Will this welness trend hit California?

Health-Centric Homes, for a Price

Robin Finn | New York Times | June 28, 2013 | link

Katherine Marks for The New York Times

HOME AND TONIC This loft belonging to Paul D. Scialla, a developer of a condo he describes as designed to foster a sound body, has been used as a residential guinea pig. Its kitchen has a juicing station and a herbarium. Delos is betting that its patented WELL certification becomes as commonplace as the one accorded by LEED.

Coming soon to a neighborhood near you: an empathic multimillion-dollar home that passively treats the occupant’s body like a temple. The second coming of sustainable real estate, it will fuse green technology with nourishing all-about-me amenities and direct them indoors. Homebodies, take note: the residence is designed to make the people it shelters healthier.

Katherine Marks for The New York Times

JUICED Paul D. Scialla is framed by Delos’s health-centric condo at 66 East 11th Street, where prices start at $15.5 million for apartments with everything from circadian lighting systems to posture-supportive flooring.

“The simplest way to understand what this home is capable of doing is to think of it like a 24-hour carwash that works on the human body,” said Paul D. Scialla, a co-founder and the managing partner of Delos, the Manhattan real estate firm. After conducting years’ worth of medical studies on the soundness of the science behind its product, Delos is about to make its debut in the city’s luxury marketplace with a WELL-certified condominium (the Delos name and the concept are trademarked).

The five health-centric residences are at 66 East 11th Street, an address where living well is, to recycle a throwaway line attributed to the 17th-century poet George Herbert, about to become the best revenge. Construction is under way; the first loft is scheduled to be habitable in September.

The purest air and water and the most intense soundproofing are promised: there is a buildingwide water purification system; filters will screen out air pollutants, allergens and toxins; and a circadian lighting system will stream energizing light in the morning and melatonin-enhancing light in the evening. Then there’s the posture-supportive flooring system and the WELL Shield coating, which destroys bacteria in the kitchen and bathrooms. Read more…

Mother nature on your side…

How the Weather Can Save You Money

 Learnvest.com | July 1, 2013 | link
Our friends at LearnVest offer sound financial tips and advice for every aspect of life. Here’s the latest on saving money this summer.

Adjusting theromstat
Some summertime savings could be headed your way as new energy projections show a decrease in electric bills this summer, The Wall Street Journal reports.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average household will pay $395 for electricity in June, July and August, a solid 2.5-percent decrease from last summer. Assuming these projections hold true, this will be the third summer in a row with lower electrical spending.

But unlike the last two summers, this drop in bills has nothing to do with lower electricity rates. Lower temperatures are the reason Americans use less air conditioning and pocket some extra cash. After three blistering summers, government forecasters are saying that this summer’s temperatures will align more with the average levels. Read more…

Mortgage modifications come to many…

Thousands of Borrowers to Get Mortgage Payments Reduced

 CNNMoney  | Posted Jul 1st 2013  | link

mortgage loan modification application with reading glassesBy Les Christie

Starting this week, hundreds of thousands of struggling borrowers could be in for a pleasant surprise: a quick and easy way to get their mortgage payments back on track — and save considerable money.

Through a new effort called the Streamlined Modification Initiative, borrowers with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac who are at least 90 days behind on payments will start receiving offers from lenders to lower their mortgage payments.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie and Freddie, won’t say how many delinquent homeowners will receive the modifications, but the Mortgage Bankers Association reported in May that about 1.1 million borrowers are behind on their loans by three payments or more. Not all of those mortgage holders have Fannie or Freddie loans, however.

The FHFA claims to have helped 2.7 million borrowers keep their homes through its other foreclosure prevention efforts, such as the Home Affordable Modification Program which was launched in March, 2009.

Unlike those previous efforts, however, the Streamlined Modification Initiative won’t require borrowers to file any financial paperwork. Instead, they just need to make the new payments for a trial period of three months and then the modification becomes permanent.

The FHFA said the extensive paperwork and procedures that other foreclosure prevention initiatives require has been a major obstacle in getting people the help they need. Paperwork gets lost, borrowers are asked to provide documents over and over again, and evaluating a borrower’s eligibility can be time consuming.

