Coronavirus Fears Are Driving Down the Stock Market. How About the Housing Market?

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Everyone, it seems, is finally coming to grips with the threat posed by the rapidly spreading coronavirus. The stock market drops reflect investor panic over the possible effects on the global economy, and are causing regular folks to worry about their retirement funds. And would-be home buyers and home sellers? Well, they’re buckling in for a bumpy ride with plenty of blind corners.

The World Health Organization warned—again—on Feb. 28 that the virus that causes COVID-19 could soon reach most, if not all, countries around the world.

So what will be the impact of this mounting crisis on the American real estate markets?

Already, mortgage interest rates have fallen as investors take their money out of the stock market and put the cash into safer U.S. Treasury bonds. When bonds are strong, mortgage rates typically go down.

While this is a short-term boon for buyers on a budget and sellers trying to drum up offers on their homes, a prolonged stock market plunge could put the brakes on home sales, especially in luxury markets. If the stock market continues its slide, that could help usher in a recession—and that could drag down the housing market by sidelining potential buyers, low rates or no.

“People don’t make big decisions in a vacuum, and buying a home is a big one,” says realtor.com® Chief Economist Danielle Hale. “If the stock market is flashing a sign that an economic slowdown is on the way, that’s when Main Street will feel it. And it could lead to a slowdown in home sales.”

The plunge in the financial markets is particularly concerning because there’s no end in sight, says Jonathan Way, a self-employed investment consultant based in Los Angeles. The market has had a good run, he says, rising for about a decade, and 2019 was a particularly good year. But the recent fall “was a sign that this [virus] was really going to have a serious impact,” he says.

China is the world’s second-largest economy and the largest exporter of goods. So all the quarantines, travel bans, and disruptions to the supply chain were bound to be felt worldwide.

“The economy has been chugging along pretty good. But the virus is a wild card that could slow things down,” says Way.

Luxury real estate is the most vulnerable to a stock market drop

The luxury real estate market is generally the most vulnerable to stock market drops. The reason is simple: Wealthy buyers who can afford $1 million-plus homes generally have more money invested in stocks. When markets are down, it takes a bite out of these folks’ net worth.

“If you’re feeling less wealthy, you’re less likely to make a large purchase,” says Hale.

In addition, fewer Chinese buyers, who have made up a significant chunk of luxury buyers, are touring properties in the U.S. these days, thanks to the temporary travel ban enacted to prevent the spread of the virus.

“With stock market volatility, the market is going to remain slow,” says Ali Wolf, director of economic research at Meyers Research, national building consultants based in Costa Mesa, CA. “If the stock market continues to fall, there’s going to be a lot of luxury homes for sale and not a lot of buyers looking for them.”

New York City–based luxury real estate agent Dolly Lenz says it’s still business as usual for now, but that another precipitous drop in the stock market might change things in the luxury market, where homes always take the longest to sell due to their high prices.

“Real estate is a confidence play in the economy. If people lose their confidence, they’re going to think twice about what they’re paying for something,” Lenz says. “It doesn’t mean they won’t buy it, but they may [not want to pay as much] for it.”

Buyers may dive in to the market—or sit it out

The stock market drops and the spread of the virus could also affect the number of homes sold. For now, the lower mortgage rates, which are likely to continue ticking down, seem to have given sales a boost.

The pending sales index for January jumped 5.2% over the past month and was up 5.7% compared with the previous year, according to the National Association of Realtors®. The index measures purchases of existing homes that haven’t closed yet. It does not look at new construction.

Lower mortgage rates equal lower monthly payments, which means buyers can afford more expensive properties. Rates ticked down to 3.45% for 30-year fixed-rate loans as of Thursday, according to Freddie Mac.

“Buyers right now are trying to juggle whether or not they should jump in when mortgage rates are this low,” says Wolf, of Meyers Research. “What looks like a home that’s out of reach may actually be very affordable on a monthly payment schedule.”

Plus, all this uncertainty may make some folks long for security. And what’s more secure than owning your home?

“We may see a bit of a boost in home sales in the short term,” says realtor.com’s Hale. But depending on what happens, “it’s possible we could see sales slow down later in the spring.”

An additional complication: If the virus spreads significantly in the U.S., buyers may become uncomfortable mingling with strangers at open houses or signing all that paperwork in person.

“At the very least, the coronavirus could cause some people to put home sales on hold,” says Hale.

Depending on just how bad things get, home prices could flatten, dip, or even drop by as much as 10%, says Wolf. But sellers shouldn’t freak out and buyers shouldn’t hold their breath.

“That’s the worst case,” says Wolf. “We’re not there yet. It’s only been a week of this kind of turmoil [in the stock market]. It could rebound.”

The post Coronavirus Fears Are Driving Down the Stock Market. How About the Housing Market? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

You Swooned Over a Victorian! Historic Omaha Home Is the Week’s Most Popular Place

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An elegant piece of Omaha history is this week’s most popular home on realtor.com®. After a complete exterior face-lift, the national landmark known as the Edgar Zabriskie Home landed on the market and racked up tons of clicks.

