In an era of tiny-house dreams, a house built inside a larger home sounds like utopia—especially if you’re contending with a Chicago winter.
And for buyers not yet sold on cramming their family into a tiny house, we’ve found a Windy City wonder offering the opportunity to experience tiny-house living without leaving the confines of a larger home.
The sweet playhouse boasts mint-green shutters and a creamy white exterior, with matching flower boxes for a bit of basement curb appeal.
And if you think this playhouse is a plastic replica of a home, think again. In addition to front and back doors, it features a kitchen with wood cabinets and a sink, plus professional-grade lighting throughout. Curtains and valances cover every window. A miniature “Mona Lisa” painting hangs above a wooden crib holding baby dolls.
The playhouse was built by a professional woodworker, according to this article in which the original homeowner’s daughter reminisces on one of her father’s greatest gifts to her and his five other children.
The main house itself is in perfect condition, and a well-preserved example of Mid-Century Modern architecture.
Highlights include a wraparound wooden bar on the lower level where you can serve guests pink squirrels and crank up the record player.
The eat-in kitchen features an island with suspended cabinetry above (and glass doors on the cabinets) along with updated stainless-steel appliances. Each of the four bedrooms is designed to allow natural light, and a wall of windows keeps the living room feeling sunny.
Three original fireplaces are in great condition and ready to crackle at the first snowfall. And when winter arrives, the attached two-car garage minimizes outdoor time during frigid temperatures.
The home’s 18,000-square-foot lot is a rare find in the city, and ideal for budding gardeners or a household with dogs who need room to roam. A covered patio serves as a spot for hanging out with family and friends.
And once you’ve exhausted your options for hanging out with the adults, you can always retreat to the amazing home within a home in the basement. It’s a retreat unlike anything we’ve seen!
You probably already know qualifying for a mortgage requires an acceptable credit score, sufficient assets and stable income. All of these show you can support a mortgage payment, plus other liabilities. But what if you have “paper losses” on your tax returns? The mortgage process can get a little trickier. Here’s what you need to know.
You have rental income losses
On almost every mortgage loan application this can come back to bite the borrower. This is because rental losses usually represent more expenses going out than there is revenue to cover the property. Lenders use a special Fannie Mae formula, which in most instances makes losses look even worse. This is because the expenses are added back into the mortgage payment, then deducted from it over a 24-month period.
It is important to note that, when purchasing a rental for the first time, some lenders use an exception basis. The exception they are going to use is 75% of the projected market rentals. This is to help offset the mortgage payment as long as you are specifically purchasing a rental property.
You have a Schedule C
This is a biggie. No one wants to pay an excess amount of taxes, especially self-employed individuals. You may be aware taxation is higher for self-employed individuals. So it goes without saying: Every accountant wants to be a hero by saving you money when helping with your tax returns. They could, however, be doing this at the expense of you refinancing or buying a home.
Writing off all your expenses, or worse, showing negative income means the lender has less income to offset a proposed mortgage payment. Even if you own a home already, have excellent credit and have an impeccable payment history, it does not matter. The income on paper is what lenders look at.
You have entity losses
The following scenario is a common one where borrowers pay themselves a W-2 wage along with a pay stub, at the expense of bleeding the company dry. This will become problematic, because there almost certainly will be lower income figures. The same income figures the borrower is trying to qualify with.
Any negative income being reported on personal or corporate tax returns, will hurt your chances of qualifying for financing. As a result, one of these may be an offset, but they are not limited to the following:
Waiting until the following year: Depending on the severity of how much income loss there is, you may need to do a two-in-one. This means showing two years of income in one year. This is to offset the two year averaging lenders use when calculating your income.
Changing loan programs: This could be an array of different things, but it may mean going from a conventional mortgage to a FHA mortgage for example.
Investigating more: You might need to put more money down to purchase a home than you otherwise thought. You would do this if your income is lower than what your purchase price expectations are.
Paying off debt: Depending on your financial scenario, paying off consumer obligations is always a smart and healthy approach, and can improve your overall credit scores, even if it requires some of your cash. (You can check two of your credit scores free on Credit.com.)