“This is a no-brainer and should have been done years ago,” said David Berenbaum, who coordinates fair housing and fair lending compliance initiatives for the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a nonprofit focused on fighting foreclosures. Read more…

Staging to sell

5 Options for Staging Your Home

 Brendan DeSimone | Zillow Blog | June 28, 2013 | link

Unstaged room

An unstaged home often leaves too much to the imagination, making it harder for potential buyers to imagine themselves living there.

For many sellers, the word “staging” conjures images of an out-of-reach home in an upscale design catalogue with a giant price tag. The assumption is they can’t afford staging, or their homes don’t need it. Many sellers believe their homes already show well, they have nice furniture, and they’ve carefully chosen their paint colors — all of which will help sell their homes.

The reality is, most sellers would benefit from at least some level of staging. And staging doesn’t have to involve a high-end designer who takes over your home, removes all your stuff and completely transforms it. There are many ways to stage a home. It can be as simple as a one-time, slight design and furniture placement consultation, or it can involve a complete renovation of your home in anticipation of your sale.

Don’t be turned off immediately if your agent suggests staging. The goal is to turn your home into a marketable “product,” and just a little bit of work can go a long way. Here are five options for staging that sellers should consider before listing their home for sale.

1. A one-time consultation

Most home stagers are actually designers. They know what looks good, what sells and how to best showcase a home. Your home may need a good paint job, could use some new carpet or might even need some landscaping or help with curb appeal. A designer can offer advice about your current home and suggest paint colors, types of carpets, new light fixtures and all kinds of feedback to help you get your home ready for sale.

Think a designer will cost a fortune? Think again. A designer can come in and charge by the hour (as little as $75/hour and up to $200/hour, depending on your location) and consult with you on colors, fixtures and finishes. This can be one of the best few hundred dollars a seller spends prior to listing.

2. Partial staging

Partial staging is exactly what it sounds like. You may have some outdated furniture or lack good art for your walls. A stager/designer can come in and just do a little bit of work. Maybe you use one bedroom as an office. The stager can bring in a day bed and small dresser to help show this room as an office or a bedroom. You may want to get rid of your oversized sectional sofa and have a stager bring in something smaller to give the appearance of a bigger family room. Have some rooms that seem bare, cold or sterile? A stager can bring in carpets or throw pillows to give any room some life. Read more…

Good news & more good news!

Real-Estate News: A Double Dose of Positive Housing News

Wall Street Journal Staff Writers | Wall Street Journal | June 26, 2013 | link

Carl Bortolami
House of the Day: Soap-opera star Josie Bissett moved from the bustle of Los Angeles to raise her family in this home in a placid Seattle suburb.

Here is a look at real-estate news from Wednesday’s WSJ, including the Property Report:

A Double Dose of Positive Housing News: Sales of new homes rose to the highest level in nearly five years in May and a key gauge of existing-home prices surged, indicating substantial strength in the housing sector ahead of recent worries about rising mortgage rates.

Asian Buyers Dig Into U.S. Property: Asian investors are pumping money into U.S. commercial real estate at a record pace, pushing real-estate values higher and helping get stalled projects off the ground.

Condo’s Price Is Straight Up: A penthouse atop a new condominium skyscraper that resembles a pile of haphazardly stacked boxes has gone into contract for $47 million, a record for a condo sale below Midtown Manhattan.

Climbing Rates Seen Stalling Rise in Values: The sharp rise in interest rates in recent weeks has raised the specter in the commercial-real-estate industry that nearly four years of steady gains in property values could come to a halt. Read more…

Zillow’s Dig This Trend | Breakfast Nooks

Catherine Sherman | Zillow Blogs | June 17, 2013 | link

You may rethink breakfast in bed when you see these bright and cozy breakfast nooks from Zillow Digs. Whether modern banquette seating or a Victorian-style tea parlor, these spaces are changing the way homeowners across the country approach the most important meal of the day.

Sunny in Savannah

Savannah, GA
A glass of OJ and newspaper in hand seem fitting for this classic, sun-filled breakfast table.

Head in the clouds

Park City, UT
With a 180-degree view of Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resort’s ski runs, you can plan your route down the slopes over a high-protein meal.

Booth, please!

Sausalito, CA
A distressed wood table and sleek booth seats are a contemporary take on a ’50s diner.