Built in 1889 by a Civil War veteran, Edgar Zabriskie, the blue Queen Anne beauty offers oodles of timeless charm. At 131 years old, the historic home was one of the first built in the city’s Bemis Park neighborhood. Its gingerbread-style good looks impressed folks from coast to coast, who couldn’t help but click on this stellar example of Victorian style.

Besides this ultra-nice house in Nebraska, you also clicked on a family compound in Louisiana with two separate homes and a 14-car garage, a rugged cabin in the remote Alaskan shipping village of Port Protection, and an empty (and spooky!) Gothic building in Indiana.

Of course, you couldn’t resist another look at the grooviest, greenest 1970s throwback condo, which is now pending sale.

While we attempt to finagle an invite to the housewarming party at the green time capsule, we invite you to scroll through the entire list of this week’s 10 most popular homes…

10. 17386 Old Covington Hwy, Hammond, LA

Price: $1,250,000

Why it’s here: Party at this place! This family compound is built for a big crowd, with a 14-car garage, two separate residences, and nearly 14,000 square feet of living space. Sitting on 4.5 acres, the main house features six bedrooms, while the additional home on the property offers an additional three bedrooms.

Hammond LA compound exterior
Hammond, LA

realtor.com

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9. L15 Prt, Port Protection, AK 

Price: $120,000

Why it’s here: Some folks are fascinated by the idea of living in Port Protection. The National Geographic reality TV show about a few hardy souls who live in the area recently returned to the air, and spurred a wave of searches on the remote town. This place is tucked on over an acre, far, far away from the rest of the world in this remote fishing village, which is accessible only by boat or plane. The rustic cabin needs a lot of work, and since living in Port Protection means essentially living off the grid, extensive DIY and remote living skills are essential.

Port Protection AK cabin exterior
Port Protection, AK

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8. 15026 Sendero Ln, Woodway, TX

Price: $2,500,000

Why it’s here: This luxury 5.5-acre estate outside Waco is being sold by former Baylor head coach Matt Rhule. He’s now headed to the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and no longer needs a Texas residence. The 8,100-square-foot house has a ton of upgrades, and the recent poolhouse and gym addition was undertaken by local home design royalty Chip and Joanna Gaines.

Woodway, TX home Matt Rhule exterior
Woodway, TX

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7. 21402 Seeley Pl, Lakewood, CA

Price: $388,889

Why it’s here: Fully remodeled and priced to move, this three-bedroom home from 1960 isn’t expected to last long, according to the listing details. It boasts modern interiors, and a new kitchen, windows, and bathrooms. The location is close to freeways, shopping, and dining, so it’s sure to check plenty of boxes for house hunters in the hot SoCal housing market.

Lakewood, CA home exterior
Lakewood, CA

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6. 111 Singletree Rd, Orland Park, IL

Price: $3,000,000

Why it’s here: Inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright‘s Prairie style, and custom-built in 2006, this massive 15,000-square-foot home is filled with light. Walls of windows bring views of the backyard creek inside, to be enjoyed all year long. Custom highlights include 20-foot-high ceilings and oversized rooms for large-scale entertaining.

Orland Park, IL home exterior
Orland Park, IL

realtor.com

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5. 1689 N. Bloomingdale Rd, Rockville, IN

Price: $200,000

Why it’s here: Uninhabited since 2010, this Gothic building built in 1931 needs a full renovation and could be reimagined into lodging, apartments, or converted for commercial use. Sitting on more than 6 acres close to town and behind a golf course, the property is being sold as is and includes the main building and a pole barn.

Rockvillee, IN brick building exterior
Rockville, IN

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4. 23645 Country Villa Rd, Ramona, CA

Price: $375,000

Why it’s here: A sale is now pending on this retro green time-capsule condo, which was professionally decorated when it was built in 1974, and has largely sat empty ever since. It’s unclear whether the new owners intend to keep the funky fresh interiors inside the three-bedroom residence or to give it a modern makeover, but we sincerely hope they consider keeping everything intact.

Ramona, CA green retro condo family room
Ramona, CA

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3. 1015 Reevesville Rd, Bowman, SC

Price: $474,500

Why it’s here: Custom-built in 2016, this luxurious, four-bedroom country retreat offers more than 3,200 square feet and sits on 5 acres. Loaded with upgrades like cathedral ceilings, plantation shutters, heart of pine floors, and custom-tiled bathrooms, the home epitomizes refined farmhouse living, with every modern convenience.

Bowman, SC farmhouse exterior
Bowman, SC

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2. 851 Woods End Ln SW, Roanoke, VA

Price: $359,000

Why it’s here: We love a storybook residence! Striking fairy-tale architecture is the hallmark of this roomy five-bedroom home. It was built in 1925 and sits on more than an acre. Highlights include a sunken living room, large, private deck, stone foyer, fireplaces, and arched doorways.

