Entries in Real Estate (40)


Florida 14-Year-Old Buys Distressed Home

Shannon Moore(PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla.) -- After Willow Tufano earned $6,000 from antiquing and selling items on Craigslist, the 14-year-old asked her mom if she could invest in half of a short sale in her home state of Florida.

Tufano earned the money from finding free items or deals online or at antique auctions and leftover furniture from foreclosed homes. She re-sells the items or gives them away on the “free” list on Craigslist.  She says she could not have thrived in that business without the support of her parents and grandparents, who drive her around to pick up items.

With her saved money, she didn’t want to buy or barter for another skateboard or Xbox.  Instead she set her sights on a three-bedroom short sale of $12,000 that reportedly was worth about $100,000 at the peak of the housing market.

“If there’s one thing I want people to know, it’s that your age does not matter,” Tufalo told ABC News. "If I can inspire another person my age, younger, that would mean the world. Whether it’s buying a house, buying a car, or whatever. If you really work for it and put your mind to it you can do what you want to do.”

Tufano’s mother, Shannon Moore, is a broker who owns several rental properties with her husband. When Tufano heard that her mother was considering purchasing the home, she asked her mom if she could buy half of it with the hope of buying the other half eventually. Florida requires a minimum age of 18 to own property.

“She’s always thinking, ‘How can I skin the cat differently?’” her mother said. Tufano helped her mom fix up the home in Port Charlotte, Fla., and even helped the new tenants find a free bed and mattress. Tufano is splitting the proceeds from the rental income with her mom and says she will use that to buy out her mom’s share.

Asked if she was considering a career in real estate, Tufano said she preferred investing. “I’m not so sure about real estate,” she said. “But investing is really cool. You get to see a property that was a mess before and afterward see that it’s beautiful. I suppose with real estate you can connect with people more, but I would probably prefer investing.”

Tufano, who is home-schooled, said her favorite subject is American history, but dislikes algebra because she is “really, really bad at math.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Dr. Seuss-Like Homes For Sale

Zillow(NEW YORK) -- Dr. Seuss, who would have celebrated his 108th birthday on Friday, is still a household name across the U.S. and perhaps is even an inspiration to home decoration.

Zillow compiled a list of homes for sale or rent that bring to mind the colorful shades and shapes in his children’s books. The homes range from $139,000 to $22.5 million with locations from Colorado to  Florida.  Zillow also included in the list a colorful, oddly shaped rental property in Long Island, N.Y., for $16,000 a month.

See slideshow of seven Dr. Seuss-like homes for sale or rent.

Theodor Seuss Geisel was born on March 2, 1904. He passed away on Sept. 24, 1991, at age 87 but his estate continues to earn millions in royalties from his books and films. The latest film, based on his children’s book, The Lorax, will be released on Friday from Universal Pictures.

Forbes listed Geisel as one of the top-10 earning dead celebrities last year, earning $9 million.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Presidential Candidates' Homes Range from Modest to Many

Creatas/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Though they are all vying to live in the White House, the GOP presidential contenders all have charming and sometimes lavish homes to tide them over.  Even the current commander-in-chief still has a multi-million dollar Georgian revival mansion in Illinois -- just in case.

From a Washington, D.C., townhouse to a tony mini-mansion, here are the houses that the seven rivals currently call home.  That is, until or if one of them starts having mail forwarded to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Newt Gingrich -- McLean, Va.
Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and U.S. Congressman from Georgia, purchased his home in McLean, Va., for $995,000 in 2000.  It has 5,206 square feet and features a master bathroom with a marble floor and a chandelier.

Jon Huntsman -- Washington, D.C.
If Jon Huntsman's home looks familiar, it's because it was where the contestants of Bravo's Top Chef resided during Season 7.  The former Utah governor and ambassador to China owns a five-bedroom townhouse in Washington, D.C.  The house was sold for $3.6 million in June 2010, according to public records.

Ron Paul -- Lake Jackson, Texas
Texas Rep. Ron Paul's four-bedroom ranch house in Lake Jackson has been on the market since April 2011.  The Pauls have moved to a nearby home.  His site,, says the home has "four bedrooms, five bathrooms and is approximately 5,500 square feet in size."  The asking price is $325,000 while the median list price of homes in Lake Jackson is $139,800, according to Zillow.  The house has an in-ground swimming pool, two lofts and an office.

Rick Perry -- Austin, Texas
While waiting for renovations to the governor's mansion to be completed, Perry reportedly moved to a home in a gated community in Austin.  The house features five bedrooms, seven bathrooms, three dining rooms and a guest house.  The New York Times said the home, which has a balcony, is worth nearly $2 million and sits on three acres.  On, the home on Hickory Creek Drive is said to have 5,780 square feet.

