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.
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.
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.
It’s said there’s a season for everything—a time to sow and a time to reap, a time to scoop up bargains at after-holiday sales, and a time to purge that extra crap you didn’t need in the first place. And many new parents inevitably face the most transformative season of all—the one when they decide they have no choice but to leave the excitement and cramped quarters of city life and head for the bigger houses and better school systems in the suburbs.
Even if they do it kicking and screaming.
But now that many older millennials, those in their 20s to mid-30s, are finally settling down, the ’burbs are getting a boost. Last year marked the first time this decade that the nation’s suburban population grew faster than the population of cities, according to the Brookings Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. And as these younger homeowners populate America’s bedroom communities, they’re increasingly opting for places offering up some of the big-city perks they’ve grown to know and love.
So where should family folks go when they’re reluctant to say goodbye to late-night pizza delivery, freedom from needing to buy car insurance, bars that don’t have “TGIF” in their names, or honest-to-God culture? We’ve got you covered. The data team at realtor.com® found the most affordable, family-friendly suburbs outside the nation’s biggest cities that offer plenty of amenities parents will enjoy on their own.
“You’re seeing more millennials moving to the suburbs, especially as they have kids,” says realtor.com’s chief economist, Danielle Hale. “People are definitely looking for affordability, better schools, less crime… [So] more outer suburbs have really put in an effort to develop walkable town centers and other places for people to gather, to enjoy similar benefits they’d find in urban centers.”
In order to come up with our move-here-now list for America’s cool moms and dads, we started by looking at the nation’s 10 largest cities. Then we took all the surrounding ZIP codes outside the city limits to find the best ’burb for each major metro. (We excluded a second Texan city, Houston, so we could squeeze in bellwether city San Francisco, the 11th-largest metro.) We looked at*:
Affordability based on realtor.com data, defined as less than $400K ($500K for pricey SF)
Percentage of children residing in each ZIP code
Availability of child care
Number of toystores
Number per capita of restaurants, bars, and museums
Low crime rates
Reasonable commuting time (70 minutes or less)
So get over it: Trading the city for the suburbs doesn’t have to be torture. Just check out our list!
Suburb of: New York City ZIP code: 08817 Median home price in ZIP code: $295,050
Low crime, good schools, and the 217-acre Roosevelt Park make this town of just over 100,000 residents one of the more attractive suburbs in the New York metro area. It also boasts a genius connection. After all, it gets its name from Thomas Edison, who established his world-changing Menlo Park industrial research lab in 1867. Parents can bring their own young scientists to visit the newly renovated—and way interactive—Thomas Edison Center. Seriously, it’s a fascinating place, even on repeat visits.
There’s no shortage of things to do for just about every kind of kid here, from the fun Rebounderz trampoline center (yo, don’t forget those waivers!) to the Triple C Ranch and Nature Center, a wildlife refuge. And for the grownups, there are plenty of bars and restaurants—over 280 of ’em, according to TripAdvisor. Yes, you can go to the Applebee’s here, but you don’t have to.
“When people are ready to make the move from city limits, they come,” says local real estate agent Marc Rizzo of RE/MAX Diamond Realtors. “We always see a big influx of families from New York City. You get more for your money here. In fact, their [mortgage] payments are probably going to be significantly cheaper than what they’re paying for rent in the city.”
Suburb of: Los Angeles ZIP code: 90740 Median home price in ZIP code: $355,050
You thought Southern California was out of reach, pricewise? Check out Seal Beach, the northernmost beach town in Orange County. True, downtown Los Angeles and the Silicon Beach area aren’t really within commuting distance, but the town is just down the road from Long Beach, the second-largest city in the greater L.A. metro area.
There’s a real sense of community and camaraderie in this 25,000-person township, and plenty to do, too, with a quaint/California-cool downtown and enough excellent restaurants to justify the popular Seal Beach Food Tour.
And your home is likely to be a solid investment. The local economy is stable, thanks to the presence of a major Pacific naval installation and a Boeing Co. facility that built rocket parts for NASA’s Apollo moon missions. The adjoining Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are the busiest and second-busiest container ports in the nation.
