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Buyer Beware? NJ’s ‘Watcher’ House Is Back on the Market- Stacy Kellams

March 30, 2016 by  
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Published March 29, 2016

The house that comes with its very own stalker — or is it a prankster? — is back on the market after a nearly nine-month hiatus. Currently listed for $1.25 million, “The Watcher” house made headlines last summer after the family who bought the Westfield, NJ, home for $1.4 million in 2014 claimed they had received disturbing letters from an anonymous “admirer.”

“My grandfather watched the house in the 1920s and my father watched in the 1960s. It is now my time,” one letter read. “Do you need to fill the house with the young blood I requested?”

The new owners, saying the previous owners didn’t disclose any nefarious stalkers before closing, put their house up for sale last year and sued the seller.

The home’s previous owners claim the letters are a fraud and that they had never heard of The Watcher nor received any threatening letters. The worldwide coverage may have scared off the mysterious figure, who hasn’t been heard from since.

Broker associate Cara Ameer from Florida told us the home could be a bargain for a buyer who’s not freaked out by the home’s backstory.

“It’s a unique and challenging situation,” Ameer says. “The price reflects a good below-equity market opportunity. For a buyer with thick skin who can see the positives in the situation, they’ll need to refuse to let The Watcher paralyze themselves and their family.”

The sellers should take an upfront but lighthearted approach to selling the stigmatized property, according to Daniel Bortz with Keller Williams Realty in Arlington, VA. He suggested hiring a medium or including a picture of Casper in the marketing materials.

He also reminded us that there’s a built-in market for this sort of home, as seen on reality TV.

“Some buyers actually dig spooky properties. TV shows like ‘Ghost Hunters’ have popularized the idea of living in a haunted house,” says Bortz.

If a brave buyer decides to wade into this murky situation, the Colonial offers plenty of upsides. Built in 1905, the six-bedroom house has oodles of curb appeal and beautiful hardwood flooring throughout the downstairs living area. One final item: A buyer will also likely face a lengthy letter of disclosure we wouldn’t recommend reading before bedtime.

Realtors Reveal: ‘The Hardest Home I Ever Had to Sell’- Stacy Kellams

March 30, 2016 by  
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Published March 29, 2016

You hear how hot the market is, and how there aren’t enough homes for sale. So selling your house should be a snap, right? Right?

Well, not always. Even in the fastest-moving, most in-demand areas, certain homes — for whatever reason — just sit … and sit … and sit on the market. As a seller, this may lead you to contemplate harm to yourself, your pet canary, your life-size Jeb Bush doll (hey, who are we to judge?). But don’t do it! There’s always hope.

As inspiration, check out these true-life tales from real estate agents on the hardest home they ever had to sell. Their hard-won lessons may benefit sellers struggling to unload their own digs.

Smells like sabotage

“The most difficult home for me to sell was a five-bedroom in Diamond Bar, CA. The seller had her daughter and the daughter’s children living with her. No matter how much notice I gave them to leave before a showing, they were always there — frequently walking around in their underwear, the smell of weed wafting through the air, even ‘Do Not Enter’ signs on certain rooms. Eventually, my listing expired. There was no shortage of other agents wanting to show the property, so they listed with someone else, but big surprise: It still didn’t sell. Six months later, I received a call from the seller asking me to relist. I told her only if the family agreed to follow my directives. This time around, they cooperated, and in 2015 — two years after my initial listing — the property sold.” — Julie Marie McDonough, real estate broker and author of “How to Make your Credit Score Soar”

Lesson learned: Listen up, home sellers — if your agent offers some advice, take it. They’ve sold hundreds of homes, so they know what works. So leave the house during showings, already. And put on some damn clothes.

— — —

Bring in the drones

“A $12.9 million Fifth Avenue trophy property had been on the market for three years with several different brokers. Everyone said this property was overpriced and would never sell. My co-worker and I weren’t daunted. We took a risk and brought a drone into Central Park — which is technically illegal — and shot some stunning visuals across the reservoir for a promo video for the apartment, even with cops standing nearby. Drones open up the world in visual marketing, and this gave us the ability to shoot and record some grand and spectacular footage from high up in the air. We had so many people taking photos of us and the drone. Lots of attention. But it worked! We got interest in the place, and it sold soon thereafter. The sellers thought it was a straight-up miracle!” — Phillia Kim Downs, Phillia & Claire

Lesson learned: Use the latest tech advancements to shed fresh light on your home. This new perspective not only grabs new eyeballs but could also inspire someone to make an offer.

