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Real Estate News
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Brooklyn Girl Lena Dunham Buys in LA

2015-03-02 16:56:00

Filed under: Buying, Celebrity Homes, Selling The Agency via ZillowThe home Lena Dunham purchased near the Sunset Strip is traditional and modest, at least by LA standards. By Catherine Sherman Lena Dunham is a Brooklyn -- make that Sunset Strip -- kind of girl. Dan Steinberg/Invision/APLena Dunham According to TMZ, the "Girls" star and "Not That Kind of Girl" author has purchased a restored 1920s home a block off Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. The three-bedroom, three-bath Greek revival home is tastefully decorated with white linens, stacks of books and leather chairs next to a warm fire. Outdoor features include three covered porches and a saltwater pool. Dunham reportedly paid close to $2.7 million for the place, which is still listed online by The Agency's Jeff Kohl. The purchase comes on the heels of the new author buying a Brooklyn condo in January. It also comes right after the release of the "It's Me, Hilary: The Man Who Drew Eloise" trailer. Dunham is the documentary's executive producer.  Permalink | Email this | Comments

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Jeremy Piven's Malibu Pad Has Room for Your Entourage

2015-03-02 05:00:00

Filed under: Celebrity Homes, Lifestyle, Renting TruliaThe home on a prime stretch of Malibu beach is for rent for as much as $50,000 a month for the peak summer season. By Megan Johnson​ Jeremy Piven -- known as neurotic and intense agent Ari Gold on HBO's "Entourage" -- is putting his three-bedroom, five-bath Malibu home up for rent. Andy Kropa /Invision/APJeremy Piven The actor's beachfront California home just hit the rental market for as much as $50,000 per month. But if you want to spend your summer sunning where the Piv parties (he was recently spotted on the beach with "The Bachelor" contestant Samantha Steffen), you're going to have to be prepared to pony up a hefty chunk of change. Word is, the rental fee is $50,000 per month for July and August. If you're looking to save a little cash, you can go for June, when it's $40,000, or September, when it's $35,000 (pocket change!). May is $25,000 -- but who wants to rent a summer house in the spring? The three-story, 2,424-square-foot home overlooks the beach from a very desirable road, whose name of course we can't reveal to you. Upon entering the main floor, guests are welcomed by a large living room, which extends into the beachfront kitchen. The first floor also features two guest bedrooms and a large deck. The upper level of the home contains the beachfront master bedroom, along with a separate office and media room. A large deck off the master provides spectacular views of the ocean, as well as stunning sunsets. The home's lower level is a large second living room/game room and has a sauna and bath. Piven bought the house from former hockey player Chris Chelios in 2004 for $3.5 million. Why rent it? Well, Piven's gig appearing on PBS probably doesn't pay the bills as well as HBO did.  Permalink | Email this | Comments

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The Past and Future of the Solar Decathlon

2015-03-01 10:00:00

Filed under: Design, Home Improvement Courtesy of Jim Tetro/U.S. Department of Energy Solar DecathlonThis house built by students from New Zealand's Victoria University of Wellington was an entry in the 2011 decathlon. Since the first U. S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon in 2002, thousands of college students from around the world have designed and created houses that are efficient at both collecting sunlight and converting it into usable energy. Already, teams are hard at work for the next competition this October in Irvine, California, where the public will be able to tour the solar-powered houses free of charge to see innovative designs and learn how to save energy and money in their own homes. The first Solar Decathlon was held on the National Mall in Washington in 2002. Since 2005, it has been held in a U.S. city every two years and also has expanded worldwide, with competitions staged in Europe in 2010, 2012 and 2014 and in China in 2013. This December, an event will be staged in Latin America for the first time, said Richard King, director of the Solar Decathlon. "The newest competition in Cali, Colombia, South America, will emphasize affordable homes for tropical climates and higher-density solutions to sustainable housing," King said. See a selection of homes from previous Solar Decathlons in the slideshow below: Visiting one of the Solar Decathlon events, it is difficult not to be inspired by the innovative, beautiful, energy-efficient houses, and by the students who give tours of their houses. The student designers and builders have impressive knowledge of the mechanics of their houses and can explain all the systems and considerations behind the design decisions to visitors. All that helps make Solar Decathlons an opportunity for the public to see the variety of prefabricated building methods, systems, materials, and techniques that can be used to build more sustainable, healthy, and efficient homes. Over the years, the houses have improved dramatically, King said. "The first competition in 2002 set the benchmark," he said. "In 2003, a new set of university teams studied the 2002 houses and improved the designs for the 2005 competition. Then a new set of university teams studied those designs and made further improvements. With each successive competition we see new innovations. " At the 2002 event, houses were not attached to the grid and had to provide all of their own energy. Since Solar Decathlon 2009, houses have been connected to a temporary, ground-laid village "micro-grid" to demonstrate how houses that are grid-connected can give excess energy back to the public utility grid. At the first event, electric cars that needed to be powered by the team's house were provided to each team. (Points were accumulated based on how many miles each team could drive on their energy.) A similar "commuting contest" has returned in 2015, requiring teams to power not only their houses but also an electric car. Affordability, an important aspect of home construction in light of recent global economic struggles, was added as a requirement four years ago. "Probably the biggest change to the competition occurred in 2011 when the designs were required to be more affordable, with construction [costs of] $250,000 or less," King said. "This new rule challenges the teams to design houses that are innovative yet cost-effective." The houses also must demonstrate functionality, with students cooking meals in homes that provide their own heat and cooling as well as hot water for showers and laundry -- all by using the electricity generated by their solar photovoltaic and solar hot water systems. The 2015 U.S. competition will include 10 contests: architecture, market appeal, engineering, communications, affordability, comfort zone, appliances, home life, energy balance and commuting. Since the first competition in 2002, 130 collegiate teams have participated in Solar Decathlons. The houses built for the events are now located throughout the country and around the world. Those houses continue to serve numerous educational, conservational, and community-oriented functions, and the program could have an even wider impact. "The more than 2,500 students participating in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 will go out into the world, get jobs, and I believe will change the world," King said. "Solar and energy-efficient houses will become the norm in our near future, not the distant future." Where to from here for the Solar Decathlon? "To date, the competition focuses the design challenge on 'How do you design a fully sustainable house?' To some, that is too narrow," King said. "Sustainability involves so much more than just the house. Water, transportation, waste recycling, and land use are just some of the other important factors that must be included. To raise the bar even higher, a competition to design sustainable houses that will be built permanently in a model sustainable community somewhere in the U.S. has intriguing merit." For further information, visit www.solardecathlon.gov. Permalink | Email this | Comments