Seal Beach also has some of the highest-rated schools in the nation, according to GreatSchools.org. And did we mention the beaches themselves? Nice. The near-perfect Southern California climate draws families looking to enjoy biking, hiking, surfing, kite-flying, and watching free outdoor movies in the fall at Eisenhower Park. Parents can sign the kiddies up for surf lessons. And hey, why not take one yourself? It’s (almost) never too late.
Suburb of: Chicago ZIP code: 60585 Median home price in ZIP code: $369,475
Families looking for a new home with a Main Street USA vibe should look toward Plainfield, about 40 miles southwest of Chicago. The entire downtown has been added to the National Register of Historic Places, for its commitment to various architectural styles of the last century.
“Most of our clients are families who move out to Plainfield for the schools. It’s a nice suburban destination,” says local real estate broker Keith Lang of John Greene Realtor. “We’ve got a really nice selection of newer homes—most built after 2000—and brand-new schools, shopping, and roads.”
The village stands out for its high percentage of child care providers and close proximity to parks, golf courses, and lots of other outdoor recreation. Don’t miss the 839-acre Lake Renwick Preserve, where bald eagles can be spotted, along with nesting herons, egrets, and cormorants.
For those who prefer indoor pursuits, there’s the massively popular Plainfield Lanes. It offers bowling, arcade games, and an escape room that you, um, have to escape from.
Suburb of: Dallas ZIP code: 76244 Median home price in ZIP code: $282,525
This suburban outpost, located between fast-growing Fort Worth and Dallas, describes itself as “the premier community in which to live, work, play, and invest by balancing big-city comforts with small-town charm.” Yeah, they’re laying it on a bit thick, but the description is pretty accurate. The family vibe starts with the region’s unswerving emphasis on education: Twenty of its schools have been recognized by the Texas Education Agency, and 20 major universities are located within an hour of Keller.
The suburb “is a fabulous area for families,” says Denise Kennedy, of Kennedy & Co. Realty. “They really invest in the community to make it a good place to live.”
It’s also significantly cheaper than Dallas, where homes go for a median $420,000 within city limits.
Keller also benefits from its proximity to well-known attractions, including the 212-acre Six Flags Over Texas amusement park and AT&T Stadium, the $1.2 billion home of the Dallas Cowboys. For more highbrow entertainment, it’s just a quick hop to some of the nation’s top museums, including the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth and the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas.
Suburb of: Philadelphia ZIP code: 08085 Median home price in ZIP code: $273,500
Located about 25 miles southwest of Philadelphia, this tiny town of 2,600 has “a great school system, a vibrant, recently renovated and expanded library, and a downtown business district that is exploding with new restaurants and shops,” according to Swedesboro Mayor Thomas Fromm. Thanks, Mayor Tom!
So what the heck do you actually do here? Eat, for one thing: Swedesboro boasts the area’s best Asian, Italian, and pub restaurants, according to a countywide competition. Parents can rest assured that their young ones are well cared for, since the town is also is to the county’s top day care center, the Goddard School, according to the residents.
Bonus: It’s also home to the family-friendly Bridgeport Speedway, billed as the “fastest dirt track in the East.” Vroom.
Suburb of: Washington, D.C. ZIP code: 20732 Median home price in ZIP code: $349,375
Famed Washington, D.C., suburbs like Falls Church, Arlington, and Alexandria garner lots of attention for their high-powered residents and equally ascendant home prices. But there are other communities that attract capital worker bees in search of a more laid-back lifestyle. Chesapeake Beach, a town of 5,900, was established as a seaside resort in the early 20th century and still maintains much of its early ambience.
The town is home of the Herrington Harbor Marina, routinely voted one of the best marinas on the bay. Combine that with better-than-average schools, affordable homes, and a low crime rate, and the 35-mile drive into Washington seems a lot more palatable.
Suburb of: Miami ZIP code: 33065 Median home price in ZIP code: $376,175
This master-planned community of 126,300 has long been an attractive destination for families fleeing lousy schools and high crime in inner-city Miami. While a rush-hour drive to the sun-washed metro can take more than hour, there’s no need to make the trip for entertainment options. Coral Springs boasts an arts museum, theater, golf course, and the annual OurTownAmerica arts and entertainment festival, which has been held every March for nearly 40 years.
