You may be more than ready to retire, but what about your home? If you hope to age in your current home it makes sense to prepare for the challenges that aging is likely to bring. The environment in which you live will be an essential ingredient to your retirement safety and happiness. Here are a few areas you may want to consider as you prepare:
How's the temperature? As I get older I notice I am increasingly sensitive to temperature changes. It seems that the cold is a bit colder than it used to be. And on hot days the air conditioner comes on more frequently. As we spend more time inside, a little thing like too much cold or heat can quickly become annoying.
Why suffer when today's modern conveniences can make your home much more inviting with options like heated floors and remote-controlled fireplaces that warm the room to a perfect
We all spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and this is an essential place to get things right.
temperature with the flick of a button. Attention to details like quality insulation, weather stripping and double-pane windows help you maintain the environment you want. You don't have to go the expensive route either.
I am quite happy with a small electric heater that I use as needed to heat just me rather than the entire house. And during hot months, we distribute fans to all bedrooms to keep our cool. In retirement, why shouldn't you be warm when you want or cool as you wish?
Is your bedroom where it should be? Having your master bedroom upstairs may be fine when your knees are young. But as you move deeper into your retirement years, stairs are no longer your friend. Having to negotiate a flight at the end of the day when you may be tired or distracted can be risky. Our 88-year-old neighbor recently resituated his bedroom downstairs because negotiating the stairs became too much. Now he heads to bed without having to face an unnecessary challenge. It makes sense to save the upstairs suite for younger visitors.
As we age we tend to sleep less as well as less deeply. Noise can interrupt an already tenuous situation. Rather than put up with it, move your bedroom away from the most common source of noise, putting a few walls between you and the offender. A good night of sleep is a luxury we all appreciate. I am a light sleeper, but cope with nearby freeway noise with a sound machine next to our bed that plays a recording of waves breaking or a peaceful stream burbling. These peaceful sounds of nature nicely drown out annoying traffic.
Is your home secure? Security is important when it comes to peace of mind. A well-publicized alarm system with generously distributed signs and stickers lets potential criminals know ahead of time the area is protected. Additional security is available with systems that include a panic button which alerts the appropriate people when there is an emergency. It is a good investment to put deadbolts and strong locks on all doors with access to the outside. And make sure locks on windows click securely into place when closed.
No matter where you live, it is important to have a clear plan of action in case of emergencies. Depending on where your home is located you are subject to your own natural threats. As residents of the Bay Area we are most concerned with earthquakes. To prepare for the worst, we
Even though you may have lived in a house for decades, it is easy to misjudge a distance in dim lighting and injure yourself.
have our exit routes planed, a common contact out of state to phone and a week's worth of survival supplies stored in the shed out back. Don't forget to include important prescriptions. Fire is a concern no matter where you live, so plan accordingly. And I am a firm believer you can never have too many flashlights lying around, so long as you remember where they are when needed.
Are your handles and fixtures senior friendly? One of the best investments we made was replacing interior doorknobs with handles. Now it is no problem to open a door even when our hands are full. We also upgraded our lights, so instead of struggling with a tiny switch we turn on fixtures by pressing a large flat switch. Similar improvements can be made when it comes to faucets with levers being easier to work than knobs. And bigger handles on cabinets just make life that much easier.
Are you near local points of interest? The physical location of your house is not something you can change. But it is helpful to be near the places you frequent, especially as you age. A short drive or walk to the grocery store, restaurants and nearby parks can make your location ideal. Public transportation can be a big help as well. And you cannot help but feel a bit safer if you live near a police or fire station as well as a hospital.
Is your kitchen efficiently designed? We all spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and this is an essential place to get things right. Cabinets should not be so high that they require stepping on a stool to reach. Drawers should not be so deep you have to bend down to see what is in the back recesses. Counter tops should not be too high or too low. Appliances that are set up based upon how you personally cook and navigate can be a big plus. Good lighting is a must as well as ventilation. Take advantage of improvements like lazy Susan shelving that maximizes otherwise wasted corners of drawers for easy access to everything stored there.
