Hard Luck Mine Castle

Ever wish you could get away from it all?

This four-story, 22-room, 8,000-square-foot castle for sale for $900,000 in the Nevada desert is one solution.

“In a lot of ways, it’s a ‘doomsday prepper’ dream home…extremely self-sustaining, secure and — admittedly — quite odd,” Jake Rasmuson, who is marketing the property, tells CNBC Make It.

“Basically this property is an enormous, privately owned fortress with 16-inch-thick concrete walls and self-sustained energy systems using solar and wind, and with a 4,000-gallon water storage/rain catchment system. It’s located in the middle of the Nevada desert, and the owner has added two enormous, vintage pipe organs which resonate through the halls [when played], only adding to the oddity of it all,” Rasmuson says.

So-called “doomsday preppers” are people and groups preparing for worst-case scenarios, like the end of the world as we know it. Companies that cater to doomsday preppers sell things like food preserved in military grade Mylar pouches, portable toilets, propane grills, solar panels, generators. (When the perceived tensions between the United States and North Korea increased in the summer of 2017, such companies’ sales increased, the New York Times reported at the time.)

Those who can afford to do so — think Silicon Valley tech elite and New York City financiers — are going a step further, buying bunkers and homes where they can hold up in the event of calamity. “Hard Luck Mine Castle” in Goldfield, Nevada, is one such option.

Take a look inside.

Read the rest HERE

Report Raises Concerns Over Dual Agency

Consumers are confused when it comes to dual agency arrangements in real estate, according to a new report from the Consumer Federation of America that reflects results from a consumer survey and a mystery shopper survey of real estate agents.

Two-thirds of consumers surveyed believe that real estate agents are always or almost always required to represent the interests of the home buyer or seller they’re working with. However, they’re confused when agents can also work with the other party.

“Today, many home buyers and sellers do not know whether their agent is representing their interests, those of the other party, or those of neither,” says Stephen Brobeck, a CFA senior fellow and author of the report. “Given the huge expenditure of a home purchase and the conflict of financial interests between seller and buyer, it is important that consumers know who their real estate agent is actually representing.”

States have laws requiring real estate interests and relationships to be disclosed to clients. But the CFA report suggests the laws may not be sufficient. The report says that the laws typically define agent roles as “agent,” “subagent,” “transactional agent,” “designated agent,” and “dual agent”—words consumers say they do not understand.

Also, the CFA notes that these disclosures could be diminished by the fact that they are only required to be given orally and may not be required early on during the home purchase. The CFA also notes that some agents are failing to make these disclosures or mention dual agency issues.

The failure of these disclosures can harm consumers, the report says. For example, home buyers who think subagents are working for them often have disclosed information about their finances and house price ceilings that the subagents are then legally required to share with sellers.

The CFA report calls for reforms including the prohibition of dual agency. Eight states currently ban the practice. Also, the report calls for clearer written and verbal communications from the real estate professional to the consumer about whether the agent will function as a fiduciary agent, subagent, or transaction agent or facilitator and what exactly that will mean to them.

“These reforms would benefit both consumers and real estate agents,” Brobeck says. “More informed home buyers and sellers will make better decisions. … And agents will not face the risks and ethical dilemmas of dual agency and undisclosed subagency.”

Read the CFA’s full report.

Original article

America’s Safest Places To Live … Where You Can Actually Afford to Buy a Home

Buying a home these days is a high-stakes, need-to-have/nice-to-have equation. You need a home within an hour’s drive of work; it would be niceto have one that’s in walkable distance. You need a full-size kitchen with room for your five-person brood; it would be nice to have a chef’s kitchen with La Cornue Grand Palais range, Meneghini Arredamenti fridge, and, heck, a Mugnaini wood-fired pizza oven. You need at least 2.5 bathrooms; it would be nice to have a master en suite spa with a touchscreen-controlled smart bidet. Dream the dream, my friends!

So what’s the neediest of all need-to-haves? You need to find a safe place to live where you can still afford a great home. And wouldn’t it be nice if there were even fun stuff to do after work and on weekends? Yes, indeed.

Realtor.com set out to find these seductive strongholds where you can have it all. And we’re not talking about the boonies: We zeroed in on metropolitan areas, which include cities and the surrounding suburbs. (Note: Cities often have higher crime rates than their less-populated surroundings.)

Research—and common sense—indicates that when crime goes up, property values go down. Meanwhile, home buyers will pay more to live in locations with lower rates of violent crime, according to a 2015 Auburn University study. It doesn’t hurt that these areas typically also have top public schools.

“When homeowners think about the biggest investment of their life, top of mind is how safe an area would be to live in and raise a family,” says Rick Palacios Jr., director of research at John Burns Real Estate Consulting.