Appearances are important in Coral Springs. The city is spending roughly $700 million on a downtown revitalization plan. Unlike other Florida municipalities, it keeps a tight rein on commercial development, so much so that it was the first U.S. city to have a McDonald’s that didn’t have the chain’s signature golden arches. Fight the man!
“[It’s] a welcoming place,” says Lynn Pineda, of Keller Williams Realty. “There are so many activities to keep kids active—and happy.”
Suburb of: Atlanta ZIP code: 30019 Median home price in ZIP code: $312,915
Dacula may only be about 40 miles northeast of Atlanta, but this small town might as well be on the other side of the planet. The town’s centerpiece is a 76-acre city park regularly used by more than more than 2,000 families, boasting a pool, sports fields, playgrounds, and even an outdoor classroom.
It also has the advantage of being close to family activities that don’t require a trek into Hotlanta. It’s less than 10 miles from the Mall of Georgia, the largest shopping center in the Southeast, and a scant 20 miles from Lake Lanier, a 38,000-acre reservoir that draws about 7.5 million visitors annually.
Suburb of: Boston ZIP code: 01863 Median home price in ZIP code: $294,275
Barely 30 miles northwest of Boston, this village is within an easy drive of some of the most monumental sites in U.S. history. They range from the North Bridge in Concord, site of the first battle in the American Revolution, to Walden Pond, where Henry David Thoreau famously contemplated the meaning of life.
Not all of the Merrimack River Valley village’s attractions are in the past, though—neighboring Lowell is home to more than a dozen seasonal festivals, and Chelmsford itself hosts one of the nation’s better small-town Independence Day celebrations.
Besides history and festivals, families can also enjoy an increasingly diverse dining scene. Restaurants offering tapas and top-notch sushi sit next to more classic New England joints pushing chowdah and lobster rolls. And for the outdoor-minded, the 24.5-mile Bruce Freeman Rail Trail from Lowell to Framingham is a work in progress for runners and cyclists, with the bulk of what’s been completed so far passing through Chelmsford.
Suburb of: San Francisco ZIP code: 94595 Median home price in ZIP code: $485,025
Walnut Creek may not be as affordable as the other suburbs on our list. But given that it’s barely 25 miles from San Francisco, where the median home price is a whopping $1.3 million, half a mil is a steal. Plus, Walnut Creek boasts good schools, low crime, and a burgeoning foodie scene.
“It has everything that you would be looking for in terms of food and activities that most major cities have, without the hassle of traffic and parking,” says Shauna Springer, a psychologist who has lived in Walnut Creek for 10 years and has two children, ages 4 and 6.
Springer also loves the access to nature. Walnut Creek claims 16 parks and 3,000 acres of undeveloped space. One of them is Heather Farms, a 102-acre park that features a sprawling, all-abilities playground, a lake, and botanical gardens.
“If you’ve got kids, you can get them on their bikes and get them on the Iron Horse [bike] trail, and just go from one park to another park to downtown,” Springer says.
And to groom your little culture vultures, the Lesher Center for the Arts offers kid-friendly theatrical productions like “The Little Mermaid.” Parents might be able to catch big-name speakers like Jill Biden, while the resident theater company, which just turned 50, puts on an array of new and classic plays. The city even has its own ballet and symphony.
*Data sources: realtor.com, Census Bureau, 2011-16 American Community Survey, Statistics of U.S. Businesses, Greatschools.org, FBI Uniform Crime Report, Google Maps.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What is a patio home? Well, it’s not a house with a porch out front. What defines a patio home is that it’s attached to other patio homes, making it similar architecturally to townhouses or condos—only in miniature. While townhouses and condos are typically at least two stories high, patio homes typically max out at one or one-and-a-half stories, tops.
(Oh, and patio homes might have a deck or concrete slab outside so you can sit and watch the fireflies, but not necessarily, so don’t let the name fool you. Got it?)
Patio home: popular options for home buyers young and old
Also referred to as carriage homes, garden homes, cluster homes, and courtyard homes, patio homes are a relatively recent addition to the housing landscape. According to Joshua Zinder, principal of Joshua Zinder Architecture + Design in Princeton, NJ, these homes came into fashion in the 1970s, as gated and shared communities sprang up around the United States.
