Should Buyers Crowdfund Their Way Into Homeownership?

Should Buyers Crowdfund Their Way Into Buying a Home?

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In recent years, crowdfunding has become a popular way to pay for a remarkably wide range of ventures. Want to back a sliced-ketchup product, a self-serve cocktail machine, or maybe a charity race? Just pull out your smartphone. But more recently the technology has been moving a bit closer to home—right up, in fact, to your doorstep. Crowdfunding is becoming an increasingly popular way for aspiring home buyers to tap into their networks to come up with down payments.

A new wave of crowdfunding platforms, like Kickstarter for real estate, could be a game changer for younger, tech-savvy generations of home buyers saddled with student loan debt. It’s an idea that is gaining traction, with sites such as HomeFundMe and Feather the Nest, which helps folks raise money for down payments and repairs, and online registries such as HoneyFund, which includes the option of gifting a down payment contribution.

“The No. 1 challenge that we hear from millennials in terms of their ability to buy a home is the down payment,” says Jonathan Lawless, vice president of customer solutions for Fannie Mae. “Crowdsourcing is an interesting new way that a person can generate a down payment, one made possible by technology. … We think there is a great future for it.”

Users who are typically pre-qualified for a mortgage can create personal pages on these platforms, on which they can talk about their journey toward homeownership, illustrated with photos and maybe video. These pages can be shared with family and friends.

“[Many] people find they can afford [mortgage] payments, but not the down payment to own a home,” says Christopher George, CEO of CMG Financial, a San Ramon, CA–based mortgage banking firm that launched HomeFundMe late last year.

George, a father of four millennial sons, came up with the idea for HomeFundMe in 2016 after seeing the financial struggles of his kids’ generation. The crowdfunding platform is the only one of the bunch designed solely for down payments and is the first to be backed by mortgage industry giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

“We’re talking to millennials saying their social network is their net worth,” George says. “Why not allow your sphere of influence [to] help as well?”

What you need to know about a crowdfunded down payment

Using gifted funds for a down payment can be tricky—mortgage lenders typically require a letter from the giver, specifying that the money is a gift, not a loan, and there are no strings attached. But using an online fundraising platform can allow buyers to bypass some of that red tape.

Using HomeFundMe, anyone can give up to $7,500 to a campaign without documentation. HomeFundMe also doesn’t charge fees to use the platform, or take a cut of what’s raised. The company will even give buyers $2 for every $1 they raise, up to $1,000, or up to 1% of the purchase price if they undergo home buyer counseling beforehand. Buyers who earn less than their area’s median income can earn up to $2,500, or 1% of the home price.

So what’s the catch? Crowdfunders must get their mortgage through HomeFundMe’s parent company, CMG Financial. They have to close on a home within a year of accepting their first gift. And if they don’t use the money to buy a home, funds marked “conditional on the recipient purchasing a home” are returned to the donor. The crowdfunder can keep the rest.

Other crowdfunding platforms have slightly different business models.

The online gift registry Feather the Nest has helped about half of its 3,000 “nesters” raise down payments since it launched in 2014, according to company officials.

Fees include a 5% transaction fee that goes to Feather the Nest, and a fee of 2.9% plus 30 cents that goes to its payment processing system, Stripe.

At HoneyFund, another online registry, about 6% of the 100,000 mostly millennial couples who use the site each year ask for down payments, according to company officials. There are no fees to use the platform, but users are charged 2.8% processing fees plus 30 cents per gift when the money is moved into their PayPal or WePay accounts.

“A lot of couples are not only saving for their home down payments but also home improvements,” HoneyFund CEO Sara Margulis says.

The dangers of crowdfunding your down payment

However, there are risks to buyers relying on crowdfunding to come up with money for a home.

“If somebody is not able to save for their own down payment, it might be because they are stretched financially. But it [also] might be that they are bad at saving,” says Fannie Mae’s Lawless. “The ability to generate savings is a critical aspect of being a responsible homeowner.”

Remember, it was homeowners who couldn’t really afford their homes that led to the financial crisis just over a decade ago. So helping more people who haven’t mastered the art of saving, or who may be so financially stretched that they can’t afford to save, is worrisome.

It’s “a very risky proposition,” says Rick Sharga, executive vice president at Carrington Mortgage Holdings, a real estate company in Aliso Viejo, CA. These kinds of buyers may be “one unexpected car payment, one roof repair, one water heater replacement away from missing a mortgage payment and possibly going into a downward cycle they can’t recover from.”