Read more…

Zillow’s Dig This Trend | Patio Perfection

Madison Slinker | Zillow Blogs | April 22, 2013 | link

Warning: These patios have been known to cause major real estate envy. From fireside loungers to satin-draped palaces, here are a few of the most magazine-worthy patios from Zillow Digs.

Lakefront view

Zillow's Dig This Trend: Party Patios

Designed for all seasons, this waterfront patio offers shade during sunny afternoons, and a crackling hearth for evening warmth.

Garden hideaway

Zillow's Dig This Trend: Party Patios

Planning a Mother’s Day tea party? This elegant brick patio offers an intimate dining experience surrounded by greenery.

Mediterranean beauty

Zillow's Dig This Trend: Patios

Venture to Tuscany without ever having to leave the comfort of your home. A Mediterranean-style lounge area is the perfect weekend escape. Read more…

Zillow’s Dig This Trend | Outdoor Kitchens

Erika Riggs | Zillow Blog | June 24, 2013 | link

Barbecuing is convenient, but sometimes heading in and out of the kitchen to cook side dishes or grab additional drinks is a pain. Unless, of course, the entire kitchen is outdoors.

These grilling areas are not just for slapping together a few burgers, but for coordinating full-blown, gourmet dinners. We’re showing some of the best outdoor kitchens from Zillow Digs.

Tropical paradise tropical kitchen

Hungry after your swim? Put together some poolside treats in this kitchen.

Eat up!

Now that’s a spread of food! The top-of-the-line barbecue and cooking space isn’t too shabby either.

Sleek space

Keep your drinks as cool as this rooftop space in the outdoor kitchen’s refrigerator.

Read more…

The best to offer in a multiple offer situation

Real Estate Investing: Why Cash Flow Is King

ProfessorBaron | Zillow Blog | June 21, 2013 | link

Royal Gold CrownAs real estate values rise nationwide and many properties listed for sale are being fought over by investors and home buyers, it seems that, once again, investment property buyers are paying outrageous prices for properties. Anyone recall this phenomenon in 2004, 2005 and 2006?

An “outrageous price” is one that is way too high considering the cash flows the rental property can generate. These negative cash flow properties are rarely profitable investments, compared with other investment options a buyer could have chosen.

Experienced real estate investors only buy properties that are cash-flow positive — based on conservative estimates — and skip those pesky negative cash flow deals. Note that those negative cash flow properties are typically the fancy prize properties in town; you know, the location, location, location properties.

Penciling out a deal

The main reason investors keep paying these high prices is because 95 percent of them acquire properties without doing any financial analysis to determine whether the property will actually produce decent investment returns. Instead, they hope that a property will go up in value, they’ll sell it and make a bundle. Unfortunately, that scenario rarely happens.

As an example, let’s say an investor buys a $125,000 house by investing cash equity of $40,000 (25 percent down payment plus closing costs and rehabilitation costs) that generates rental income of $1,200 per month. The mortgage plus other operating expenses total $1,015 per month. So the rent less all the expenses leaves $185 of positive monthly income, or $2,220 per year. If we divide this $2,220 annual cash flow by the $40,000 initial cash investment,  it calculates to a cash-on-cash return of 5.55 percent — a pretty fair deal on a decent real estate investment. Read more…

Protecting your home naturally

Pests, Be Gone! 10 Ways to Make Your Home Critter-Free

Jennifer Noonan | Zillow Blog | June 19, 2013 | link

No need to use chemicals — instead, use these herbal, fruity or soap-laden solutions for problems with pests like ants, mice and mosquitoes.

No. 1: Block flies with basil

pest 1

Source: gardenheights.com

Flies hate the smell of basil. To discourage them, place pots of basil at doorways and windowsills and on the kitchen counter. Don’t have enough sun for potted basil? Put dried basil in a small muslin pouch, rubbing it occasionally to keep the scent strong.

No. 2: Scare off spiders with citrus


Source: shutterstock.com

Spiders are not fond of citrus. In a spray bottle, mix water and unsweetened lemon or lime juice. Wipe your countertops with the mixture or spray down doorways and windowsills. You can deter spiders in your garden by spreading around lemon, orange or lime peels. Read more…