Mitt Romney -- Wolfeboro, N.H.
The former Massachusetts governor and wealthiest GOP candidate owns the most real estate, including a property on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.  According to The New York Times, he recently sold his homes in Belmont, Mass. and Park City, Utah, but maintains another in La Jolla, Calif., for which he bought in 2008 for $12 million, Zillow reported.

Rick Santorum -- Great Falls, Va.
Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, lives in a Great Falls, Va., house that reportedly cost $2 million in 2007.

President Barack Obama -- Chicago, Ill.
President Obama reportedly paid $1.65 million for his home on the South Side of Chicago in June 2005, Zillow reports.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


San Francisco Condo Sets New Sales Record for City

Adam Gault/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- A two-floor, $28 million San Francisco penthouse has made history as the most expensive condo sold in the city's history.

The 20,000-square-foot condo features floor-to-ceiling glass windows, six bedrooms, seven full baths, four powder rooms; 2,500 square foot master suite, thirteen-seat home cinema and four terraces, four fireplaces and six car parking.

The apartment was originally on the market for $70 million.

The seller is a subsidiary of Bank of America, Second Step Asset Management.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Dead Man Trims National Debt

Adam Gault/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- A deceased Florida man just did what Congress has struggled to do: He reduced the $15 trillion national debt, even though only by the most miniscule of slivers.

When James H. Davidson Jr. died in December 2010 at the age of 87, he left his 3,900-square-foot house and $1 million he had in other assets to the United States Treasury.

Davidson’s sprawling Spanish-style home sold for $1.175 million at auction Saturday, providing Uncle Sam with some more pocket change to pay down a national debt that ballooned to a record high in November.

Davidson, who was a veteran and briefly worked for Miami-Dade County government, never married or had children. He did, however, have nieces and nephews in the area, according to the Miami Herald.

“We in the family found it highly unusual,” his nephew, David Harum, told the newspaper of his uncle’s non-traditional decision.

George Richards, owner of the National Auction Company, told ABC News that more than 750 people toured the home and 17 ultimately registered to bid, which required turning in a $25,000 cashier’s check.

The winning bidder was Barbara Perez, who along with her husband and another couple, bid on the house as a joint venture.

The home was named a historic landmark in November by the Historic Preservation Board of Coral Gables, Fla.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Collegians Ditching Dorms for McMansions

File photo. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MERCED, Calif.) -- At the University of California, Merced, one right of passage -- college students crammed into shoebox-sized dorm rooms -- is no longer.

For thousands of collegians, the life of the starving student has been traded in for the lap of luxury, many of them now living in sprawling new homes that were abandoned by foreclosures in one of the hardest-hit cities in the U.S.

These so-called "McMansions" are complete with spiral staircases, sparkling chandeliers and even Jacuzzis.

Third-year student Stephen Chang and five other engineering buddies live in a 3,300-square-foot house that has five bedrooms, four full bathrooms, a gas fireplace and a two-car garage. In the kitchen, there are granite countertops, a walk-in pantry and a stainless-steel sink and dishwasher. The dining room now serves as the Ping-Pong room and a place to store bikes. Chang even has his own bathroom.

They pay about $300 a piece a month -- about half as much as they paid to live in the school's dorms.

So many students have moved to these giant suburban homes that the university has shuttle buses to transport them to and from classes. Chang and Laird said that several other college students lived on their street and that the neighborhood was mostly made up of students.

"I guess it's kind of sad to see all these students living in such nice houses, when there could be families living there," Chang said, "[but] we are bringing income to this area, so better us rent these houses than have them just sit here and nobody rents them at all."

It's a win for the young university, which only has enough campus housing for about a third of its nearly 5,200 students.

"It's not a win for the people who lost their homes but it's a win for our students and for the campus that our undergraduate and graduate students have some really lovely places to live in," said Jane Lawrence, the university's vice chancellor for student affairs.

Some students' parents are swooping in and buying the homes as investment properties and the banks that are sitting on these vacant sites are benefitting. Even the neighbors don't seem to mind.

"They get in there and they're paying the rent and they're taking care of business," Michael Abarca said. "They are pretty quiet on the block."

Ellie Wooten, a real estate broker and the former mayor of Merced, said the university had greatly helped a community crippled by the foreclosure crisis.

"When you have students in [the homes], you don't have vandalism and people breaking in and that sort of thing," Wooten said. "There is a background check on their parents so the parents know they are responsible for their son or daughter living in this house. ... Businesses at large are doing a lot better because of the students."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Foreclosure Law Firm That Mocked Victims Closing

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(BUFFALO, N.Y.) -- One of the major law firms handling foreclosures in the U.S. is closing its doors after being banned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from receiving new work from lenders and servicers. It's the same firm that threw a Halloween party last year where its employees dressed up as foreclosure victims, mocking people who had lost their homes.