— — —

Doughnuts for dollars

“In Portland, OR, Voodoo Doughnuts has a cultlike status — and one of my agents had a listing for a home that was owned by one of the founders. After being on the market for years, the sellers were getting frustrated, so we decided to throw in an offer for free donuts for life to whoever bought it. Now, someone is getting all the glazed, cake, and sprinkles they want: The couple who bought the home had actually gotten married at a Voodoo Doughnuts and had doughnut tattoos!” — Jenelle Isaacson, owner, Living Room Realty

Lesson learned: Doughnuts rule. Also, sometimes the quirkiest offer or (sweetest) enticement will help you stand out from the pack.

— — —

Eminem infamy

“We had a property in West Bloomfield, MI, that was clouded by several vacant properties throughout the subdivision. It wasn’t moving at all. So we decided to hold an auction — and the centerpiece of our marketing plan was using the owner’s notoriety as the award-winning producer for Eminem‘s hit song ‘Lose Yourself’ to drive up the price. In the end, we sold the property for $924,000 — the highest comparable sales price in the last five years.” — Sara Rose Bytnar, Beth Rose Real Estate & Auctions

Lesson learned: Celebrity connections, even tangential ones, can grab added attention that can get a home sold.

— — —

Trailers and trash

“As a newer Realtor, I took on what ended up to be a nightmare in El Sereno, CA. The sellers — a brother and sister who weren’t speaking to each other — were unloading a lot with a burned-out house that had become a dumping ground littered with cinder blocks, old tires, five motorcycles, and countless beer and wine bottles. They wanted to sell it as is, so we tried. We were in and out of escrow three times where investors would offer, than cancel as soon as they saw the lot. But we stuck with it. After eight months — and nearly giving up — we finally sold it to buyers who were young and excited to turn it around. And for a surprisingly large sum!” — Stephanie Miller, associate partner, Partners Trust

Lesson learned: No matter how long the sales process drags on, take heart: One person’s trashed property is another person’s treasure.

Duke Hoops Legend Johnny Dawkins Is Selling $1.56M Durham Mansion – Stacy Kellams

March 21, 2016 by  
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Published March 18, 2016

After eight seasons, Johnny Dawkins is out as head coach of the Stanford Cardinal. The former NBA player and collegiate All-American at Duke was recently let go from his position in Palo Alto, CA, after a mediocre 15-15 season.

Now a coaching free agent, Dawkins has listed his Durham, NC, home for sale. We’re not sure if the two events are related, but the home was listed before news broke that he wouldn’t be returning to Stanford next season.

Listed for just under $1.6 million, the five-bedroom, 7.5-bathroom home is a traditional two-story residence. Given Dawkins’ status as a basketball legend in Durham in the mid-’80s, the home comes with a privileged pedigree.

There’s plenty of room to spread out indoors. The kitchen and adjoining breakfast nook are spacious with rows of custom cabinets, hidden appliances, and an eat-in bar.

There’s also a media room with stadium seating, some of the most comfy-looking recliners we’ve ever seen, and an impressive big screen.

Of course, that isn’t the only place to unwind. There is also a megasize entertainment room with a bar, den, and room for a pool table.

Dawkins had an up-and-down tenure with the Cardinal during his eight seasons on The Farm. On the somewhat bright side, he led the team to two NIT championships after it failed to score an invitation to the Big Dance in 2012 and 2015. He also led the team to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament in 2014, but a single NCAA tourney appearance in his eight years wasn’t enough to save his job.

How to Conquer the Huge Problems Found During Home Inspections – Stacy Kellams

March 21, 2016 by  
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Published March 08, 2016

You’ve finally found a buyer for your beloved home and signed a deal. Phew, what a relief! But then comes the reality check, aka the “home inspection.” Such simple words, yet so fraught with stress and fear! Many contracts include a contingency that allows the buyer to back out if serious problems are found during inspection. So, bring on the fear.

