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Consumer Trust at Risk Amid Equifax Breach and CFPB Arbitration Rule Repeal

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 16:36

The real estate world lies within a network of sensitive contact information, financial records, identifying paperwork and the team of experts that keeps these things secure. So, what happens when this information isn’t properly safeguarded? Or when companies use information to take advantage of consumers? Between financial corporation scandals, like the cyber attacks on Equifax, and the recent repeal of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) arbitration rule, consumers are having trouble trusting financial institutions with their personal information.

Equifax
In September, Equifax—one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies— announced a massive cyber breach that may have affected 143 million people in the U.S. The company is being criticized for its security practices, especially since this is the third major cybersecurity threat on Equifax since 2015.

It took Equifax nearly four months to identify the intrusion after hackers stole personal information through a simple website vulnerability. Along with 209,000 credit card numbers, hackers got their hands on Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, names, birthdates and addresses. It is one of the largest hacks on record.

Equifax hired cybersecurity firm Mandiant to perform an in-depth investigation of the cyber attack to find out how many consumers are at risk. Results are in and estimated totals for impacted individuals has risen by 2.5 million to a total of 145.5 million at risk. Even the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority is investigating the incident, as nearly 700,000 U.K consumers were also affected.

“I want to apologize again to all impacted consumers,” said Paulino do Rego Barros, Jr., CEO of Equifax, following the Mandiant results.”As this important phase of our work is now completed, we continue to take numerous steps to review and enhance our cybersecurity practices. We also continue to work closely with our internal team and outside advisors to implement and accelerate long-term security improvements.”

Impact on Real Estate
Credit plays a major role in lending and the real estate industry. The cyber attack could not only weaken consumer confidence, but may add some challenges if the hacked information is used fraudulently.

Compromised personal information can be used in a variety of damaging ways. Borrowers may have to deal with stalled or rejected loans if hackers purchase expensive items using the stolen credit card numbers. Additionally, new accounts could be opened up in borrowers’ names using their Social Security numbers. Not only are loans at risk, but hackers also have the potential to demolish credit scores via identity theft—an infinitely harder problem to fix.

Equifax’s cyber attack may also lead to a spike in illegal mortgage and refinance applications. According to National Mortgage News, the mortgage industry widely uses The Work Number for employment verification during the underwriting process. The service is also the designated third-party provider of income and employment data for Fannie Mae’s Day 1 Certainty™ program. The cyber security breach leaked the information collected by the Work Number, leaving financial institutions unsure of whether the source has been corrupted.

Overall, loan processors may delay closings to ensure that employment data has not been affected by the breach. Fannie Mae is keeping an eye on its dealings with Equifax, as well.

CFPB Arbitration Rule
The repeal of the CFPB arbitration rule comes at a time when consumers are searching for ways to protect themselves against dishonest business practices. The rule was created over the span of five years and was set to go into effect in 2019. It would have allowed millions of U.S. consumers to pool resources in class-action lawsuits against financial corporations.

The rule was widely approved by Democrats, but Senate Republicans overturned it, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie. According to supporters, the ruling would have protected consumers, and, at the same time, held financial institutions responsible for upholding ethical business practices.

“[This] vote is a giant setback for every consumer in this country,” said Richard Cordray, director of the CFPB, in a statement. “As a result, companies like Wells Fargo and Equifax remain free to break the law without fear of legal blowback from their customers.”

Those opposed believed the rule would have a negative impact on lawsuit payouts for consumers.

“This is good news for the American consumer,” said Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) in a statement.” A ban on arbitration clauses would very likely have resulted in lower reward payments for wronged customers and higher credit costs for everybody. There’s little evidence to suggest that class-action lawsuits actually stop the behavior they seek to punish, and there’s plenty of evidence to show they give the lion’s share of money to the lawyers who file them.”

As a result of the repeal, financial corporations will be able to continue using arbitration clauses in their fine print as a way to protect themselves against the courts. Since consumers will not be able to use class action lawsuits as a catalyst for changing a company’s business practices, they will have to familiarize themselves on what to look for so they don’t fall victim to malpractice.

How Consumers Can Protect Themselves
Unfortunately, data breaches and business practices are not just tied to credit reporting agencies. Everyone remembers the Target hack, various large banks like Bank of America have had their share of financial scandals and global accounting firm Deloitte recently announced that it fell victim to a cyber attack, as well.