While attached homes can be found from coast to coast, construction of patio homes has boomed in the Northeast of late, and you’ll often spot them near golf courses.
“These developments usually offer relatively easy access to nearby neighborhoods and communities, but often at a more affordable price point,” Zinder says. “Patio homes are in relatively high demand right now, as they tend to be popular with empty-nesters and others nearing retirement. They also often provide entry-level homes for buyers looking for access to communities where houses have become costly.”
Aside from their low price point, patio homes are appealing to many people because their small footprint requires only limited maintenance. The biggest downside may be that since your home shares at least one wall with your neighbors’, you’ve got plenty of company nearby.
Patio homes tend to be in the transitional style, incorporating both new and traditional elements. In Zinder’s neck of the woods, for example, newer patio homes are popping up with brick veneers to match the “Princeton aesthetic.” But in developments closer to the beach, patio homes have clapboard siding that makes them look more like older homes nearby.
What’s the difference between a patio home and a condo, anyway?
There is yet another difference between patio homes and condos.
“In most cases, a patio homeowner actually owns the lot the unit sits on, as well as the building’s exterior and immediate property structures like walkways, porches, and fencing,” says Greg Smith of Palisades Home Improvements in Nanuet, NY.
A condo owner, on the other hand, tends to own the interior of the housing unit, while the property, lawn, and other shared spaces are owned by the condo complex, Smith notes, adding, “It’s important for prospective buyers to understand what exactly they are purchasing.”
Architect Reja Bakhspecializes in international mega projects, such as the cultural center and hotel complex he is designing in Beijing. But the project that has captured his imagination involves a tiny glass and stucco house in New Canaan, Conn., built in 1953. Known as the Alice Ball House, the home was designed by Philip Johnson—an icon of Midcentury Modern architecture.
“I looked at the house and said, ‘I must have this,’ ” said Mr. Bakh, 49 years old, who paid $2.3 million for the 1,500-square-foot rectilinear house in 2015. “We’re not building onto or doing anything to the original house—it would be like buying the Mona Lisa and taking a magic marker to it.”
Midcentury Modern architecture—a catch-all term that encompasses a wide range of styles, from Bauhaus-inspired glass houses to the California ranch home—has gained cultish popularity in recent decades.
For devotees, the classic Atomic Age house—picture a compact geometric design, an open-plan living space and a lot of glass—is as much an art object as a place to call home. But with their modest square footage, outdated kitchens and often idiosyncratic layout, classic Midcentury Modern homes can be a challenge to actually live in. Homeowners face a dilemma: How to modernize a modernist house without diluting its distinctive features? And where are they going to put all their stuff?
“It’s a more reserved, more streamlined way to live. It’s great for someone who is very neat, very organized,” said Hilary Lewis, chief curator of the Glass House—Philip Johnson’s former home in New Canaan—which opened as a museum in 2007. “A lot of people find it a little too restrictive, they want to have nooks and crannies in their home where they can pile up stuff.”
Mr. Bakh, who lives in New York City with his wife and their twin infant sons, has no plans to live in the Ball House. Instead, he is designing a contemporary glass house nearly 10 times its size at an estimated cost of $3 million, which will be tucked behind it on the woodsy 2.2-acre site. The Ball House, which the family uses as a weekend retreat for now, ultimately will become their art gallery.
Architectural connoisseurs such as Mr. Bakh have been drawn in increasing numbers to New Canaan—a wealthy suburb distinguished by its trove of modernist houses designed by a group of Bauhaus-inspired architects dubbed the Harvard Five, who settled there in the 1940s and ’50s.
“In the 1980s, you couldn’t give them away. There would be regular families living in these houses,” said John Hersam, a real-estate broker with William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty in New Canaan, noting that dozens of the midcentury homes were torn down in the ’80s and early ’90s to make way for new construction. “The ownership has really changed. It’s really more a luxury market.”
Mr. Hersam and his colleague Inger Stringfellow are the listing agents for Mr. Johnson’s Wiley House. Built in 1952, it features a cantilevered glass cube with a double-height central living area, set atop a fieldstone base with four small bedrooms. The house, which last sold in 1994 for $990,000, is on the market for $12 million.
“It’s a really significant, internationally known property,” Ms. Stringfellow said.