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Castaway Dreams! A Private Island in Connecticut Is This Week’s Most Popular Home

most popular listings May 11, 2018

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Land ho! A $3 million private island off the shores of Connecticut landed atop our list of the most-clicked homes this week.

The custom Victorian sitting on a tiny speck in Long Island Sound looks like an older home, but the island retreat was built in 2001 and replicates the original structure, which had been falling down.

“The owner wanted to make it exactly as it was,” says listing agent Joe Piscitelli. The resulting estate is a true looker and comes with its own private beach, landscaped greenery and trees, wraparound porches, and a boat dock.

The runner-up is a whopping 6,500-square-foot manor in Philadelphia—an entertainer’s delight complete with a two-story basketball court, living room with bar and fireplace, and an enormous recreation area with a bar, billiards, and stage.

Other notable homes crashing the list this week include a show-stopping home in the Northern California coastal town of Bolinas that includes a modern main house plus a 100-year-old hay barn, a cool custom contemporary in New York, and a multimillion-dollar teardown opportunity in the exclusive celebrity enclave of Hidden Hills.

Even if you’re not enticed by the prospect of spending millions on a home to knock it down, there are plenty of other opportunities among this week’s most popular properties…

10. 823 Exposition Blvd, New Orleans, LA

Price: $1,300,000
Why it’s here: Live right next to Audubon Park and enjoy 350 acres of green space outside your front door. This remodeled three-bedroom Arts and Crafts abode from 1916 includes a wraparound porch, large backyard, balconies with park views, a sunroom, and a new kitchen.

New Orleans, LA

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9. 6 Quincy St, Methuen, MA

Price: $534,900
Why it’s here: This home from the turn of the last century offers original details like hardwood flooring, stained-glass windows, and two fireplaces. Plus there’s a wraparound deck, fenced yard, three-space garage, and pool.

Methuen, MA

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8. 109 Valley View Ave, Haverhill, MA

Price: $364,900
Why it’s here: Just 35 miles from Boston, the historic town of Haverhill offers up a charming Colonial from the 1800s. The updated kitchen features a breakfast bar, granite counters, and new cabinets. There’s hardwood flooring throughout, and outside you’ll find a large patio and deck area plus a firepit. The home was a hit—it already has an offer in place.

Haverhill, MA

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7. 612 Claridge Ct, Franklin, TN

Price:: $369,900
Why it’s here: A mighty, mighty brick house. This three-bedroom home located on a quiet cul-de-sac offers 2,405 square feet of living space and can accommodate extended family, thanks to a finished rec room or guest suite located over the garage. 

Franklin, TN

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6. 24600 John Colter Rd, Hidden Hills, CA

Price: $4,799,999
Why it’s here: The pitch for this property is an opportunity is to “create or develop a prodigious estate sited on almost 3 acres.” Plans have already been submitted for an expansive open living space with amenities like a living room with 20-feet-high ceilings, home theater, gym, and an infinity pool. See the rendering below. All it needs is your imagination … and your bank account.

Hidden Hills, CA

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5. 15 Dogwood Hills Rd, Pound Ridge, NY

Price: $2,495,000
Why it’s here: Constructed in 1984 by the Macedonian-born architect Vuko Tashkovich, the 5,275-square-foot layout is a light-filled space with walls of glass. Features include wood and marble floors, a living room with stone fireplace, formal dining room with doors to a sun porch, office, guest wing, and massive master suite.

Pound Ridge, NY

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4. 7515 Coffey Creek Dr, Charlotte, NC

Price: $189,900
Why it’s here: Adorable in Charlotte, this Cape Cod-style home has been updated with bamboo, ceramic, and wood flooring. It also features a renovated kitchen and bathroom along with new paint throughout the home. Clearly a winner, the revamped home is already in “pending sale” status. 

Charlotte, NC

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3. 201 Mesa Rd, Bolinas, CA 

Price: $3,885,000
Why it’s here: We’re California dreaming about this scenic and serene spot. The property includes a modern main house and a 100-year-old hay barn. Known to locals as “Purple Gate,” the place includes multiple communal spaces, three bedrooms, three baths on 1.73 acres, and is close to downtown, beaches, and hiking trails.