While these companies are working toward regaining the trust of their consumers, the damage has been done. These business mistakes happen often, especially with companies that are intertwined with the real estate industry. According to a survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit and Deutsche Bank, the real estate industry features one of the lowest percentages of authentication testing. Don’t wait for the next data breach to protect yourself. Here’s what you can do to ensure you don’t fall victim to flawed business practices or cyber attacks:

Check in with Equifax. Find out, if you haven’t already, if you were exposed during the Equifax data breach.

Keep an eye on your credit. Watch out for any sudden changes in your score. If you really want to make sure you’re not at risk, sign up for a credit monitoring service.

Freeze your accounts. If you are vulnerable, go online or call the three major consumer credit reporting agencies to put a freeze on your account. This will keep hackers from checking your credit score or using your personal information. Once you are certain the risk has been taken care of, you may unfreeze your account.

Equifax: 800-349-9960
Experian: 888‑397‑3742
TransUnion: 888-909-8872.

Read the fine print. Don’t sign up for any services, even if they advocate privacy and security, without reading the terms first. Make sure your information isn’t being released to third-party vendors.

Before you apply for a loan, ask for a breakdown of all fees. Get everything in writing so you have evidence of malpractice or fee discrepancies should a conflict arise during the lending process.

Ask how your information is being protected. Any time you need to submit sensitive information that can leave you vulnerable if in the wrong hands, inquire about the company’s cyber security practices. Due diligence before forming a business relationship with any type of financial institution and being a savvy consumer is your best defense against flawed business practices.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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All About Clean: Master Bathroom Trends

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 15:05

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Thumb through any home decor magazine, and you’ll see a master bathroom with a soaker or shower as the showpiece. Ta-da!

Homeowners, it turns out, are splurging to scrub up, according to the recently released U.S. Houzz Bathroom Trends Study. Ninety-one percent of homeowners in the study added a spacious shower to their master bathroom (after tearing out the tub), and many added on deluxe features, like a body sprayer or rainfall showerhead, for an improved, spa-like space.

The average cost for a large-scale remodel of a master bath (sized over 100 square feet) was $21,000, shows the study. Master bath renovations cost more in pricey markets, however. In San Francisco, Calif., for example, a major remodel averages $34,100.

Accompanying a luxury shower is a soothing gray and white color palette, according to the study. Nineteen percent of homeowners installed white countertops in the master bath, and 40 percent painted its walls white. Fourteen percent added gray cabinets, as well, to complete the tone-on-tone look. The majority of homeowners (90 percent) changed the overall style of the room, some to contemporary (25 percent), some to transitional (17 percent), and some, still, to modern (15 percent).

As with other areas at home, homeowners are also integrating technology into their master baths. Atmospheric lighting, digital controls and smart toilets are all popular upgrades, shows the study.

Bathrooms—master bathrooms, especially—are key at resale. The 2017 Cost vs. Value Report by Remodeling magazine estimates the resale value of a “mid-range” bath renovation at $12,024 (a 64.8 percent return on investment), and the resale value of an “upscale” bath renovation at $35,456 (a 59.1 percent return on investment).

Beyond a master bath overhaul, another bathroom anywhere in the home can make homeowners happier with their house, a recent report by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) showed. A bathroom earned a perfect 10 “Joy Score” in the report.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post All About Clean: Master Bathroom Trends appeared first on RISMedia.

Kindred Cities: Affordable Alternatives to Your Favorite Pricey Places

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 17:38

America’s premier cities seem to have it all: Instagram-able park and city views, edgy bars, oodles of culture, a vibrant and weird street life, shops that sell cookie dough by the scoop. All that awesomeness comes at a steep price. The harsh reality: Buying or renting in urban meccas like New York, San Francisco or Denver is increasingly out of reach for many folks.

That’s why so many city-centric millennials, empty nesters, and everyone in between are finding themselves in a gut-wrenching double bind: Should they continue to fork over ludicrously high portions of their paycheck for housing, or throw in the towel and decamp to the suburbs?

Why not search out affordable alternatives for urban living—far cheaper cities with many of the same features that made you fall head over heels in the first place? Enter the realtor.com® data team.

We distilled the true character of some of the nation’s most expensive metros to find budget-friendly—and unexpected—counterparts around the country. Think of them as Metro Matchups™—places that link up to the nation’s urban meccas in critical ways, but where you can buy a home for less than $350,000. Less than $350k!