Can you see where you are going? Good lighting makes good sense. Even though you may have lived in a house for decades, it is easy to misjudge a distance in dim lighting and injure yourself. Make sure entrances are well illuminated for you as well as visitors. We opted for motion-detecting flood lights in strategic corners outside to light the way and help us find the keyhole after dark.
A well thought out home is not only a happier place, but also a safer place. Little improvements and added efficiencies can make a big difference. If you make the right changes now, you are investing in your future retirement happiness.
Homeowners hear that the real estate market has finally turned a corner and assume that means multiple offers and bidding wars are back. Even if your town is buzzing with real estate activity and sales are picking up, it doesn't mean that you're guaranteed multiple offers, or even one offer for that matter. For a seller to get lots of activity on their listing, there are three must-haves: location, price and presentation.
Must have a good location: One thing is common among all properties that receive multiple offers these days: the home is in a good location. Location is nearly always what drives homebuyers in their search. Before considering price, number of bedrooms or size of
Pricing isn't an exact science, and it's nearly impossible to pin a precise number to a home until buyer and seller sign a contract and close.
home, a buyer looks for location.
If your home is on a busy street, not in the best school district or near a freeway on/off ramp, chances are you won't receive the kind of activity that a well-located home would. In that case, work closely with your agent to price the home correctly.
Must be priced right: Buyers in any market look for perceived value. Homes priced 10 percent (or more) over their market value won't get noticed. Pricing isn't an exact science, and it's nearly impossible to pin a precise number to a home until buyer and seller sign a contract and close. Then, the price officially becomes the home's market value. Until that time, agents can provide sellers with a value range. Have a good location? Does your home show well? Are you in a strong sellers' market? Price your home on the bottom of that price range and you'll be sure to attract buyers -- and possibly multiple offers.
Must show well: A generation ago, sellers simply did some deep cleaning and maybe some de-cluttering before their first open house. Presentation wasn't as important then as it is today, given online listings. More buyers today develop an emotional connection to a home. They want to imagine themselves in your home and not feel like they're a guest. What does that mean? Appeal to the masses. If you have a good location and you plan to price your home realistically, then you need to make sure you give buyers what they want. If you can afford it, make cosmetic upgrades;
If you're not in a strong sellers' market or you spend a fortune on last-minute upgrades, you could be in for a giant surprise.
invest in some staging and work to turn your home into a "product." Emotionally disconnect from your home and try to see it more objectively.
Plan on having the home in perfect condition for the photo shoot. A buyer's first impression of your home likely will be via the Internet or an email from their agent. Make them want to step inside. The more buyers you attract to your home, the more activity.
Know your market: Don't assume that national trends apply to your region, city or neighborhood. If you're not in a strong sellers' market or you spend a fortune on last-minute upgrades, you could be in for a giant surprise. Just because you hear about bidding wars and multiple offers on the national news doesn't mean that applies to your market. For example, while properties in San Francisco may receive multiple offers, a town like Port Chester, NY, still sees short sales and homes often spend many days on the market.
Work with a good local agent. A local agent has likely toured all the nearby homes for sale as well as ones that have sold over the past six months to a year. Knowing those homes, having walked inside and personally knowing the agents who have sold them matters. This is market data that an outsider just doesn't have access to. This knowledge empowers good local agents to educate their sellers.
Brendon's practical real estate advice has appeared on FOX News, CNBC, USA Today, Bloomberg, FOX Business and Forbes. A licensed Realtor and an active investor himself, Brendon owns real estate around the U.S. and abroad and is licensed to sell in California and New York.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow or AOL.
Some metros are known for their sky-high home prices. However, metros with affordable homes for sale do exist! We define a market as affordable if a buyer who makes the area's median income can afford the area's median-priced home by spending less than what they have spent historically. These seven metro areas have the highest percentage of affordable homes currently on the market among the nation's 35 largest metros.