Bolinas, CA

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2. 11033 Knights Rd, Philadelphia, PA

Price: $699,900
Why it’s here: This 6,500-square-foot home offers the plush amenities of a suburban home while managing to stay within Philly city limits. It features a full indoor sport court, outdoor pool, a two-story foyer, giant kitchen with island and breakfast bar, and a living room with a bar. Along with a master suite, the home also boasts a recreation area with a bar, billiards, and stage. Get out the karaoke machine!

Philadelphia, PA

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1. Island Wheelers, Branford, CT 

Price: $3,000,000
Why it’s here: For a truly private getaway, buy your own island! The “Queen of the Thimble Islands” boasts a structure that is a replica of the falling-down Victorian that stood there before. It sits on its own spit of land, which you can call your very own.

Listing agent Joe Piscitelli notes that it’s a favorite of photographers for its stunning looks.

“She’s the prettiest home out there,” he says. Building the waterfront property meant bringing in materials by barge, and a hefty markup for building costs. But the effort is evident.

“The building is spectacular,” Piscitelli says. “It’s absolutely perfect and unique.” 

The custom home comes with eight beds, four-and-a-half baths, and includes wraparound porches, an outdoor dining area, flexible floor plan, a family room with fireplace, an eat-in country kitchen, plus a grassy lawn, a boat dock, and a sandy beach for swimming or kayaking.

Branford, CT

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Holmby Hills Megamansion With Medical Room Is This Week’s Most Expensive New Listing

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A stylish mansion in Holmby Hills has hit the market as this week’s most expensive new listing on realtor.com®. It’s listed for $69.9 million.

Built in 2013 by real estate developer Nile Niami (who’s currently working on a $500 million L.A. megamansion), this Los Angeles home was sold to a Saudi buyer for $44 million in 2014, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Property records indicate a group called Hami Limited owns the home.

Called “Il Magione,” the “impeccable” villa is located in the area known as “Billionaire’s Row,” which also includes the $188 million mansion known as “Billionaire.”

Living room with glass doors

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Open kitchen with three islands

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Indoor pool

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Massive bedroom

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Wet bar and game room

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Medical facility?!

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The 31,450-square-foot mansion decorated in Fendi has 10 beds and 12 baths. It sits on 1.4 acres.

As we pored over the photos of this sumptuous spread, we were stopped short by what appears to be an outpatient facility. (The listing describes it as a “medical room.”) Perhaps the owner has Botox delivered?

Aside from that oddity, the Mediterranean-style villa features plenty of high-end amenities, from a bowling alley with a game room, stocked bar, and movie theater, to a fully equipped gym and hair salon. 

There’s also a golf simulator, office, wine cellar with tasting room, and indoor pool with spa room and steam shower. The estate has a guard-gated entry, motor court, and separate driveways for staff.

The main house boasts a master suite with dual bathrooms, oversize closets, and a terrace overlooking the pool and cabana area with fountains outside. The open kitchen is adjacent to a family room and dining area.

Outdoors there are multiple patios, a grassy lawn, lounge area with fire pit, and kitchen. The property comes with a two-bedroom guesthouse. 

In short, this megamansion has everything you need for a luxe L.A. lifestyle. You don’t even need to leave the house for a face-lift.

Branden Williams with Hilton & Hyland holds the listing.

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California Takes Big Step to Require Solar on New Homes

Solar panels are installed at a San Francisco home on Wednesday, as California advances a plan to require solar on new homes.

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California took a major step Wednesday toward becoming the first state to require solar panels on nearly all new homes, the latest sign of how renewable energy is gaining ground in the U.S.

The California Energy Commission voted 5-0 to approve a mandate that residential buildings up to three stories high, including single-family homes and condos, be built with solar installations starting in 2020.

The commission estimates that the move, along with other energy-efficiency requirements, would add $9,500 to the average cost of building a home in California. The state is already one of the most expensive housing markets in the country, with a median price of nearly $565,000 for a single-family home, according to the California Association of Realtors.

Still, the change appears to have broad support from home builders as well as California leaders and solar advocates.

Nationally, solar power makes up less than 2% of U.S. electricity output, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. But it is rising because of large solar farms as well as rooftop solar arrays on homes and businesses.

Renewable-energy technologies, in general, are gaining market share in the power sector as their costs go down, along with natural gas, which has become plentiful and cheap due to fracking.

California has often been a bellwether on U.S. environmental and energy efficiency issues, with states such as Massachusetts, Minnesota and New York sometimes following its lead. But some experts were skeptical that California’s solar-panel mandate would widely influence policies elsewhere.