If you’re leaving one of the U.S.’ biggest cities, you’re probably not going to move off the grid to somewhere without a reliable Wi-Fi signal (unless that’s your thing). So we limited our ranking to the 150 largest metros. All have median home prices below $350,000, plenty of gigs, and some ethnic diversity. We factored in housing stock, occupations, weather, nightlife, and a whole host of other criteria that help define an urban center’s unique personality:*

  • Percentage of stand-alone, single-family homes, condos, townhouses, and co-ops listed on realtor.com
  • Average days of sunshine per year
  • Dominant employment sectors (finance, government, tourism)
  • Dominant occupations
  • Restaurants per capita
  • Bars and nightlife venues per capita
  • Art galleries per capita
  • Number of pro and amateur sports teams
  • Car ownership rates

Some of our Metro Matchups pair up as you might expect. Others might make your jaw drop. But hey, we’ve got the data to back it all up! So let’s get going.

San Francisco, Calif.
Median home list price: $868,000
Matchup: 
Raleigh, N.C.
Median home list price: $339,200
Matching metrics: Tech jobs, tech jobs, and did we mention tech jobs?

Let’s be real: There is only one City by the Bay! But if even thinking about your monthly rent or mortgage bill makes you reach for the anti-anxiety meds, you might want to consider Raleigh.

Hear us out. The metro has the fifth-highest concentration of high-tech jobs in the nation. And the cost of living is just a fraction of that in San Francisco—or any of the other elite urban tech hubs like Boston or Seattle.

Runner-up: New Orleans, La., with its food and nightlife

Los Angeles, Calif.
Median home list price: $699,600
Matchup: 
Savannah, Ga.
Median home list price: $249,900
Matching metrics: Movie production and beaches

Next time you’re eating butter-doused popcorn at the movies, just remember that film could very well have been made in Savannah. Yep, you heard us right: This is the Hollywood of the South. Savannah ranks No. 3 nationally in actor, producer, and director jobs.

The recent “Baywatch” movie, starring Zac Efron and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, was filmed in the Gothic Southern city, as was Robert De Niro’s “Dirty Grandpa.” Please don’t blame Savannah for those! Let’s focus instead on Ben Affleck’s “Live by Night” or Channing Tatum’s “Magic Mike XXL.” Or “Forrest Gump”!

But it wouldn’t be truly Hollywood-esque without a good, old-fashioned celebrity arrest. “Transformers” actor Shia LaBeouf was booked in Savannah for disorderly conduct and public intoxication while on a production break this summer.

The city’s popularity with filmmakers is in part thanks to a tax credit the state began offering in 2008. From 2010 to 2014, filmmakers spent $58 million to produce movies in Savannah, says Trip Tollison, president and CEO of the Savannah Economic Development Authority. They spent $60 million in 2016 alone.

If you plan to relocate, don’t forget to pack your sunscreen. Savannah has some fantastic beaches at Tybee Island.

Runner-up: Las Vegas, Nev., with a star-studded nightlife that never stops

Honolulu, Hawaii
Median home list price: $695,000
Matchup: 
Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Median home list price: $235,000
Matching metrics: Gorgeous beaches, scads of tourism jobs

Want to escape the high cost of the 50th state but keep your swim trunks handy?

Myrtle Beach was named one of the top 25 favorite beach towns of 2016 by Travel & Leisure and one of the best family beach vacation spots by U.S. News and World Report. It has a beautiful 60-mile string of beaches dotted with hotels, mini golf courses, and boardwalks.

You might miss the luaus, the sublime surfing, and the soy-and-sesame-bathed raw fish in poke bowls, nut you’ll have plenty to do here, and lots more money to do it with. That’s probably why Myrtle Beach welcomed more than 18 million visitors over the summer of 2016.

And if you’re a business owner, you know that vacationers keep the lights on. Myrtle Beach has tons of tourists, with holes burning in their wallets. They’re well-advised to hold on tight to those wallets, as the city is known to have a higher-than-average crime rate. But things are getting better, and the place is growing.

Runner-up: Orlando Fla., with off-the-charts tourism, Disney-style

Denver, Colo.
Median home list price: $499,500
Matchup:
 Kansas City, Mo.
Median home list price: $245,800
Matching metrics: Hipster scenes and car culture

Kansas City is no longer a stodgy Midwestern metropolis. The city’s downtown has been transformed over the last few years, and now it’s home to about 20 breweries. Heck, Kansas City was even the first market to get Google Fiber’s broadband service in 2012, which gave its small tech sector a turbo boost.