Roanoke, VA brick home exterior
Roanoke, VA

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1. 3524 Hawthorne Ave, Omaha, NE

Price: $385,000

Why it’s here: This classic from 1889 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is well-known throughout Omaha. The Edgar Zabriskie home still has its original gas-light fixtures and a bell system intended for the servants that still works. Inside, you’ll also see exquisite woodwork, including pocket doors, mantles, intricately carved railings, and banisters.

It’s filled with beautifully carved wood features throughout its spacious eight bedrooms, three bathrooms, and 4,300 square feet. Exterior paint, cedar siding, and a recently upgraded new roof have given this old lady a graceful, colorful makeover.

Omaha NE Edgar Zabriske home exterior
Omaha, NE

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The post You Swooned Over a Victorian! Historic Omaha Home Is the Week’s Most Popular Place appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

5 Great Fingertip Oxygen Trackers

Keep track of your pulse with a fingertip oximeter.

Keep track of your pulse with a fingertip oximeter. (Pexels/)

Whether you want to stay on top of your health or you’re a sports enthusiast who likes staying up-to-date on your current pulse rate and oxygen levels (SpO2), a personal fingertip oxygen tracker lets you access this information from home. Known as pulse oximeters, all you do is slip them on your finger, and in a few seconds, you’ll have your pulse rate and your oxygen level. We’ve put together a list of some of the great affordable, high-quality options available.

AccuMed CMS-50DL Fingertip Pulse Oximeter

Get the full pulse oximeter kit complete with carrying case, batteries, lanyard and silicon protective cover.

Get the full pulse oximeter kit complete with carrying case, batteries, lanyard and silicon protective cover. (AccuMed/)

With this fingertip oxygen tracker, you get the full kit, including a protective cover, handy lanyard, batteries and a carrying case. The monitor fits adults and children over the age of 4, giving an accurate oxygen level and pulse rate measurement in just 8 to 10 seconds. With a bright LED display, it’s easy to get clear readings. The travel case keeps it protected from scratches, making it easy to toss into your backpack or gym bag if you’ll be using it when working out or training.

Zacurate 500BL Fingertip Pulse Oximeter

Easily accommodate various finger sizes for accurate readings on individuals age 12 and above.

Easily accommodate various finger sizes for accurate readings on individuals age 12 and above. (Zacurate/)

Designed with a special SMART Spring System on the finger chamber, the Zacurate 500BL pulse oximeter will work on a wide range of different finger sizes. It offers an accurate reading on your pulse rate, oxygen levels, and pulse strength in just 10 seconds, displaying the results on its digital LED display featuring large numbers. Included in the bundle are accessories like AAA batteries, lanyard, and a silicon cover to keep the oxygen monitor protected from physical damage and dirt.

ClinicalGuard CMS 50-DL Fingertip Pulse Oximeter

One of the fastest pulse oximeters available for home use, It’s a reliable companion for aviators, high altitude climbers and other sports enthusiasts.

One of the fastest pulse oximeters available for home use, It’s a reliable companion for aviators, high altitude climbers and other sports enthusiasts. (ClinicalGuard/)

The ClinicalGuard CMS 50-DL pulse oximeter is one of the fastest home-use options available, giving you an accurate reading in under 8 seconds. It comes with a 12-month warranty to protect your investment. With the included lanyard, it’s easy to use it as a wrist strap or wear the fingertip oxygen tracker around your neck, making it easy to access if you’re biking, skiing or flying. Simple operation allows you to turn it on with just the touch of a single button, and its small size makes it easy to take along no matter where your adventures take you.

Deluxe SM-110 Two Way Display Finger Pulse Oximeter

The Deluxe SM-110 offers the ability to read the monitor in two different directions, making it easy to use alone or on someone else.

The Deluxe SM-110 offers the ability to read the monitor in two different directions, making it easy to use alone or on someone else. (Santamedical/)

Recently redesigned, this pulse oximeter comes with new improvements, such as the new two-way display feature that makes it possible to read it in two different directions. It is suitable for both adults and children, accommodating fingers of all sizes. Offering fast pulse measurements and SpO2 readings, all that information is quickly displayed on the digital LED display in large, easy-to-read numbers. It’s easy to carry along with you with a neck cord or the soft carrying case that features a belt loop. This oxygen monitor also comes with one of the best warranties – a two-year warranty – to protect your purchase.

Innovo Deluxe Fingertip Pulse Oximeter with Plethysmograph and Perfusion Index

The reliable fingertip pulse oximeter ensures you get accurate readings and proves excellent for sports enthusiasts.