Nationwide, the West Coast has the largest inventory of Midcentury Modern homes, according to data compiled by realtor.com. (News Corp, owner of The Wall Street Journal, also owns realtor.com.)
Listings of homes for sale that mentioned Midcentury Modern as a selling point were most prevalent in California, Washington and Oregon in 2017, and they were priced at a premium. In Seattle, for example, Midcentury Modern houses were 44% more expensive than comparable homes.
“It’s become so trendy in L.A., a lot of art-world people want Midcentury Modern,” said Barry Sloane, who heads a department specializing in architecturally significant properties for Sotheby’s International Realty in Beverly Hills.
Nevertheless, an undiluted modernist aesthetic poses certain challenges in the current luxury market, as Mr. Sloane discovered when he was the listing agent for a house designed by Richard Neutra, a leading modernist.
“One of the biggest problems was the kitchen. Neutra was never very strong on kitchens. It had linoleum counters, very basic,” Mr. Sloane said. “No one wanted to be the philistine that would come along and rip that out.”
Artists Lari Pittman and Roy Dowell own a 1953 glass house that Mr. Neutra designed for his secretary Dorothy Serulnic on a 5.5-acre hillside property in La Crescenta, Calif. The 1,382-square-foot house, which the couple bought from Ms. Serulnic in 1998 for $470,000, features many distinctive Neutra elements, such as mitered glass walls that dissolve boundaries between indoor space and the landscape, and inventive built-in furniture.
“It’s the type of house that requires you to be conscientious about how you physically deal with it,” said Mr. Pittman, a painter and professor at UCLA, noting Mr. Neutra’s use of “humble materials” such as birch plywood and Formica.
Rather than remodel or upgrade the Neutra after living in it for more than a decade, the couple built a second house on the property—a seven-sided contemporary with an interior courtyard designed by Michael Maltzan —for $2.5 million in 2009. “We quickly realized that to preserve the house and honor the house it would be best to move out of it,” said Mr. Pittman, who now uses the Neutra as a guesthouse.
The couple, who want to be closer to their L.A. studios, have listed the compound with its two homes for $4.5 million. Due to their efforts, the Neutra was designated a historic-cultural monument in 2006, safeguarding it against developers who might want to tear it down and preventing future owners from significantly altering its exterior.
“The house is set up for a person who is inclined to a certain connoisseurship of architecture,” Mr. Pittman said. “If you want a screening room and six bedrooms, you shouldn’t buy a Neutra.”
Matt Leaver and Krysta Lin spent four years restoring their 1953 Cliff May ranch house in Long Beach, Calif., which they bought in 2007 for $645,000. A developer, Mr. May widely is credited with inventing the ranch house, a single-story home that mixes elements of the Spanish hacienda and the western ranch with modernist floor-to-ceiling glass.
“It’s pretty ideal in terms of indoor-outdoor living, which is nice for California,” said Ms. Lin, a 40-year-old mother of two who designs children’s clothing for her own label, Youth Independent Party.
The family’s 1,421-square-foot “Californian” is part of Mr. May’s Lakewood Rancho Estates development of about 700 tract homes, built 1953-54. Many of the home’s hallmark features were intact, from its Douglas fir post-and-beams and redwood siding, to the translucent mistlite glass panels used throughout as room dividers.
“A lot of those homes underwent some pretty bad additions with second stories being put on,” said Nate Cole, a real-estate broker whose Unique California Property firm specializes in homes by modernist architects.
He recently sold a sleekly renovated Californian in Rancho Estates for $920,000. “One block away,” outside the May development, “a similar sized house would be probably $675,000 to $725,000,” he said.
Consulting old magazines, sales brochures and photographs, Mr. Leaver, a 44-year-old graphic designer, had doors and windows fabricated to match the originals, stripped decades of paint from the birch woodwork, and replaced the shingle roof with a period-correct rock roof.
In one concession to the 21st century, the couple opened up the narrow galley kitchen, removing a pony wall that divided it from the living room and replacing it with a large island. “Women are not behind the kitchen wall anymore,” Ms. Lin said.
But living with all that glass, transparency and openness means that the couple is engaged in a constant battle with clutter. As Christmas approached, Ms. Lin told her daughter to expect just one gift from Santa.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The home has been completely remodeled and updated with hardwood floors and walls of glass that open to a lush, private garden and pool.