What should you do if you know you want to qualify for financing and you currently have tax returns that contain losses? First and foremost, consult with your tax professional. Learn what your options are. Once armed with those options, talk to a lender skilled enough to help you understand how much financial power you may have in the marketplace.
Reality TV stars JonathanandDrew Scott have seen plenty of homes that need sprucing up, but in the latest episode of “Property Brothers: Buying & Selling,” they see a house that’s in serious need of updating.
In the episode titled “Letting Go Is Hard to Do,” the Scott brothers meet Trey and Adina, who moved into their 3,700-square-foot, Nashville-area home when their two kids were in grade school. But now, one is off to college, shrinking the family to three.
They need to downsize, but the home they’re selling is sorely outdated. The Scotts are tasked with dragging it into the 21st century—without squandering too much dough. Here are some of the old-fashioned features and other errors that they fix, just so you can make sure none of these problems plague your own home, too.
Ditch the carpets
For starters, high-pile carpet covers the stairs.
“The problem with high pile is that when it looks worn, it really looks worn,” says Drew of the ratty-looking rugs. It was probably originally installed to keep children from slipping and to muffle noise. But now that the kids are grown, Drew says that should be the first thing to go.
Spend more to make a good first impression
Not only do they remove the carpet, they also install new oak steps. The brothers warn that this could add at least $5,000 to their $37,000 renovation budget, but everyone agrees that since potential buyers see the stairs right when they enter, it’s worth the splurge.
Make sure doors open the right way
Speaking of the entry, the front door is hinged on the right and thus opens in that direction, steering all who enter left—and right into a wall. Awkward! Jonathan remedies the situation by rehanging the front door so that it’s hinged on the left and opens to usher people into the house, rather than toward a dead end.
Define your rooms
“One of the biggest problems people have when they try to sell is that they don’t define their rooms,” Drew says, noting that the family has placed their piano in the dining area. “I’m pretty sure people won’t know if this is a music room or a dining room.”
This is an easy fix: All they have to do is remove the piano when staging, just as they’d remove a desk from a living room. It’s nice to have a flex space, but a room that’s set up to serve multiple functions at once just feels cramped, no matter how big it is.
Lighten up the rooms
“Dark colors make a space feel smaller than it really is,” says Drew, observing the dark, earthy tones in the bedroom, living room, and even the kitchen.
OK, so the kitchen is tiny anyway and will, of course, be expanded by knocking down a wall and putting in an island, but the rest of the house seems to grow a size or two once the walls are painted a creamy white.
Give tall windows tall curtains
There’s a grand, two-story arched window in the living room; however, for some reason, a valance and curtains have been hung halfway up the window’s full height. This was probably an attempt to make the living room seem more intimate, but now it just makes it feel cramped.
“Hanging your curtains at half-height makes a room feel even smaller,” says Jonathan. “One of the first rules of design is if you have nice, tall ceilings, you should accent that. If you take the curtain panels all the way up to the top of the elongated windows, it will be much more appealing.”
The new curtains are also made of a solid-color, gauzy material, giving them an airier feeling than the former heavy print.
Create spa feeling in master bath
One of Adina’s favorite features in her master bathroom is the jetted tub, even though it’s a built-in behemoth with chunky tile that takes up a lot of space. Jonathan explains that sleek, freestanding tubs now come with air jets, to create a spa experience in a much nicer package.
How does it all pan out?
Jonathan does such a great job freshening up their old place that they get an offer of $355,000—$5,000 over asking price. Plus, Drew finds the family a beautiful, brand-new home and negotiates a $330,000 price for it, which is $20,000 less than their full budget.
Even so, Adina is reluctant to let go of her old home.
“So many memories,” she says with a sigh.
“It’s hard to leave an old house behind,” Drew tells her. “But remember, you can create new memories in your new home.”
And with that, the “Sold” sign is posted, and the family moves on.
Jon Favreau, a former speechwriter for President Barack Obama, finally has a place for his Sonos speakers, Parachute sheets, and Blue Apron meals. Those are some of the sponsors he enthusiastically hawks on the popular podcast “Pod Save America.” He and his rotating band of ex-Obama staffers have made the podcast a must-listen for disaffected Democrats.
The Crooked Media co-founder and his wife, Emily Black, have settled in SoCal, where they purchased a Spanish-style bungalow in L.A. for $1.9 million in early August.