2228 Aqua Park Ave.
For sale: $95,000
This 1,656-square-foot, three-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom home offers ample entertainment space, including a roomy backyard with a large deck. This home's price sits just under the area's median home value of $96,700.
No. 3: Cleveland
3053 W. 116th St,
For sale: $49,900
Built in 1921, this quaint 984-square-foot home has been updated throughout. The two-bedroom, one-bathroom home comes with all appliances and is even more affordable than Cleveland's median home value of $51,700.
No. 4: Kansas City, Mo.
7360 N. Mulberry St.
For sale: $110,000
Located on a quiet street, this 1,028-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom home has been newly painted and carpeted and comes with all appliances included. Considering Kansas City's median home value of $112,900, this home is a great buy.
9051 S. May St.
For sale: $184,900
This 1,400-square-foot brick home has received many new furnishings throughout, including a kitchen with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. Chicago's median home value is $187,200, making this three-bedroom, three-bathroom home a great deal.
One question I heard frequently throughout my 20s was, "When are you going to buy a house?" Some believed I was already missing out on the benefits of homeownership while others thought with my career constantly taking me to new cities, I was better off renting forever.
Many people grapple with the decision of whether to buy or rent a home. While there are pros and cons to each and the decision is ultimately personal, here are some signs you should keep renting.
1. No Savings: Sometimes it's tempting when you hear of low down payment options for buying a home. But if you don't have an emergency fund yet or if purchasing a home would drain all of your savings, you probably aren't ready. Homeownership comes with expenses -- you never know when a hot water heater will need replacing -- so you want to make sure you have money set aside for
If the thought of buying a home makes you so nervous that you are making yourself sick or having trouble sleeping, you need to explore the reasons before you move forward.
home repairs on top of the usual living expenses.
2. Uncertain Future: Signing a mortgage means you are agreeing to pay money every month to own that home. If you have a stable job that you love, this can be great. But if you are unsure whether you will have your job for the next few years, you may want to wait. Even if you've just gotten a new job and you are very excited, it may be wise to get a feel for the company before you jump into homeownership. You'll want to know whether the company is hiring or laying people off and what its financial outlook is to determine your own job security.
I kept renting throughout my 20s because I wasn't sure where I was going to be living. My career had me moving around the country with very little notice. I stayed in one state for nine months and another for only six months. I wanted to be able to accept new assignments and opportunities that came my way without worrying about selling a home. If you aren't certain where you will be in a few years, or perhaps even months, you might want to keep renting for now.
3. No Research: Buying a home is a big decision. You'll want to learn what you can about the local housing market, including the pricing trends, the school district and the property taxes. Another thing to consider is how well you know the home itself. Sure, that roof looks good, but an expert may tell you it needs to be replaced soon. That's not the kind of surprise you want after you've spent a lot on a down payment.
Don't rush into homeownership without doing your research. Think about how much you regret that impulse buy at the mall and multiply it by ... a lot!
4. Fear: Yes, you have to face your fears. But if the thought of buying a home makes you so nervous that you are making yourself sick or having trouble sleeping, you need to explore the reasons before you move forward. Perhaps you aren't sure this is the right time or the right house. Maybe you don't want to take on a long-term loan like a mortgage or you worry about being tied to one location. Before you take on a mortgage, it might be best to determine what is truly bothering you.
More about renting and homeowning from Credit.com:
Many sellers entertain the idea of selling their home without an agent. They always have. Particularly today, with so much information online, many believe that the Internet weakened the role of the agent; that the agent's value is not what it used to be. However, when it comes time to sell a home, it's common for many people to wonder if they can go at it alone and save the 6 percent commission. Going the FSBO route, as in "For Sale By Owner," seems easy enough.
By researching online, you can check out comparable sales, learn your local market, and determine a good price for your home. Take some photos with your smartphone camera, write compelling marketing copy, and make a few cosmetic enhancements if needed. When you're ready, list your home online for buyers to find and explore. In some cases, it truly can be easy,
If you go it alone, you aren't necessarily saving 6 percent of the home's sales price by not hiring an agent.
but not for everyone. There are a few considerations and some reasons why many sellers end up going down the traditional path of being represented by a licensed real estate agent.
