Southern California median home price jumped to $400,000

 

Home prices in Southern California are at their highest level in six years, according to new data, though those gains may be taking a bite out of sales volume.

 

The median price of a house sold in Southern California rose from $383,000 in February to $400,000 in March, the market’s highest level since February 2008, according to San Diego-based DataQuick, which tracks real estate data.

The figure is up 15.8% from the same month last year and is the first noticeable increase since the torrid run-up in prices last spring and summer.

At the same time, the number of sales fell on an annual basis for the sixth straight month as investors and cash buyers pull out in the face of higher prices, and more traditional home buyers hesitate to jump in. There were 17,638 homes sold in DataQuick’s six-county Southern California’ region, down 14.3% from last March and the second-lowest total for the month — the start of the key spring home-buying season — in nearly two decades.

“Southland home buying got off to a very slow start this year,” said DataQuick analyst Andrew LePage. “We see multiple reasons for this: The inventory of homes for sale remains thin in many markets. Investor purchases have fallen. The jump in home prices and mortgage rates over the past year has priced some people out of the market, while other would-be buyers struggle with credit hurdles. Also, some potential move-up buyers are holding back while they weigh whether to abandon a phenomenally low interest rate on their current mortgage in order to buy a different home.”

The data also show how the recovery is being felt differently at different segments of the market.

While prices have climbed fast on lower-priced homes, the number of sales has fallen sharply, suggesting a lack of homes for sale and buyers who can afford them. Sales of homes for less than $500,000 dropped 26.4% from this time last year…

Continue HERE…

http://www.latimes.com/business/money/la-fi-mo-southern-california-home-prices-20140415,0,6707626.story#ixzz2z08dOtsr

Condo Prices Up in L.A.

The price per square foot of a new condo downtown climbed 6% in March from February to $656, according to a new report from the Mark Co., which tracks downtown real estate.

The number of condos for sale, meanwhile, fell sharply as buyers snapped up units at downtown’s lone new condo building: the Barker Block on Hewitt Street.

At month’s end, Mark said, there were only 27 new units for sale downtown, and the inventory of existing condos for sale would burn off in less than three months — half of what’s considered a healthy supply. Prices for condo resales slipped in March but remain 23% higher than a year earlier, at $534 per square foot.

“There is a dearth of condos,” said Alan Mark, the Mark Co.’s president. “People are not even selling existing condos because there’s no place for them to buy.”

The tight for-sale market contrasts sharply with a boom in apartment building.

After the housing market tanked in 2008, some downtown projects that had originally been designed as for-sale switched over to become rentals. And big institutional investors, desiring a safe, stable return, shifted their money into high-end apartments, helping to fuel a building boom that has 5,000 rental units now under construction, and 3,000 more units approved by the city.

That surge in rental supply may lead some apartment owners to flip their buildings back to condos, but Mark said he doesn’t see that happening yet. The numbers don’t quite pencil out, and the wounds from the downturn are still too fresh.

“There are definitely people circling, trying to figure out does it work and do they have the wherewithal to put 200 or 300 units on the market for sale,” he said. “Some developers still feel the scars of the recession.”

As for new construction, that could happen — there’s one 38-story condo tower in early development on 9th Street north of Staples Center — but it’s going to take a while.

“To build any building that’s sizable, it’s 18 months to two-and-a-half years to deliver,” Mark said. “You just don’t see this thing changing soon.”

http://www.latimes.com/business/money/la-fi-mo-downtown-condo-market-20140408,0,873943.story#ixzz2ytsQzLTR

What Does Sale Pending Mean?

Posted by Justin in Buying A HomeHomebuyers Tips | RealEstateCommunites.com

http://realestatecommunities.com/what-does-sale-pending-mean/

You’ve come across a beautiful house and it looks picture perfect from the outside – mature trees, beautiful exterior, shiny windows, maybe even a small pond. You check the sign, wanting to give the realtor a call to schedule a tour but much to your chagrin you see a “Sale Pending” sign on to of the realtor card. Does this mean that the home is sold? Does this mean you shouldn’t bother trying to bid on this house? Let’s find out!

Subjects, Contingencies and Pendings, Oh My!

Anytime you see a “subject to” or “contingent upon” but in an ad, that means that the sale isn’t final. The seller can’t accept the buyer’s bid for real until they meet those terms – one of the most common of these is a financing contingency. If the buyer can’t get financing to buy the home, they’ll be off the hook and the seller can search for another buyer instead.

The Seller May Still Entertain Other Offers

But just because a home has an offer doesn’t mean it’s off the market. Sometimes the buyer could back out at the last minute. Sometimes the offer just falls through and they have to find another buyer – but it’s important to remember that once they enter the fulfillment period during the time the home is appraised, inspected or where they’re fulfilling a contingency, they won’t be able to entertain other offers.