Of course, you know your home and you think it’s just fine, but maybe a professional with a less sentimental eye might see it differently?

To keep at least one step ahead, check out these common issues found during an inspection. That way you can fix them, save the deal, and even save yourself!

Dank basement

It’s more than just a horror film clich. Frank Lesh, executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors, says the most common problem he finds is basement seepage, which could lead to full-fledged flooding. Groundwater infiltrates your home through small cracks or over a foundation wall. A basement waterproofing contractor can give you a bid on quickly repairing any minor problems before they become (to quote a certain presidential candidate) “yuge.”

Shoddy wiring

The next most common issue is electrical, which can be anything from a receptacle that doesn’t function to wiring that is overfused and dangerous. Inspector Reggie Marston routinely discovers “ungrounded fixtures, spliced wires not terminated in a proper electric box, receptacles wired backward, and improper breakers in the electric service panel.” Any electrical issue requires immediate attention, since it could lead to a fire.

Amateur workmanship

Next up are potential headaches that are a direct result of when a homeowner “decides that they can do major work around the house without paying a contractor,” says Marston. “With plumbing, the owners will install the toilet but don’t tighten it securely to the floor. I’ll find a toilet’s so loose that I counsel my client it should have a seat belt installed so nobody falls off!” If you’ve done home improvement work yourself, consider having a professional double-check the project.

Leaky roof

Roof leaks left unattended can become major problems, says Lesh, “especially when mold starts to form. Small leaks can easily be overlooked because they’re not noticeable until something serious happens. That’s why it’s a good idea to have an ASHI-certified inspector come out and check your house periodically.” Lesh points out that homes don’t have a “check engine light. You need someone who does not have a vested interest in finding problems to inspect it.”

Poor maintenance

Marston says many homes suffer from an overall lack of upkeep. He recently inspected a house where “the dryer vent hadn’t been cleaned in years. There was such a lint buildup inside the vent pipe that it had actually caused the exterior wall where the vent exited to bulge out.”

Marston reminds owners that “all components in a residence require some type of maintenance. Water heaters as well as heating and air-conditioning systems should be serviced yearly. Caulk tubs and showers to prevent water leakage. Frequently remove and clean stove exhaust fan filters.”

Also maintain kitchen appliances. Marston once turned on a garbage disposal “and something started clanking. Someone had dropped their class ring in and it had been there for a while. That ring was never to be worn again!”

Bonus: Don’t forget about re-inspections

Marston often does re-inspections of properties after issues have supposedly been fixed. Yet 95% of the time, he estimates, “the requested repairs haven’t been done or they’ve been done wrong.”

On a recent re-inspection, Marston should have found a repaired dryer vent, fixed sewer pipe, working sump pump, and a regrade away from the foundation. Instead, Marston discovered the entire dryer vent now needed replacing, the new sewer pipe connection still leaked, a new sump pump wouldn’t turn on, and the regrading was “a couple shovels full of dirt. Obviously now my client is upset, doesn’t trust the seller and, I believe, was thinking of backing out of the contract.”

5 Home Buyer Tactics That Will Crack Negotiation Stalemates- Stacy Kellams

March 11, 2016 by  
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Published March 02, 2016

“I must break you,” Ivan Drago told Rocky Balboa in “Rocky IV.” (Spoiler: He didn’t.) It’s the exact sentiment you may feel while staring at your dream home, thinking about its sellers, and pondering what to do when negotiation talks go cold.

Now you might not be able to break hard-headed sellers, but you can probably warm them up enough to at least bend a bit. We asked accomplished experts what home buyers can do when a real estate Cold War sets in.

1. Give back to the community

Do the sellers love their community? Open your wallet and show some goodwill. Sacha Ferrandi, owner of Source Capital Funding in San Diego, suggests making a donation to a local charity in their name.

“This shows your commitment to the neighborhood and will also allow the seller to leave a positive mark on his or her community,” he says.

And it’s not about the size of the deposit, but the gesture.

“Sponsoring a park bench or a brick at a local school will be seen as much more valuable to a homeowner leaving the neighborhood than a straight monetary donation,” Ferrandi says.

