Rocker John Mellencamp Reportedly Scoops Up Soho Loft for $2.3M

John Mellencamp was born in a small town in Indiana, but he’s a big city slicker these days. Further evidence: His reported purchase of a live-work loft in Soho, the Real Deal reported.

The rock star plunked down $2.3 million for a two-bedroom, two-bath, full-floor unit on the ground floor of a historic, cast-iron building, according to a listing description.

The 1,800-square-foot white space is a hit. The layout features an open kitchen, living, and dining area, home office, and large work studio. There’s also a shared roof deck and access to basement storage.

Open living, dining, and kitchen area
Open living, dining, and kitchen area

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Work space
Work space

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Best of all, the space can be used as a live/work arrangement or as simply a cool place to crash in the city. The location is also totally rock star, right in the heart of Soho, convenient to luxury shops, art galleries, restaurants, and public transit.

Perhaps Mellencamp, 66, who released his most recent album in 2017, “Sad Clowns & Hillbillies,” wants to focus on his artistic side. The Grammy winner has also been a long-time painter, and this space includes plenty of room to stretch a canvas or two, and then even host an opening to showcase the work.

The singer’s heartland rock won him 10 hit singles in the 1980s, including “Jack and Diane,” “R.O.C.K in the USA,” and “Small Town.” He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.

‘I Sold My Brother’s House’: The Perils of Hiring a Real Estate Agent You Know

Things can get awfully messy when you mix business and family, so you can imagine my hesitation when my older brother asked me to sell his house.

At that time, in 2014, I had only been working as a real estate agent for a year. Although I’d helped clients buy homes, my brother’s listing would be my first experience selling a house … and my first crack at a big commission. (Gulp.)

Just about everyone knows a real estate agent or two, so it makes sense that many turn to that friend-of-a-friend or cousin the day they decide to buy or sell a home. Yet here’s the reality: This choice is fraught with risks—both to your relationship and to a successful real estate deal. In case you’re thinking of hiring a real estate agent in your social circle, here are some of the challenges you can expect, based on my own experiences.

Lesson No. 1: Don’t hire an agent you know unless he knows your neighborhood, too

When my brother had purchased a three-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom townhouse near Baltimore in 2010, it was the perfect starter home. But after living there for four years, he was ready to move to a larger place.

Although I grew up in Baltimore, I live and practice real estate mainly in Northern Virginia, so was by no means an expert in his market. And because my brother wanted to list his home as soon as possible, I had to study up, fast. I spent countless hours combing through local housing market data.

It was exhausting—and, looking back, made me wonder whether it would have been easier on everyone for my brother to hire a Baltimore-based agent instead. This specialist would have had months or years to absorb what I’d tried to cram into a few days.

Lesson No. 2: It’s tougher to disagree on key points—like price

It’s difficult for sellers to detach emotionally from their home, and their agent if it’s a friend or family member. Consider this a double-whammy when it comes to hashing through some critical details, like a home’s price.

Since my brother loved this house, he believed it to be worth a lot, prompting him to say with confidence, “I know what the asking price should be.”

Unfortunately, what he “knew” was just his hopeful, uninformed opinion … and much higher than the number I had in mind.

My immediate response was to knock his dream price down to size (perhaps a bit more bluntly than I should have) by saying, “Well, no offense, but I’m the one who works in real estate every day, so I know what I’m talking about.”

A tense silence ensued. So, to prove I wasn’t just bossing my big brother around for fun, I showed him three comps—short for housing “comparables,” or homes that have recently sold in the area. Agents, of course, use comps to arrive at a realistic asking price for new homes they put to market.

Once my brother had the numbers in front of him, he agreed to my listing price of $229,900. It was slightly less than what he paid for the home four years earlier, but the market had changed, and home values had decreased. He was going to have to take a loss if he wanted to sell his property quickly.