The three-bedroom, three-bath home was built in the 1920s and comes “beautifully updated,” according to the listing. Measuring 1,946 square feet, it features an open floor plan that makes for easy entertaining.
The light-filled living room features gray floors, a fireplace, and arched ceiling and doorway. It is adjacent to the formal dining room with glass doors that open to a grassy side yard.
The newly renovated kitchen features top-quality appliances, a breakfast bar, laundry room, and access to the outdoor deck and barbecue area.
The master suite comes with a designer bathroom, and guest rooms with dual baths open to a “tropical backyard.”
The outdoor area features a pool and spa, and deck with lounging and dining areas.
The home purchase is yet another milestone for the 36-year-old wordsmith. This summer, Favreau and Black married at Black’s family home in Maine.
After Donald Trump won the November election, the Massachusetts native quickly co-founded a media company called Crooked Media. The company has launched multiple political-themed podcasts, which have become popular with listeners opposed to the country’s current leadership.
What is a California room? It’s an outdoor space that boasts indoor amenities—similar to a porch but more posh. California rooms are an increasingly popular feature in homes today, particularly in warmer climates. So if you spot this term while perusing real estate listings, it’s helpful to know what it is—and whether it’s right for you.
What is a California room?
Technically a California room isn’t a room at all. Builders tend to define rooms as structures with four walls. Instead Melissa Hazlett, vice president of marketing and sales for Baldwin & Sons, a homebuilding company based in Newport Beach, CA, likes to call a California room “one part porch and one part room.”
Although California rooms are technically classified as outdoor spaces—and thus aren’t factored into a home’s square footage—they do have protection from the elements. For instance, California rooms have a roof to keep out rain and sun. Yet unlike sunrooms or solariums, which are enclosed on all sides with windows, California rooms are open to the outdoors on one or more sides.
Also setting a California room apart from the sunroom is the fact that these “rooms” don’t have to be attached to a house, says Kathryn Bishop, a Realtor® with Keller Williams Realty in Studio City, CA. The California room can be built freestanding in the backyard, with electric lighting added for evening use and often a fireplace to add a touch of ambiance.
If there is not enough backyard to support a separate structure, some homeowners will convert their original patio area or even their garage into a California room.
Not just in California
It’s easy to assume that these breezy outdoor living spaces were dreamed up in the Golden State. But Hazlett says they owe their beginnings to southern Europe, where residents of Italy, Greece, and Spain have been adding open-air living spaces to their homes for centuries. Typically the rooms were an extension of the house, with the roof and outer wall or walls of the home forming part of the structure.
These structures migrated to the United States about 20 years ago, first landing in Florida before making their way across the United States to become what is known as the California room today. You’ll find them in coastal states such as California, of course, but also in Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas, and even as far north as Maine. And given the current demand for outdoor living spaces, their popularity could spread from there.
California room decor
California rooms play into people’s love of the outdoors, but they allow homeowners to add some of the traditional comforts of home to their outdoor activities. Some homeowners will add a full bar, TV, and even carpet to their California rooms, making them like living rooms where they can enjoy the fresh air and spectacular view.
They “create intimate spaces where residents can gather for special occasions, socialize, or just enjoy a nightcap after a long day at work,” Hazlett says. “They really are the perfect embodiment of indoor-outdoor living, and they bring the comforts and design of the interiors to a more alfresco setting.”
California room costs and benefits
The cost of adding a California room to your property is going to depend on size, amenities, and, of course, construction costs in your area. Typically, the rooms start at around $15,000, Hazlett says, with costs increasing from there based on your needs and how you decorate.
If you’re waffling on whether to add one to your property, consider this: When done correctly, Bishop says, you can see a major spike in the value of your home and attract buyers looking to spend extra for a place to enjoy outdoor life without soaking in the heat of the sun or suffering through the rain.
“If the neighborhood has other homes with a California room or other upscale amenities like a pergola or outdoor kitchen connected to the house, homeowners will probably increase their property value by 80 to 100% of their building costs,” Bishop says.
When you think of the Chicago Bulls teams that dominated basketball in the 1990s with six NBA championships, the name Michael Jordan immediately jumps to mind. But nearly equally as key to the running of the Bulls was the presence of seven-time All-Star Scottie Pippen.