The roomy kitchen is outfitted with top-of-the-line appliances.
The romantic master suite comes with its own private garden.
There’s also a bocce ball court with canyon views, ideal for entertaining.
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.
Few dare to learn how to declutter an attic. After all, this is where junk goes to die. Once stuff lands here, you forget about it entirely—out of sight, out of mind, right? Well, not really. These once dark, cobweb-filled eaves are undergoing startling transformations into playrooms, offices, and other types of useful space. Even if all you want is a storage space, wouldn’t it be nice to know exactly where things are, rather than needing to rip open every box to find those Christmas lights? To realize your attic’s true potential, you’ve got to go about the process of decluttering. In this latest installment of our Declutter Your Home Guide, we show you what it takes.
The great thing about the attic is that most storage is there for long-term use, which means that once it’s decluttered, it’s done for years to come, explains Marty Basher, a home organization expert at Modular Closets. “The bad news is that the attic is second only to the garage when it comes to clutter and chaos.” As such, this is a major project that should only be taken on when you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and purge, suggests Jacquie Denny, co-founder of the estate sale auction site Everything but the House. You’ll be smart to tackle this task first thing in the morning, when your energy is high and the temperature is comfortable, she says, adding, “Stay motivated by playing some upbeat music, and enlist family and friends to help you lift heavy objects.”
Prepare in advance, with all the materials you’re likely to need, including boxes, trash bags, and markers, recommends Denny. “And check charity, garbage, and recycling schedules to be sure there’s a convenient pickup within a few days, so your bags don’t pile up.”
Sort, sort, sort
Start the process by clearing a path through the attic, if necessary, says Maeve Richmond, an organizing pro with Maeve’s Method. “You’ll need ample floor and work space in order to sort,” she says. Next up, divide and conquer. “Start with three piles labeled ‘Save,’ ‘Toss,’ and ‘Donate,’ and then make trips to the curb or the car when ‘Toss’ and ‘Donate’ become sizable, so you have enough room to work,” says Basher. “Once you’re faced with the ‘Save’ pile, it’s time to make some big decisions about whether to purge more.”
Get the right bins
After you’ve sorted your piles and are left with what you’re keeping, you’ll need to choose the kind of shelving, boxes, and bins you’ll use for storage. Because of the extreme heat and cold in most attics, experts recommend heavy-duty plastic totes or bins made from high density polyethylene plastic. “It’s not advised to have loose items lying around an attic, so store as much as you possibly can inside the right bins,” says Basher. Keep like items together and segment your attic so that each area has a category, such as holiday decor or porch cushions, he says. Be certain every bin is labeled on the front with a detailed description—not just “holiday.” For example, you might write “Xmas mantel lights,” “Front door wreath,” or “Christmas tree ornaments” on separate boxes, so that when you’re hunting in the attic for something, you won’t have to open several bins to find it.
Make a few bucks
Still got baby and kids’ clothes in the attic? “Kids grow out of them so quickly, so why not get some money back from the ones that are too small?” suggests Andrea Woroch, a money-saving expert. At thredUP, you can sell gently used baby and kids’ clothes and accessories, and the parent buying the merchandise pays for shipping, which means there’s no cost on your end. “Or you could scope out a consignment shop or host a clothing swap with other families to see if you can collect items in bigger sizes for your older children,” she adds.
Repurpose the memories
Photo by Sweet as a Candy Some of the items most commonly stashed in an attic are family photos and other heirlooms. “Challenge yourself with this one,” says Julie Coraccio, an organizing expert with Reawaken Your Brilliance. “When was the last time you looked in these containers?” She has a point: If something is important to you, do you really want it boxed up in the attic? Instead, try to incorporate these heirlooms into your home in a way you enjoy. For instance, “Make a quilt of those old concert T-shirts, or create a cool shadow box of photos,” she says.
Keep it clean
Photo by Emerick Architects Look at that: You’ve actually got a clean attic! Now, make a solemn promise not to load it up with junk again. “Learn how to avoid accumulating things going forward, and let the items you do have breathe,” urges Richmond. Remember, just because you have the space doesn’t mean you should fill it.