Tag - house

Average US 30-year mortgage rate falls to 3.95 pct, 2017 low

Average US 30-year mortgage rate falls to 3.95 pct, 2017 low

WASHINGTON/May 25, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell this week to their lowest levels of the year. The benchmark 30-year rate dipped below the key 4 percent mark.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on 30-year fixed-rate home loans tumbled to 3.95 percent from 4.02 percent last week. The rate stood at 3.64 percent a year ago and averaged 3.65 percent in 2016, the lowest level in records dating to 1971.

The rate on 15-year mortgages slipped to 3.19 percent from 3.27 percent last week.

Hemingway house changes hands, still off limits to public

Hemingway house changes hands, still off limits to public

BOISE, Idaho/May 24, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — Ownership of the Idaho house where Ernest Hemingway wrote some of his last works before killing himself in the main entryway in 1961 has changed hands but will stay off limits to the public.

The Nature Conservancy transferred the two-story, 2,500-square-foot house in the Idaho resort town of Ketchum earlier this month as a gift to the Community Library, a privately funded public library.

Library officials say an apartment in the house will be renovated for a residency program for visiting writers, scholars and artists starting next year.

“What having the Hemingway house does for the Community Library is situate our Idaho community in this global network,” executive director Jenny Emery Davidson said Tuesday.

Hemingway aficionados frequently take to what’s called the Hemingway trail, which includes stops tied to the globe-trotting author’s many adventures. The area in Idaho is packed with such areas, including Hemingway’s grave in the Ketchum cemetery.

The house has many of the author’s personal possessions, and some will be put on display at the Sun Valley Museum of History, Davidson said. They include a bull’s tail given to Hemingway following a bullfight in Spain, correspondence with locals Hemingway befriended and hunting paraphernalia, she said.

Hemingway owned the house from April 1959 until his suicide in July 1961 at age 61, when he feared that he had lost his ability to write to his standards, biographers say. The author worked on “A Moveable Feast” and “The Dangerous Summer” at the house, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015.

The author’s wife, Mary Hemingway, who died in 1986, gave the house to the Nature Conservancy but with restrictions that precluded operating it as a public museum. The group used the house as a field office before outgrowing it.

Owning the house has never been a good fit for the conservation organization dedicated to preserving the kind of wild places that drew Hemingway to Idaho. That made it difficult for the group to justify the annual upkeep on the house built in 1953 above a tree-lined river with views of snow-topped mountains.

The 13.9 acres (5.6 hectares) included with the house are worth millions, but the house is small and outdated compared with the mega-mansions common in the area.

The Community Library has a base of wealthy locals to draw from to help pay for what it estimates is $1.5 million in annual expenses for upkeep and its plans for the house.

The Carr Foundation supplied the initial money to make the transfer of the Hemingway home feasible. Davidson declined to say how much philanthropist Gregory Carr, who was born in Idaho and owns a home in the Ketchum area, donated.

“People are interested in Hemingway, but the people who have stepped up so far are people who care about Idaho,” Davidson said.

She also said the home is a perfect fit for the library, which has a regional history division and is keen to promote the area’s literary icon. She said it’s even possible new insights could be discovered.

“We have not told the story of Hemingway and the American West as we could,” she said.

The home will not be opened to the public like Hemingway’s other homes in Key West, Florida, and Havana, Cuba, but there will be some access, Davidson said.

“We plan to treat it as a home,” she said. “Sometimes people invite small groups of people to their home.”

The Nature Conservancy didn’t respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press on Tuesday.

KEITH RIDLER, Associated Press

Architect couple turns crumbling building into modern home 

Architect couple turns crumbling building into modern home 

NEW ORLEANS/May 19, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — When David and Irelis MacDonald bought their property in the Faubourg Marigny in 2013, they knew they’d have to jump through some hoops to get construction started. Their idea was to turn the crumbling concrete structure into a modern apartment building in the midst of a historic district.

The 50-year-old, two-story building made of steel and concrete was in bad shape, with no insulation, a leaking roof and poor drainage. Part of the exterior was cracking and in disrepair.

The property, in recent years, had housed the NOLA Defender publication and a comedy club called The New Movement. Before that, it had been home to a mechanic shop, a ship anchor storage, a laundromat, a catering firm and a construction company, the MacDonalds said.

The couple — who are both architects — planned to gut the property, raise the foundation 21 inches above base flood elevation, and turn it into a three-unit apartment building. Those plans initially caused concern for some in the community. “There were a lot of people hoping the building would be torn down and rebuilt into a single-family home,” David said.

“We sent fliers to everyone and invited them here to express their concerns, but we didn’t have that many people show up,” Irelis said. “But we did have several support letters, but also people who weren’t in favor.”