Steve Kalland, executive director of the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center at North Carolina State University, doesn’t see his state—the No. 2 solar market in the U.S. behind California—adopting a similar mandate soon.

“It is a pretty big stretch to imagine certainly any Southeastern state following suit in the near term, but the technology is getting cheaper and cheaper and the public is starting to clamor for it,” he said. “In North Carolina, the market is much more oriented toward larger scale solar farms.”

Solar panels on a house in Rancho Palos Verdes

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Bob Raymer, a senior engineer at the California Building Industry Association, said the trade group would have preferred California hold off a few more years on the solar mandate. But the group helped shape the rule to reduce compliance costs and increase flexibility, he said.

“Adoption of these standards represents a quantum leap in the statewide building standards,” Mr. Raymer said. “You can bet every one of the other 49 states will be watching to see what happens.”

Severin Borenstein, an energy economist at the University of California, Berkeley, said he thought the state was making a mistake by approving this mandate instead of prioritizing larger solar farms, which are more economical. The state’s policy will be difficult for other states and countries to follow, he said.

“Every energy economist I know is shaking their head at this,” he said. “In many ways this is setting the wrong example.”

The policy would provide a big boost to California’s residential solar industry, which saw a slowdown last year.

An Energy Commission study forecasts that overall solar demand in California would rise by as much as 15% annually, given that California’s low-rise residential housing stock increases by about 2% annually.

But it is likely to create challenges for California as more electricity generation takes place at homes, said Joe Osha, senior analyst at JMP Securities. That is problematic for power companies because they have to deal with the excess power coming on transmission lines from residences.

“This is more bad news and challenges for the utilities,” Mr. Osha said.

The solar proposal, part of an update of the state’s energy efficiency building codes, needs final approval from the California Building Standards Commission. But that panel has traditionally adopted Energy Commission recommendations, officials said.

Shares of several solar-panel installers and makers rose Wednesday including SunPower Corp. , which rose more than 6%, and Sunrun Inc. which gained more than 4%.

“This is a vote of confidence that home solar and batteries are part of the energy future,” Sunrun Chief Executive Lynn Jurich said in an interview.

Francesca Wahl, a senior policy associate at Tesla Inc., which sells solar panels as well as batteries, spoke in favor of the changes Wednesday, saying the company sees them as “a good pathway for the industry to drive down costs,” as well as help increase efficiency and provide savings to customers.

Wind and solar combined accounted for about 8% of U.S. power generation in 2017, up from less than 1% a decade ago. Natural gas is now the top fuel for electricity, accounting for 32% of generation compared with 22% a decade earlier. Coal’s share has fallen to about 30%, from 49% in the same time span.

California is pursuing aggressive policies to reduce air pollution and combat climate change—including a mandate to slash greenhouse-gas emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030—that are helping drive renewable energy in the state. Solar accounted for nearly 10% of California’s electricity generation in 2016, Energy Commission data shows.

The state already requires home builders to construct residences that can immediately accommodate solar power arrays, while several cities, including San Francisco and Santa Monica, have instituted solar requirements for newly built homes and buildings.

“To get to a decarbonized economy in California we need massive expansion of solar and other renewable energies,” said State Sen. Scott Wiener,  a San Francisco Democrat who proposed legislation last year to mandate solar on rooftops, but backed off in light of the Energy Commission’s efforts.

Currently, about 20% of new single-family homes in the state are built with solar, said Mr. Raymer of the California Building Industry Association, which represents thousands of home builders, contractors, architects and others. Making solar mandatory on homes is expected to add $8,000 to $10,000 to construction costs, he said.

Builders would have the option to install solar in a communal area if it doesn’t make sense on individual rooftops. By installing batteries that help homeowners save energy for later use, builders can also gain some flexibility in meeting efficiency standards.

Whether other states follow California will depend on factors including weather, access to energy resources and local politics. But California has been influential on energy-efficiency standards, said Haresh Kamath, senior program manager for distributed energy resources at the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit.

“If you look at what has happened historically, many of the others have taken cues from California in terms of things like this,” he said.

The California Housing Partnership, a nonprofit group that advocates for affordable housing, hasn’t taken a position on the solar rule. Stephanie Wang, the group’s policy director, urged state leaders to invest in programs that “make energy more affordable for the Californians who are most vulnerable in our housing crisis.”

California has more solar power installed than any other state, with about 21 gigawatts of generation capacity, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. That is far more than the second-largest solar-producing state, North Carolina, which has 4.3 gigawatts.