The reliable fingertip pulse oximeter ensures you get accurate readings and proves excellent for sports enthusiasts. (Innovo/)

One of the best pulse oximeters for reliability and accuracy, the Innovo is one of the few that comes with a plethysmograph and perfusion index, which simply put helps eliminate any second guessing on whether you’re taking your pulse and oxygen levels accurately. The oxygen tracker’s new software features an auditory alarm that warns you if your pulse or oxygen levels are beyond a set limit, adjustable brightness and auditory beeps for each pulse detected. It’s an excellent choice for sports enthusiasts who are always on the go, and it comes with batteries and a lanyard, so it’s ready to use right out of the box.

Rest Easy with a Weighted Blanket

Get serious about your sleep with a weighted blanket.

Get serious about your sleep with a weighted blanket. (YnM/)

Improve your night’s sleep with a weighted blanket! Weighted blankets are designed to reduce cortisol (your body’s stress hormone) and release serotonin to leave you feeling calm and relaxed. If you have chronic pain or depression, a weighted blanket may provide some much needed relief. Not all weighted blankets are the same and work for everyone. It’s important to select a blanket that is the right weight for you to provide maximum comfort.

ZonLi Adults Weighted Blanket

This weighted blanket features 100 percent cotton for temperature control.

This weighted blanket features 100 percent cotton for temperature control. (ZonLi/)

You’ll be counting sheep in no time with ZonLi’s weighted blanket. Their unique small square pattern helps to distribute evenly distribute the weights for maximum comfort. This weighted blanket is made with 100 percent cotton to avoid overheating.

Quility Premium Adult Weighted Blanket

Quility’s seven layers design will help you achieve your best sleep yet.

Quility’s seven layers design will help you achieve your best sleep yet. (Quility/)

With seven layers of comfort, Quility’s blanket is like being wrapped up in your own weighted cloud. Each blanket includes a removable super soft, minky duvet cover for extra warmth.

YnM Weighted Blanket

YnM’s weighted blanket conforms to your body for a relaxing sleep.

YnM’s weighted blanket conforms to your body for a relaxing sleep. (YnM/)

Add some flair to your weighted blanket with YnM’s trendy designs. There are plenty of colors and patterns to choose from to match any decor. This weighted blanket is hypoallergenic, uses less fiber filling to avoid overheating and features new sewing technology to ensure even distribution. Just because you have a weighted blanket, doesn’t mean that it can’t be fashionable.

Degrees of Comfort Weighted Blanket

Based off of years of research, Degrees of Comfort created a weighted blanket that is ultra calming.

Based off of years of research, Degrees of Comfort created a weighted blanket that is ultra calming. (Degrees of Comfort/)

What sets Degrees of Comfort’s weighted blanket apart from the competition is their nano-ceramic bead technology that leaves you feeling like you’re relaxing on a beach rather than snuggling up with a cornhole bag. The blanket also comes with two duvet covers to keep you cozy in the winter and cool in the summer.

Get Ready to Grow: 6 Tips for Planning Your Spring Garden

Does spring have you dreaming of lush gardens and sunshine? Despite what you might see on TV, beautiful landscapes don’t happen overnight. Weeds will invade your beds and need to be pulled. The mulch will break down and require replacing. And your attention span will no doubt move on to shinier things long enough for your garden to fall into disrepair.

If you get to know your garden’s unique conditions and choose the right plants, you’ll ensure that both the garden – and your enthusiasm for it – will last for a lifetime.

Invest in your soil

To get the dirt on your dirt, perform a soil test with your local agricultural extension office. This will tell you everything you need to know about what will grow there and how to improve it.

In the meantime, amend your soil with as much organic matter as possible – either by starting a compost pile or by adding bags of composted manure. This will give it a better texture, a diverse population of beneficial organisms, and more fertility.

If your soil is poorly drained, either grow plants that tolerate wet feet, or install a dry creek bed or French drain to prevent standing water.

Ditch the trash trees

With any luck, the trees that you plant today will be there for a long, long time. Keeping that in mind, don’t grow things that you’ll regret one day – like a messy silver maple that drops seeds all over the lawn, or a cypress that will eventually dwarf your house.

When choosing a tree or shrub for your garden, consider the eventual size, form, and habit. Avoid planting anything that has weak limbs or is susceptible to pests and blights, because tree removal is a costly and unnecessary expense.

Understand your garden’s sunlight

Those little “full sun” and “part shade” icons are on the plant tag for a reason – too much sunlight will burn the foliage and compromise the plant’s health, while too little will make it lanky and weak.

Choose plants that thrive in your conditions. A spot that receives eight or more hours of direct sunlight is a perfect place to grow vegetables, fruit trees, and most flowers. Part to full shade is ideal for growing plants like perennials, ferns and small trees that are naturally found in the forest’s understory.

If you have a shady yard but can’t live without roses and tomatoes, consider hiring a professional arborist to remove trees or large limbs to get more sunlight.

Purchase plants with confidence

If it seems like everything you grow dies sooner or later, stop buying unhealthy plants. Inspect the foliage and slip the plant out of its pot to check for firm, white, and healthy roots. The best place to buy healthy plants is at a local garden center, but otherwise, purchase them shortly after they’ve arrived on a shipment.