That way when they’re gone from the neighborhood, they can feel like they’ve left their mark.

2. Knock out the home warranty

When you need to sweeten the pot, it’s a smart idea to start focusing on some of the little things in the contract. The home warranty is a good place to begin.

“In our market, it is almost standard now for a seller to pay for a home warranty for the new buyer,” says Jeff Knox, broker and owner of Knox and Associates Real Estate in Dallas. These home warranty clauses generally cost a seller around $500.

“Being willing to drop little things like this may just break that standoff,” Knox says.

Now, a home warranty isn’t always offered by the seller. If that’s the case, start looking for other concessions you can make. If an inspection comes back with suggested repairs, “be willing to scratch a few of the minor items off that repair list. This will show goodwill and a friendly attitude of trying to make the deal close,” Knox says.

3. Offer a package deal

Does the seller seem to have a lot of stuff? Could you find a use for some (or most) of it? Then offer to shell out and buy it. It just may get you closer to closing day, says Kim Clark, a Realtor in Greenwood, SC.

“If they’re selling their boat or lawn or equipment or anything that can be a pain to sell, along with their house, come to them with an offer to purchase [those items], too,” Clark says. “This saves them the hassle of selling the item or having to figure out a way to bring it with them to the new location.”

What’s that you say? You don’t need a boat? You can sell it. But from the buyer’s perspective, suddenly, you start looking like someone who can solve two problems at once.

4. Add more earnest money

Sure, adding more cash to the pile is usually the best thing you can do to crack a stalemate or win a bidding war. But when you increase your earnest money deposit, it doesn’t actually mean you pay more. And if you have the right kind of contract and are committed to the deal, your risk of losing that cash is low.

“With all the contingents that are in most offers — inspection, appraisal, loan conditions, and more — it is very rare that a buyer ever loses their earnest money,” says Mark Ferguson, a Realtor and property investor in Greeley, CO. “It gives the impression the buyer is more serious, and they have at least some cash to show they’re a strong buyer. It’s more psychological than substantive, but that’s how many negotiations go.”

5. Quicken the pace

One edge you can give yourself over other buyers is showing the seller you can close fast.

“Tighten up your timelines like inspection contingency. Instead of 15 days, make it seven or 10 days,” says Sepehr Niakan, a broker and owner of in Miami. “If you run into some issue and need to extend, you can always ask for an extension later.”

It’s similar to how salesmen create a sense of urgency to close the deal. Show the seller you can get to closing day soon, you mean business, and you’re a strong buyer. And yes, you will break them. In a good way.

Renters Confess: ‘The Crazy Way I Paid Rent’ (Should You Try It?)- Stacy Kellams

March 11, 2016 by  
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Published March 10, 2016

Two years ago, I had a bad fall and shattered the bones in my foot — and my income prospects as a professional dancer and fitness instructor. So I had to get really creative to figure out how to make my rent. (Grants are great! Thank you, The Actors Fund!) And it turns out I’m hardly alone: Plenty of renters who hit hard times end up with clever ways to pay their landlord their monthly dues.

Check out these stories to see just how far renters will go to make ends meet — you may want to tuck away these ideas for a rainy day.

‘I volunteered as a human guinea pig’

“As a struggling college student, I did several things only the desperate resort to. First, I started selling my blood plasma. They take a No. 14 needle — literally a horse needle — then you are connected to a centrifuge, [the blood is] spun around to separate out the plasma, then the rest is pumped back into your body. Next, I started playing human guinea pig in Phase 1 testing — first use in humans — for pharmaceuticals. The in-patient studies paid the best at $100/day. The catch was they could be testing a new experimental AIDS drugs, and you had to be wary since some could have serious and permanent side effects. The last one I enrolled in was a 17-day in-patient study on a heart drug. We wore telemetry monitors nonstop and took 12 EKGs and 17 blood draws a day. It saved me when I was short on rent, but I was glad when I started making enough that I never had to go back.” — Justin Bates, New York City, NY

— — —

‘I was a male go-go dancer to supplement my government job’