Energy Commissioner Andrew McAllister said the solar rule was just the latest step in California’s decadeslong effort to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy use.

The commission expects the cost of adding solar, when combined with other revised efficiency standards, to add about $40 to an average monthly payment on a 30-year mortgage. However it estimates the investment would more than pay for itself, with consumers on average saving $80 a month on heating, cooling and lighting bills.

“The buyer of that home absolutely gets their money back,” Mr. McAllister said. “Out-of-pocket, they are actually better off.”

Abigail Ross Hopper, chief executive of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said California’s action would demonstrate to policy makers in other states that promoting home solar makes sense.

“The impact it could have in California and the impact it could have around the country will be significant,” she said. “It’s going to be a really big deal.”

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Do You Live in One of the Best—or Worst—States for Working Moms?

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It’s not easy being a working mother, starting with those middle-of-the-night feedings that leave you exhausted throughout the workday and progressing through day care emergencies, carpool drama, and a seemingly endless succession of after-school activities. Juggling all that and a job is even harder. But it turns out where these hardworking mothers live can make quite a bit of difference when it comes to necessities such as child care, professional opportunities, and work-life balance.

The best states for working moms were in the Northeast, with snowy Vermont dominating the rankings for the fourth year in a row, according to a recent WalletHub report. The state boasted the lowest gender pay gap (so women aren’t lagging so far behind men in pay) and the lowest female unemployment rate. That helps many of these moms afford excellent child care while they’re on the job.

Plus, homes in the Green Mountain State are reasonably affordable, with a median list price of $259,000 as of April 1, according to realtor.com® data. That’s 11.9% below the national median of $289,900.

“Higher-ranking states tend to offer better salaries, smaller pay gaps, and lower unemployment rates among women,” says WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez. “Single mothers should look for places that offer good child care quality at reasonable prices. It’s also important to focus on places that offer great opportunities from a professional standpoint, including pay and more female executive roles.”

Vermont was followed by Minnesota; Massachusetts; Washington, DC; and Connecticut. Rounding out the top 10 were Rhode Island, Maine, New Jersey, Delaware, and New York.

On the other side of the equation were the states that were the worst for working mothers. Idaho topped that list. The state had the worst-ranked day care systems in the nation and the fewest child care workers, according to WalletHub. That’s on top of a larger-than-average gender pay gap and a low share of female executives compared with the number of male executives.

Newcomers to Idaho’s real estate market may also be in for some sticker shock. The median list price of a home in the state was $319,900 as of April 1—but not for long, according to realtor.com data. Prices in the state have been zooming up, rising 13% year over year, at one of the fastest clips in the nation.

The rest of the worst states for working mothers were Louisiana, Alabama, Nevada, South Carolina, Mississippi, West Virginia, Georgia, Wyoming, and Texas.

Professional opportunities, work-life balance, and the ever-pressing need for child care shouldn’t be taken lightly for working mothers considering making big moves.

“Child care is a huge issue,” says Summit, NJ–based clinical psychologist Ilyse Dobrow DiMarco, who specializes in motherhood issues. “Particularly in the early years, it’s so vital for moms to feel the kids are being taken care of if they want to prioritize both their careers and their kids.”

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Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Latest House Flip Is a Bargain—and You’ll Never Guess Why

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“Fixer Upper” is no more, but Chip and Joanna Gaines haven’t quit real estate by a long stretch. Want proof? Their realty team, Magnolia, just listed what is purported to be their first bona fide “house flip” since their show’s finale aired in April.

According to listing agent Shelley Negrete, this 2,032-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath home in Woodway, TX, is “the latest Chip and Joanna Gaines project! It is their first project after the show and first flip they have done in quite some time.”

And we must say, although this home’s renovation was not lovingly filmed for reality TV,  it appears to have no shortage of the couple’s signature modern farmhouse trimmings.

“From the built-in breakfast area to the master bath tile, you will find features hand-selected by Joanna and constructed by Magnolia Design & Construction throughout,” the listing states. It even has a fresh coat of Magnolia Home paint.

The asking price? $359,000.

chip and joanna flip
Chip and Joanna Gaines’ latest house flip

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Compared with the price tags on other homes the pair renovated on “Fixer Upper,” this place seems like a steal. For instance, in June, we reported on how the 1,000-square-foot shotgun house from Season 3 went up for sale for an eye-watering $950,000. And last April, the 2,653-square-foot “barndominium,” also from Season 3, was listed at $1.2 million.