If you can’t find the plant you’re looking for, order seeds, bulbs and plants online from reputable sellers like Burpee Seeds and Plants, Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, and Plant Delights Nursery.

Plant for all four seasons

It’s tempting to do all your plant shopping in spring, but those pretty blooms will soon fade away. To avoid 11 months of boredom, choose a variety of plants that offer interest at different times of the year.

Grow summer-blooming plants like canna, coneflowers and guara to keep the show going until fall, when colorful foliage and fall bloomers like mums and goldenrod take over.

For winter interest, look to trees with interesting branch patterns and bark, as well as unusual cultivars of evergreens – like heuchera and abelia – or even architectural, hardy palms and succulents.

Divide and conquer

Here’s a huge money-saving trick: Choose a perennial, bulb or ornamental grass that can be propagated by division – one that you’d love to see growing all over your garden in a few years.

Plant several copies of that plant in your garden. After a couple of years, divide the plants by digging them up and slicing through the middle with a sharp spade. For best results, do this in spring when the weather is cool and the plant is actively growing.

Plant the divisions in the ground again, cover the space between the plants with mulch, and water them thoroughly to help them establish. Repeat these steps every two years, and you’ll have not only a ton of free plants, but also a garden that looks cohesive and established.

Related:

Originally published February 2017

Iconic $125M Beverly Hills Estate Returns as Our Most Expensive New Listing

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Paging all billionaires! A legendary Beverly Hills, CA, estate that has starred in movies and played host to many historic figures has once again claimed the title of most expensive new listing on realtor.com®.

Known as the Beverly House, the property has bounced on and off the market over the years. It’s now available for $125 million—or nearly 25% less than what Jeff Bezos recently paid for the Warner estate just a mile down the road.

In 2018, the Beverly House landed on the market for $135 million, which earned this enormous estate the title of most expensive listing at that time. And these stratospheric prices could be almost considered a discount of sorts—the storied residence was offered for as much as $195 million in 2016. 

Called “the most important and iconic Mediterranean estate in California,” according to the listing on The Agency’s website, the grand mansion was built by Gordon Kaufmann, the architect of Hoover Dam, in 1927.

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Watch: Luxurious $26.5M Mansion Stuns Viewers With Its Over-the-Top ‘Star Wars’ Basement

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The residence was later a home for the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and the actress Marion Davies. The estate also served as a destination on Jacqueline and John F. Kennedy‘s honeymoon, and later, as Kennedy’s West Coast presidential election headquarters.

The massive interiors are old-money classic, ideal for today’s tycoon. The spacious spread features a dizzying 18 bedrooms and 22.5 baths. 

Now recognized as “an emblem of Hollywood’s Golden Era,” as Architectural Digest notes, the H-form architecture is characterized by “long colonnades, wide balconies, arched floor-to-ceiling windows, and cavernous spaces.” 

This Beverly Hills, CA, estate is the most expensive new listing this week.

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Arched windows in the entry

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Two-story library

realtor.com

Notable details include a two-story library with hand­-carved paneling and a wraparound walkway, a coved ballroom, a billiard room with intricate ceiling and fireplace, and a tiled formal dining room. The formal living room is decorated with a 22-foot, hand-painted ceiling. 

The home’s hallways could easily double as bowling alleys: The one on the main level stretches a mind-boggling 82 feet; the one upstairs, 102 feet.

Aside from the original features, the property also includes a “substantial addition” from 1995. The extensive and manicured grounds include walkways, fountains, waterfalls, tennis court, as well as a swimming pool and poolhouse.

Although privately set behind wrought-iron gates, the property is just blocks from the Beverly Hills Hotel—which would be convenient should there not be enough bedrooms under this massive roof. As it is, the spacious spread can easily host parties for hundreds.

The seller, Leonard Ross, purchased the property for less than $2 million over four decades ago, according to The Real Deal. He renovated it in the 1990s, and had been renting it out for events. The real estate investor first tested the market in 2007, when he asked $165 million. 

For those who recognize the place from the silver screen, the glamorous estate played a part in both “The Godfather” and in “The Bodyguard.”

Mauricio Umansky and Santiago Arana both with The Agency, represent the listing.

The post Iconic $125M Beverly Hills Estate Returns as Our Most Expensive New Listing appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Update Your Bathroom with these Smart Toilets

A smart toilet can take your bathroom and comfort to the next level.

A smart toilet can take your bathroom and comfort to the next level. (Pexels/)

Let’s face it: We spend quite a bit of time throughout the entirety of our lives sitting on toilets. It’s a daily fixture whether we realize it or not, and just like with our beds, we should hold ourselves to higher standards when determining which is the best fit for us. Whether it’s for advanced cleaning techniques, a user-friendly interface or an overall more eco-friendly experience, there is a plethora of smart toilet options out there to improve our day-to-day lives. Here are five of our favorite smart toilets.