It was a hard conversation, but disagreements between agents and their clients are common—and can easily turn into a nasty argument when you already know each other on a personal level.

Lesson No. 3: Your agent may insult your taste in home decor, and more

As if telling my brother his house wasn’t as valuable as he’d hoped weren’t awkward enough, I also had to tell him the place needed repairs. I recommended replacing the cracked glass door on the back porch, adding new wooden window shades (to replace the cheap plastic blinds), and installing new carpeting throughout the home. Altogether, these repairs would cost about $3,000. My brother balked.

“Can’t we just offer the home buyer a credit at closing?” he asked. His hesitation is common: It can hurt to hear that your place isn’t perfect, particularly from someone who’s been hanging out there for years and never complained about those plastic blinds before. But selling a home requires you to scrutinize a home as a stranger would, rather than as a friend.

Lesson No. 4: If the house doesn’t sell quickly, more awkwardness ensues

Although I aggressively marketed my brother’s listing, a month went by without a single offer. Granted, it was winter, when sales are slower, but I nonetheless felt that I was failing my brother, which was far more painful than letting down a client I didn’t know well.

I finally told my brother he might consider reducing his price to drive more interest from buyers.

“But I’m already losing money on this house,” he said.

“I understand, but we’re not going to find a buyer unless we reduce the price,” I explained.

A week later, with no offers on the house, we made a $10,000 price reduction … and it paid off. We accepted an offer three days later, then sailed through to closing. But we still had one more hurdle ahead, perhaps the biggest of all.

Lesson No. 5: Even friends and family deserve to get paid

Many people might want to hire a real estate agent they know because they think they’ll save money—friends and family discount, right? Yet my brother and I agreed on a fairly standard 5% commission—2.5% to the buyer’s agent and 2.5% to me.

Even so, it still felt weird collecting a check from my own flesh and blood. Should I have offered to cut my fee, or do it for free?

The short answer is no. I’d put in a ton of work, and my brother said he was happy to give me the business.

Sometimes work and family can go together after all.

Massive $85M SoCal Estate is Unlike Any Mansion on the Market

While Hollywood movers and shakers are known for lavish mansions priced in the multi-millions, the veritable village that movie producer and tech titan Thomas Tull recently put on the market for $85 million is beyond compare.

Located in the hills of Westlake Village, just northwest of Los Angeles, and measuring more than 33 acres, it dwarfs David Geffen’s Malibu beach compound, which recently sold for $85 million, and the $88 million Bel Air mansion JAY-Z and Beyoncé scored.

Tull’s sprawling estate features over 50,000 square feet of living space divided among seven separate structures, and also includes a quarter-acre lake. There are 12 bedrooms, 18 full bathrooms, and 18 half-baths on the premises.

Inspired by 18th Century French architecture
Inspired by 18th-century French architecture

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The $88 million Thomas Tull estate.
The $88 million Thomas Tull estate

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“I’ve been in the business for a long time, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” says listing agent Jordan Cohen. “It’s actually a great value when compared to other homes at this price point.”

Among the myriad features you won’t find in at any other properties in the L.A. area are two municipal-quality water wells. The wells take care of the residents’ personal needs and supply water to the five-acre organic farm that produces farm-to-table food via 18 in-ground farm beds and more than 150 fruit trees. They also provide water for the fish pond, stocked with catfish, largemouth bass, and bluegills. A 275-kilowatt solar energy system provides most of the electricity.

5-acre organic farm
Five-acre organic farm

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Basically, a buyer would never have to leave the European-style estate, which includes a 32,000-square foot main mansion, an 11,000-square-foot guesthouse with its own infinity pool and home theater, a 1,500-square-foot greenhouse, and a 2,644-square-foot poolhouse/spa, among other buildings.

1,500 square foot green house
Greenhouse

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Pool house/spa
Pool house/spa

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2,000 square foot closet
2,000-square-foot closet

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There are many people who’d never want to leave the 2,000-square-foot closet in the 5,000-square-foot master suite!

