ.K. Rowling
In another great example of life imitating art, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is planning to build a summer house on her Scottish estate that looks suspiciously like the "Hagrid Hut" where her giant and beloved character lived.

The Western Daily Press reports that, like Hagrid's gamekeeper hut, the new, circular structure will open to the front, and have a stone bench and slate roof. It will be situated on the edge of a forest on Rowling's 19th century, 162-acre Killiechassie Estate, located on the upper reaches of Scotland's River Tay.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hagrid's hut
Doug Kline/Flickr Hagrid's Hut as depicted at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction.
The building application was reportedly submitted by Rowling's husband, Dr. Neil Murray, and recently approved by local Perth and Kinross Council planning officials. The council reportedly stipulated that no trees can be damaged or cut down during construction.

In 2012, Rowling sold another home that she owned in Scotland, a sprawling eight-bedroom Victorian house -- also constructed of stone -- in the capital of Edinburgh, where she lived with her husband and children while writing many of the Potter books. It reportedly sold in three weeks after being listed for $3.7 million.


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Posted on 17 October 2014 | 7:23 am

Sheryl Crow Finds Buyer for Her Hollywood Hills Compound

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sheryl crow's swimming pool
TruliaHelping to tie Sheryl Crow's three-house compound together is a resort-style infinity pool.
Finally something to sing about! Songstress Sheryl Crow was singing a sad little tune after chopping $4 million off the asking price of her prized compound in Los Angeles earlier this year. Now, there's a "sale pending" sign hanging out front!

After listing for the first time in 2012 and trying to (unsuccessfully) sell her Hollywood Hills home for $15,950,000, Crow's compound was delisted in December 2013 and came back on the market in April 2014 with a more down-to-earth ask of $11,950,000. At that new, lower price, a buyer finally emerged.

Set behind private gates, Crow's Spanish-style compound sits atop a hill and is comprised of three houses that total more than 10,000 square feet on 10-plus acres. She purchased each home individually in and around 1998, and meticulously combined the properties over the next few years.

The main home is a remodeled and restored "Spanish Revival" with four bedrooms, 3.5 baths, a two-story entryway, chef's kitchen, library, wine cellar and music room. A second home is a Craftsman built in 1909, and has four bedrooms, three baths and views of the vistas of Hollywood. The third home on the 10 acre property is a cottage that dates back to 1885, complete with a oak-floored kitchen, three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

The entire compound is tied together with canyon pathways, trails, a teepee, campsite, playground, palapas and a resort-style infinity pool. A true treasure in the heart of Hollywood.

Crow's had a hard time in the real estate game in recent years. This home sat on the market for months and months, and her equestrian property in College Grove, Tennessee has also had a hard time finding a buyer, even after more than 2 years and nearly $2 million in price reductions. She just recently took that house off that market.

The rest of her portfolio includes two off-market properties. One is a $3.6 Million estate in Nashville, Tennessee, and the other is a beachfront escape in Florida.

The listing agent for her Los Angeles estate is Myra Nourmand of Nourmand & Associates.


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Posted on 17 October 2014 | 5:06 am

Housing Market Recovery Rolls On as Groundbreaking Rises

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Housing Starts
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Jason Lange

WASHINGTON -- U.S. housing starts and permits rose in September, a signal the market's modest recovery is supporting what appears to be growing strength in the broader economy.

Groundbreaking rose 6.3 percent to an annual 1.02 million unit pace, the Commerce Department said Friday.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a slightly smaller gain.

Housing is clawing back after it imploded during the 2007-2009 financial crisis and recession. It suffered a setback last year when interest rates spiked, but rates have been falling lately.

The average 30-year mortgage rate dropped last week to its lowest level since June 2013, and the level of housing starts is not far from a seven-year high.

"If you look at the trend, you are still seeing an upward trajectory," said Michelle Meyers, an economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York.

U.S. stock futures jumped following a batch of solid corporate earnings reports and on hopes the Federal Reserve might slow the winding down of its stimulus in light of recent weakness in the global economy. Yields on U.S. government debt, however, extended gains after the release of the housing data.

New housing starts for single-family homes, the largest part of the market, rose 1.1 percent in September, while the more volatile multifamily homes segment jumped 16.7 percent.