What Does Sale Pending, Mean, Anyway?

If the seller is still trying to meet all of those terms before the buyer’s (or buyers!) offer is accepted, they won’t be able to entertain other offers. This means that you can’t swoop in with a better bid, skip the financing contingency or even just offer to put down an earnest money deposit to skip ahead in line. It all just depends on what province you reside in and what their rules are, so make sure you talk with your realtor before you get your hopes up!

But you CAN submit a bid, if you really want to. You may not see anything come of it, and you’ll have to go through an appraisal process, a home inspection to make sure if there are any lingering issues you can get them fixed up before the sale is final and slap that financing contingency onto the home so if your financing falls through, you’re not on the hook.

If You Really Want the Property, It’s Worth it

But if you really want to buy a property, it’s well worth it to explore all of your options. Don’t let that sale pending sign scare you away, especially if you’re willing to go the distance to own this home. Spend some time, talk to your realtor, find out what a reasonable expectation for this home will be maintenance wise, cost-wise, even just the amount of energy you’ll spend chasing it. If it’s had people locked in a bidding war for a few weeks, you might be better just walking away.

 http://realestatecommunities.com/what-does-sale-pending-mean/

Why Wait To Buy Your First Home Till You Are Married

In my parents generation it was easy, you dated, got engaged, got married, then bought the house. Lots of little check marks on the list and very few deviated from the norm.

In my generation it was a bit more difficult. You still did the dating part, but we typically added the living together part before the marriage or even the engagement. It was practical, and a bit controversial, but we did it.

Now our children are facing another change in the equation. Young couples are buying homes together before they get married.

Coldwell Banker has come out with a new survey that shows 24 percent of millennial couples are buying the house before they get married. Now part of this is because these couples are waiting much longer to tie to the knot, but for those in the real estate industry it is a trend to watch.

Especially as we see the housing industry start to recover. If these numbers were growing in the recent housing recession I think they will explode as the market takes off.

So remember when you want to go back into your personal history to predict future events in real estate, odds are you will be mistaken. The world is changing, fast, and the smart and successful agents are watching these trends and using them to their advantage.

Survey Trends: Love, Marriage and Homebuying

New Homes for Newlyweds: More than one in three married homeowners (35 percent) purchased their first home together by their second wedding anniversary.

Cold Feet? Not These Couples: 17 percent of all married couples surveyed purchased a home together before their wedding day.

Millennials are Less Likely to Wait Until Marriage: 24 percent of married homeowners ages 18 to 34 bought a home together before they were married, compared to 14 percent of those ages 45 and older.

Southerners Take Their Time: 72 percent of married Americans in the South waited until after they were married to purchase a home, compared to 60 percent of Americans in the Northeast.

To Have and to Hold … and to Own: Only 16 percent of married U.S. adults have not purchased a home together with their current spouse.

Impact of Homebuying on a Marriage

  • 93 percent of homeowners who purchased their first home while married always planned on owning a home after marrying.
  • 80 percent said purchasing a home with their spouse did more to strengthen their relationship as a couple and family than any other purchase they have made together.
  • Over one-third of married homeowners (35 percent) wish they had taken the plunge (into homeownership) sooner than they actually did.

How to refinance your mortgage

Here are six tips to consider if you’re looking for refinancing options outside of HARP by MSN Real Estate

By Juliette Fairley of MainStreet | MSN

http://realestate.msn.com/how-to-refinance-your-mortgage

1. Shop around. The job of the consumer is to find the best APR and the lowest fees. “They vary the most in the mortgage financing industry,” said Steve Nakash, national retail manager with Nationwide Direct Mortgage.

2. Maximize your time. Mortgage brokers can check five or six banks to obtain the best rates of the day. “Bigger banks like Bank of America only have access to their own bank rates,” said Tim Lucas, a former loan officer and editor of mymortgageinsider.com.

3. Protect your credit report. Narrow your choices down to three lenders before having your credit report pulled by any one of them. “If you get your credit report pulled too many times, it affects your credit score,” Nakash said. “If you are not doing business with a particular bank, don’t allow them to pull your credit.”

4. Determine your mortgage options. “Credit unions are good for short-term fixed-rate mortgages at 10 or 15 years, but for a mortgage more than a million dollars, consider a private bank, especially for a 10-year or seven-year ARM, because the private banking departments of big banks have competitive rates for larger mortgages,” said Michael Moskowitz, president of Equity Now, a direct mortgage lender.