Looking for a hipper-than-thou bar? Head out to the Crossroads neighborhood, where you’ll find the Manifesto, a historic watering hole dating to Prohibition that’s now known for its wildly creative mixology. Or try Swordfish Tom’s, named after singer-songwriter Tom Waits.

Now that you have a few cocktails in you, head over to the First Fridays outdoor event to enjoy street music, sidewalk vendors, food trucks, and art exhibits.

Denver refugees don’t have to give up the great outdoors, either. They can hike the Little Blue Trace Trail at Fleming Park, which runs alongside the Little Blue River.

When you’re packing for the move to Kansas City, just make sure to leave behind any uneaten brownies. (Wink, wink.)

Runner-up: Omaha, Neb., with its numerous jobs in finance

Boston, Mass.
Median home list price: $489,500
Matchup: 
Philadelphia, Pa.
Median home list price: $249,400
Matching metrics: Historic brownstones, tech and finance gigs galore

We’ve got bad news for Bostonians: It doesn’t matter how many healthy dishes New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady prepares from his fancy new cookbook, the man can’t play forever. Don’t worry: You’ll get some brotherly love where you’re going.

So what if Philadelphia doesn’t win the Super Bowl every year? It’s a darned good sports city in its own right. Indeed, the city is sixth in the nation for pro sports championships, four spots behind Boston. Plus, there’s nothing like eating a Philly cheesesteak at a Phillies game.

Built in a similar colonial era, Philadelphia has housing and city architecture that many a Bostonian would appreciate. The Philadelphia cityscape is a mix of Georgian, Greek Revival, and Victorian architecture.

Rest assured, you wouldn’t be the first Bostonian to leave for Philadelphia. Mr. Hundred-Dollar Bill himself Benjamin Franklin did the same almost 300 years ago.

Runner-up: Chicago, Ill., another city that goes gaga over its sports franchises and St. Paddy’s Day parades

Seattle, Wash.
Median home list price: $485,000
Matchup:
 Minneapolis, Minn.
Median home list price: $311,300
Matching metrics: No shortage of condos, tech jobs, and music legends

Seattle had Kurt Cobain. Minneapolis had Prince. And while these luminaries are gone, their songs live on, just like each city’s music scene.

Live-music aficionados can check out the Soundset Festival in Minneapolis, which draws more than 35,000 fans each year. This year, the event featured performances from Ty Dolla $ign, Travis Scott and Gucci Mane.

And that’s not where the similarities between the cities end. Minneapolis is a bona fide start-up Eden.

Runner-up: Philadelphia, Pa., with its aerospace industry and fondness for damn good coffee

New York, N.Y.
Median home list price: $472,500
Matchup: 
Chicago, Ill.
Median home list price: $279,700
Matching metrics: Unbeatable nightlife, financial capitals, pizza obsession

You’d think a city with more than 8 million inhabitants crammed into tiny apartments paying astronomical rents might have lots of folks eager to move. But if they did, they’d be giving up so much: Central Park, daily celebrity sightings, 77 Michelin-starred restaurants…also 24-hour subways that keep passengers waiting for ungodly stretches, cat-sized rats, ill-tempered hot dog vendors. OK, maybe there is a reason to leave the Apple. But once you’ve tasted it, where else can you go?

There really is only one more affordable city that could hope to do the city justice: Chicago.

Even the most stubborn New Yorker might be won over by Chitown. The Chicago skyline is gorgeous, with Willis Tower doing a fine Empire State Building impression. Once a laggard in the foodie department, it’s now home to some of the best America has to offer. They’re just cheaper. And yes, the city also has its own public transportation system. (Sorry, it, too, tends to keep you waiting.)

The two cities are also known for their mob roots. New York had the Five Families. Chicago had the Chicago Outfit and Al Capone. You decide if this is a good thing.

Runner-up: Baltimore, Md., a port city with lots of condos

Portland, Ore.
Median home list price: $450,000
Matchup: 
Columbus, Ohio
Median home list price: $241,300
Matchup metrics: Hipster havens

 The warning signs were there: man buns, artisanal pickle shops, and rooftop bars. So the Buckeye State shouldn’t be too surprised that hipsters have invaded their state capital. Yep, Columbus has even fallen for avocado toast.

Nearly 20 craft breweries have opened in Columbus over the past five years. Want a taste? Attend the Columbus Ale Trail, where you’ll try suds from the 37 total breweries located in the city.