Ultimately, it took seven months for the couple to go through the permitting process with the city and the Historic District Landmarks Commission. Plus, the property had a zero lot line, meaning there was little room to do construction work. So the MacDonalds had to request permission from their neighbors to work on the building’s sides.

In the end, the MacDonalds transformed the steel-and-concrete structure into a 3,400-square-foot, three-level residence with rental units on the first and second floors. The couple now lives on the second and third floor.

The MacDonalds will open the doors to their home this Sunday, from noon to 4 p.m., when their property will be one of nine featured on the 45th annual Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association Home Tour. Tickets are $25 and will be sold at Washington Square Park, 700 Frenchmen St.

The MacDonalds — whose company is Mac Design Build– drafted their building’s plans, and David served as the general contractor. This project was a labor of love for the couple, who met 17 years ago at the Louisiana State University School of Architecture.

After graduation, they worked in Portland, Ore., Sacramento and Boston. When David’s mother got sick in 2012, the couple moved back to Louisiana to be near her. And they’ve been in New Orleans ever since.

When they stumbled upon the Marigny property, they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to design their own home. “It was a lot more than we thought we were going to do, but at the same time, it was like, well, it’s only going to be a three unit so maybe we can do it,” Irelis recalled.

The couple gutted the building. “Basically, what we had left was a shell,” David said.

They redesigned the property into three units with two bedrooms and two bathrooms in each. All of the apartments have a contemporary industrial look, with exposed steel cross-bracing tension cables and corrugated metal ceilings.

An outdoor spiral staircase leads to the building’s third level, which features a rooftop deck with a 360-degree view of the neighborhood and the New Orleans skyline.

Inside, the walls are white, as the couple wanted their future tenants to have a blank canvass. The floors are water-resistant vinyl planks that look like hardwood, and most of the kitchen fixtures are from Ikea.

Though the last year has been filled with 70- to 80-hour work weeks for the couple as they finished the project, they are thrilled to be settling into the property. Like many architects, designing their own home was “a bucket list item for us,” Irelis said.

“It’s more like a nightmare as you go through it,” David joked, “but a dream in the end.”

Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association Home Tour

What: Nine buildings in the historic district, including the MacDonalds’ home, will be open for self-guided tours. Other featured properties include artist James Michalopoulos’ studio and Marigny association founder Gene Cizek’s house.

When: Sunday, May 21, noon to 4 p.m.

Where: Washington Square Park, 700 Frenchmen St.

Tickets: $25, ($20 for FMIA members) at faubourgmarigny.org.

KEVINISHA WALKER, The Times-Picayune

Former Kansas missile silo converted into luxury condo

Former Kansas missile silo converted into luxury condo

SALINA, Kan./May 6, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — A former Kansas missile silo has been repurposed into a luxury condo, though the developer isn’t saying who has snapped up the spaces in search of peace of mind during a possible disaster.

Larry Hall said that units inside the “survival bunker” about 40 miles north of Salina come with appliances and furniture, KAKE-TV (http://bit.ly/2pG74UV) reported.

The complex, which can accommodate as many as 75 people, also features a security system, classroom, swimming pool, rock-climbing wall, shooting range, gyms with saunas, pet park and an arcade, Hall said. There’s also a self-renewing water supply, grocery store and a medical wing with a pharmacy.

The units have fetched as much as $5 million, drawing interest from Hollywood folks and professional athletes, Hall said. He declined to divulge any names, citing non-disclosure agreements keeping their identities confidential.

Hall is one of the complex’s occupants.

“I don’t want to be one of those people that depends on the government to bail me out if the crap hits the fan,” he said. “I want to be able to take care of myself, and that’s what this place does for me.”

That condo complex is sold out, though Hall says he’s building a similar one in nearby Tescott.

Housing crisis sparks fears of an end for Illinois town 

Housing crisis sparks fears of an end for Illinois town 

May 5, 2017(AP) (StlRealEstate.News) A government plan to tear down a crumbling public housing complex in the southern Illinois town of Cairo has sent roughly 200 families searching for new homes and sparked fears that the once-thriving river city could be coming to an end.

Sitting at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, Cairo was once a shipping hub, home to 15,000 people at its peak in the 1940s. But racial strife, flooding and economic troubles have left the town with just 2,600 residents, a vacant downtown, boarded up and abandoned buildings, and little habitable housing.

If the residents of the buildings slated for demolition are not able to find new homes in Cairo and end up leaving for other communities, the city’s population would be cut by 15 percent and the school district would lose nearly 40 percent of its student body.

“It’ll be a ghost town,” said Paul Lambert, a 66-year-old retired security guard who was born and raised in Cairo, left for a while, but returned in 1974.