But then again, if you lounged about in the sumptuous master suite with two fireplaces (one in the bathroom) all day, you wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the mansion’s other luxe amenities.

These include a Pittsburgh Steelers-themed sports lounge (Tull is a part owner of the NFL franchise); a 1,869-square-foot museum complete with a biometric gas system that removes oxygen from the room in the event of a fire threatening the collectibles housed within; a giant professional photo studio, and a spa with a Himalayan salt therapy room, a steam room, sauna, and massage room.

Pittsburgh Steelers themed sports lounge
Pittsburgh Steelers-themed sports lounge

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Professional photo studio
Professional photo studio

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Himalayan salt therapy room
Himalayan salt therapy room

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The entire estate was created by combining four massive adjacent lots, three of them located on a cul-de-sac that Tull was able to privatize and gate. Within those gates, Tull built a chateau in the style of 18th-century French architecture, and surrounded it with formal gardens, stone bridges, and four cascading pools, inspired by the gardens of the Impressionist painter Claude Monet at Giverny in France.

Grand living room
Grand living room

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Gardens inspired by Monet
Gardens inspired by the those of the French Impressionist painter Claude Monet

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State fo the art home theater
State-of-the-art home theater

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But it’s the Dolby Lab-certified 18-seat theater, with perfect acoustics that provides the most insight into Tull, the man who developed this remarkable property over the past seven years.

You’d expect the attention to detail from the former CEO of Legendary Entertainment, who executive produced films like Christopher Nolan‘s “Dark Knight” trilogy and “Inception,” as well as hits like “300,” the “Hangover” films, “Jurassic World,” and more.

The 47-year-old billionaire sold Legendary to China’s Dalian Wanda Group for $3.5 billion in 2016, and continued as CEO for about a year. He stepped away from the role last year to focus on other ventures that his Tulco holding company has invested in, including companies like Magic Leap, Oculus Rift, Pinterest, and Heal.

With the sale of this massive property and his recent professional transitions, Tull is eager to move back to his beloved Pittsburgh, where in addition to his interest in the Pittsburgh Steelers, he owns the sustainable and organic Rivendale Farms.

In fact, he is not only relocating his family, but his entire Tulco headquarters to Pittsburgh. “Pittsburgh will be the main tech hub of the company, so it will also be the home of our computer scientists, artificial intelligence, and machine-learning data scientists as well,” Tull told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“He really loves Pittsburgh,” says Cohen.

And Pittsburgh loves him right back. “Thomas and his family are now all in in calling Pittsburgh home, not only to raise their children but to help rebuild our economy,” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Wine vault and tasting room with temperature-controlled walls and 2,500 bottle storage
Wine vault and tasting room with temperature-controlled walls and storage for 2,500 bottles

a wine vault has a tasting room and temperature-controlled walls with storage for 2,500 bottles

Golfer Rory McIlroy’s Palm Beach Gardens Mansion Is on Sale for $12.9M

Wunderkind golfer Rory McIlroy is teeing up his 10,557-square-foot Florida mansion for sale, asking $12.9 million for the lavish property. McIlroy describes the “modern, contemporary” look and “bright” feeling as what initially drew him to the six-bedroom, nine-bathroom home. Situated right on the water in Palm Beach Gardens, the property comes with a sizable bonus: an undeveloped waterfront home site next door, ready to be transformed into an ultraposh tennis court, guesthouse, sold, or even just left as a cushion for a buyer who relishes privacy.

Inside, the home has all the bells and whistles you’d expect from someone who won $10 million on the PGA tour by age 23. There’s a huge gym, an outdoor synthetic putting green, a pool table, a giant whirlpool bath in the master, a trophy wall, and a sunken bar that opens to a pool and hot tub combo.