Runner-up: Madison, Wis., a college town with a funky food and nightlife scene

Washington, D.C.
Median home list price: $429,500
Matchup:
 Trenton, N.J.
Median home list price: $290,000
Matchup metrics: Government jobs rule the roost

On a weekend walk through the nation’s capital, you’ll see the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. They’re beautiful. But are they worth the high price tag you’ll pay each month in rent or for your mortgage? Hey, it’s not easy on many government salaries!

That’s why folks may want to consider Trenton. We know it’s a stretch. But the city has government and nonprofit jobs to spare: Nearly one in three jobs here is in the government sector. It may not have D.C.’s museums or a “House of Cards” power scene, but does the nation’s capital have an annual Pork Roll Festival? (We honestly don’t know.)

Keep in mind it’s only 26 minutes to Philadelphia, about an hour from New York…and if you get really homesick, two hours from D.C. on Amtrak.

Runner-up: Tallahassee, Fla., an even more unlikely government-driven economy

Miami, Fla.
Median home list price: $387,500
Matchup: 
Phoenix, Ariz.
Median home list price: $317,200
Matchup metric: Sunshine and baby boomers baking in it

Hurricanes are becoming more frequent—and the cost of flood insurance isn’t going down, so maybe you’re a little less adamant about keeping your beachfront abode. If that’s the case, give Phoenix a look.

Despite lots of development, Phoenix still has some reasonably priced cribs. And nearby Scottsdale has grown its tourism in recent years and is trying to market itself as a party-seekers’ destination.

Another perk? Phoenix has much lower humidity. Hair problems solved.

Runner-up: Virginia Beach, Va., with its oceanside fun

*Data sources: realtor.com, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census Bureau, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Nielsen, Google Trends, Yelp.com

A version of this article originally appeared on realtor.com®.

 For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Zillow: 1.9 Million Homes Underwater by Year 2100

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 17:06

Flood damage as a result of rising sea levels over the next 100 years, are expected to impact over $900 billion worth of homes in the U.S. This, according to a recent report by Zillow that analyzes the types of homes that could be underwater by 2100, based on recent climate change estimates.

According to the report, less affluent homeowners stand to lose significantly more if their homes are damaged from flooding when compared to their wealthier neighbors. Zillow predicts that 1.9 million homes will be underwater by 2100 if the oceans rise six feet, and more than a quarter of these homes are in Miami.

While those with more valuable homes will lose out in dollar amount, a third of the homes in the bottom tier of their metros (32 percent) can potentially suffer a $123 billion loss. This could be life altering for the low-income population whose funds mostly go towards mortgage payments and other bills, making preventative measures against flooding an unaffordable expense. In the next 100 years, we can expect rising sea levels to impact $916 billion worth of homes, most of which are low- to medium-value properties.

Top-value homes are at risk in rural and suburban areas, while bottom-value homes are more likely to be impacted in urban areas. Here are the 10 metros that will be hit the hardest:

  1. Miami, Fla.
  2. New York, N.Y.
  3. Tampa, Fla.
  4. Fort Myers, Fla.
  5. Boston, Mass.
  6. Upper Township, N.J.
  7. Salisbury, Md.
  8. Virginia Beach, Va.
  9. Bradenton, Fla.
  10. Naples, Fla.

“We’ve seen the enormous impact flooding can have on a city and its residents,” says Dr. Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow. “It’s harder for us to think about it on a long-term timeline, but the real risks that come with rising sea levels should not be ignored until it’s too late to address them. With organized and committed planning, cities can help protect both current and future residents. Living near the water is incredibly appealing for people around the country, but it also comes with additional considerations for buyers and homeowners. Homes in low-lying areas are also more susceptible to storm flooding and these risks could be realized on a much shorter timeline as we have seen time and time again.”

View more from the report.

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Ghostly Listings: What It Costs to Own a Famous Haunted House

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 17:02

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

After purchasing a house, learning that your new home has a grisly past would be a real-life nightmare for most people. For horror movie fans and those interested in the macabre, these homes are sought out for photos and bragging rights that you actually saw the haunted house.

However, despite drawing the public’s interest, residences that have inspired Stephen King novels or classic scary movies often sit on the market for a long time and fetch far less than the asking price. Below are examples of iconic haunted houses and what they sold for (if they were sold at all).