BioBidet Bliss BB2000 Elongated Seat

Features include a stainless steel nozzle casing and advanced Hydro-Flush technology for optimum cleanliness.

Features include a stainless steel nozzle casing and advanced Hydro-Flush technology for optimum cleanliness. (BioBidet/)

The nozzle also offers three positioning options designed for more efficient washing. Seat-Smart decision provides varying heat levels for comfort and water temperature regulation, and the improved control panel has detached to be used as a remote for easier access and an overall more comfortable experience.

Toto C100 Washlet Seat

This model features a heated seat, warm air dryer and automatic air deodorizer.

This model features a heated seat, warm air dryer and automatic air deodorizer. (Toto/)

A pre-mist function before each use prevents waste from adhering to the bowl, providing a much cleaner atmosphere each and every time. Adjusted water flow, self-cleaning wand, and air deodorizer also ensure optimum sanitation, while at the same time alleviating the need for harmful chemicals and cleaning products and paper waste.

Woodbridge T-0019 One Piece Toilet

This all-in-one unit from Woodbridge makes for a simple and painless installation.

This all-in-one unit from Woodbridge makes for a simple and painless installation. (Woodbridge/)

The sleekness of the toilet minimizes any unsightly or unbecoming features, creating an elegant experience that focuses on comfort and effortlessness during use. Modern fixtures, soft seat close and a quiet dual flush allow the unit to exist as both utilitarian and fashionable, without one making any compromises to accommodate the other.

SmartBidet SB-1000

The wireless-controlled SmartBidet SB-1000 has three wash speeds, five temperature settings and a skin sensor.

The wireless-controlled SmartBidet SB-1000 has three wash speeds, five temperature settings and a skin sensor. (SmartBidet/)

DIY installation makes it a breeze to affix to your seat, and it comes in two sizes, elongated and round, making it almost universally applicable to your current toilet configuration. Water pressure control and dryness levels are adjustable simply at the touch of a button.

Brondell Swash SE400

A vast array of user settings offers endless combinations to try on the Brondell Swash Seat.

A vast array of user settings offers endless combinations to try on the Brondell Swash Seat. (Brondell/)

The oscillating nozzles and pulse washing mechanism make a big difference here. This model also offers easy setup and a user-friendly interface. The thoughtful design includes a heated seat.

Biden’s Housing Plan Aims to Help First-Time Buyers, Address Racial Inequities

LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images; CHUYN/iStock

Just in time for the jaw-clenching South Carolina Democratic primary, presidential hopeful Joe Biden dropped a $640 billion housing plan this week aimed at helping first-time home buyers, combating racism in the housing market, and providing assistance to low-income renters. But does the long-awaited proposal go far enough in addressing the affordability crisis that has permeated just about every real estate market in the nation—or is it just a wish list designed to muster up extra votes?

Affordable housing—or the lack of it—has moved closer to center stage in the 2020 race, taking its place among hot-button issues like health care, national security, immigration, and the economy. Last year, each of the major Democratic candidates except Biden released comprehensive proposals on the lack of housing—and what to do about it. A proposal by the former vice president, once seen as the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, had been eagerly awaited.

“People vote based on their pocketbooks, and you don’t get a bigger pocketbook issue than housing,” says realtor.com® Chief Economist Danielle Hale. “For many, [housing] is the largest monthly expense that they have. And if you own a home, it’s likely the most valuable thing that you own.”

Highlights of Biden’s platform include tax credits for first-time home buyers, down payment assistance for teachers and first responders, changes in the appraisal process to address racial disparities, and increasing the availability of Section 8 housing vouchers. He would pay for his ambitious plan by increasing taxes on corporations and big financial companies.

“Housing should be a right, not a privilege,” the plan reads. “Today, however, far too many Americans lack access to affordable and quality housing.”

The would-be commander in chief’s platform is a return to the policies of President Barack Obama, under whom Biden served, says Edward Goetz, an urban planning professor at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

“Some of these [planks] can definitely be enacted. Others seem aspirational at best, and at worst, almost hallucinatory,” says Goetz. “You have to take these platforms with a grain of salt.”

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Watch: The Best Season to Buy a Home Is …

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What Joe Biden says he’d do for home buyers and owners

The big news for first-time home buyers is that they could get up to $15,000 in tax credits at the time of purchase—rather than having to wait until they file their income taxes in April.

In addition, public and national service workers (like teachers and first responders) could be eligible for down payment help and discounted prices on homes. They’d need to be in (or move to) poorer neighborhoods in need of investment or expensive areas without much in the way of affordable housing to get the benefits, though.

Several of the proposals would be significant to people of color, who often face greater hurdles in home buying.

“Communities of color are disproportionately impacted by the failures in our housing markets, with homeownership rates for Black and Latino individuals falling far below the rate for white individuals,” the plan notes. This contributes to what is known as the racial wealth gap.