 5. Seek continuity. When refinancing with an online lender, request to be handled by only one account representative to avoid being passed around from one rep to another. “Most online lenders will accommodate that,” said Nakash, who services eight states online including California, Colorado and Washington.

6. Pay attention. When the loan-to-value ratio is more than 80%, secure mortgage insurance. “If you have a $375,000 loan, 80% would be $300,000,” Moskowitz said. “Mortgages of more than 80% must include insurance, according to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA requirements.”

http://realestate.msn.com/how-to-refinance-your-mortgage

How to Find the Perfect Apartment for Rent – 10-Step Process

By Jacqueline Curtis | Money Crashers

http://www.moneycrashers.com/how-to-find-cheap-apartments-for-rent-guide/

Tips to Find a New Home to Rent

1. Determine Affordability

The U.S. Census Bureau suggests that your monthly rent should not exceed 20% of your monthly income – 30% at the most. For instance, if you bring home $4,000 each month, you should cap your search at around $1,200. Taking the time to update and polish your personal budget before you start looking for apartments can not only help you figure out your price range, it can also help you identify areas in your personal finances where you can cut back if you want to spend more on a pricier apartment. After scrutinizing the numbers, you may decide to drop that costly TV subscription to allow you more wiggle room in your budget for the right place.

Create your budget with a simple spreadsheet or an online service like Mint or PearBudget. Detail your income and expenses down to the penny, from fixed obligations such as phone bills, student loans, and car payments, to variable month-to-month costs such as groceries, entertainment, and clothing. You can lower your food bills by clipping coupons, and save money on your cable, smartphone, and Internet by bundling all three services under one provider. These small moves can really add up, giving you the funds you need for your future housing.

2. Lower Rental Costs

There are several things you can do to find a lower monthly rent:

  • Look Outside an Urban Area. While living in the city center may seem like a priority, it doesn’t mean much if you can’t afford the rent. Instead, check out apartments in the suburbs within a conveniently commutable distance to work.
  • Consider Transportation Costs. Urban areas generally require a smaller transportation budget, since you can likely take public buses or subways to get around. However, you still need to take transportation costs into consideration, whether it’s a bus pass or gas money, if you choose to live away from the city center.
  • Get a Roommate. You can slash the price of any apartment in half simply by sharing it with someone. You need a landlord’s approval before doing so, but having a roommate can significantly reduce the financial pressures of renting. Just make sure you have a written agreement with your roommate laying out all obligations.
  • Check for Subsidies. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) routinely offers subsidies for those with lower-income jobs who may not be able to afford rent. Search the HUD website to find affordable housing or see if you qualify for subsidies.
  • Think Small. Square footage comes at a premium in an apartment, particularly in the number of rooms. Going for a studio or one-bedroom may mean missing out on some space, but you make up for it with big month-to-month savings. Assess how much space you really need based on your lifestyle, visitors, pets, and storage. You may find that you’re happier paying less for a smaller place.
  • Negotiate. Unless you’re apartment hunting in a popular area with little renter turnaround, many landlords are amenable to negotiating. Check out the rates for comparable apartments with similar amenities in the area and bring your research with you to strike a better deal. You can also offer to pay rent for a longer chunk at a time (a landlord may lower the rate if you pay three or six months at a time) or choose to sign a longer lease to score a better deal overall.

3. Add Renters Insurance

For some, renters insurance is a choice, but for the vast majority, it’s required by a landlord. In either case, you should add it to your budget. It covers losses in case you suffer a break-in, and it also helps cover your landlord if you do damage to the property. A landlord insures the building, but renters insurance covers what’s actually inside it.

Luckily, it’s pretty affordable. Rates depend on geographical location, amount of coverage, and amount of rent paid, but, on average, you can expect to pay around $500 per year on $25,000 worth of coverage – about $12 to $15 per month.

for rent sign

4. Run a Credit Check

Many landlords run credit checks to see if there are any glaring issues with potential tenants, such as unpaid bills or bankruptcy. You can also expect a background check. Although landlords run these checks prior to approving you, it’s actually a good idea to request your own free credit reporton your own. That way, you can comb through to check for any potential roadblocks and contest any errors you may find.

All three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) are required by the FTC to offer one free credit report each year. It’s no cost to you and won’t affect your score if you request it, but you do need around three weeks to actually receive the report.

5. Start Hunting

Don’t leave apartment hunting for the last minute. In a perfect world, it should start around three months before your “must move” date. Many current tenants have to let their landlords know of vacancies in advance – the majority of areas require renters to give at least 30 days’ notice, but plenty give more.