Permits advanced 1.5 percent to a 1.02 million unit pace last month.

-With additional reporting by Richard Leong in New York.


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Posted on 17 October 2014 | 4:35 am

Whoops! Florida House With Ocean Views Built on Wrong Lot

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Ooops! Couple Builds Dream Home On Wrong Lot
Here's a whoopsie for the survey books. A Florida builder constructed a $680,000, ocean-view house on the wrong lot in an exclusive Palm Coast community. The mistake wasn't detected until six months after construction when a surveyor of a nearby lot discovered the foul-up.

Keystone Homes, the builder based in Ormond Beach, Florida, reportedly is trying to straighten this mess out -- without lawyers.

house built on wrong lot
The Daytona Beach News-JournalThis house in Ormond Beach, Florida, was built on the wrong lot.
"The buck stops with the builder. We know that," said Keystone vice president Robbie Richmond in a Daytona Beach News-Journal article. "We are in the process of trying to schedule a conference call and find a fair resolution without the lawyers. I have built about 600 homes in Flagler County and this has never happened to me before."

A whole lot of folks had to drop the ball for a mistake like this to happen -- surveyors, the builder, Flagler County building inspectors, utility installers, even the Missouri lot owners who reportedly visited the construction site several times and didn't notice their five-bedroom vacation home, with home theater, game room and screened-in pool -- was going up in the wrong place. They own No. 23 Ocean Ridge Blvd. North in the gated community of Ocean Hammock, but the house was built on No. 21.

"We are in total disbelief, just amazed that this could happen," Mark Voss, from central Missouri, told the News-Journal. Voss reportedly owns 18 other lots in the gated Hammock Dunes resort community on Florida's east coast -- unfortunately, just not the one his house was built on.

The ground zero mistake reportedly was made by an Ormond Beach company that completed the first survey in 2013 and placed the stakes on the wrong lot.

Anthony Sanzone, president of East Coast Land Surveying, told AOL that learning of the mistake was one of the worst moments in his life.

"My heart dropped out of my body," Sanzone says. "I went into shivers and cold sweats. We could not believe this could happen."

With any luck, the next-door neighbors will just switch lots, Sanzone says.

But luck is the one thing this real estate debacle has so far lacked.

[CORRECTION, 10/17/14: An earlier version of this article identified the lot mixup as having taken place in Palm County; it should have said Palm Coast.]


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Posted on 16 October 2014 | 12:43 pm

Mel Gibson Still Trying to Sell Costa Rica Slice of Heaven

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mel gibson house aerial view
Plantacion Properties/Christie's International Real EstateMel Gibson's 500-acre estate in Costa Rica -- priced at $29.75 million -- includes three villas in a remote rainforest area.
Lionsgate Presents
APMel Gibson
You'd think actor Mel Gibson could use a little solitude, like the Costa Rica rainforest, to collect his thoughts, renew his spirit, and forget about his infamous personal problems. You'd think wrong.

For the last two years, the actor has been trying to sell his Costa Rica compound -- Playa Barrigona -- complete with three villas and 500 acres of private jungle on the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. Playa Barrigona is so remote, it's not shown on most maps of that northwestern part of Costa Rica, near the famous Arenal volcano.

Maybe the estate is a little too out-of-the-way. Or maybe it's too expensive -- $29.75 million. Or maybe the property has bad juju -- perhaps the result of Gibson's highly publicized slurs against minorities and battles with ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva.

The Costa Rican Star says the hilltop estate was the infamous scene where Gibson was taped in 2012 "ranting and screaming at his house guests" -- including screenwriter Joe Eszterhas -- "and was heard making disparaging remarks about his baby mama Oksana Grigorieva."

Whatever the reason, something sure as hell is keeping buyers away from this little slice of heaven, where "olive ridley sea turtles travel thousands of miles across the Pacific each year to lay their eggs on this beach," the Christie's International Real Estate listing says.

"It's for a unique buyer," says Danielle Austin, a Christie's spokeswoman. "It's incredibly large and remote. We're looking for that specific buyer."

Austin says the property has had "some offers, but not what we're looking for."

This is the second time that Gibson has tried to sell the property. He put it on the market in 2010 for $35 million, The Costa Rica Star reports, and then again in 2012 for the current $29.75 million price tag.