Winning six NBA titles with the greatest basketball player of all time makes you sort of a big deal. It made Pippen a basketball Hall of Famer and allowed him to buy this big-deal house: a 10,484-square-foot behemoth in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
However, he’s been trying to sell the megamansion since 2009. Priced at $16 million nearly a decade ago, it’s still languishing on the market for $10.9 million.
But now, there’s an opportunity to live like a big baller on a short-term basis. For a cool $40,000 a month, you can rent Pippen’s Italian-style waterfront mansion.
Dubbed “Villa del Lago,” the six-bedroom home sits just five minutes from deep-water access and includes a 205-foot-long concrete dock. You can easily take out your yacht after practicing your shooting touch on the property’s NBA-size basketball court.
Other amenities include a pool with slide and waterfalls, a sunbathing platform, large patio, putting green, and room for a 200-foot yacht.
Inside, you can work on your muscle tone in the gym and watch some game footage (or really any movie) in the home theater. Stone countertops grace the commercial-grade kitchen, and ornate wood furnishings are featured throughout the interior. Columns decorate the inside and outside of the house.
Pippen also won two Olympic gold medals over the course of his 17-year NBA career. Recently, he’s been embroiled in a bit of divorce drama with ex-wife and former “Real Housewives of Miami” star Larsa Pippen.
Now that fall has arrived, you might be inspired to try some DIY fall decor ideas in your home. But are there ways to add some autumn warmth without blowing through tons of cash? You bet! Just try a few of these DIY fall decor ideas below, many of which cost less than $50—or are even free.
Step away from the pine cones
While you might not be spending as much time outdoors as the weather gets cooler, you can bring in earthy elements for an organic fall feeling. But try to think outside the pine cone box.
“Pine cones have already been done,” says James Tabb, a designer with Laurel & Wolf. “Instead, opt for autumn accents like cotton boll bouquets or eucalyptus branches.”
Pile on the pillows
On beds, couches, chairs, and benches, it’s hard to have too many pillows, especially when temperatures start cooling.
“In luxe fabrics and seasonal patterns, pillows add a sense of warmth and style within any space,” Tabb says.
Let there be light
Shorter days and longer nights mean you’ll need to up your lighting game. Tabb recommends layering plenty of lamps for maximum light.
Often we think of art as a permanent exhibit in our home, but it can be more interesting to think of our pieces as traveling exhibits that change with the seasons.
“Beach prints are nice, but come fall a moodier makeover may be the way to go,” Tabb says. “One way to transform your gallery wall is with black-and-white photos or abstract art. Simple, yet beautiful, monochromatic art matches almost everything and makes a major statement.”
Add some velvet
If there’s one trend designers overwhelmingly agree with for fall, velvet is it. In the bedroom or living room, with blankets, pillows, and more, the opportunities to work the material into your decor are vast. It’s cozy and comfortable and comes in the most delicious colors.
Refresh the fireplace
Your fireplace has likely been neglected all summer. Now is the time to show this space some love before it begins beckoning everyone to gather around it again.
“This can simply be adding fall foliage in tall vases around the hearth or adding great accessories to your mantel,” says Liz Toombs, president of Polka Dots & Rosebuds Interiors. “If you have a fireplace that is unusable, filling it with candles is a fabulous option to add that warmth.”
Throw on the throws
Throws and cozy blankets draped over couches, chairs, and benches make your space look and feel warmer as you’re cozying up on the couch with a book.
“Layer, layer, and layer some more,” Tabb says. What goes better with your favorite flannel PJs than a cashmere tartan throw?
Get ready for the elements
Get your entryway or mudroom fall-ready with beautiful and practical accessories. Add an interesting boot tray near the entrance, which can be a great-looking accessory—and also plenty useful for wet and dirty shoes. Same goes for a decorative umbrella holder, which will save your floors on those dark and stormy nights (and days).
Lay down some table linens
If you’ve been dining alfresco all summer, it’s time to pay attention to your neglected dining room table with some great fall linens.