Rory McIlory's pool table.
A pool table in Rory McIlroy’s mansion

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It’s not just a fratty bachelor pad, though. High ceilings, clean lines, and a view of the water give the home a light, fresh feel. The huge kitchen is outfitted in the latest high-tech cooking gear, including a six-burner cooktop, four ovens, and an L-shaped kitchen island ideal for entertaining or family hangout time. A dramatic light fixture floats crystalline balls in the air above the two-story living room, and there are formal and informal dining spaces. There’s also a dock leading out to the water, a creek just blocks from the ocean.

Rory McIlory's light fixture
The dramatic light fixture is reminiscent of little golf balls.

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Rory McIlroy's kitchen.
Rory McIlroy’s kitchen

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Rory McIlroy's master bath.
Now that’s a master bath!

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Rory McIlory's home gym.
Got to keep fit.

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McIlroy, who got married last year, is trading up to a nearby Jupiter, FL, home formerly owned by fellow golfer Ernie Els. He bought this place in 2013 for $9.5 million, so he stands to make a tidy profit on the deal if the home goes for asking. With wins in three of the Majors, 95 weeks in the No. 1 spot in the World Golf Rankings, and countless other awards and endorsements, McIlroy is used to winning. We’ll see if his talents include an eye for real estate.

4 Things Consumers Should Think About Before Financing a Home Improvement

With Goldman Sachs’ newest loan product, the money-center bank is making a smart bet.

Goldman Sachs announced Tuesday that it will begin offering home improvement loans through Marcus, its consumer-focused subsidiary. Borrowers can get loans in amounts ranging from $3,500 to $40,000 for a period of three to six years. The loan product carries no fees — consumers who make late payments will only be required to pay the interest for those additional days — and the bank has said it can fund the loans within five days for creditworthy borrowers. Rates currently range from 6.99% to 23.99% APR.

The product is coming to market at a time when American homeowners are especially eager to take on home improvement projects. In 2017, home improvement spending increased 17% from the previous year, said Robert Dietz, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders, citing U.S. Census data.

The spending increase has been fueled in part by people staying in the same home for longer, which has resulted in a scarcity of homes on the market, Dietz said. Consequently, home values have risen nationwide, leaving homeowners with a larger pot of equity to dip into to fund improvements. “When you have existing homeowners with more wealth and reduced mobility that’s going to increase demand for improvements,” Dietz said.

Older Americans in particular are investing in renovations and upgrades, such as wheelchair accessibility, that will allow them to age at home and avoid moving to a facility. Energy efficiency upgrades have also increased the demand for renovations. And some owners may be making improvements because certain home improvement projects can translate into a higher home value.

Meanwhile, the costs associated with completing a renovation project have ticked up as a result of labor shortages and more expensive supplies, Dietz said. All told, Dietz said he expects home improvement spending to increase 7% over 2018 — but he wouldn’t be surprised if it went even higher. “Remodelers are going to be busy,” he said.

Here are some points to consider before moving forward with a renovation project:

Personal loans like Goldman Sachs’ offering could make more sense these days

The tax legislation signed by President Trump in December eliminated deductions for second mortgages, home equity loans and home equity lines of credit — all of which were popular methods for financing home improvement projects.

The ability to deduct the interest on these loans was previously a major selling point for them versus personal loans like Goldmans Sachs’ new product, said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at personal-finance website Bankrate.com. “The loss of the deductibility of interest really leveled the playing field,” McBride said.

There are many reasons why personal loans may be more attractive, even if they carry higher interest rates. They aren’t secured by property like home equity loans are. The rate on personal loans is typically fixed, unlike home equity loans. There are fewer additional costs associated with taking out of a personal loan, and an appraisal isn’t necessary. Plus, many personal loans can be funded within a matter of days.

But what about the growing amount of personal loan-related debt? McBride said these issues won’t be relevant for most borrowers considering a home improvement loan. “The lion’s share of demand for personal loans tends to come from consumers who don’t have the sterling credit profile,” he said. People seeking home improvement generally have other financing options and assets at their disposal, he added.