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Michael Strahan Sells Brentwood Mansion for $21.5 Million

2015-02-27 10:11:00

Filed under: Buying, Celebrity Homes, Selling Getty ImagesMichael Strahan, shown here with Kelly Ripa at the Academy Awards, has sold the L.A. home he bought in 2013. Talk-meister and former NFL player Michael Strahan has quietly sold his Brentwood mansion in Los Angeles for $21.5 million, according to our friends at the L.A. Times. Strahan, the gap-toothed co-host of "Live! With Kelly and Michael" reportedly bought the house in 2013 for $16 million when he was engaged to Nicole Murphy -- model, VH1 reality star and former wife of Eddie Murphy. Alas, the wedding is off, and Strahan has jettisoned the nine-bedroom, 14-bath house that was big enough for his four children and her five. About that split in August, Strahan's rep told People: "They love each other very much, but with the distance and work schedule it has been hard to maintain the relationship." Nine kids probably didn't help love blossom, either. But, back to the 15,600-square-foot house, which features: Prohibition-style wine cellar Two laundry rooms Air filtration system in library to handle cigar smoke Nine bedroom-and-bath suites Gym, game room and sauna. Strahan had been seeking $23 million for the home, but it looks like he decided a $5.5 million profit was enough. #fivemin-widget-blogsmith-image-696807{display:none;} .cke_show_borders #fivemin-widget-blogsmith-image-696807, #postcontentcontainer #fivemin-widget-blogsmith-image-696807{width:570px;display:block;} try{document.getElementById("fivemin-widget-blogsmith-image-696807").style.display="none";}catch(e){} Permalink | Email this | Comments

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3 Ways to Buy a Home With $0 Down

2015-02-27 09:26:00

Filed under: Buying, Financing Shutterstock Saving for a down payment remains one of the biggest hurdles for would-be homebuyers. But many could look to land a home loan today without stashing away another cent. There are scores of programs that can help buyers purchase a home with little or no money down. The government also backs two zero-down lending options. The problem is that many buyers don't know about these options or think they can't qualify. If you're looking to purchase a home but don't have the resources to make a large down payment, here are some options you can consider. Find a Down Payment Assistance Program There are scores of down-payment assistance programs in communities across the country. A recent report from RealtyTrac and Down Payment Resource put the number at more than 2,000 nationally. These programs may be offered by cities, counties, nonprofits, employers and local housing finance agencies. Many of them help borrowers defray down-payment expenses and closing costs. Down-payment assistance programs often have limits on how much you can make and how much house you can buy. Still, RealtyTrac found that 87 percent of the 78 million U.S. single-family homes in the study would qualify for a down-payment assistance program in their county. Nationally, the average down-payment assistance comes to about $11,500. On a $200,000 mortgage, for example, most conventional borrowers would need to put down at least five percent ($10,000). FHA loans require a 3.5 percent down payment, which comes to $7,000 on a $200,000 purchase. "Prospective buyers -- or their agents -- willing to put in a few minutes of time to find out what programs are available to them will put themselves in a much better position to successfully purchase a home," said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. Use a USDA Loan Another option is to obtain a loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Program. Along with offering 100 percent financing, USDA loans have credit benchmarks that often allow more room for flexibility than conventional loans. USDA loans require borrowers to purchase a home in qualifying rural areas. But buyers not looking for a countryside home shouldn't immediately discount the possibility of using a USDA loan -- a surprising chunk of the country meets the qualifications. Generally, any area not in or immediately surrounding cities will qualify. You can find a map of eligible and ineligible areas at the USDA's site under "Property Eligibility." USDA loans have no maximum loan amount, but the program limits participation to borrowers at or below a particular income level. Currently, USDA borrowers can have an income of up to 115 percent of an area's median income, adjusted for family size. Debt will also factor into how much a home buyer is able to borrow. Similar to FHA loans, USDA-backed loans also require both upfront and annual mortgage insurance premiums. Use a VA Loan Only a sliver of the population serves in the U.S. military. But millions of those who have served are eligible for what's arguably the most powerful loan option on the market -- the zero down VA home loan. The VA loan program has expanded homeownership opportunities for veterans, service members and military families since 1944. Qualified borrowers in most parts of the country can purchase a home for up to $417,000 before needing to factor in a down payment. (Obviously, they'd also need to be able to afford a mortgage that size). VA loans also feature more lenient credit underwriting, with lower credit benchmarks than conventional financing -- as much as 100 points lower -- and more forgiving standards for things like bankruptcies and foreclosures. Last year, about 80 percent of VA buyers purchased without putting down a dime. Despite that, these loans fared well during the foreclosure crisis. To be sure, there are benefits to making a down payment, with equity and a lower monthly payment chief among them. But the kind of nest egg many buyers need can take years to save. The good news is there are plenty of options out there for those who can't or don't want to wait. Permalink | Email this | Comments

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