“A quality table linen set not only warms up and decorates your dining room in the cooler months, but also serves a key functional purpose for holiday entertaining,” says Erin Brownstone, owner of Wolf & Irving Table Linens. “They’re especially amazing to have when staging homes, since it adds a warm touch that helps a family picture their holiday gatherings.”
Cozy up your cocktails
Cassie Crooke, studio manager for Rumor Design and reDesign, reminds people not to forget their bar area when it comes to fall preparations.
“Refresh your bar cart or wet bar with seasonal spirits and accompanying mixers for fabulous fall cocktails at a moment’s notice. When the weather cools down, we are always drinking hot toddies, so assorted teas and a honey pot are perfect on-hand ingredients. Copper mugs add beautiful color to a fall vignette, so having mule mixers like ginger beer and limes handy is also a great idea.”
This week’s most popular home on realtor.com® is owned by the stars of TLC’s reality show “The Little Couple.” Interest in the home of the popular duo spiked this week after we reported they had put their Houston home on the market.
Jen Arnold, a neonatologist,and her husband, businessman Bill Klein, relocated due to Arnold’s new job in St. Petersburg, FL. The couple, who are both under 4 feet tall, had their Houston home renovated to accommodate standard heights. Not harmed by Hurricane Harvey, the home is still available for $1,225,000.
This week’s runner-up is a home built in 1850 in Stony Point, NY. The listing went viral due to the home’s storied past and amazing price.
The 4,656-square-foot stunner is listed for a mere $399,000. However, the faded estate, located just 40 minutes from Manhattan, will require a major restoration.
“The quality of the build is unbelievable,” says listing agent Adam Blankfort.The hope is that the next owner will be inspired to “creatively restore the faded patina of the past.”
Other most-clicked properties include a lovable mansion in Lubbock, TX, a charming Victorian in Pennsylvania, and a little red schoolhouse in Maine.
Before you take a recess, scroll down and take a full look at this week’s most popular homes.
Price: $320,000 Why it’s here: Should you need a house in central Pennsylvania, this charmer will surely steal your heart. We love the 1886 Victorian’s wraparound covered porch, the 10-foot-high ceilings, and the updated kitchen.
Price: $4,395,000 Why it’s here: Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan, who bought this property in 2014, also proved to be a master at renovation. After the recent split from her husband, their gorgeous remodeled mansion from 1900 is now up for sale.
Price: $39,000 Why it’s here: Pencils down! This little red schoolhouse is ready to be converted into a perfect little home. The historic building has original wood floors and window trim and measures just under 1,000 square feet. It’s in need of an imaginative mind who’s unafraid of breaking the rules. However, for the price and small size, it might be worth spending a few afternoons in detention.
Price: $132,900 Why it’s here: Located in historic Olde Richmond, this stately brick home was built in 1880. It’s been partly updated with new kitchen and bathrooms, while preserving “breathtaking woodwork,” stained-glass windows, crown moldings, and pocket doors. Plus, all furniture and new appliances stay with the house.
Price: $1,750,000 Why it’s here: It’s baaack. We know you just can’t resist clicking on the photos of the Kessler Mansion. This sprawling property landed among the most popular homes for the sixth straight week.
Price: $229,900 Why it’s here: Horses are welcome on this rural vacation property that comes with 7 acres. It features a custom home with black walnut flooring and an open layout. There are plenty of options outdoors for gardening, or just horsing around.
Price: $399,900 Why it’s here: Built in 2007, this charming cottage surrounded by forget-me-not roses comes with an open floor plan, three living spaces, a separate guesthouse, and a metal outbuilding.
Price: $1,250,000 Why it’s here: Lubbock or leave it? We’ll take it! This Texas-size mansion checks all the boxes. The Southern-style home includes an eat-in kitchen with vaulted brick ceiling, a bar, a theater room, an office, and an outdoor kitchen and pool.
Price: $399,000 Why it’s here: Built in 1850, this home comes with a storied past. In need of a major restoration, the old-world French-style “double brick” construction includes stunning original details, including eight fireplaces, Hudson River views, and a two-story barn.
Price: $1,225,000 Why it’s here: TLC’s “Little Couple” stars put their Houston home on the market right after the deluge of Hurricane Harvey, and we’ve been inundated with clicks ever since. Luckily, the newly renovated home (updated for standard heights) didn’t sustain any water damage from the storm.