When the Stakes Are High, Doubt Creeps In: Selling your home isn't like selling a used car or a flat-screen TV online. It's just not that cut-and-dried. It's likely a place where you've made memories and have some serious emotional attachments. The sale of a home generally comes at a time of life change; a new job, new baby, retirement, death or divorce. Emotionally detaching means that you may not be as objective as possible. And as a result, there could be negative financial ramifications. Putting a a third party in between you and the sale can be comforting. There are practical considerations as well. Prices can vary by block and there are a variety of elements for a homeowner to consider: the local market, pricing, disclosures and property access, among other things. When it comes time to go FSBO, a little bit of doubt may creep in. Is my timing right? Is my pricing right? Is there something I'm missing? Am I ready to sell? Sellers don't know what they don't know. When it comes time to go live, and expose themselves to the market, they sometimes get cold feet.
You'll Probably Still Pay an Agent's Commission: If you go it alone, you aren't necessarily saving 6 percent of the home's sales price by not hiring an agent. Most likely, you're only saving 3 percent. When a home is sold, the seller ordinarily pays the 6 percent commission. The seller's agent then splits the commission with the buyer's agent. If you want to get traffic to your listing, you need to offer that commission to the buyer's agent to incentivize them to show your home. Additionally, few buyers feel comfortable negotiating directly with an unrepresented seller. Buyers want guidance from their agent and appreciate their feedback. If you don't offer that buyer's side commission you risk losing eyeballs and therefore market share. If you lose a chunk of the market, you risk not getting top dollar.
It Becomes a Part-Time Job: Selling a home takes an immense amount of preparation time, not to mention the time and energy to show the home once it's listed for sale. You'll have to field
Search and research as much as possible, not only local listings but how to best present your home to the market.
calls, emails and questions from buyers and agents. Plus you'll need to be prepared to show it at a moment's notice. It could easily begin to feel as if you've taken on a part-time job. And, not everyone is cut out for the additional workload and stress. In many cases, you'll be doing all this while also focusing on where you're moving. Are you selling in order to move to another city or town, or because of a change in your career or life? Any of those situations can be stressful enough on their own. When you add selling your own home to your plate, it can quickly be overwhelming.
There are certain people that can absolutely do it. It's been done successfully over and over through the years. If you're convinced that you can overcome the doubts and fears associated with being unrepresented, have the time and energy to make it happen, then give it a shot. Start by doing your homework, going to open houses and learning as much as you can about how your market works. Be prepared to set aside a good chunk of time for the months before and during the sale. Search and research as much as possible, not only local listings but how to best present your home to the market. Because you don't sell homes for a living, you could be caught off-guard or overlook something important.
Once you go "live," the days on market -- the DOM -- starts to tick. That number of days is the buyer's way of knowing how your home fares in the market. If the DOM approaches 90 and you are still active, buyers will see it and know it. If you are unsuccessful and end up listing it the traditional way, that buyer will know about the previous attempt to sell FSBO. They may use it against you when making their offer. So put your best foot forward. If you're not there yet, don't go FSBO. Take the time you need to and reevaluate your plans. The last thing you want to do is rush into the market when you're not ready.
For more insights into the important changes happening in real estate, read DiSimone's new book "Next Generation Real Estate." Brendon's practical real estate advice has appeared on FOX News, CNBC, USA Today, Bloomberg, FOX Business and Forbes. A licensed Realtor and an active investor himself, Brendon owns real estate around the U.S. and abroad and is licensed to sell in California and New York.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow or AOL.
Perhaps inspired by his sister's quick sale of her Hollywood Hills starter home, Jack Osbourne has listed his Spanish-style four-bedroom, four-bath home in the Los Feliz neighborhood for $2.998 million. Osbourne, whose struggles with addiction and coming-of-age were documented on MTV's reality series "The Osbournes," has married and had a daughter since he bought the newly renovated, 1926 gated home for $2.8 million in 2011.