 

 

 

 

 

 


Image Credit:
Newsday

Amityville Horror House (Long Island, N.Y.) – Sold in 2017 for $605,000

The basis of the book and subsequent film series went on the market last summer for $850,000 and sold earlier this year for more than $200,000 less than the asking price. With other homes in the Amityville neighborhood of Long Island regularly fetching upwards of $1 million, the home’s past is likely to blame for the price drop.

Image Credit: Jezebel

The Old Arnold Estate (Harrisville, R.I.) – Listed in 2015 for $400,000

The owners of this 14-room farmhouse in Rhode Island threatened to sue Warner Bros. following the release of The Conjuring (2013). Their property, which is the basis for the film, was constantly trespassed upon after the film became a hit. It eventually became too much and they listed the house themselves. It has since been taken off the market.

Image Credit: Associated Press

Pet Sematary House (Orrington, Maine) – Listed in 2017 for $255,000

This is the home that Stephen King and his family rented in the late 1970s where he thought of the idea for his novel Pet Sematary. Not only was his daughter’s cat hit by a truck in front of the home, but children in the neighborhood constructed an actual pet cemetery behind the four-bedroom Maine home that is still there today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image Credit: StreetEasy

The Dakota (New York, N.Y.) – Sold in 2017 for $21,000,000

Probably most well-known for being the Manhattan co-op in front of which John Lennon was killed, The Dakota has a storied supernatural history. The most famous ghost in the building is the Crying Lady who is said to walk the co-op’s halls. Also, the film Rosemary’s Baby (1968) was set in “The Bramford,” which was actually The Dakota, where most of the movie was filmed. This year, a three-bedroom went for the stunning price of $21 million.

Image Credit: realtor.com®

The Sowden House (Los Angeles, Calif.) – Listed in 2015 for $4.79 million

In 1947, this house was made famous because of the Black Dahlia murder. The home, built in 1927 and designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, was allegedly where local physician Dr. George Hill Hodel dissected the body of Elizabeth Short. Years later, in the early 2000s, Hodel’s son Steve brought a cadaver dog into the home’s basement and claims it detected the scent of decomposed human remains. There have also been reports of people hearing voices and chains being dragged.

Jameson Doris is RISMedia’s blog and social media editor. Email him your real estate news ideas at jdoris@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Ghostly Listings: What It Costs to Own a Famous Haunted House appeared first on RISMedia.

The Most (and Least) Valuable States in America

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 23:01

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Everyone knows location is the most important part of real estate. You can’t change where your house is (all things being equal). You have to consider school districts, crime rates, commute times—the list goes on and on. It can be much simpler when you’re considering buying a home to compare apples to apples so you can see how the real estate market differs according to location, so HowMuch.net created a new visualization showing land and housing prices at a glance.


The blue dots represent the value of an acre of land, and the red circles indicate the median value of a home. The bigger the blue dot and the larger the red circle, the more expensive it is to become a property owner. Small circles and dots likewise indicate a very low cost of purchasing property. The home values are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Consumer Survey, and the numbers behind the land values come from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Several things stand out in the illustration. An acre of land is much more valuable in the Northeast compared to any other part of the country. This is partly because the Eastern seaboard is a very densely populated area with several large cities, most notably New York. New York and Massachusetts have some of the oldest modern structures anywhere in the U.S. In other words, Eastern cities are a lot older than Midwestern cities, so there isn’t a lot of farmland for suburban expansion anymore. In terms of geographic size, these are some of the smallest states in the country. As a matter of fact, the three states where the cost of an acre of land is greater than the median price of a house are all located on the East Coast, and they happen to be some of the smallest states in the Union (Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey).

Median home values (the red circles) are a different and more complicated story. California has the most expensive houses by far ($449,100). Oregon and Washington boast similarly high housing valuations, as well ($264,100 and $284,000, respectively). It is also expensive to buy a home on the East Coast, with six out of the top 10 states with the most expensive median home values.

There’s a noticeable dip in both housing and land prices in Southern and Midwestern states. Prices slowly rise the further you move from east to west. This highlights unique economic developments over the last several years, including the boom in oil exploration in North Dakota and the growth of Western cities, like Denver, thanks to young people. Snowbirds also tend to move to Florida and Arizona when they retire, which also pushes up housing prices in those places.