While the features you want in an apartment are specific to you and your lifestyle, there are a several basic things you need to look for:

  • Price. Avoid looking at apartments outside of your budget. Landlords are unlikely to discount the rent, and you could end up either overspending or being disappointed when you can’t afford the apartment of your dreams. Instead, set a firm number and only look for places that fall within your budget.
  • Transportation. If you’re currently without a car, check every potential apartment’s proximity to public transportation. An apartment may be well-priced and in a great neighborhood, but if you have to spend most of your time walking or calling taxis, it might not be so attractive. What’s more, you need to factor the cost of transportation into your budget for a realistic picture of how much an apartment really costs.
  • Convenience. Choosing an apartment that is conveniently located can make your life a lot easier. Look for a place that’s close to work, shopping, transportation, and amenities such as laundry.
  • Safety. Not only should an apartment be in a safe neighborhood, landlords should make an effort to ensure their tenants feel safe inside. Proper locks on each door, private entrances, and security should all make you feel better about renting.

6. Gather Your Down Payment

Many landlords require a down payment, which usually includes the first and last month’s rent, along with a security deposit equal to one month’s rent. Therefore, if you’re forking over $800 per month for a new place, you need $2,400 ready to go when you actually sign your lease. Your first and last month’s rent is obviously retained by the landlord, but your security deposit is generally returned if you leave the property in the condition you found it. Otherwise, it can be applied to maintenance, repairs, and cleaning.

While you won’t need to give a landlord a security deposit until you sign the lease, it’s always a good idea to have the amount saved up in your bank account. That way, you won’t lose out on a potentially perfect apartment to a better-prepared renter simply because you didn’t have the money.

rental application

7. Prepare Documentation

Landlords take a substantial financial risk if they don’t thoroughly check out each applicant, so in addition to credit and background checks, some may require extra documentation. Gather the following papers and keep them on file in advance of your search:

  • Letter of Employment. A landlord needs to know you’re gainfully employed and able to make monthly payments based on your salary. This letter should be printed on company letterhead and include an affirmation that you work there, the duration of your employment to date, and your monthly or yearly salary. It should be signed by a supervisor.
  • Pay Stubs. These corroborate the information in the letter of employment.
  • Tax Returns. If you’re self-employed, tax returns from the last couple of years should suffice in place of pay stubs. You may need to offer extra explanation as to what you do for work and the amount you make annually.
  • Reference Letters. A landlord wants to know that you’re a great tenant. If you’ve rented before, ask for reference letters from past landlords explaining that you paid your rent on time and cared for the property. If you’ve never rented before, ask for letters from previous employers or acquaintances who can confirm that you’re responsible and honest. Just make sure they’re from people not related to you – glowing recommendations from your mom won’t do the trick.

8. Talk to Tenants

While you want to make a good impression on the landlord, you also need the landlord to make a good impression on you. The best way to find out if you really want to live in a certain property is to talk to past and current tenants. In general, you want a landlord who is courteous and safe, and who takes care of maintenance issues promptly. Ask about tenant turnover, infrastructure issues, and response times to complaints.

This is also the ideal time to ask about living expenses in the area, especially if you’re moving to a new neighborhood. Current tenants can give you a rundown of what they spend on transportation,utilities, and entertainment, as well as information about the neighborhood, such as where to eat, the location of specific school districts, and the best local amenities.

9. Do a Walk-Through

Don’t sign that lease just yet. After everything checks out and you’re happy with the apartment, location, and landlord, you should do a final walk-through before signing on the dotted line. Because previous tenants may have caused damage or maintenance issues, you need to be sure that you won’t be responsible for any issues that weren’t your fault.

Come prepared and check for the following:

  1. Turn on lights and faucets, and flush toilets throughout the apartment to make sure they all function properly.
  2. Check for rodent or insect infestation, particularly in cupboards and storage spaces. Chew marks or droppings are a major red flag.
  3. Bring along a cell phone charger and plug it into the outlets to make sure they all work.
  4. Check smoke alarms and look for fire safety equipment, such as an extinguisher in the kitchen.
  5. Open and close and lock and unlock doors and windows.
  6. Turn on all included appliances to make sure they’re working.
  7. Examine floors and walls for any type of damage. Carpet, hardwood, linoleum, drywall, and tiles should all be inspected.
  8. Take pictures of any problem areas with a digital camera and show them to the landlord. Save the file so if there are any discrepancies with maintenance or problems getting your security deposit back when you move, you have evidence to prove you didn’t cause the damage.

final walkthrough

10. Read Over and Sign the Lease

Lease agreements vary depending on time frame and contract terms.