The 4,810-square-foot home at 2220 N. Berendo St. in Los Angeles has a sunny courtyard with a pool and fountains. Inside, the home has high ceilings with Spanish-style beams and a kitchen at the center.
Upstairs is a spacious master suite and 2 bedrooms. A separate guesthouse includes a a full kitchen.
Hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky and his wife, actress Janet Jones, have fixed up their Thousand Oaks, Calif., mansion and are selling it for $10.5 million. Gretzky has been called audacious, and so might his house. But he has also been called The Great One, and the listing promises the estate "merely leaves you breathless from the very first footstep of the front door."
The 8,711-square-foot, five-bedroom, six-bath home doesn't hold back on luxury, with pillars, molding, dark carpets, a gold fireplace, and masculine black chandeliers in the living room and entry hallways. The front door is flanked by immaculate hedges and looks onto a tiered black fountain, and several rooms open up to a veranda with a large swimming pool and pool-house with an exercise room.
NEW YORK -- Applications for U.S. home mortgages rose last week as interest rates declined, an industry group said Wednesday.
The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity, which includes both refinancing and home purchase demand, rose 4.3 percent in the week ended April 11.
The MBA's seasonally adjusted index of refinancing applications jumped 6.9 percent, while the gauge of loan requests for home purchases, a leading indicator of home sales, rose 1.3 percent.
Fixed 30-year mortgage rates averaged 4.47 percent in the week, down 9 basis points from 4.56 percent the week before.
The survey covers more than 75 percent of U.S. retail residential mortgage applications, according to MBA.
Several top contenders currently on the market could continue the trend. While a few of the most expensive homes are luxurious in their own right, most have earned their eight- or nine-figure price tags because of their location and acres upon acres of land. See for yourself with the 10 priciest pads for sale.
WASHINGTON -- - U.S. housing starts rose but below market expectations and building permits fell in March, pointing to underlying weakness in the housing market that could persist despite improving weather.
The Commerce Department said Wednesday groundbreaking increased 2.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 946,000. February's starts were revised to show a 1.9 percent rise rather than the previously reported 0.2 percent fall.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected starts to rise to a 973,000-unit rate last month.
"Given the weather, housing is still disappointing," said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Compared to March last year, starts dropped 5.9 percent, the biggest decline since April 2011.
While a brutally cold winter weighed on home building in December and January, activity has also been hampered by shortages of building lots and skilled labor as well as rising prices for materials.
A report Tuesday showed homebuilders in April were still downbeat about the sector's near-term prospects. The housing market is under strain from higher mortgage rates and elevated house prices that are sidelining potential buyers.
"Mortgage rates are higher than where they were a year ago and you have sluggish wage growth so a lot of the low-end buyers are being priced out," Brown said.
But there is a ray of hope for a pick-up. In another report Wednesday, the Mortgage Bankers Association said applications for loans to buy houses rose last week.
The MBA's builder application survey data also showed mortgage applications for new home purchases increased 15 percent in March compared to February. The data has not been adjusted for seasonal fluctuations.
Groundbreaking for single-family homes, the largest segment of the market, surged 6 percent to a 635,000-unit pace last month. Starts for the volatile multifamily homes segment fell 3.1 percent to a 311,000-unit rate.
That was the lowest level since last October.
Starts jumped 30.7 percent in the Northeast and 65.5 percent in the Midwest, but fell in both the South and West.
Permits to build homes fell 2.4 percent in March to a 990,000-unit pace. Permits for single-family homes rose 0.5 percent but fell 6.4 percent for the multifamily sector.
Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed mortgages fell over the past week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgage Marketplace at 4.14 percent, down from 4.20 percent at this same time last week. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate plummeted on Wednesday from 4.24 percent to 4.12 percent, where rates have continued to hover into this week. (See the full chart below.)
"Last week, rates dropped to their lowest levels in six weeks as investors shifted out of stocks and into safer assets, like U.S. Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "This week, there is a full slate of economic reports scheduled for release, with the potential to nudge rates up."
Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate this morning was 3.15 percent, and for 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.80 percent.
U.S. homebuilders' confidence in the housing market rose modestly in April but remained at low levels for the third straight month, constrained by tight credit for homebuyers and a shortage of workers and available land. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index, which measures confidence in the single-family home market, edged up to 47 in April from 46 in March, the homebuilders group reported Tuesday.
Readings below 50 mean builders view sales conditions as poor. The index had been above 50 from June through January. Builders recently have complained that they can't find enough workers or lots to build on. Many homebuyers also have had trouble qualifying for mortgages.
The homebuilders' index of traffic by prospective buyers stayed at 32 in April.
The latest reading, based on responses from 301 builders, comes as the spring home-selling season gets going. The season typically sets the pattern for residential hiring and building construction in the ensuing months. The overall confidence index was below 50 in all four regions of the United States -- 36 in the Northeast, 45 in the West and 48 in the Midwest and South.
"Builder confidence has been in a holding pattern the past three months," said Kevin Kelly, chairman of the homebuilders association and a developer from Wilmington, Del. "Looking ahead, as the spring home buying season gets into full swing and demand increases, builders are expecting sales prospects to improve in the months ahead."
The index measuring their confidence in home sales over the next six months rose to 57, highest since January. Housing, while still a long way from the boom of the mid-2000s, has been recovering. Residential construction has grown at double-digit rates over the past two years and contributed about one-third of a percentage point to overall economic growth in both 2012 and 2013.
Though new homes represent only a fraction of the housing market, they have an outsize impact on the economy. Each home built creates an average of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in tax revenue, according to data from the homebuilders association.
LONDON -- Plans to demolish five high-rise apartment towers as part of the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony have been dropped. Officials said Sunday that safety and security concerns led to the change of heart. Glasgow 2014 officials had planned to blow up five of the six Red Road apartments as a symbol of the city's commitment to regeneration even as it celebrates its past.
The idea had sparked opposition from residents who said it was insensitive. Many signed an online petition urging the plan to be scrapped. The games are set to open on July 23 with festivities that will be broadcast to much of the world. The Red Road towers have come to symbolize both postwar optimism and urban decay. They were built in the 1960s to replace slum housing.
Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has sold his co-op on New York's Upper West Side to the author of the Jack Reacher book series. Jim Grant, known commonly by the pen name Lee Child, bought Khosrowshahi's co-op in The Orwell House for $9.15 million. The four-bedroom, three-bath unit has a view of Central Park.
Khosrowshahi was 9 when his family moved to Tarrytown, N.Y., from Iran after the 1978-79 Iranian Revolution, and he worked as an investment banker in New York before taking over Expedia in 2005. The longtime East Coaster joked about buying a Subaru when he moved to the Seattle area.
Khosrowshahi wasn't the only very successful owner in The Orwell House. According to The Real Deal, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban recently listed a unit in the historic 1906 building for $600,000.
The U.S. housing industry has waited three months to find out how Mel Watt will govern taxpayer-owned mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and has been frustrated by his silence. The former 11-term congressman from North Carolina, who took over the agency that oversees the two enterprises in January, has not delivered an annual strategic plan, which would usually be public by now. "We have yet to see or hear Watt's vision for housing finance," said Clifford Rossi, a former banker and risk executive at Freddie Mac who is now a finance professor at the University of Maryland. "He is still getting up to speed."
Not only has Watt's reticence surprised the industry, but it has disappointed some lawmakers who had hoped for guidance on housing legislation. As director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Watt has tremendous influence over Fannie and Freddie, which own or guarantee about $5 trillion
Talks on overhauling the housing finance system have intensified on Capitol Hill in recent months, but analysts say it could take years for legislation to be enacted. That would leave Watt with unusual power in the meantime....
in U.S. mortgages. Banks, credit unions, homebuilders, real estate brokers and would-be homeowners all have a stake.