In other words, is this Chip and Jo house flip a relative bargain or what?

chip and joanna gaines house flip
The “farmhouse chic” kitchen

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The ‘Chip and Joanna Gaines effect’ on price

“The ‘Chip and Joanna Gaines effect’ likely adds an extra cost to any home they touch,” says Florida real estate agent Cara Ameer, adding that she’d estimate the home might fetch anywhere from a 10% to 15% premium.

However, most experts agree that this home’s price won’t go sky-high because it will be constrained by comps.

“A comp, or comparable, is a similar home located near the subject property that sold recently,” explains Mindy Jensen, BiggerPockets community manager and author of “How to Sell Your Home.” “If the buyer is getting a loan, the lender will order an appraisal, and if the appraisal comes back lower than the offered price, the buyer would have to either bring cash to the table or ask for the price to be lowered to the appraised value.”

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The living room in Chip and Jo’s latest flip

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Furthermore, “they have a real estate brokerage and have to still be ethical in terms of their pricing—they don’t want to dilute or taint their brand or reputation by overpricing because of who they are,” says Ameer. “While some people that own homes they’ve designed have done that in the past, it doesn’t necessarily bode well from a public relations perspective.”

A Chip and Jo flip vs. fixer-upper: What’s the difference?

Another thing that could be keeping down the costs of this home? It’s a true flip versus a fixer-upper. Yes, there’s a difference! A fixer-upper is a labor of love, where a home is remodeled to the nth degree—all the more so since “Fixer Upper” homes were glamming it up for reality TV.

A flip, on the other hand, has a different goal: to maximize profits.

As a result, with this flip, “there may be more of an eye to keeping the materials within a set budget,” says Ryan Wright, CEO of lending site DoHardMoney. “They understand very well the fundamentals of rehabbing and selling for profit, so it is highly unlikely that they’ve spent more than necessary to do the job correctly and renovate appropriate to the other homes on the market.”

chip and joanna gaines flip
The bathroom, Gaines-style

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“When flipping for TV, a bit more ‘wow’ goes into a home with a lot of accessorizing for the new owners,” notes Ameer, “versus this project that does have some furniture and décor, but many rooms are vacant.”

In other words, this flip may not have quite as much flair as the fixer-uppers you see on TV, but if you’re looking for that Chip-and-Jo design without the high price tag, this does the trick.

“They’d also be highly aware of the need for keeping their brand as clean as possible, so they’d not cut corners,” Wright points out.

It’s enough to make any “Fixer Upper” fan fantasize about moving down here to snap this place up. Which makes us wonder: Is Woodway the next Waco?

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Would You Buy a Kanye West-Designed Home? Rapper Starts Architecture Firm

Kanye West starts architecture firm

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Kanye West is wearing a lot of hats these days: hip-hop icon and record label owner, husband to reality TV star Kim Kardashian West, fashion designer, and vocal supporter of President Donald Trump. Now West, who has sparked quite a bit of controversy recently, has signaled he’s ready to add architecture to the list.

The superstar-turned-entrepreneur nicknamed Yeezy tweeted on Sunday that he’s starting an architecture firm called Yeezy Home.

“We’re looking for architects and industrial designers who want to make the world better,” he wrote in the tweet. (That makes sense that he’s hiring as all U.S. architects must be licensed and most states require them to receive an architecture degree from an accredited school as well.)

It’s unknown whether West’s recent headline-grabbing comments could hurt his new business. He recently told TMZ that 400 years of slavery “sounds like a choice” and fessed up to becoming addicted to doctor-prescribed opioids after undergoing liposuction in 2016.

But his latest venture shouldn’t come as a complete shock, as West has expressed interest in the home design space before. He worked with minimalist interior designer Axel Vervoordt on the design of the $20 million Southern California estate he shares with his wife and three children, according to Architectural Digest. The Wests bought the 15,700-square-foot home in 2014.

West has also designed his own furniture, including a couch with Vervoordt, Kardashian West told Architectural Digest. Two years ago, he was reportedly talking to Ikea about doing his own furniture line with the home goods giant. That venture didn’t come to fruition.

So how serious is West about designing homes? Well, about a half-hour before his big announcement, he tweeted, “naps are awesome.”

But creating his own architectural firm could be “a really smart move,” says Vladimir Belogolovsky, author of “Conversations with Architects: In the Age of Celebrity.”