Top 5 Most Expensive States to Buy a Home

  1. California
    Value per Acre: $39,092
    Median Home Value: $449,100
  1. Massachusetts
    Value per Acre: $102,214
    Median Home Value: $352,100
  1. New Jersey
    Value per Acre: $196,410
    Median Home Value: $322,600
  1. Maryland
    Value per Acre: $75,429
    Median Home Value: $299,800
  1. New York
    Value per Acre: $41,314
    Median Home Value: $293,500

Top 5 Cheapest States to Buy a Home

  1. West Virginia
    Value per Acre: $10,537
    Median Home Value: $112,100
  1. Mississippi
    Value per Acre: $5,565
    Median Home Value: $112,700
  1. Arkansas
    Value per Acre: $6,739
    Median Home Value: $120,700
  1. Oklahoma
    Value per Acre: $7,364
    Median Home Value: $126,800
  1. Kentucky
    Value per Acre: $7,209
    Median Home Value: $130,000

All this shows that the laws of supply and demand are alive and well in the real estate market. You can easily find cheap acres of land where they are plentiful and un-useful (sorry, Nevada), but owning property is a lot more expensive in smaller places crowded with lots of people. As always: location, location, location.

A version of this article originally appeared on HowMuch.net.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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‘Hottest Zip Codes’: A Tale of Three States

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 15:46

Realtor.com®’s annual Hottest Zip Codes in America ranking reads like a tale of three states: California, Colorado and Michigan.

  1. Watauga, Texas (76148)
  2. Livonia, Mich. (48154)
  3. Kentwood, Mich. (49548)
  4. Medford, Mass. (02155)
  5. Littleton, Colo. (80123)
  6. Castro Valley, Calif. (94546)
  7. Colorado Springs, Colo. (80922)
  8. Overland Park, Kan. (66210)
  9. Mira Mesa (San Diego), Calif. (92126)
  10. Hilliard, Ohio (43026)

California, Colorado and Michigan nabbed six spots in the top 10 (another zip in California, 95758, stopped just shy at No. 11), thanks to three traits: affordability, good-paying jobs and millennials. Of California’s zip codes in the top 10, the median home price ranges from $536,394 (Mira Mesa/San Diego) to $728,267 (Castro Valley); of Colorado’s zip codes in the top 10, the median home price ranges from $273,222 (Colorado Springs) to $533,873 (Littleton); and of Michigan’s zip codes in the top 10, the median home price ranges from $118,833 (Kentwood) to $223,780 (Livonia).

Generally, homes in the top 10 are more affordable than counterparts in their county or metropolitan area, and the markets themselves have higher incomes, low unemployment and more millennials.

“While low inventory is a challenge, millennials are the largest generation in U.S. history and they are flexing their muscle when it comes to the housing market,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist for realtor.com. “Increasingly, the hottest housing markets are the ones that appeal to millennial preferences, and right now the standouts are relatively affordable suburbs with local ‘it’ factors such as hiking trails, great restaurants and nightlife.

“With the largest cohort of millennials turning 30 in 2020, we can expect these types of areas to stay in demand in the years to come,” Hale says.

Homes in the top 10 sell in an average 21 days, the ranking reveals, and listings located in the top 10 are viewed four times more on realtor.com than those in the rest of the U.S.

For more information, please visit www.realtor.com.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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San Francisco: The Sweet Spot for Trick-or-Treaters

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 15:14

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

The annual Trick-or-Treat Index from Zillow puts San Francisco in the sweet spot: No. 1 for trick-or-treaters.

Zillow Trick-or-Treat Index 2017 (PRNewsfoto/Zillow)

 

Analysts at Zillow began with the Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI), concocting a formula that includes home values, how close homes are in proximity to each other, and the share of 10-year-olds (and younger) in a given market. Bubble, bubble…

“Searching for neighborhoods with the best candy is a Halloween tradition for many kids and their parents,” says Dr. Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow. “Our annual list is a fun way for families to see how their neighborhood stacks up against others when it comes to trick-or-treating. These are places we think will have plenty of candy and lots of young kids running around from door to door.”

In the City by the Bay, the top three neighborhoods for trick-or-treaters are Presidio Heights, Sea Cliff and Golden Gate Heights; in No. 2 San Jose, the top three are West San Jose, Willow Glen and Cambrian Park.

Is your city out of the running this year? Fear not.

“If you don’t live in one of these cities, look for areas that are getting into the Halloween spirit with decorations and lots of costumed kids,” Gudell says.

See the 2016 Trick-or-Treat Index.