Sources inside and close to the FHFA say they believe he is largely comfortable with the current direction of the two companies and they do not expect to see dramatic changes. At a private reception for him on Feb. 27, Watt, who declined to be interviewed for this story, jokingly described his routine as "meeting all day and reading all night." In his sole policy action, just days after taking office in early January, he set aside a decision by his predecessor to increase the loan fees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac charge. Watt said he wanted to thoroughly review the proposal, which could curtail mortgage availability.
The companies, which were seized by the government in 2008 after losses from investments in risky loans brought them near collapse, purchase mortgages and package them into securities for investors, which they offer with a guarantee. Providing liquidity to the mortgage market ensures wide access to 30-year, fixed-rate loans. Watt, who recently addressed the FHFA's staff at a town-hall style meeting, will provide what may be the clearest signal of his intentions in a so-called scorecard, which provides targets and specific plans for the mortgage companies. The scorecard is usually released in the first quarter, and the delay is one factor that has concerned the industry. The FHFA declined to comment on when it may be released.
The scorecard will reveal whether Watt seeks to reduce Fannie and Freddie's footprint, since it will lay out what fees the agency will charge and the size of loans they can guarantee, which can impact the cost and availability of mortgages. Talks on overhauling the housing finance system have intensified on Capitol Hill in recent months, but analysts say it could take years for legislation to be enacted. That would leave Watt with unusual power in the meantime to call the shots on both long-term strategy and daily management decisions for the two companies at the heart of the U.S. housing finance system.
Low Wattage: Lawmakers working on overhaul plans have solicited ideas from the Obama administration, banks, trade associations, consumer advocates and Watt's agency. But when asked to provide input, Watt declined, leaving some lawmakers in the dark who had previously hoped he would position himself as a go-to adviser on housing policy, according to sources familiar with the bill drafting process.
Regulators often play a role in helping to shape legislation for an industry they oversee. For example, several weighed in with advice as Congress crafted the Dodd-Frank Act, the financial regulatory overhaul enacted in 2010. At times they even sat side-by-side with lawmakers in drafting the bill. "Watt's voice ... has been muted. He hasn't publicly been part of the debate," said Brandon Barford, a partner at Beacon Policy Advisors, a public policy research firm.
Edward DeMarco, who led the FHFA in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis until Watt took over, had asserted himself as a staunch defender of the taxpayers who pumped $187.5 billion into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to keep them afloat. Despite great political pressure, he rejected the idea of letting the companies cut loan balances for troubled borrowers.
Watt could lead the agency in a different direction, particularly now that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are profitable, and consumer advocates want him to revisit DeMarco's decision. "He's being a little cautious, but that's probably good at this point," said James Lockhart, a former director of FHFA who is now vice chairman at WL Ross & Co. "It's a big job to oversee two of the largest financial institutions in the world, and getting inside those behemoths is always an issue."
With Los Angeles' Fleur de Lys estate selling for $102 million before being rented out for $400,000 a month, April is quickly turning into a month of multimillion-dollar home sales. According to Curbed, Copper Beech is the reigning champ for single-family residential sales in the United States. Looking back six years, the only home that came close on Zillow is a Woodside, Calif., estate that sold for $117.5 million.
Everything about Copper Beech is grand. The property includes two mainland parcels and two islands with a total of 1 mile of shoreline on the coveted Long Island Sound. The main house -- which embodies that "Great Gatsby"-style grandeur and old-world charm -- has 12-foot ceilings, a solarium and sleeping porches. Most of the buildings throughout the estate retain details from the home's original 1898 construction: the carriage house still has a clock tower, and the garage includes milking stalls.
The home was built by the Lauder Greenway family, of which George Lauder was a partner in Carnegie Steel. It was sold quietly 31 years ago to John Rudey, who leads several timber companies, including U.S. Timberlands Services Company and American Forest Services.
In an earlier interview, Rudey told The Wall Street Journal that he was selling because his children have grown. At that time, he said the home was in good condition but that the interior needs a few upgrades.