They also want to make sure that their investment appreciates over time, which it typically won’t do as much in areas with growing crime. “High crime rates unnerve potential home buyers,” he says. Um, yeah.

The good news: Crime has declined sharply since the early ’90s. Violent offenses, which include homicide, assault, and robbery, plummeted 49% from 1993 to 2017, according to FBI data. This explains why some of our safest places were once known for riots and rampant car thefts before they rebounded. (The downside: Gentrification is leading to some longtime residents being priced out.)

The places that made our affordable safe harbor ranking are a mix of smaller metros that never really struggled with high crime, and cities once riddled with problems that have successfully pulled off a turnaround. Our list is concentrated on resurgent Midwest, Southern, and Rust Belt cities. No Western metros were included because home prices are simply too high.

We analyzed crime data provided by NeighborhoodScout, a website that tracks community data, focusing on America’s 150 largest metros. We eliminated those with high rates of violent or property crime, and with home prices above the (roughly) $300,000 national median. Next, we zeroed in on cities with great extracurriculars—running the gamut from nightlife, to kayaking, to great indie bookstores—as tracked on Yelp.com.**

Safety, affordability, and fun! Yep, they can coexist. Let’s take a tour.

Read the rest HERE

2019 Real Estate Investment Preview

2019 will be much like 2018 – but with a bit more anxiety.

The fundamental forces that have driven rents and home prices higher – more demand for housing than supply – will continue unabated. There just hasn’t been enough construction over the last years to keep up with the demand that is increasingly concentrated in big cities (but not all of them). And – good news – in these big cities the demand is mainly for rentals.

The anxiety comes from two possibilities – that a slower economy will erode the demand for more housing – and that prices are already so high that investors won’t get enough of a return to justify new investments. In short, maybe all the good deals are gone?

My own view is that investors do indeed have to approach some markets with more caution in the new year, but that there are still plenty of opportunities available.  It is important in 2019 to pay closer attention to the stats in local markets.

Let’s look at some stats from our Investors Metro Monitor reports.

Read the rest HERE

Who moves to California?

High taxes. Stifling regulations. Exorbitant housing costs. Freeway gridlock. Fires and floods.

Hand-wringing over an exodus of disillusioned Californians may be a Golden State pastime, the subject of political punditry and strung-out social media threads.

But the latest data are far from dire. The U.S. Census Bureau, in its newly released surveys for 2017, shows that California’s net migration remained fairly stable. Since 2010, as the economic recovery took hold and housing prices skyrocketed, departures accelerated — but the number of newcomers rose steadily as well.

The state attracts a steady stream of college graduates, especially from the East Coast, even as many less-educated residents moveto neighboring states — and to Texas — in search of a lower cost of living.

Consider that in 2017:

  • More people left California (661,026) than arrived (523,131) from other U.S. states. But for the nation’s most populous state, with 39 million residents, that amounted to a tiny fraction in net departures: just 0.35%.
  • Among the 25-years-and-older set, the state lost a net 86,890 residents without bachelor’s degrees, and just 4,443 with a four-year degree. It gained 11,653 people with graduate degrees.
  • No state boasts more loudly of its attractions than Texas. Indeed, 63,174 people relocated from California to the nation’s second-most populous state, more than to anywhere else in the U.S. But it’s also true that no state sent more people here than the Lone Star State — 40,999.

“The cost of living, especially housing, is what stops the whole world from moving to California,” said USC demographer Dowell Myers, a longtime census expert. “Otherwise, who wouldn’t prefer California? We have superior weather. We have mountains and oceans. And we have better jobs — better paying and more specialized, whether in tech, entertainment, the arts or medicine.”

In the 1980s, Myers said, “millions of people came to California — too many — and that created an anti-growth backlash. But California has been losing people to other states since 2004. We lost people in the bubble because housing prices were so high. We lost them in the recession because our job market was worse than the rest of the country.”

Ask people why they came or left, and the reasons are often multifaceted. A few of them shared their stories:

Read the rest HERE

2018: Housing Market Review

While the 2017 housing market was marked by renewed optimism fueled by stock market strength, higher wages and a competitive environment for home sales, 2018 delivered a more seasoned prudence toward residential real estate. Home buyers, now steeped in several years of rising prices and low inventory, became more selective in their purchase choices as housing affordability achieved a ten-year low. Yet the appetite for home buying remained strong enough to drive prices upward in virtually all markets across the country. In fact, national home prices have risen 53 percent from February 2012 to September 2018. That mark is a less dramatic but still sizable 40 percent increase when inflation is factored in. The national median household income was last reported with a year-over-year increase of 1.8 percent, while home prices have gone up 5.5 percent in roughly the same amount of time. That kind of gap can’t be sustained indefinitely, but prices are still expected to rise in most areas, albeit at a much slower pace.