  • Periodic Leases Work Best for Shorter Durations. With a periodic lease, the landlord acknowledges that your situation could change from month to month, allowing you to pay and renew your lease monthly. However, these leases can be more expensive, and because you have to renew each month, the landlord reserves the right to raise the rent at any time. You need to give your landlord 30 days notice before vacating the apartment, so this arrangement is best only if you truly need short-term living space.
  • A Fixed-Term Lease Is Most Common. Contract with your landlord to stay in the apartment for a specific period of time – three months, six months, a year, even two years. In many cases, if you choose to move out, you’re still responsible to pay for the time left on your lease, whether you live in the apartment or not. This can mean locking in a lower rate, though, which is ideal for longer-term living situations. Occasionally, landlords let renters out of their lease if a penalty is paid, so be sure to discuss contingencies before you sign.
  • Subleases Are Three-Party Lease Agreements. They often occur when a renter needs to vacate an apartment, but is still in a lease with the landlord and responsible for the rent. With a sublease, the original renter finds another resident to take over lease payments until the term is up. The renter then pays the landlord for the duration of the contract. Subleases must be approved by the landlord, so if someone offers you a great deal on the down-low, it could be suspect.

http://www.moneycrashers.com/how-to-find-cheap-apartments-for-rent-guide/

Westside mansion sells for $102 million, highest Southland price

The buyer of the 50,000-square-foot estate often described as a French palace isn’t revealed, but may be onetime junk bond king Michael Milken.

http://www.latimes.com/business/realestate/la-fi-mega-mansion-sale-20140401,0,7358513.story#ixzz2xflBSDZi

 PHOTO:  Fleur de Lys Mansion

After an international bidding war, a Westside mansion often described as a French palace has changed hands for $102 million, making it the most expensive residential sale ever recorded in Southern California.

As is often the case with high-end properties, the identity of the trophy home’s unnamed buyer has been obscured behind layers of lawyers, agents and a limited liability company.

But the real estate equivalent of a bread crumb trail suggests that the purchaser of the opulent estate is onetime junk bond king Michael Milken, who has spent more than two decades devoted to philanthropic efforts since he pleaded guilty in 1990 to securities fraud.

The 50,000-square-foot residence was named Fleur de Lys by the seller, socialite Suzanne Saperstein. She had the mansion custom built a dozen years ago with her then-husband, Metro Networks founder David Saperstein. They divorced three years after work was finished, and she first listed the property in 2007 at the peak of the L.A. County real estate market for $125 million.

She took it on and off the market several times, almost selling it at one point to British heiress Petra Ecclestone, who ended up buying Candy Spelling’s nearby spread for $85 million.

The buyer was initially identified as a French billionaire who paid all cash and closed in 10 days. But a copy of the grant deed obtained by The Times shows that the taxes will be mailed to the Santa Monica headquarters of the Milken Institute, the nonpartisan think tank founded by Milken in 1991.

The buyer is listed as FDL Property, a limited-liability company registered in Delaware and represented by the law firm of Maron & Sandler, which is based in the building that houses the Milken Institute.

Maron & Sandler partner Richard V. Sandler is executive vice president and a trustee of the Milken Family Foundation and a director of the Milken Institute. Sandler is the finance legend’s longtime friend and lawyer — and his employer in 1993 after Milken emerged from 22 months in a minimum-security prison.

The buyer was represented by Fred Bernstein of the Westside Agency. Bernstein is married to Milken’s daughter, Bari.

The Milken camp denied the purchase. Milken spokesman Geoffrey Moore said in an email that he was unable to reach Milken, who was traveling, but “I did a quick check and can tell you that neither Mike Milken nor the Milken Institute is the purchaser.”

The sale fails to eclipse the U.S. record set last year when a mansion on nine acres in the Northern California community of Woodside went for $117.5 million. That deal may have included other considerations because the buyer and seller are business partners.

The transaction does beat the long-held local record established in 2000 when Dole Food Co. billionaire David Murdock sold a Bel-Air property to financial executive Gary Winnick in a $94-million deal that involved a parcel of land in trade.

This affluent Westside stretch of Holmby Hills, Bel-Air and Beverly Hills, known as the Platinum Triangle for its wealthy residents and top-dollar properties, was ripe for a home sale of such magnitude.

“This is one of the greatest estates in Los Angeles, if not the country,” said Kurt Rappaport of Westside Estate Agency, who represented Saperstein in the sale.

The house is in the Holmby Hills area, a sweet spot for opulent homes with neighbors including entertainment mogul David Geffen, Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen and actress Sandra Bullock.

Real estate experts say L.A. prices seem like bargains compared with home prices in other major cities — particularly to foreign buyers willing to pay cash. The other bidders on Fleur de Lys were identified as English and Chinese billionaires.