“It’s even smarter if it’s a name outside the industry,” Belogolovsky says. “Someone who is a celebrity, not just in the profession but is a cultural icon, that alone attracts attention and potential clients.”

Over the past few decades, many big architects have become brands, like Chanel or Gucci, Belogolovsky says. And while he hasn’t seen many entertainment celebrities making the jump into the architectural and design world (Brad Pitt is an exception), he believes West’s fans could boost his firm into becoming a hit.

“It makes sense marketing-wise,” Belogolovsky says. “The name of the architect [may become] even more important than the project.”

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Volcano Eruption Shakes Hawaiian Paradise

A lava flow from the Kilauea volcano moves on a street in Leilani Estates in Hawaii

Handout / USGS/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

When Davis Dalbok bought his property in a rural corner of Hawaii’s Big Island 30 years ago, he said he understood the risks of living along a volcano rift zone. So he made a request of Pele, the revered Hawaiian volcano goddess, asking her to be merciful during the inevitable eruption.

On Monday, Mr. Dalbok, 66 years old, was hauling generators, artwork and other valuables from the property, which he has turned into a rental guesthouse with a sprawling botanical garden. The lava flow from the Kilauea volcano eruption that began last Thursday had crept through a crack just a mile from his home.

“I never expected this because I figured for me to be hurt, a major event would have to happen right above me. Well, now it is happening right above me,” he said, talking through tears.

Residents of Puna, made up of rural communities in the Big Island’s east, are reckoning with the gamble inherent to living in an active volcano zone. There is no clear sense of how long this eruption, which has involved a series of earthquakes including Hawaii’s strongest in decades last Friday, might last, or whether neighborhoods farther from the cracking land might soon be in danger.

The Puna district has for many years been the Big Island’s fastest-growing area, and its most affordable, drawing people seeking a simple life by black-sand shores. Homes get their water from the rainfall, using water catchments to pump into households. A morning dog-walking club in one neighborhood often draws two dogs and 20 people, who like to gather for the company and to watch the sunrise together, a resident said.

Mr. Dalbok’s property is a mile below Leilani Estates, the neighborhood where 12 massive fissures broke the earth and lava continues to spew, destroying at least 35 buildings in the area. So far no injuries have been reported.

Mr. Dalbok is a garden designer who lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area. He stays at his Hawaiian home several times a year and said he hopes to retire there. Volcanic activity in the area was quieter early Monday, he said, surveying the area after he packed his home. He was relieved to find the lychee trees draping his 24-acre property still intact, and hoped for more calm so his “red gold” fruit can be picked.

But officials warned that fissures have cracked up and down the rift zone and the lava has flowed with varying intensity. In recent days, lava has burst vigorously through the ground at times, while other times, it has slowly seeped through the cracks, making it hard to predict what comes next.

“There is really no way to know for certain how long this eruption might last,” said Janet Babb, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. “Right now it’s still a very dynamic situation and there is no indication it will stop any time soon.”

Handout/USGS/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Kilauea is Hawaii’s most active volcano and has been erupting continuously since 1983. An eruption in the same general area in 1955 lasted 88 days, while one in the area in 1960 went on for 36 days, Ms. Babb said. Other eruptions lasted just  a day or two. There is no good way to anticipate the path or pace of lava flow, which depends on many factors, including the force with which the lava is erupting, she said.

“We’re spinning the big roulette wheel and  it’s just a matter of what the lava decides to do,” said John Tarson, a lava tour guide who is helping with community relief efforts.

Mr. Tarson, 37, said he is concerned because many of his friends seem to be in shock or denial about the risks of living in the area. “Everyone who lives downhill, all those communities, are susceptible to having their homes destroyed,” he said.

Many residents—retirees from the mainland, teachers, shopkeepers, and tour guides like himself—believe and honor Hawaiian traditions of respecting the land and whatever it brings, including volcanic eruptions, Mr. Tarson said. But he also described “a sense of complacency” and said there was a new scramble to figure out what to do now.

Insurance companies don’t provide coverage specifically for volcanic eruptions, though fire insurance may cover damages from homes burned down by lava. Homeowners in Leilani Estates and other neighborhoods designated as Zone 1, or the most hazardous lava flow zone, often can’t get any insurance at all, residents in the area said.