Sales: Pending sales decreased 11.0 percent, closing 2018 at 13,707. Closed sales were down 12.3 percent to finish the year at 13,636. A booming economy would seem to indicate more sales, but fewer homes to choose from coupled with lower affordability made it tougher for buyers in 2018.

Listings: Year-over-year, the number of homes available for sale was higher by 38.6 percent. There were 2,512 active listings at the end of 2018. New listings increased by 5.0 percent to finish the year at 21,195.

Distressed: The foreclosure market continues to be a hint of its former unhealthy peaks. In 2018, the percentage of closed sales that were either foreclosure or short sale decreased by 13.3 percent to end the year at 6.5 percent of the market

Prices: Home prices were up compared to last year. The overall median sales price increased 6.7 percent to $640,000 for the year. Single-Family Detached home prices were up 6.8 percent compared to last year, and Single-Family Attached home prices were up 5.8 percent.

List Price Received: Sellers received, on average, 97.3 percent of their original list price at sale, a year-over-year reduction of 0.4 percent. If demand shrinks in 2019, original list price received at sale could drop as well.

Consumer optimism has been tested by four interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve in 2018. Meanwhile, GDP growth was at 4.2 percent in Q2 2018, dropped to 3.4 percent in Q3 2018 and is expected to be about 2.9 percent in Q4 2018 when figures are released.

Looking strictly at market fundamentals, recent Fed and GDP changes will not cause a dramatic shift away from the current state of the housing market. The booming sales at increased prices over the last several years may not be the same thrill ride to observe in 2019, but a long-awaited increase in inventory is something positive to consider, even if it arrives in the form of shrinking demand amidst rising mortgage rates.

The biggest potential problem for residential real estate in 2019 might be human psychology. A fear of buying at the height of the market could create home purchase delays by a large pool of potential first-time buyers, thus creating an environment of declining sales. If the truth of a positive economic outlook coupled with responsible lending practices and more available homes for sale captures the collective American psyche, the most likely outcome for 2019 is market balance.

Could rent control be coming to San Diego?

A statewide vote to allow more widespread rent control could have big implications for San Diego County if it passes.

The effort, led by tenants rights groups and bankrolled by Los Angeles HIV/AIDS activist Michael Weinstein, qualified for the Nov. 6 ballot in June.

If approved by voters, the initiative would repeal a 1995 law that limited county and city governments’ ability to slow rent hikes. Even if it passes, it would still be up to local lawmakers to approve rent control or approve citizens’ initiatives.

San Diego is one of the few big cities in California with no form of rent control, unlike San Francisco, Berkeley and Los Angeles.

Alan Gin, an economist at the University of San Diego, said rent limitations may help some people but it could result in less housing being built, something desperately needed in the state.

“Housing prices have gotten way out of hand in California,” he said. “Even though I don’t think (rent control) will work, I can understand people’s frustration.”

Economists typically argue that rent control will lead to a reduction in the quality and quantity of housing available. But, that hasn’t stopped frustrated renters in San Diego and the rest of California from taking action.

The average San Diego County rent in March was $1,887, pushed up by an influx of new, high-end apartments downtown, said MarketPointe Realty Advisors. It has increased 8 percent in a year.

A local organizer for Prop 10, Paola Martinez, said low-income Californians are struggling to survive. She said arguments that rent control would slow housing production are hard to stomach for low-income renters.

“Housing is being created, it’s just not the type of housing we need,” she said of new residential projects. “We are not building affordable housing.”

One of the most common arguments against rent control is that if a landlord knows they can’t charge more, they won’t fix up the apartment. Try telling that to a San Diego renter, Martinez said.

“Even without rent control, those issues are still there,” she said. “We’re seeing increases of rent at a super high rate in pretty deplorable conditions, uninhabitable conditions. Their landlords aren’t making any repairs, even when they are increasing the rent.”

Prop. 10 would repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which bans cities and counties from capping rent increases on apartments built after 1995. If passed, it means new apartment buildings that are being constructed downtown could be subject to the law. The act also prevents rent control on single-family homes.

Read the rest HERE!

‘Faceless Bunker’ From ‘Fixer Upper’ Takes Title of This Week’s Most Popular Home


Why it’s here:
 Chip and Joanna Gaines strike again! It’s another example of a home featured on “Fixer Upper” with a premium price tag. The “Faceless Bunker” from the show’s second season got a major face-lift from the home renovation team, and a major markup when it recently landed on the market.

The current owners bought the place in 2014, when it was listed for a mere $349,900. The remodeled abode sits on nearly 2 acres, and has a signature Gaines look, with gleaming floors, a new kitchen, and a gorgeous master suite with spa bath.

See the homes HERE