Playa Barrigona features:
  • three homes, each nestled on a hilltop overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
  • a villa with seven bedrooms and eight baths.
  • two smaller villas with two bedrooms each.
  • secluded white-sand beach about a 10-minute golf cart ride away.
  • pool.


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Posted on 16 October 2014 | 8:37 am

Average Rate for 30-Year Mortgages Falls Below 4%

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Sign outside of a 3 Bedroom 2 bath home in San Jose, California, that sold for over 700,000 USD after only 8 days on the market.
Chuck Nacke/Alamy
WASHINGTON -- Average U.S. mortgage rates tumbled this week. The 30-year loan hit its lowest level since June 2013 as Treasury bond yields marked new lows amid concern over global economic weakness.

It was the fourth straight week of declines for mortgage rates, making it more affordable to borrow to buy a home.

Mortgage company Freddie Mac said Thursday that the nationwide average for a 30-year loan fell to 3.97 percent from 4.12 percent last week. The average for a 15-year mortgage, a popular choice for people who are refinancing, fell to 3.18 percent from 3.30 percent.

Mortgage rates often follow the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. The 10-year note traded at 2.13 percent Wednesday, down from 2.34 percent a week earlier. It traded at 2.11 percent Thursday morning. Bond yields rise when bond prices fall.

Treasury yields have dropped sharply on expectations that the world's economic sluggishness could force the Federal Reserve to delay interest rate increases.

The deepening concern over the health of the world economy, and worries that global weakness could slow the U.S. economy and hurt corporate profits, played into the dizzying swoon Wednesday on Wall Street. Investors fled stocks and poured money into bonds. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 460 points in afternoon trading, all three U.S. stock indexes were in negative territory for the year, and the so-called fear index spiked.

Mortgage rates have fallen even though the Federal Reserve appears set at the end of this month to end its monthly bond purchases, which are intended to keep long-term borrowing rates low. Yet Fed officials have indicated that they will continue to hold shorter-term rates at near-zero levels until there are signs of rising inflation.

At 3.97 percent, the 30-year rate is down from 4.53 percent at the start of the year and at its lowest point since the week of June 20, 2013, when it was 3.93 percent.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week. The average doesn't include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.
  • The average fee for a 30-year mortgage was unchanged from last week at 0.5 point. The fee for a 15-year mortgage also remained at 0.5 point.
  • The average rate on a five-year adjustable-rate mortgage dropped to 2.92 percent from 3.05 percent. The fee was steady at 0.5 point.
  • For a one-year ARM, the average rate fell to 2.38 percent from 2.42 percent. The fee held at 0.4 point.


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Posted on 16 October 2014 | 7:35 am

Foreclosure Activity Falls to 8-Year Low

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Foreclosures Account For 40 Percent Of Home Sales In Miami-Dade County During Third Quarter
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
By Elvina Nawaguna

WASHINGTON -- Foreclosure activity across the United States declined last month to the lowest level since July 2006, as banks reclaimed fewer homes, according to a report released Thursday.

RealtyTrac, which tracks housing market data, reported foreclosure filings for 106,866 properties across the country, an 8.6 percent decrease from August and a 18.6 percent drop from a year earlier.

September was the 48th consecutive month of year-on-year declines in overall foreclosure activity, which includes foreclosure notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions.

"September foreclosure activity was back to pre-housing bubble levels nationwide, in large part thanks to a continued slide in bank repossessions," said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.

Lenders repossessed 22,930 homes in September, a 13 percent decline from the month before, while 48,399 properties were set for foreclosure auctions, a 5.5 percent decrease.

Default notices dropped 9.8 percent to 8,840.


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Posted on 16 October 2014 | 5:11 am

How to Spot an Up-and-Coming Neighborhood

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7th Street Market, Charlotte
James Willamor/FlickrEstablishments such as funky coffee shops, Pilates studios and bars can be a clue that a neighborhood on the rise.
By Rebecca McClay

Savvy homebuyers know that to get the maximum return on their real estate investment, they need to find not only a neighborhood that's hot, but one that's getting hotter. How do you find those soon-to-be hot spots? Local price increases are the most obvious indicator that a neighborhood's popularity is on the rise. But by the time prices skyrocket, it's usually too late to beat the buyer wave and get the most bang for your buck.