“While I worked a government job in California as project manager for a large defense contractor, I had a large rent payment and wasn’t making ends meet. I danced in musicals and hip-hop competitions in high school and I’ve been blessed to stay in shape since then, so when my gay friends suggested I try go-go dancing, I replied to a Craigslist ad and went for it. It wasn’t easy. I did this from Wednesday to Saturday at various clubs, napping on the 45-minute bus ride I had to take to my ‘real’ job daily. This lasted for about six months and ended as a result of me getting a handle on my finances, but you can believe I hid it from everyone!” — Asa Leveaux, Oklahoma City, OK

— — —

‘I handed out batteries dressed as Marilyn Monroe’

“As an actress, making rent is always a challenge and sometimes includes promo work. Well, one month I was asked to do a gig for the Fire Department of New York, who wanted to remind everyone to change their smoke alarm batteries. Domino’s Pizza had a new line called ‘American Classics’ and they consider Marilyn another ‘American Classic,’ so the job was to dress up as one of 200 Marilyn Monroes and hand out fire alarm batteries while the firemen handed out pizza. We met at a hotel conference room in Times Square, and they had racks of cheap costumes — think white dress, bad wigs, ugly painful ‘satin’ heels. Once dressed, we handed out fire alarm batteries — which are different than regular batteries, so most people gave them back because they didn’t know what to do with them!” — Jennifer Leigh, New York City, NY

— — —

‘I exchanged Canadian money’

“After several years of domestic violence, I found myself a single parent with a very tight budget. I tried a slew of things to make extra money like baby-sitting, yard sales, and selling my knitting on Etsy, but needed more lucrative ways to supplement my full-time job that offered benefits. I finally figured out that if I took temp jobs during my three weeks of paid annual vacation, I could make enough to pay rent for a whole month. My other trick was watching the exchange rates for Canadian and American money. When the Canadian dollar sank, I’d take my American money to the bank and turn it into lots of Canadian money. Then when the American dollar plummeted, I’d exchange my Canadian back into lots of U.S. currency. It was tricky, but I definitely was able to supplement my income when I needed it!” — Anna Renault, Baltimore, MD

— — —

‘I sold my clothes and couch-surfed’

“Coming from a career of making nearly $120,000 a year as an architect, living a pretty fabulous life traveling, dining out and shopping like it was my job, I came up with an idea that I had to bring to life. In 2010, I launched, a mobile app that makes ‘missed connections’ obsolete. After finishing off my savings from my 15-year career in architecture, I had to get extremely creative to continue funding my business and paying my rent; this is where the financial sacrifices began. I made nearly $75,000 by selling my designer clothes at consignment shops and on eBay, also took odd jobs secret-shopping, app testing, dog walking, house-sitting, and watering plants. The biggest chunk of cash came from renting out my studio on Airbnb while I couch-surfed for 14 months. Now I have my own place again, and I also help people manage their Airbnb listings to make rent money!” — Lori Cheek, New York City, NY

Make a Splash: These 9 Swim-Up Bars Provide a Resort Experience at Home- Stacy Kellams

February 18, 2016 by  
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Published February 17, 2016

Plain old swimming pools: so 2015! The pools of today require serious pizzazz. A splashy place where you chill, party, exercise — and even belly up for a drink without ever setting foot on dry land.

Today’s best residential aquatic playgrounds boast swim-up bars, which seamlessly bridge swimming and imbibing. The best of both worlds! From Florida to Southern California, and some non-coastal locales in Utah, Arizona, and Texas, we found nine stylish examples of the best of modern water-borne fun.

101 N. Atlantic Dr, Lantana, FL

Price: $4.5 million

Belly up: Behind this five-bedroom mansion in Palm Beach County, an infinity pool spills into the adjacent coastal waterway. There’s also a dock big enough for a yacht to pull in, as well as a private beach. Kids can play in the pirate-ship playhouse, while the adults sip cocktails in the water. This fits squarely into the hallowed category of “something for everyone.”

— — —

3374 E. Vallejo Ct, Gilbert, AZ

Price: $1.39 million

Belly up: This six-bedroom property’s two swimming pools channel the tropics with a palapa hut (hello, tiki bar!) and waterfalls. Sail down the water slide and then swim over to the bar for a drink. To escape the desert heat, you could also float down the lazy river, jump off the diving board, and play pool volleyball. Or not.