Adding to the competition for such trophy estates is the fact that the Los Angeles-area housing supply is constrained by its geography, said economist Gary Painter, director of research for USC’s Lusk Center for Real Estate. In this built-out environment there are few estates with acreage from which to choose.

“This is a very thin market, in a similar vein to an art market,” Painter said. “There’s only one of that type.”

Housing analysts, however, are seeing more sales at the upper-price tiers. DataQuick reports sales volumes are up by about a third in the $5 million and more slice of the market so far this year compared with the first three months of last year. From the August 2007 peak of the overall market, according to February statistics, prices are still down 22.5%.

“The luxury market isn’t as tied to job and income growth and mortgage rates,” said Andrew LePage, an analyst with DataQuick, a real estate research firm. “It’s more about stock market performance, IPOs, competing investments, where people want to park their extra money and foreign investment.”

Completed in 2002, the compound stretching between Carolwood and Angelo drives was years in the making. Purchasing the adjacent parcels that make up the estate took about five years, and several more years were spent in various stages of construction.

Wrought-iron gates open to a 600-foot-long tree-lined driveway that leads to a cobblestone courtyard in front of the house. The granite stones were salvaged from the streets of Manhattan when the sewer system was being redone, said architect Richardson Robertson III, whose L.A.-based Robertson Partners designed the formidable estate.

Just inside the front door is a two-story entry hall with a marble floor topped by a gold-leaf paneled ceiling. A pair of staircases lead upstairs, and a doorway flanked by columns looks out to the backyard and gardens.

Although sometimes described as having been inspired by Vaux-le-Vicomte, a palace outside Paris, the mansion took its cues from great estates in Newport, R.I., Robertson said. “This is not a French floor plan. It’s a neoclassical house built as a decorative arts museum.”

The grounds have been likened to a miniature Versailles with formal gardens, mature trees and a soccer-field-size expanse of lawn. The 4.9 acres include two motor courts, a swimming pool and spa complex, and a tennis court. A jogging track runs inside the perimeter of the property.

Imported limestone blocks enclose a massive steel frame, set on rollers in the foundation, to safeguard the structure in an earthquake. Interior spaces include a ballroom for 500 guests, a two-story wood-paneled library, a movie theater, a music room, a dance studio, a beauty salon, a dozen bedrooms and 15 bathrooms.

READ MORE HERE:
http://www.latimes.com/business/realestate/la-fi-mega-mansion-sale-20140401,0,7358513.story#ixzz2xflOrIoo

Tips For Buying Luxury Real Estate

By Jean Folger | Investopedia.com http://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/022714/tips-buying-luxury-home.asp

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There is not one design, style or size that embodies a luxury home. It could be a sprawling 15,000-square-foot French manor set on several rolling acres, or it could be a 4,000-square-foot contemporary home nestled into the side of a mountain. Although it’s difficult to quantify exactly what luxury means, most buyers think they know it when they see it. Across the United States, sales of luxury homes have been hitting records. The number of California homes selling for $2 million or more, for example, reached an all-time high in 2013, as the state rebounded from the foreclosure crisis. The U.S. is not the only place seeing bitg sales of luxury homes. Vancouver, Canada’s priciest real estate market, saw a record 36% increase in 2013 over the previous year on sales of homes priced over $2 million. Prices for luxury real estate have also seen significant increases over the last couple of years. According to Knight Frank’s Prime Global Cities Index, which tracks luxury real estate in 30 metropolitan markets around the world, the hottest luxury market now is Jakarta, which saw price increases of nearly 38% at the end of 2013 over the previous year. Knight Frank defines luxury real estate as homes that were sold in the top five percentile in terms of value. Other double-digit price increases in the last quarter of 2013 over the same quarter 2012 include Dublin (17.5%), Beijing (17.1%), Dubai (17%), Los Angeles (14%), Tel Aviv (12.7%), Bangkok (12.3%), San Francisco (10.4%) and New York (10.4%). Why the Growth? It may seem incongruous that luxury markets are heating up, given that much of the world is still recovering from the 2008 financial crisis. Like the financial markets, the real estate market operates under the law of supply and demand. And by nature, there are a limited number of luxury homes for sale at any given time in a particular market. That limited inventory alone can help drive up prices as multiple buyers bid on a single luxury property. Strong Job Market In many metropolitan markets, such as Denver, low unemployment rates coupled with well-paying jobs have fueled the luxury real estate market. Chris Mygatt, president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Colorado, said, “We have never seen this kind of frenzy in luxury home sales before. The strongest single market segment for 2013 was clearly the luxury home market. If you include the sales of properties priced at over $500,000 – the top 10% of the market – we saw an increase of 44% year over year.” International Buyers In the U.S., international buyers represent a growing percentage of the real estate market, including the luxury market. From April 2012 – March 2013, international transactions were at $68.2 billion, which made up more than 6% of total U.S. existing home sales (in dollars), and more than 4% of transactions, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR); 2013 Profile of International Buyers. Florida, California, Texas and Arizona were the leading destinations during that period, with the majority of international buyers coming from Canada, China, India, Mexico and the U.K. These numbers represent a small decrease from 2012′s $82.5 billion in sales to international buyers, but NAR believes this is related to the slow growth in some major European economies and that the issue “should dissipate over time.” The publication also cites that international buyers typically purchase higher-priced properties compared to domestic clients: international buyers spent an average of $354,000 versus $228,000 for domestic purchases. Due in part to the tight U.S. credit standards facing foreign buyers, the majority of international purchases are all-cash deals (63%). This can put other buyers who need financing at a disadvantage, since all-cash deals tend to move faster through the process. U.S. Relatively Inexpensive The U.S. is home to only one of the top 10 most expensive cities in the world, making the U.S. a relatively inexpensive and attractive destination, both in terms of cost of living and housing. According to Forbes Magazine, the top 10 most expensive cities in the world (as of March 2013) are:

  1. Hong Kong, China
  2. Tokyo, Japan
  3. London, UK
  4. Paris, France
  5. Moscow, Russia
  6. New York, NY
  7. Shanghai, China
  8. Singapore
  9. Mumbai, India
  10. Sydney, Australia

Buying a Luxury Home According to the 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers published by the National Association of Realtors, nine out of 10 buyers used the Internet at some point when looking for a home, and 43% of recent buyers first found the home they purchased online. While the vast majority of homebuyers rely on the Internet at some point during their home searches, luxury homebuyers can be at a disadvantage when it comes to finding properties online. Many high-end properties aren’t listed on MLS or search engines. And, in order to protect their privacy, many sellers avoid putting information and photos of the property on the internet. Find a Qualified Real Estate Agent If you are in the market for a luxury home, a qualified real estate agent who knows the luxury market may be your best bet for finding properties that are for sale but that are not necessarily easy to find because of privacy concerns. An agent familiar with the luxury market may have inside information about listings before they hit the open market. And, an experienced agent will be able to help you determine the market value of a luxury property. Most residential real estate is valued using comparables – similar properties in the area that have recently sold. Valuing luxury properties can be a challenge since often there are no similar properties in the area. Financing  The loan process for luxury homes typically takes longer than for smaller mortgages. Even if your financials are in good order, it may take 45 to 60 days to secure a loan. Since it can take extra time, and because the seller of a luxury home is often interested in showing only to qualified buyers, many real estate agents recommend having your mortgage broker, loan officer or personal banker obtain your financing approval early on in the process. Due Diligence As with any real estate purchase, it is important to take the time to properly inspect a luxury home prior to purchase. In many cases, luxury homes are larger and have amenities that may require specialized home inspectors, such as:

  • Pools and spas
  • Fountains and ponds
  • Lawn irrigation systems
  • Exterior fireplaces
  • Automatic screen and awning systems
  • Central vacuum systems
  • Heated floors/driveways
  • Sophisticated security/surveillance systems
  • Landscape lighting

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Top 10 kitchen trends of 2014

By Freshome | for BobVila.com

Photo: Thermador Kitchens

This year is definitely the year for your kitchen! Over the past few years the trend of modernizing your kitchen to fit your lifestyle has been apparent with technology-driven appliances and innovative surfaces and materials. I traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada in February for the annual Kitchen & Bath Industry show (KBIS). Here are 10 wonderful highlights of the show and how your kitchen still rules the home.

1. Modern kitchen innovation that gives a hint of the past:   There has been a re-emergence in kitchen design to bring back old world finishes and blend them with modern innovation. Modern countertops in granite, marble and solid surfacing can take on a vintage appeal with beveled edges and details that went away with handcrafted cabinetry years ago. Kitchen faucets that resemble ‘hand-forged sentiments of early 20th century metalworkers, Artesso™kitchen faucets blend traditional design with industrial chic inspiration’ was gorgeous to see from Brizo faucets. It was also nice to see that kitchen manufacturers haven’t forgotten that historic details in the kitchen still have a place in our homes.