Jeffrey Wise, a home renovator who moved to Hawaii from Ohio two years ago, said many of his clients are well-aware of the risks. Kilauea’s eruption a few years ago brought a similar panic and home prices dipped.

“It’s incredible how quickly people forget the risk,” he said: “When there is no activity with the volcano, life in Puna is ideal. It’s like paradise.”

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Storybook Style: 10 Tudor Houses Under $500K

realtor.com

Confession time: We love the American twist on the English Tudor home.

These storybook-style homes, with their distinctive sloping roof and part-brick, part-timber construction, are part of a grand—and expensive—tradition that dates to the European Middle Ages.

While Tudor homes are big on style and history, the ones we’ve spotted won’t break the bank—all 10 are on the market and priced below $500,000.

The Tudor home craze bloomed in the U.S. in the 1930s, so the homes we found aren’t exactly new, but they have been updated gracefully without losing any of their inherent charm. You can live out your Old World dream while enjoying New World conveniences.

So have a cup of tea and tour these 10 affordable Tudors.

53 Bradenham Pl, Amherst, NY 

Price: $429,900
Tudor tidbits: Built in 1945, this updated brick house has a two-story foyer and a living room with original hardwood, molding, and fireplace. The master suite comes with a remodeled bath, including subway tiles and marble vanities. There’s a formal dining room and an updated kitchen—with an extra kitchen located just outside next to a covered patio. 

Amherst, NY

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340 Hastings Ave, Wallingford, PA

Price: $269,900
Tudor tidbits: This distinguished three-bedroom features an open kitchen with updated granite counters and new appliances. The finished basement has new carpeting.

Wallingford, PA

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7935 Portland Ave, Wauwatosa, WI

Price: $349,900
Tudor tidbits: The classic charmer offers a living room with fireplace, leaded-glass windows, and custom built-ins. There’s also a formal dining room, den, and spacious kitchen. 

Wauwatosa, WI

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224 N Main St, West Hartford, CT

Price: $439,900
Tudor tidbits: Walk through the arched door and appreciate the vintage charm of wall sconces, a butler’s pantry, living room with fireplace, a sunroom, formal dining room, and updated kitchen. Built in 1930, the four-bedroom property includes a two-car garage and fenced backyard.  

West Hartford, CT

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39 W Winthrope Rd, Kansas City, MO

Price: $339,950
Tudor tidbits: The stately residence from 1931 boasts hardwood floors, plaster moldings, and an ornate fireplace. An enclosed sun porch offers three-season enjoyment. The backyard contains a brick patio and grassy play area.

Kansas City, MO

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712 Palisades Dr, Akron, OH 

Price: $269,900
Tudor tidbits: Here’s a move-in ready choice for well under the half-million mark. Built in 1931, this three-bedroom home has maintained its original architecture while adding modern conveniences. The original front door opens to a foyer, dining room, and sunken living room. The kitchen has been updated with new appliances, and the master suite offers three closets and a new shower. The hardwood floors have been refinished, and the outdoor decks offer magnificent views of the woods. 

Akron, OH

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345 Stratford Rd, Des Plaines, IL

Price: $499,500
Tudor tidbits: This fully remodeled home sits on a double lot with a pond and gardens. The high-end chef’s kitchen boasts granite counters, and there’s a living room with a fireplace, hardwood floors in the public rooms, and a roof terrace. 

Des Plaines, IL

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3615 Ault Park Ave, Cincinnati, OH

Price: $415,000
Tudor tidbits: This 2,000-square-foot, four-bedroom home features third-floor quarters that could be used as the master or guest suite, offices on both the first and second floors, a newly remodeled kitchen, hardwood floors, and a two-car garage.

Cincinnati, OH

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7217 Shaftesbury Ave, Saint Louis, MO

Price: $334,900
Tudor tidbits: Jackpot! This four-bedroom abode has been stylishly updated while retaining original features, including the stained-glass windows, marble sills, millwork, and hardwood flooring. The kitchen contains high-end appliances and a breakfast bar, and the living and dining spaces flow together seamlessly. The master suite includes a sitting area and new carpeting.

St Louis, MO

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611 N Washington St, Bloomfield, IA

Price: $139,900
Tudor tidbits: What a deal! For a low, low price, a buyer can acquire this 1929 Tudor that has been beautifully updated. The three-bedroom layout includes rounded doorways, two fireplaces, a family room that opens to the landscaped backyard, and an eat-in kitchen. Bonus: More living space is available in the basement.

Bloomfield, IA

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