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Home Haunted? No Problem, New Survey Shows

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 15:35

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Would you ever live in a haunted home? A new survey from realtor.com® shows most folks won’t shy away from a spooky space—so long as the price is right.

In September, realtor.com surveyed more than 1,000 online respondents. The verdict? Thirty-three percent were open to living in a haunted house, 25 percent might be, and 42 percent are not open to the idea.

So what factors impacted these results? Let’s explore:

  • Forty percent of respondents indicated that they need a price reduction in order to choose a haunted home over a non-haunted home;
  • 35 percent require a better neighborhood;
  • 32 percent need larger square footage; and
  • 29 percent would do so if more bedrooms are involved.

Who minds a few spooky spirits if there’s a third bedroom, amiright? From the survey, 47 percent of participants indicate they would live in a home where someone died, 27 percent said they might, and 26 percent said they would not.

The survey also showed certain paranormal activities are preferred over others. Forty-eight percent of those surveyed didn’t mind a few cold or hot spots in their home, whereas 45 percent could get down with unexplainable noises, and 39 percent are willing to tolerate strange, freaky feelings in certain rooms. Thirty-five percent of folks could deal with shifting shadows, but only 20 percent were alright with levitating objects or the sensation of being touched.

Of those surveyed, 28 percent believed they already have lived in a haunted house, with 14 percent unsure and 58 percent quite sure they’ve never been haunted.

What do you think? Would you be willing to room with a ghoul for more square footage, a lower price tag or a finished basement?

View more from the survey.

For more information, please visit www.realtor.com.

Zoe Eisenberg is RISMedia’s senior content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at zoe@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Crowdfunding Your Way Into a Home

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 15:11

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Crowdfunding has appeared in the real estate industry in a variety of forms: house flip investing, mortgage payoff and down payment support. High fees and legality issues have made it difficult for the popular funding method to be taken seriously within U.S. real estate markets.

A new crowdfunding platform—HomeFundMe—was recently launched by CMG Financial, a privately-held mortgage banking firm. This could be a game changer, since it’s the first crowdfunding service approved by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Here’s what CMG financial says about HomeFundMe:

  • No fees for using the service (Anything deposited into HomeFundMe can be used towards the buyer’s down payment.)
  • Better loan terms, more buying opportunities and the possibility of getting rid of or lowering mortgage insurance
  • Potential to receive a grant ranging from $1,000 to $2,500 in exchange for completing required homebuyer education or housing counseling.
  • Matching donations ($2 for every $1) up to the grant limits once the counseling is completed

While over 100 people have already used the platform, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have only approved the service on a trial basis until June 2018. The mortgage giants are keeping a close eye on results before giving it their stamp of approval.

There are a few caveats, of course. Borrowers must first be pre-approved for a mortgage by CMG Financial in order to use the crowdfunding service, which is limited to $7,500 in gifted funds. The loan must also be a Fannie Mae- or Freddie Mac-approved loan (their 30-, 20- and 15-year fixed loans are eligible, as well). In addition, borrowers must earn less than their area’s median income in order to qualify for matching contributions/grants.

This method will force borrowers into CMG Financial’s rates and fees. Millennial and Gen Z buyers, who are most likely to use such a service because of challenges in obtaining a down payment, will not be able to shop around for the lowest rate—a huge snag that may turn off borrowers from the crowdfunding service.

While other services charge fees and may complicate loan processing, borrowers will have to compare costs, as they may be able to save by using an alternative lender.

Here are some other crowdfunding options:

  • HomeFunded: 5 percent usage fee on total funds and 2.9 percent for processing each transaction
  • GoFundMe: 5 percent usage fee per donation and 2.9 percent plus $0.30 for processing each transaction
  • FeathertheNest: 5 percent usage fee per donation and 2.9 percent plus $0.30 for processing each transaction
  • Honeyfund: No usage fee and 2.8 percent plus $0.30 for processing each transaction

Keep in mind that these services may come with additional gifting restrictions in the lending world. Most Fannie, Freddie and FHA loans only allow gifted down payment funds from family and close friends. Loan processing may also be more time consuming if using these services, and you stand the chance of being rejected by lenders.

Crowdfunding may be a quicker way of amassing down payment reserves, but it can be a complicated process—extending your mortgage commitment dates or even threatening your loan approval. It may, however, be a useful option for borrowers who are dealing with high student loan or other debt payments and can’t afford to save.

If given final approval, HomeFundMe may open the door to a widespread financial backing of crowdfunding services in the real estate industry.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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