2. Commercial-quality kitchen amenities in your humble abode:   While we all love the comfort of quaint homes, do you sometimes prefer the industrial feel of a commercial kitchen? At KBIS, you could see a definite trend of kitchen manufacturers appealing to both aesthetics. Blanco sinks features their Quatrus R15 stainless steel sink that offers a revolutionary sleek appeal while still enabling homeowners to wash it easily. Turn your kitchen into that commercial kitchen you always wanted with amenities that show off your inner culinary chef . 3. Kitchen accessories aren’t just for show anymore:

Years ago, kitchen accessories played a minor role in function and were instead meant to compliment the sink, faucet or cabinetry of the kitchen. Today, kitchen brands are realizing that homeowners want form, function, and beauty all wrapped up into one. Accessories such as colanders and cutting boards can now fit seamlessly into the sink to help you drain or cut your favorite vegetables. There is no longer a reason to wonder, “What does that do?” in your modern kitchen.

4. Organize your kitchen drawers like never before:   Drawers are commonly used to separate items like spices and utensils. But did you know you can also use your drawers to store bread in their very own customized bread boxes? There was a big representation of brands such as Poggenpohl’s drawer accessories that included cutlery trays, spice racks, knife blocks, bread drawers and aluminum foil holders, among other things. Instead of organizing just a few items in your kitchen, organize your kitchen drawers around the way you and your family use the kitchen.

5. Lighting your kitchen in eco-friendly ways:

Just like the evolution of your home, lighting plays an integral role in ensuring your kitchen experience is safe, enjoyable, and helpful for all your kitchen activities. While traditional lighting fixtures such as pendants and under cabinet lights aren’t new – the use of eco-friendly LED lighting inside of cabinets, drawers, and below the base cabinets is proving to be more helpful to the culinary enthusiast. Whether you have your hands full and don’t have time to reach a light, or you’re looking to add more illumination to your kitchen’s darkest nooks, LED lit cabinetry and drawers may be exactly what you’re looking for.

6. Decorative tile becomes the showstopper over the appliances:

There used to be a time when you walked into a kitchen and all eyes went to the appliances. While appliances are still a major opportunity to wow guests, decorative tile is the perfect crowning glory to a dynamic kitchen. This year, tile manufacturers are holding nothing back and Walker Zanger has always been known for their innovative and iconic tile design styles. This Chelsea Art Glass backsplash is the “Epitome of glass craftsmanship, offering a collection of stunning Tiffany-inspired mosaics created from sheets of colorful, marbleized glass. The glass sheets are hand-cut and blended to create 12 unique shades”. If you’re looking for a way to add pizazz to your kitchen, look to decorative tile to add a glamorous personality to the heart of your home.

7. Saving money in the kitchen is easier than ever

While we all enjoy splurging on our home improvements, saving money on your kitchen renovation is essential. While there was an enormous representation of high-end remodeling ideas at KBIS, there was also a nice contrast of kitchen brands that understood that homeowners like to save money too. I interviewed fixture manufacturer Danze, whose high-quality kitchen faucets are designed save consumers money. They think, “…Your kitchen faucet should do more than just wash vegetables. It should nourish your eye for great design, too. We offer an appetizing array of unique kitchen faucets, bar and convenience faucets and pot fillers. With plenty of smart styles to reflect your personal taste.”

8. Filtered water for your family, delivered in a gorgeous way

Over the years water filtration has become more important as water becomes a more precious resource. Kitchen plumbing manufacturers are finding a way to eliminate the clunky add-on water filter on the outside of your faucet, or under your sink. Brands like ROHL’s Perrin & Rowe are using, “… Filtration featuring Triflow® Technology. This innovative faucet series provides beauty and functionality in one space-saving design. Filtration happens right in the faucet and eliminates the need for an under- the-counter system. Enjoy hot, cold and filtered water while saving money and protecting the environment’”.

9. Affordable countertop surfaces that give the look of luxury

Countertops can be a very expensive portion of your kitchen entourage. Lucky for you there are several kitchen countertop manufacturers that understand homeowners want the look of granite, stone, and marble without the hefty price tag.Formica Corporation has created the 180fx® laminate countertop surface. “A revolution in surfacing with true-to-scale granite patterns that offer visual drama unmatched by any other laminate. New sophisticated patterns focus on a neutral palette – versatile enough to pair with any interior design concept.” So don’t think the kitchen remodel you want is out of reach. It may be possible thanks to these new patterns!

10. Creating connections between your lifestyle and cooking

We live in a wonderful design age where kitchen manufacturers are realizing the importance of connecting how we all live in our homes, the way we interact with our appliances, the way we prepare food, and the way appliances, fixtures, and finishes should interplay with our senses. KBIS is a wonderful example of how the best minds come together to show you what is available today and what they are working on for your future. It’s still true: The kitchen rules our homes and rightfully so. It’s the soul of our home and the way we come together with family and friends!

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