— — —

21704 Canyon Heights Cir, Santa Clarita, CA

Price: $678,000

Belly up: The pool at this four-bedroom home evokes a spa setting with its artful landscaping, palapa umbrella, and water features. A fire pit and built-in BBQ mean you can easily pair your margaritas with some ribs, while seated on one of the bar’s underwater stools.

— — —

3543 E. Pearl Cir, Mesa, AZ

Price: $725,000

Belly up: This five-bedroom custom home features a backyard paradise. Imagine swimming through a grotto, diving off a board into the pool, slipping into the water on a slide, relaxing under a waterfall spilling off of rock formations or paddling over to the bar for a mojito. If you ever get out of the water, there’s a sunken trampoline, fire pit, and built-in BBQ.

— — —

6106 Olive Grove Ct, Humble, TX

Price: $599,900

Belly up: Behind this five-bedroom manse on a wooded lot is a laid-back tiki vibe — with a palapa hut, trickling waterfall, and other features that reference Hawaii, not Houston. Kick your legs over to the bar, which is attached to the spacious palapa hut and large enough to house a mobile kitchen (and could easily plate food for the gang).

— — —

16568 Fox Glen Rd, Riverside, CA

Price: $725,000

Belly up: At first glance, this is a basic ranch home, but the seller’s recent interior updates are no match for the backyard. Here, you’ll find a pool with seven waterfalls, tropical landscaping, a tunnel water slide, and a swim-up bar beneath a rock formation (which offers partial shelter from the sun). There’s also a 1,200-square-foot guesthouse on the property — a genuine pool house to accommodate guests.

— — —

10 W. Desert Knoll Pl, Oro Valley, AZ

Price: $730,000

Belly up: Just outside Tucson, this four-bedroom home flaunts a poolside palapa that’s just like a bar on the beach. In-pool nibbling while sipping is easily achieved thanks to the cabana’s grill and fridge, plus an ice-maker, beer tap and — yes — even a flat-screen television to catch the game.

— — —

74337 Peppergrass St, Palm Desert, CA

Price: $399,000

Belly up: At this home, the backyard offers a welcome respite from the desert climate. Colorful Spanish tile in the pool extends to the swim-up bar’s stools and countertop, both of which are shaded by a palapa roof. A hot tub and outdoor kitchen are just a few feet away.

— — —

268 Estates Cir, Ivins, UT

Price: $1.04 million

Belly up: This contemporary three-bedroom casa is actually at the base of Snow Canyon State Park. However, the pool area trumps the park for quick fun. There’s a waterfall, full kitchen (with BBQ ), fire pit, and outdoor sound system, the perfect accompaniments to a swim-up bar.

6 Craziest Features of This Amazing Pirate-Themed Hacienda in Riverside, CA- Stacy Kellams

February 18, 2016 by  
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Published February 17, 2016

From walking the plank to tales of treasure maps, kids love stories about old-timey pirates. You can blame Johnny Depp for the recent renaissance, but we know tales of swashbuckling on the high seas strike a particular pirate chord in us all.

Now we’ve found a house that will let us live out our childhood dreams — without, you know, actually having to tread choppy waters in a poorly built wooden boat.

Listed for under $1.9 million, this hacienda in Riverside, CA, would make Jack Sparrow proud. Don’t believe us? Let’s unpack the treasure within …

Queen Anne’s Revenge

A lot of houses have a bar. Very few houses have a bar that would make Blackbeard jealous.

In addition to slot machines, a gaming table, and a poker table, there’s also a built-in bar with hand-crafted details, glass cabinets for displaying your treasure, and oh yeah: a life-size pirate descending from the ceiling.

— — —

Captain’s Quarters

“The owner calls the guest bedrooms the Captain’s Quarters,” says Jacob Swodeck, listing agent for the pirate property.

It’s easy to see why. Stepping into the room is like stepping onto a pirate’s ship.

There are exposed wood beams. An ornately carved metal door. Stained-glass windows. A magnificently pirate-y desk for researching treasure maps, and a black-and-gold gilded four-poster bed complete with crushed red velvet curtains.

— — —

Bottle Alley

You don’t have to walk the plank in this house, but you should walk the alley — bottle alley that is. The long hallway is flanked on each side with built-in lighted display cabinets. And inside the cabinets?