Biden’s proposed new national standard for appraisals would attempt to ensure that homes in minority communities wouldn’t be appraised for less than similar homes in comparable white neighborhoods.

“Right now if you live in a black neighborhood and you have the same exact house as the guy across the street in a white neighborhood has, your house is valued significantly less than the white, the same exact house,” Biden said during the Democratic candidates debate on Tuesday night in Charleston, SC. “We’ve got to deal with the institutional racism.”

Biden also proposes creating a public credit agency that would generate credit reports by taking into account things like rental payment history and whether utility bills are paid on time. This would help buyers with scant credit history.

Biden would also protect owners struggling with mortgage payments from foreclosure if they’re working with their lender to modify their loan. He’d also tighten the reins on nonbank lenders to ensure they’re offering mortgages in lower-income and minority communities.

In addition, Biden’s plan would require and incentivize local and state governments to do away with regulations that perpetuate segregation and make it harder for builders to put up new housing.

Finally, he’d establish a goal of halving the carbon footprint of the nation’s buildings by 2035. He’d provide incentives to retrofit homes to be more energy-efficient and create their own clean power among other efforts.

What Biden would do for renters

The former vice president would also help low-income renters.

Like many of the other candidates, Biden would guarantee that every eligible family would receive a Section 8 housing voucher. Currently, only about a quarter of eligible folks have a voucher because there aren’t enough to go around.

Goetz, who supports providing more vouchers, questions how the expansion would work.

“You can’t talk about expanding the voucher program in a vacuum,” says Goetz. In order for it to work, there needs to be more housing available for voucher holders, particularly in the priciest markets.

It’s “going to be problematic in some housing markets where you just don’t have the stock of housing that would be eligible and available,” he says.

Biden’s plan would also provide struggling renters with a tax credit, so they would pay only up to 30% of their income on rent and utilities. He’d put $5 billion a year behind the credit.

The candidate would prohibit landlords from refusing renters who receive federal housing benefits. And he’d help tenants undergoing eviction receive legal help.

But such protections could lead to higher rents and tougher tenant screening, warns Ken Johnson, a real estate economist at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. Landlords may want to give themselves a financial cushion in case a tenant stops paying rent and they can’t evict them.

“Landlord evictions might hurt affordability,” Johnson says. “If you restrict a landlord from removing a nonpaying tenant, that is just a premium the landlord will add to the overall rent.”

And Biden would attempt to increase the housing supply by putting $100 billion toward constructing and upgrading affordable housing. He’d also use tax incentives to erect affordable housing in areas where it’s in short supply and try to limit local and state government restrictions on the amount of new construction.

Biden also hopes to ease homelessness by providing emergency funding to shelters and provide case management services for those in need. He’d prohibit shelters that receive federal money from turning away members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community. And he’d provide more housing for the disabled, elderly, and formerly incarcerated.

While Biden’s policy is a big step in the right direction, it doesn’t go far enough, say some real estate experts.

“This plan is virtually the same as every presidential candidate. They talk about affordability and some way to subsidize housing,” says Johnson. But the platform doesn’t do enough to create and preserve affordable housing, especially in the nation’s most expensive real estate markets. “It does not address the reality of today’s housing market.”

The post Biden’s Housing Plan Aims to Help First-Time Buyers, Address Racial Inequities appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Leanne Ford’s New Furniture Line at Crate and Barrel Is a Trip—Take a Look

Crate & Barrel; HGTV

Leanne Ford, co-star of the HGTV show “Restored by the Fords,” is known for her fantastic home designs, so her fans are no doubt excited that she’s branched out to release her own furniture line, now available at Crate & Barrel.

The 109-piece collection includes furniture, bedding, rugs, decor, and artwork that channel her worldly yet comfy vibe.

“Design is global these days, and working with Crate & Barrel, we were able to go straight to the source,” she recently told House Beautiful.

This means you’ll find a stylish bar cart from Indonesia woven from natural cane, gorgeous handcrafted Portuguese ceramics, and more that can add exotic, luxe vibes to your home.

Ready to shop the look? Here are eight picks that’ll add some global charm and warmth to your home.

Accent chair

A modern take on a barrel chair made from solid oak and caning

Crate & Barrel

“I love the curvature of her pieces—they’re not angular like so much of what you see on the market today,” says Julie Coraccio, author of “Got Clutter?” “This chair looks comfortable and could easily fit the style of most homes.”

This piece also comes in white or natural colors, and is made from kiln-dried woods that won’t warp ($999, Crate & Barrel).

Bar cabinet

Gather ’round for a drink from this circular bar cart.

Crate & Barrel

“This would be such a fun piece to own, and if you don’t drink, you could store craft materials inside,” says Coraccio.

It also comes in a charcoal hue and offers two shelves on the inside, plus several nooks to hold wine bottles ($1,999, Crate & Barrel). But the best part? The caned half-moon doors offer a glimpse of the goodies inside.

Canopy bed

Graceful arches add drama to this sleek sleeper.