The photos from the party leaked on the Internet, but law firm Steven J. Baum P.C., one of the largest foreclosure law firms in New York state, was also implicated in the robo-signing scandal where landers seeking to foreclose had filed phony paperwork to speed the process.

The firm announced its closure on Monday. Baum handled 40 percent of all foreclosures statewide, according to the Buffalo News.

The firm had been denounced by consumers and consumer advocates for its work on behalf of lenders even before the "robo-signing" controversy thrust it into the middle of a nationwide crisis over the legitimacy of many foreclosures, according to the Buffalo News. The controversy broke nationwide in October 2010, when bank workers or lenders were accused of indiscriminately signing foreclosure documents.

Steven Baum law firm directed ABC News to its spokesman, Earl Wells, who didn't return a request for comment.

"Disrupting the livelihoods of so many dedicated and hardworking people is extremely painful, but the loss of so much business left us no choice but to file these notices," Steven J. Baum, who owns the firm, said in the statement.

Last month the firm agreed to pay a $2 million fine and change its practices to settle a federal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department that it filed misleading legal papers to expedite foreclosures.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, launched an investigation into the Baum firm, and wrote to the firm to request documents, according to the Buffalo News.

Daren Blomquist, spokesman for RealtyTrac, said the closing of the firm and others has put the spotlight on shoddy practices and a lack of transparency in the foreclosure industry.

"It's good that these questionable practices are coming to light," Blomquist said. "The problem is the foreclosure industry brought this on itself in a way."

One large problem is that it is slowing down the path to a housing recovery, he said.

"It's delaying foreclosure activity that needs to take place for market to reset itself," he said. "It's a good thing that these practices are coming to light, but it's going to mean the markets are going to be bogged down before we can truly recover."

Brad German, Freddie Mac spokesman, said he could not divulge the reasons why the agency told services on Nov. 10 to stop referring new business on its new files to the firm.

A spokesman for Fannie Mae, the Federal National Mortgage Association, confirmed that the federal agency suspended new referrals to the Baum firm on Nov. 15 but said he could not share why. On Monday, the agency distributed broader authorization to transfer existing foreclosure filings to other counsel.

Fannie Mae has processed 960,000 loan workouts, such as modifications and other foreclosure prevention solutions, since 2009. The agency has also opened 12 mortgage help centers across the country, most recently in Washington, D.C. to assist homeowners in trouble.

The average time to close a foreclosure is 336 days, according to RealtyTrac. New York state already has the longest process of any state, with an average of 986 days, which Blomquist says "almost unbelievable."

As a comparison, nationwide in 2007 when the country had a "normal market" the average time to foreclose was 140 days.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama to Announce Plans for Housing, Student Loan Reform

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama is coining a new campaign slogan for a three day Western campaign fundraising tour, along with executive action that would not need Congressional approval on some mortgage and student loan relief.

“We Can’t Wait”  is the battle cry he takes first to Las Vegas, Nevada, where Monday afternoon the embattled President intends to stand on the front porch of a home and announce that his administration will ease the rules for homeowners who want to renegotiate their federally backed mortgages. In Las Vegas, home to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, one in every 39 homes is in foreclosure -- the worst rate in the nation.

The president’s action, which sidesteps Congress, would “knock down these barriers which will help responsible borrowers with little or no equity in their homes take advantage of today’s low mortgage rates,” according to an administration official.  “Those will include removing caps for deeply underwater borrowers and cutting costs of refinancing” for families with federally-backed mortgages.

In Colorado on Wednesday, President Obama will announce easier rules on repayment of college loans.

On a bus tour last week, President Obama began the drumbeat of criticism for Congressional inaction, telling crowds, “The election is 13 months away.  And folks can’t afford to wait that long” for action on job creation.

But Republicans are quick to point out that Democrats in Congress also opposed his jobs bill, and the president’s expensive stimulus plan has failed to work. In an email of news clippings critical of his record, the Republican National Committee dubbed this week’s trip the “West Coast Misery Tour.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Little Talk of Housing Crisis on the Campaign Trail

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- When the mortgage crisis erupted in 2007, the housing industry dominated the political agenda.

Four years later, the economy remains on the forefront of Americans’ minds, but contenders for the 2012 elections have little to say about the housing industry, the future of which remains bleak.

Mitt Romney incited the ire of liberals and President Obama when he suggested Tuesday that banks shouldn’t stop the foreclosure process and instead let them “hit the bottom.”