The home has four beds, 4.5 baths, and an open floor plan. If you’re looking for leisure, there’s also a pool with spa, outdoor kitchen, and gym. Now safely settled in Florida, the reality TV stars are hoping for a buyer with a big bankroll.
Former MLB pitcher Ryan Dempster has decided to toss his home in Mesa, AZ, for $740,000. While timing is everything in baseball, Dempster didn’t have as much luck with this piece of property.
The 40-year-old hurler purchased the home in 2007 for $980,000, public records show. While the home looks to be in great shape, the housing market hasn’t kept up, so after 10 years, Dempster will be selling at a loss if the home goes for asking price.
Dempster’s financial ding will be a win for a savvy buyer. For the price, the next owner receives a “gently used” home built in 2004 on a quarter-acre lot.
The four-bedroom, four-bath, 3,980-square-foot Southwest-style home features an open floor plan and outdoor amenities such as a pool and spa.
The front gated patio offers lounge space and drought-tolerant landscaping. There’s also a formal dining room, living room with fireplace and built-in cabinetry, office with built-in bookshelves, and bonus room.
The kitchen includes a brand-new fridge, large island with granite counters, and breakfast bar. There’s also room for a casual dining table, which can look out to the backyard and mountains. The master bedroom boasts a full bath with double sinks, separate tub and shower, and a spacious closet.
The backyard features grassy landscaping with a covered patio, paved seating area, built-in barbecue, and heated pool.
The Canadian-born player likely loved the desert climes of the offseason during his 16-year, big-league career. Now retired, the right-hander toed the rubber for the Florida Marlins, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, and Boston Red Sox before retiring after the 2013 season. In 2014, he was hired as an analyst for the MLB network. He accepted a front-office position with the Chicago Cubs in the same year, and also owns property in the Lakeview area of Chicago.
These reading nook ideas will make curling up with a good book all the more enjoyable. A designated chill zone filled with soft pillows and ample lighting is a wonderful addition to any playroom, hallway, or stairway landing. This small but significant amenity is also sure to appeal to buyers if and when you decide to sell your home.
“Any time a house is accessorized to make it family-friendly and more efficient, the home’s value is increased in the eyes of buyers,” says Denny Stotlemeyer, senior designer at Closet Factory.
It’s time to use that neglected corner of the house and transform it into your new favorite place to unwind. Before you begin, keep these three design ideas in mind.
Look for an unused, quiet spot in your home when deciding where to install a book nook.
“Under a set of stairs, near a bay window, or in an upstairs loft or mezzanine are all good places for a little reading spot,” says Julie Green, a designer at Closet Factory.
“A reading nook near a window allows for great natural light, but you could also fill the end of a too-large hallway with a comfy bench for this purpose,” adds Deborah Maurer, another Closet Factory designer.
Other little areas that can be transformed into book nooks? An unused closet (just take the door off the hinges) or a nonworking fireplace. Just add a plush rug and a stack of must-reads.
If custom built-ins are within your budget, a book nook is a nice place to splurge.
“Reading corners with drawers and shelves are stylish and functional,” points out Matt Michaels, a Lowe’s spokesperson in Charlotte, NC. All that extra storage space can be used to hold blankets and other snuggly accessories.
If you can spare the space, try to build out your reading nook and bookshelves by a large window so you don’t have to spend a dime on light fixtures.
Design the bookshelves to surround a deep bench seat with a cushion, says Carole Marcotte of Form & Function in Raleigh, NC. You can even have a cushion and pillows for the bench seat custom-made with your favorite fabric.
Natural light is a plus, but task lighting in the form of swivel sconces or a set of overhead tracks is stylish. You can also plug in a floor lamp or gooseneck table lamp depending on what the space allows. For a whimsical touch, string up twinkle lights you might be storing away for the Christmas season.
The key to the perfect reading nook is to blend style and comfort, so consider including pillows and throws in coordinating colors and patterns.
“A big floor pillow is a sophisticated alternative to the casual beanbag look,” says Marcotte. Moroccan-style poufs are also a trendy alternative.
Remember, the more storage the better, so throw in an oversize basket or a rack to hold newspapers and magazines.