Crate & Barrel

Canopy beds are back—and they’re not like the ones your Grandma once owned. Instead, modern silhouettes have supplanted the fussy (and fusty) looks you might remember from bed-and-breakfasts and country inns.

“I can’t recall seeing this type of curve anywhere else, but it’s definitely a twist on the classic canopy,” says Coraccio.

The rods at the top allow you to drape your cozy nest with sheer panels or leave it stark if that’s your jam. This piece also features a cushioned headboard and simple platform bottom—no box spring required (from $1,799, Crate & Barrel).

Fringe throw

A soft, machine-washable accent for the bed or couch

Crate & Barrel

This blanket looks like it’s on the plain side, but the textured weave and feathery fringe on every edge elevate it to new heights.

Try this throw, which comes in both white and sand shades, at the end of your bed or behind a chair in a reading nook ($100, Crate & Barrel).

Jute rug

This smart-looking floor cover comes in both black and clay shades.

Crate & Barrel

There’s more fringe on Ford’s rug designs. (She’s a big fan of the detail and said it’s a favorite, second only to bangs!) In the runner size, this flat-weave jute rug is a nice addition to the spot in front of your kitchen sink. Or you could try the larger choice in the den ($299 and up, Crate & Barrel).

Footed bowl

Try this glazed terra-cotta piece in taupe, black, or white for the most stylish fruit bowl ever.

Crate & Barrel

Create an arresting display with a trio of these footed ceramic bowls along a sideboard, or showcase one on the kitchen counter—your bananas never looked so good ($40, Crate & Barrel).

Woven baskets

Stash towels or a potted palm in these rustic containers.

Crate & Barrel

Ford’s affinity for baskets is well-known as her own home sports several that have been made into oversize light fixtures. If you’re the DIY type, you could retrofit this pick with a bulb and hang it high. For the rest of us, this handcrafted design is ideal for holding toys, footwear, and bathroom supplies ($80 each, Crate & Barrel).

Bench

Stain-repellent fabric means this piece is durable enough for everyday use.

Crate & Barrel

Ford has described the furniture in her collection as “soulful materials living in classic Italian shapes.” This pick definitely fits the bill with its sexy, playful curves. Place it at the end of a bed or in front of a fireplace for an easy perch that doesn’t block sightlines ($999, Crate & Barrel).

The post Leanne Ford’s New Furniture Line at Crate and Barrel Is a Trip—Take a Look appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Our Favorite Kitchen Trash Bags

Get a grip on your kitchen waste with the right garbage bag.

Get a grip on your kitchen waste with the right garbage bag. (Pexels/)

No one shops for trash bags for aesthetic reasons – you might care how your trash can looks, but the bags inside are purely functional. When you find a brand that works for you and your home, you’ll want to stick with it. Here are our top five picks for kitchen trash bags.

Hefty Ultra Strong Tall Kitchen Trash Bags

The perfect size for a kitchen trash can, these bags are tough enough to overstuff.

The perfect size for a kitchen trash can, these bags are tough enough to overstuff. (Hefty/)

Choose these bags for the kitchen if you generate a lot of paper, glass and food trash and need to haul bags to a dump or exterior trash can. This is a strong, standard bag that offers consistency and performance, making it an ideal workhorse for any kitchen.

Glad Tall Kitchen Drawstring Trash Bags with Febreze

The light color and fresh scent help the kitchen look its best -- and keep it odor free.

The light color and fresh scent help the kitchen look its best — and keep it odor free. (Glad/)

These tough and durable bags are white instead of the usual black, making them less likely to overheat outdoors, which can lead to odors in your home and yard. The bags have been treated with Febreze, so odors are neutralized. This model is ideal for use in a small kitchen or when you know you’ll have cooking and food odors to deal with.

Amazon Solimo Trash Bags

This 45-pack of white trash bags come with red drawstring closures for easy tying and carrying.

This 45-pack of white trash bags come with red drawstring closures for easy tying and carrying. (Amazon/)

Solimo Trash Bags by Amazon are available in several varieties – both scented and unscented. Both 13- and 30-gallon sized bags are available. You can also buy them in 80- and 200-bag packs.

Hippo Sak Trash Bags

These bags’ sturdy handles that make them easy to tote to the dumpster or exterior can.

These bags’ sturdy handles that make them easy to tote to the dumpster or exterior can. (Hippo Sak/)

If you need a sturdy kitchen trash bag that is easy to carry, look no further than Hippo Sak. This brand is distinctive for its wide handles, which are easy to grasp and make the bag more manageable to use.

Seventh Generation Trash Bags

Go green at home with these biodegradable bags designed to help the planet.

Go green at home with these biodegradable bags designed to help the planet. (Seventh Generation/)

If you are committed to living an eco-friendly lifestyle, these Seventh Generation trash bags are up your alley. These are designed to break down in the landfill faster than traditional bags, making them the eco-conscious choice for green living.