“There are rows and rows of antique liquor bottles,” says Swodeck. Never again will you have to ask why the rum is always gone.

— — —

Red-carpet night

Even busy pirates need to kick back and relax every once in a while. In this home, they can drop anchor in an antique theater.

This amazing media room comes complete with 11 movie theater-style seats, a large projection screen, and, of course, a red velvet curtain.

— — —

Fair winds and faraway places

Even the kitchen (which recently underwent a quarter million-dollar remodel, according to the listing agents), has buried treasure.

“A lot of little details in the house were carefully hand-built and hand-crafted, and you see some of that in the kitchen,” says Swodeck.

Our favorite: The hand-carved mermaids above the range, promising to sail you away on fair winds to faraway places.

— — —

The Crow’s Nest

The theme doesn’t end inside the house. Outside, you’ll find a lagoon-style pool with a waterslide, four waterfalls, private grottos, and a crow’s nest to keep a lookout for rival pirates.

“The crow’s nest is from ‘Peter Pan‘ [the film]. It was part of Captain Hook’s ship, the Jolly Roger,” says Swodeck.

And you might need to keep a lookout. After all, you’ll be protecting the best-stocked ship on the high seas.

Tiny House in Long Beach Fits a Family of Four — and Then Some- Stacy Kellams

February 12, 2016 by  
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Published February 11, 2016

You don’t have to ditch your dream of a tiny home simply because you have children. Stop fantasizing, and purchase this vintage one-bedroom Craftsman for $395,000 in Long Beach, CA, which has housed a growing family for the past eight years with plenty of storage (and sunshine) to spare.

After raising a boy and a girl in the 511-square-foot space thanks to careful bunk-bed placement, the current family is ready to move on. Turns out mixed-gender siblings don’t want to share space forever. Who knew?

Jokes aside, a fond farewell has created a prime opportunity for families looking for low-cost housing in the notoriously pricey Long Beach area. As long as you’re willing to squeeze in, that is.

“The current owners have been as happy as clams — and they have two dogs,” says listing agent Shari Posey of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services. “Goes to show a family of four can live in a tiny home.”

Especially a home as stunning as this one. Despite the small footprint, smart design and clever storage solutions make this itty-bitty space feel downright spacious. An opening above the bedroom door provides access to attic storage, a closet runs along one wall beside the bed, tucked away behind frosted glass doors. Kitchen cabinets run wall to wall around the stove and microwave, with wire open shelving offering even more space for your pots and pans.

“The kitchen is tiny, but it has everything you need,” says Posey, including full-sized appliances and plenty of counter space. “The walk-around space is maybe four feet by two feet, so you can reach everything you need by putting your hand out. It’s full size, but very compact.”

Neutral walls and breezy decor make the small home feel livable — as does the open floor plan, which wastes no square footage with unnecessary hallways. The main living space offers room for lounging and dining without feeling cramped, and the sole bathroom is sunny and modern, with plenty of room to stretch your feet.

The fully renovated backyard offers outdoor living with tiny-home style. On this curious triangular lot, the current homeowners have built a glorious mountain on a former molehill — or rather, a former “patch of dirt,” says Posey. Brick floors, plenty of overhead lighting, and corrugated aluminum fences make the yard feel hip and spacious.

“It’s kind of magical back there, with great lighting for entertaining at night,” Posey says. “What it lacks in horizontal space, it makes up for by utilizing vertical space.”

But the new owners won’t be confined to their tiny home and small backyard. The lot backs directly onto the Long Beach Greenbelt. Granted, the part of the park directly adjacent to the home is still under development, but upon completion, it will exponentially increase nearby outdoor space.

There’s no need to wait for your fun in the sun, though: The house is just a mile’s walk from the beach. Surf’s up!

Should You Gamble on a Home Near a Casino?- Stacy Kellams

February 12, 2016 by  
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Hey, check this out! Enjoy. -Stacy

Published February 11, 2016

At the end of 2015, New York approved licenses for three large-scale casino resorts across the state. At least one — the Montreign in the Catskills, with an 80,000 square-foot-casino floor, luxury hotel rooms, gourmet restaurants, and a spa — is already under construction.