For some, home equity loans could still be the better option

Home equity lines of credit, or HELOCs, are a more flexible option for borrowers, because consumers can choose to draw on them at their own pace over a longer period of time. That could be useful if a homeowner is planning to complete a certain project in stages.

There are also more options for repaying the loan. “If a homeowner is largely paid on commission or through bonuses, their income during a year is very lumpy,” McBride said. “They may not want to lock themselves into a big monthly payment that’s fixed but rather have the flexibility of lower monthly payments when income is lean and make larger payments in months where they are more flush.”

The average rates available for home equity loans and a $30,000 home equity line of credit as of last Jan. 10 were 5.39% and 5.62% respectively, according to Bankrate.com — though often lenders will offer a one-year introductory rate that is below that. And the adjustment to the higher, variable rate following the introductory period can be a shock to some borrowers. Plus, there’s always some risk involved when taking on more debt, particularly for people who are approaching retirement.

Cash-out refinances: Who do they work for?

A cash-out refinance is another option. Homeowners who refinance up to $1 million in mortgage debt that existed before Dec. 14, 2017, will be able to continue to deduct the interest if the new loan does not exceed the amount of debt that was refinanced. So the old mortgage interest deduction can still apply.

But homeowners may want to think twice before refinancing their debt, particularly as interest rates rise. In particular, they should weigh the amount of debt they have outstanding versus the amount of equity they want to cash out for their project. “You don’t want to incur the closing costs and higher interest rate on $300,000 of existing debt just to get a good rate on $50,000 of new debt,” McBride said.

Keep your emergency fund and 401(k) in mind

McBride urged consumers to make sure that they don’t endanger their emergency fund. Financial planners generally recommend that households have enough cash saved to pay for six months to a year of expenses in case of a sudden job loss or other unexpected event. Under no circumstances should a consumer ever finance a home improvement project by taking out a loan on their 401(k). “If you need to borrow from your 401(k) to do a home improvement project, you don’t need to do it,” he said.

Anna Faris Lists $2.5M Hollywood Hideaway She Shared With Chris Pratt

If love died in 2017, in 2018, it’s official, in the realm of real estate.

Actress Anna Faris has listed her Hollywood Hills home for $2.5 million, a Zen garden hideaway she purchased in 2005 for $2 million. It was once the love nest she shared with actor Chris Pratt. The camera-ready couple filed for divorce last December and have a son together, 5-year-old Jack.

Variety was the first to report that Faris is selling the home, one of two she owns in the Nichols Canyon area of the Hollywood Hills. Variety adds that the actress not only shared this home with Pratt, but also with her first husband, Ben Indra.

The house is understated as celebrity real estate goes. It’s a 2,563-square-foot, three bedroom, 2.5-bathroom ranch home built in 1950 on a sleepy cul-de-sac.

Street view
Street view

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The home has been completely remodeled and updated with hardwood floors and walls of glass that open to a lush, private garden and pool.

Living room
Living room

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Pool
Pool

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The roomy kitchen is outfitted with top-of-the-line appliances.

Kitchen
Kitchen

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The romantic master suite comes with its own private garden.

Master suite
Master suite

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There’s also a bocce ball court with canyon views, ideal for entertaining.

Bocce ball
Bocce ball

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Although the home is full of memories for Faris, the actress is moving on both personally and professionally. The “Mom” star is slated for the remake of 1987’s “Overboard.” Page Six reports she’s also got a new man, “Overboard” cinematographer Michael Barrett.

Despite the high-profile split, both Faris and Pratt remain devoted co-parents of their son.

“He’s surrounded by so much love,” Faris told E! News. “We constantly reinforce what a great kid he is.”

The family is ready for a fresh start and new place to call home—good news for someone looking for their own private slice of paradise in the Hollywood Hills.