After 39 years in the same housing authority apartment, Lambert is now among the residents being relocated due to what the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has called “deplorable living conditions.” If forced to leave, Lambert says he’ll take his wife and 22-year-old son to join family in Tennessee. But, he says, “I’m not ready to do anything right now.”

Built in 1942, the Elmwood and McBride apartments are now infested with rodents and bugs and have heating and plumbing that don’t work properly, HUD says. Some residents say they’re afraid to let their children play outside because of crime in the area. The federal agency took over the property and other local housing authority operations in February 2016, amid allegations that the former head of the Alexander County Housing Authority had used federal funds for meals, trips and benefits while the buildings deteriorated.

HUD announced last month it would close the buildings and relocate the residents, saying the cost to repair the complexes — estimated at more than $41 million — is too much. Residents will get a voucher to use toward housing and help finding a new place to live, with the first relocations starting this month.

But few properties are available in Cairo — pronounced KEHR’-oh — or in the rural areas surrounding it. HUD and the city are working with area landlords to try to get properties to meet agency standards, but the process is slow. Developers are unlikely to team up with HUD — the typical practice for affordable housing projects today — on new housing in an area where more than half of children live in poverty.

“For most private developers it’s a long-term investment,” said HUD spokesman Jereon Brown. “Right now that would be tough to do here.”

The town — visited by the Lewis and Clark Expedition that explored what is now the western U.S. in the early 1800s and referenced in Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” written later that century — started seeing people leave in large numbers after race riots in the 1960s. As major employers closed over the following decades, things got worse. Flooding has also been a problem for the city, which is surrounded by levees.

But Andrea Evers, the local school superintendent who came to Cairo in 2012, says she thought things were looking up. The city was taking steps to bring business to its port and it sounded like a grocery store might open. Now she has classrooms full of students worried their lives will be uprooted.

Students have written letters to new HUD Secretary Ben Carson, asking him to visit or help save their homes. Carson wrote back, telling Evers and the students that there were few options for the “nearly bankrupt” local housing authority and that the decision came only after much “hand-wringing.”

Evers says there’s no question people in the housing complex should have far better living conditions.

“I’m just hopeful there can be some solution that will allow people to stay,” Evers said. “Otherwise the unintended byproduct is a community will never be the same.”

SARA BURNETT, Associated Press

Beazer’s loss widens, but home sales rose

Beazer's loss widens, but home sales rose

ATLANTA/May 4, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — Rising construction and land costs caused Beazer Homes to report a wider loss in its latest quarter than a year ago. But its revenue rose as it sold more of its new homes and condos.

The Atlanta homebuilder’s stock soared Thursday.

Beazer, which typically sells homes to young families and first-time homebuyers, has found a growing business in selling condos and smaller homes to baby boomers. It is also building more condo communities for older folks, and recently broke ground on its first one in Orlando, Florida.

Overall, Beazer said it closed on 1,239 homes in the quarter, up nearly 8 percent from a year ago. And the average price of its sold homes rose 4 percent to $340,500.

It reported a net loss of $7.5 million, or 23 cents per share, in its fiscal second quarter that ended March 31. A year ago, it reported a net loss of $1.23 billion, or 4 cents per share.

Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring costs and to account for discontinued operations, came to 8 cents per share.

Revenue rose 10 percent to $425.5 million in the period.

Shares of Beazer Homes USA Inc. rose $1.24, or 10.3 percent, to $13.26 in afternoon trading.

Montana man gets 40-year sentence in $2M house flip scheme

Ex-coal CEO seeks vindication in blast after year in prison 

MILES CITY, Mont./May 3, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — A Montana man convicted of embezzling $1.9 million from 18 people he convinced to invest in his “house flipping” business has been sentenced to 40 years in prison and ordered to pay restitution.

U.S. District Judge Michael Hayworth sentenced Richard Brandt on Monday to 60 years in prison with 20 years suspended on six felony counts including theft by embezzlement, fraudulent practices, scheming to exploit elderly people and running a pyramid scheme.

State prosecutors said Brandt, from Miles City in eastern Montana, told people they were investing in a business in which he would buy, remodel and sell homes in Nebraska and Missouri.

Victims testified about the stress they suffered after losing life savings. Brandt apologized, saying he never intended to hurt anyone.

But Judge Michael Hayworth said the crimes from January 2011 to June 2015 required planning, juggling and manipulating and that Brandt located new victims when his current plans did not work. The fraud was not exposed until one victim was being thrown out of a nursing home because Brandt had embezzled about $90,000 from her bank account, prosecutors said.

Darvin Leidholt said he invested with Brandt to buy a house for himself and his mother, who needed a home without stairs due to balance issues, the Miles City Star (bit.ly/2qAC0Fs) reported.

Leidholt testified he had a mild heart attack when the deal fell through and his mother later fell down the stairs in her house, leading to her death and his second heart attack.