And New York isn’t alone.

Casino gambling remains heavily restricted in the United States — regulated on the state level (and on Indian reservations). Currently, 40 states have casinos, including eight that have legalized since 2000, according to the American Gaming Association.

Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Maryland are among the states that are emerging as gambling destinations in the Northeast, according to The New York Times. Ohio and Kansas have stormed into the game in the Midwest, and in the southern half of the country, established casino strips that are expanding like kudzu. Biloxi, MS, just added the Scarlet Pearl, a massive casino resort.

Fair enough. A weekend at the casino, especially one of the newer ones with great entertainment options (hey, is David Copperfield still around?) might sound fab. But would having a casino near your home be a good or bad thing? Let’s take a look.

It isn’t all about gambling

Casinos bring slot machines and gaming tables, and if that’s your thing, who are we to tell you not to let it ride? But what if it isn’t your thing?

Even if you don’t like gambling, you may find something to love about the casino lifestyle. Modern resorts include everything from spas, to five-star dining, to miniature golf courses to professional clown schools (actually, we made that last one up). And they’re increasingly reaching out to young families with attractions like arcades or bowling alleys.

“New casinos are essentially shopping malls with slot machines,” says Robert Vinson, founder of the Vinson Real Estate Group in Los Angeles.

Sound good to you? If you’re considering buying into a smaller area without a lot to do, a resort can be a huge boon for your local entertainment choices.

Your house may be cheaper…

And you might be able to find something within your budget to boot.

Sure, lots of casino towns boast luxury condos with ocean views and mega-mansions on the outskirts of the strip. But if you’re willing to compromise, you can score a deal.

“The houses right by the casino probably do come in at a little cheaper price per square foot, because of being so close,” says Summer Davis Inman, casino-area relocation specialist with Coldwell Banker in Gulfport, MS. According to the National Association of Realtors, having a casino (or several) nearby can drop home prices 2% to 10%. Great for buyers! Not so great for sellers.

…and easier to rent

Somewhere down the line, if you decide to rent out your home — or if you have an extra room and want to go the Airbnb route — the casino might help you. A lot.

“Any major events that happen in our area, like Crusin’ the Coast, bring in a ton of people,” Inman says.”All the hotels and casinos are completely booked out.”

And the overflow is going to look for alternative places to stay, like your awesome Airbnb pad.

Plus, casinos often bring in jobs and renters who take those jobs will be looking for an easy location where they can bike or walk to work, Inman says.

Traffic won’t be easy

When it comes to casino towns, town or city planning commissions often try to give the locals a break. Routes to and from the casino are planned out. Lights are installed. Overflow parking lots are built.

But it isn’t always enough. Odds are, especially during popular vacation seasons like spring and summer, you’re going to deal with traffic. Sometimes a lot of traffic.

“Casinos are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all the time. If you don’t want to be near that traffic, don’t choose that location,” Inman says.

And things may be worse when the casino hosts special events. If it’s hosting a classic car show or Beyonc is in town, you can expect gridlock.

There is (some) noise

Of course, living near a casino is going to be louder than living in a quiet rural town. But it may not be as noisy as you think.

“Unless casino operators are trying to draw attention with outdoor light and water shows or a volcano, most noise is contained inside the gambling halls,” Vinson says.

The exception being conventions; think — crowds gathered outside = noise when you’re trying to catch some z’s.

The best way to tell if it will work for you: Try staying at a nearby Airbnb or at the casino hotel during a convention or tourist season. Walk around outside frequently and make a note of the noise level at different times.

And then there was light

Casinos may do what they can to shelter locals from the noise, but they don’t do much about the lights. Many casinos are brilliantly lit up — which looks super cool unless that light is filtering directly into your living room while you’re trying to binge-watch “Game of Thrones.”

If your home directly faces the casino, you’ll have to take preventive measures to keep the light out. Or you could opt for a home behind a casino, but that has its own challenges.

“If you’re adjacent to the rear, you will probably be subjected to the 24-hour toil of the loading docks receiving deliveries and noisy garbage trucks,” Vinson says.

So, what are the odds that near-casino living is in the cards for you? And more to the point: Are you willing to take a roll of the dice? Your call.

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