Instead, if you're looking for the next up-and-coming community, check out these helpful hints. For instance, keeping tabs on commercial development, home renovations and local crime are great ways to start scouting the next "it" neighborhood.

1. Look for Popular Commercial Projects: When you see neighborhoods with ample commercial projects under construction -- think Chipotle, Whole Foods and Starbucks -- you're likely looking at an area on the rise. Think Pilates studios, funky bars and coffee shops. All of these venues are trendy staples these days and they hint at an upcoming wave of buyers.

After all, developers of popular brand-name businesses don't take their money lightly. If a trendy retailer or eatery has chosen to set up shop in an area, it's only after their experienced staff have thoroughly vetted the future economic return there.

So, the more "coming soon" signs in shop windows, the better potential there is for that neighborhood to be the next hot spot.

2. Mass Transit Expansion Draws Development: Especially in large cities or dense metro areas, another sure-fire clue to the next hot neighborhood is a mass transit expansion.

If a major city builds a brand-new metro or subway stop in a more run-down area, chances are that area won't be run-down for long. Savvy real estate buyers snap up properties near new or upcoming mass transit areas while the prices still reflect the conditions of the current neighborhood.

In fact, nearly any property near a mass transit stop in large cities -- new or not -- is sure to eventually be in a hot neighborhood. That's because cities have limited space, but growing demand as the population continues to expand.

3. Sporadic Renovations Signal Resurgence: Then there are renovations. A few newly remodeled homes amid blocks of older, shabbier homes are great indicators that the community is poised to enjoy an energetic turn-around.

Look for manicured and landscaped lawns, fresh exteriors like siding replacements and an overall polished look to a property. Fixtures such as new mailboxes, new fences or new doors are other great hints that a homebuyer has invested in a property and that many others will soon follow suit.

4. Declining Crime as a Clue to More Improvements: Finally, declining crime stats can also indicate an emerging neighborhood that's in the process of shedding its gritty roots.

If a neighborhood is experiencing a crime reduction, homebuyers can assume city officials and residents are making a concerted effort to improve the quality of life there. And with improved quality of life comes more homebuyers and higher property values.

Especially in dense cities where properties are in increasing demand, if a crime-ridden area that has long deterred buyers is making improvements, tab it as an upcoming hot neighborhood.


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Posted on 16 October 2014 | 1:24 am

Elvis Presley's 'Graceland West' Nears Foreclosure Auction

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elvis presley palm springs home
ZillowElvis Presley's former home in Palm Springs, dubbed "Graceland West," was expanded to accommodate his entourage.
APElvis Presley in 1973

By Erika Riggs

You can't buy Graceland, but you can buy "Graceland West" -- and at auction. The Palm Springs residence of Elvis Presley, that gained that moniker from The New York Times, is currently bank-owned. Any offer the owner receives in the next 10 days will become the starting bid, said Jeff Egan of Keller Williams Realty, who currently holds the listing.

Presley bought the home in 1970. He loved the Palm Springs area but preferred to stay there during the hottest parts of the year -- late summer and early fall -- when there were smaller crowds. In 1973, Presley and his wife Priscilla divorced, and Presley began to turn the home into more of a "boys' club," said Eric G. Meeks, who previously listed the home for sale.

"He had a big entourage," explained Meeks. "Elvis added on a wing of about 2,000 square feet, a big, dance floor-style room called the 'Jungle Room,' off the pool, where they held all the parties."
Presley also added on another master suite. He didn't want to stay in the same room that he and Priscilla shared, says Meeks. He also enclosed a 15-person hot tub to avoid paparazzi.

When Presley died in 1977, the home remained in a trust for two years before it was sold to Frankie Valli. From there, it passed through a number of owners who did their best to capitalize on the former presence of the "King of Rock and Roll." However, many of the efforts fell through; the house was foreclosed on twice in two years.

The house, currently priced by the lender at $2.59 million, measures 5,040 square feet with five bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a wet bar, sauna and steam room. Many of the fixtures, decor and appliances are original -- which could be part of the home's appeal, says Meeks.

"If someone wanted an original piece of Palm Springs architecture [and] a piece of Elvis memorabilia, this would be it," he said.


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Posted on 15 October 2014 | 8:31 pm


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