Brandt “knew I had wanted to get another house where she would be safe,” Leidholt said. “His disregard for me and anybody else is just terrible.”

Gary Glasgow testified he lost his retirement savings and now suffers from severe stress-related headaches.

“He lied to me. He was deceitful. He’s a con artist and I think he would do it again,” Glasgow said.

Public defender Joe Zavatsky said Brandt, 62, did not have the experience required to start his business and never planned to defraud anyone.

Hayworth said Brandt did not cooperate in identifying his assets available for restitution. A pre-sentence investigation found Brandt failed to list assets in his wife’s name.

Brandt apologized, saying he is physically and emotionally drained.

“It was never my intent to hurt anyone, they all know that, but the end result is terrible,” Brandt said. “I’ve ruined their lives, I’ve ruined my life. That’s not what we set out to do.”

Hayworth said it was not clear where the money went. Prosecutors said Brandt spent $1.7 million on vacations and other purchases, while Zavatsky said Brandt did not live lavishly.

Brandt listed about $80,000 in assets recoverable to repay victims, said Kyle Schmauch, spokesman for the state auditor and securities commissioner. The commissioner’s office paid about $380,000 to victims from its restitution fund.

“Every investor was elderly, mentally impaired, or otherwise vulnerable to exploitation,” state Auditor Matt Rosendale said in a statement. “Every victim was a personal friend or acquaintance of Brandt. It’s incredibly important that Montanans be very careful when they invest, even if it’s with someone they know and trust.”

Rhode Island home sales strong during 1st quarter

WARWICK, R.I./May 3, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — It was a record-setting first quarter for home sales in Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island Association of Realtors said Wednesday that 1,968 single-family homes were sold in the state during the January-to-March quarter, a 2 percent increase over the record-setting first quarter of 2016.

The median price of a single-family home increased about 2 percent over the year-ago quarter to $230,000.

Sales of multi-family homes and condominiums also made significant jumps.

Multi-family home sales were up more than 10 percent, while the median price rose nearly 10 percent to $181,000.

Condominium sales were up 21 percent, while the median price went up 2 percent to $195,000.

Realtors’ President Brenda Marchwicki attributed the solid numbers to “strong demand buoyed by enhanced financial health and increased consumer confidence.”

House bill would make vacation rentals easier for owners

House bill would make vacation rentals easier for owners

TALLAHASSEE, Fla./May 1, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — A bill that would make it easier in Florida to lease property as a vacation rental is headed to the state Senate.

The House of Representatives narrowly passed a bill on Friday (63-56) that blocks city and county governments from regulating short-term rental homes differently than residential properties.

Lawmakers representing tourist-heavy districts were against the bill (HB 425) because of parties and disturbances. Many during debates on Thursday and Friday cited problems with Airbnb properties in beach communities. Those supporting the bill say it protects property rights.

The bill also requires owners to submit a copy of the rental license, certificate of registration and emergency contact information to local governments for information purposes only and at no charge.

It now heads to the Senate, where a similar measure made it through all three of its committee spots.

US construction spending slipped in March

US homebuilder sentiment climbs higher in May

WASHINGTON/May 1, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — U.S. builders trimmed construction spending slightly in March, one month after building activity hit an all-time high.

Construction spending slipped 0.2 percent in March to a seasonally adjusted $1.218 trillion, the Commerce Department reported Monday. In February, it rose 1.8 percent to a record high of $1.22 trillion. The result in March reflected drops in nonresidential construction and in the government sector, which offset a strong increase in residential activity.

Even with the slight decline, March activity was the second highest on record. The figure underscores the key role construction is playing in the overall economy, especially in home building. Demand for homes has been rising amid low unemployment and rising incomes, but many buyers have been frustrated by limited inventory and rising prices.

Residential construction climbed 1.2 percent to the highest level since June 2007, a period dating back to the housing boom of the past decade. In the first three months of the year, home construction grew at a 13.7 percent rate, one of the few bright spots in a dismal quarter in which overall growth slipped to just 0.7 percent. That was the weakest showing in three years.

Nonresidential building fell 1.3 percent in March as spending on office buildings and the category that covers shopping centers both fell. Government activity dropped 0.9 percent with weakness in the state and local level.

Economists believe the economy will bounce back in the current quarter to growth of 3 percent or better, helped by continued strong gains in construction.

In March, spending by state and local governments on construction projects fell 1.4 percent which offset a 4.5 percent rise in the smaller federal government sector.

President Donald Trump has talked about spending $1 trillion over the next decade on a major infrastructure program to upgrade the nation’s aging highways, airports and bridges. But so far, he has yet to send Congress a proposal, although Democrats have said this is one area where he is likely to get Democratic support.

MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics Writer