“The idea of the federal government running around and saying, hey, we’re going to give you some money for trading in your old car, or we’re going to give you a few thousand bucks for buying a new house, or we’re going to keep banks from foreclosing if you can’t make your payments, these kind of actions on the part of government haven’t worked,” the leading Republican 2012 contender said at Tuesday night’s debate in Nevada, which has the highest foreclosure rate in the country.

But other GOP candidates have been relatively mum on the issue, even as the housing industry remains weak.

“No one has very good ideas of what to do about this situation that we’re in right now,” said Peter J. Wallison, a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute who served as counsel to President Ronald Reagan. “It’s a much more complex issue than talking about the debt or defense policy or foreign policy. This is a very complicated financial problem and to try and explain it in a soundbite is very hard to do.”

The housing market is predicted to remain weak as the 2012 election cycle begins. In its Economic and Housing Forecasts for October 2011 report, Fannie Mae forecasts that home sales will continue to weaken and that mortgage applications haven’t increased despite low interest rates and government programs to jolt the market.

“In this type of environment, the housing market remains very sluggish and consumers’ willingness to dig into their savings to purchase big ticket items is very low,” Fannie Mae’s chief economist, Doug Duncan, said in a statement. “Leading indicators point to housing sales bouncing near the bottom at least through the end of 2012.”

The Obama administration has launched several programs to jolt the sluggish market, but only a handful have been met with mixed success.

The $75 billion Home Affordable Mortgage Insurance Program, launched in March 2009, didn’t attract as many distressed homebuyers as the administration had hoped. Some people who took advantage of the program ended up defaulting again on their mortgage. The Federal Housing Administration’s refinancing program has also taken heavy criticism for the same reason.

“I think the program wasn’t aggressive,” said leading economist and Yale professor Robert Shiller. “We are still in this situation that homeowners are exposed to real estate risk and there’s not much being done for them.”

Consumer confidence plays a significant role in how people perceive their elected leaders. A weak housing market, coupled with the economic crisis, could spell trouble for President Obama. Battleground states like Florida, Nevada and Ohio boast some of the highest foreclosure rates in the country. And the sluggish market is weighing generally on consumer confidence.

“It’s a drag on the economy and it’s a drag on confidence,” Shiller said. “Consumer confidence is at record lows...and it’s related to the fact that so many people are wiped out or underwater or they’re worried about being under water soon. It’s affected the mortgage portfolios of banks.”

A turnaround in the housing market would boost the economy and help Obama’s re-election chances, not dissimilar to President Roosevelt, who won a second term in 1936 despite the Great Depression. But critics say the administration has taken too long to turn back the dial.

“All of these programs have caused people to rethink what is happening in the mortgage markets and the housing markets and to be wary of the government’s involvement in those markets and the danger that the government may do something again that will cause housing prices to fall further,” Wallison said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Realtors: This Year Is Best to Purchase a Home

Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Realtors and mortgage brokers are saying this year may be the best time ever to purchase a home, with mortgage rates at historical lows not seen since President Harry Truman dealt with his own divided Congress.

But the times of easy mortgage money are over, locking out many with tarnished credit from getting a loan. In addition, one of four U.S. homeowners can't borrow because their homes are worth less than the amount of their mortgages.

Freddie Mac announced Thursday fixed-rate mortgages fell near 60-year lows as investor concern over the European debt market keep Treasury bond yields low. The 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 4.09 percent, a new all-time low. The 15-year fixed rate mortgage, a popular refinancing option, according to Freddie Mac, also reached a new record low, averaging 3.30 percent for the week.

Long-term, fixed-rate mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration averaged 4.08 percent for several months from 1950 to 1951.

Tom Mellett, a senior loan officer at Cole Taylor Mortgages in Pennsylvania, said it may be more difficult to get a mortgage loan that it was two years ago, a period that he calls the "wild, wild West." During that time, mortgage lenders were more widely giving loans to buyers without the wherewithal to purchase a home, hence leading to the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

But Mellett said people who really are in a position to receive a mortgage are actually getting them. He recommended a few initial steps to take advantage of the present low mortgage rates.

First, he recommended checking your credit score for inaccuracies.

Second, set realistic financial expectations for your price range. One guideline is that your proposed housing expenses, including monthly mortgage payments and all other debts, not exceed 45 percent of your gross income, though Mellett said that percentage is not set in stone.

Next, he said it may be wise early on to talk to a mortgage broker or someone registered with the National Mortgage Licensing System to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Mellett said that most realtors recommend pre-approval if you want to be considered a "serious" buyer, sometimes before even taking a potential buyer to look at homes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio