House of the Week: Al Capone’s Estate

Al Capone was Brooklyn-born and long ruled the streets of Chicago before he decided to make Florida his permanent residence. The notorious mob boss moved south in 1928, buying an enormous beach-side estate that would serve as his final home.

from Zillow

93 Palm Ave, Miami Beach FL  For sale: $9.95 million

Sixty-five years after his death, Capone’s home is for sale. Even after several renovations, the estate still carries a lot of historic details from the mobsters’ reign there.

When Capone arrived in Miami Beachhistorians say, the mob boss wasn’t looking to expand his empire of bootlegging, gambling and money laundering but was searching for a place to retreat from the stresses of running the mob. His new residence on Palm Island was the perfect place to do so.

Capone reportedly purchased the home for $40,000 cash from Clarence Busch of the Anheuser-Busch family. Capone set about making the enormous 30,000-square-foot property his own.

“He wanted the biggest pool, so he built one 30 by 60 feet,” said Jorge Alonso of Prudential Douglas Elliman Florida.”He built the two-story cabana pool house, where he kept the guards, and he also built the guest house and a wall to guard the house.”

from Zillow

from Zillow

from Zillow

from Zillow

from Zillow

from Zillow

The home was not only where Capone and his family stayed full time, it was also “supposedly where he planned the entire Valentine’s Day Massacre,” Alonso said. Miami Beach also served as Capone’s alibi during the event:

“He made sure that everyone saw him in South Beach on the day,” Alonso said.

For most of the 1930s, Capone was in prison for tax evasion, but he returned to the Palm Beach home upon his release and lived there until his death in 1947.

Capone didn’t pass away in the master bedroom, however, explains Alonso. He spent his final days in the guest bedroom in the front of the house where he could always see who was coming and going.

from Zillow

from Zillow

Capone’s home has only passed through a few owners since and under the current owner, the house had a complete renovation while still maintaining the “old Cuba, Havana style,” Alonso said.

“The home has high ceilings, great moldings, the construction is amazing and they made sure the architect kept the original things,” explained Alonso.

from Zillow

from Zillow

Well, everything, except Capone’s cache of bootleg liquor.

According to Zillow’s mortgage calculator, a monthly payment on the Capone estate would be $36,078, assuming a 20 percent down payment on a 30-year mortgage.

from Zillow

from Zillow

This post was originally published by Erika Riggs on Zillow Blog. See the original post here.


Zero Down Payment Loans

By Andrea Smolin |

Zero Down Payment Mortgages: Right for You?

Buying a home and putting no money down to do it sounds appealing to many, but in reality it’s hard to get a zero down payment mortgage in this climate, as banks no longer offer them to most consumers. Hard, however, doesn’t mean impossible. Here’s how you can score a zero down payment mortgage — and the pros and cons of getting one.


Not everyone will qualify for a zero down payment loan, but in circumstances, you might. For one, if you’re a veteran, you might be able to get a VA loan with no down payment from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. You have to qualify for the loan — you’ll need good credit, enough income and a Certificate of Eligibility from the VA — but if you do, you may be able to enjoy these perks: no down payment on the home (as long as the sales price isn’t higher than the appraised value of the home), no private mortgage insurance premium and limited closing costs. For details, click here.

The second option for a no down payment loan is a USDA loan. The United States Department of Agriculture offers a variety of these loans with low interest rates. Most of the loans are designed to help low- or moderate-income people with decent credit buy a home in a rural area. Two of the more popular USDA loans are the single family direct homeownership loan — a loan for those who are buying manufactured homes such as a mobile home and have incomes that are above 60 percent of the average median income for the area — and the single family guaranteed homeownership loan. This loan helps those with incomes that are below 115 percent of the median income for the area buy modest homes in rural areas.

Pros and cons

The perks of a zero down payment mortgage are simple: You can get a mortgage to buy a home without having to put any money down. This means those without savings could buy a home. Though that sounds appealing, it does come with downsides. For one, you’ll have no equity built up in your home at the time of purchase, so you won’t be able to do things such as take out a home equity loan or home equity line of credit if you need to do home repairs or have other expenses you need to take care of. Plus, you’ll likely be paying off this home loan for longer than someone who had put money down would, which means you’ll likely be paying the bank thousands more in interest payments over the life of the loan.

Bottom line

Most home buyers will need to put down at least 3-5 percent or more of the cost of the home to get a mortgage. But no matter what kind of loan you get — with a down payment or without — make sure you can truly afford the mortgage payments and the other costs of homeownership (insurance, repairs, etc.) every month.


9 Luxury Condos With Amazing Stadium Views

The off-season can be rough on a sports fan. The NFL’s off-season lasts a little over six months. There is a four-month hiatus between the World Series and the start of Major League Baseball action in the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues. At three months, the NBA’s off-season layoff is by far the shortest, but any die-hard basketball fan will tell you that it’s three months too long.

For fans who bleed their team’s colors year-round, has put together a list of homes where there is no such thing as an off-season. From the home hardwood of the Miami Heat to the retractable roof of the Arizona Diamondbacks, here are nine awesome condos demonstrating that fan allegiance can be a luxury lifestyle choice.

1. America Airlines Arena – Miami Heat


Price: $950,000
Description: This deluxe penthouse, which looks over AA Arena, the home of LeBron James and the world champion Miami Heat, offers two bedrooms, two bathrooms and 1,582 square feet. Besides its sports-venue views, the Miamiproperty includes community amenities such as 24-hour valet service, a theater, a billiards room, a piano bar and a botanical garden.

2. LP Field – Tennessee Titans


Price: $1.25 million
Description: Up your fan-cave game with the ultimate Tennessee Titans tailgate loft. This property goes above and beyond team tribute; it acts as a mecca to all things Titans with a team-styled wet bar, a pool table and other assorted swag. And, as if that were not enough, a top-floor garage door opens to a Jacuzzi overlooking LP Stadium.

3. Petco Park – San Diego Padres


Price: $789,900
Description: Found high atop the luxurious downtown high-rise known as the Mark, this amazing penthouse just so happens to overlook the home of the San Diego Padres, Petco Park. With a high vantage point, the 2,430-square-foot pad is essentially the ultimate bleacher seat, with unobstructed views of the stadium in essentially every room. Beyond the free Padres seasons tickets, the posh spread offers one bedroom and one bath. VIP box-style features range from dark wood flooring to 10-foot ceilings to floor-to-ceiling walls of glass.

4. AT&T Stadium – Dallas Cowboys


Price: $210,000
Description: Many were in awe when J.J. unveiled his mecca to “America’s team,” a 105,000-seat, gigantic-scoreboard-laden ode to all things football known simply as Cowboys Stadium. The Dallas landmark is just one of many prime destinations found near this recently built condo complex, which exhibits prime-time views from a host of rooftop terraces.

5. AT&T Park – San Francisco Giants


Price: $1.588 million
Description: If the sound of the long ball splashing into McCovey Cove or the aroma of a fresh batch of Gilroy garlic fries wets your whistle, you will want to take a close look at this three-bedroom, two-bathroom gem found just a short walk from AT&T Park. Featuring a flexible floor plan and a host of high-end amenities, this property is about as versatile as the San Francisco Giants’ 2012 World Series championship team.

6. Nationwide Arena – Columbus Blue Jackets


Price: $799,000
Description: Contemporary penthouse living and ice hockey collide at this stunning condo found in the fittingly named Arena District of Columbus, OH. Located just minutes away from the home of the Blue Jackets, the North Bank Park condo delivers downtown living at its finest with a luxurious urban living environment and an excellent jumping-off point for everything Columbus.

7. Tampa Bay Times Forum – Tampa Bay Lightning


Price: $1.895 million
Description: Take in the vibrant culture of downtown Tampa while never missing a Lightning game from this high-rise oasis on Harbour Island. Offering nearly 4,000 square feet of prime living space, the all-star penthouse gushes in all things luxury with Brazilian cherry hardwood, exotic granite, onyx and other fine finishes. Adding to its appeal, the prized penthouse comes with its own boat slip, which is a serious upgrade over the roving Zamboni.

8. Chase Field – Arizona Diamondbacks


Price: $377,000
Description: The downtown Phoenix cityscape is punctuated by ASU campuses, US Airways Arena and Symphony Hall. But the individual lucky enough to call this condo home may indulge in all things Arizona Diamondbacks. Looking out over Chase Field, this downtown masterpiece certainly has baseball appeal. However, it takes things one step further with a host of luxuries ranging from a fitness center to a negative-edge pool to access to Club 252.

9. Bridgestone Arena – Nashville Predators


Price: $434,900
Description: With a wet bar, pool access and a tennis club membership included, this Nashville apartment was already a hot commodity. However, it flexes serious muscle along the avenue of sports and entertainment as a prime jumping-off point to Bridgestone Arena, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, LP Field and other Nashville landmarks.

This article was originally published by Neil J. Leitereg on To see the original article, click here.

When Buyer Closing Goes Wrong

Real estate transactions can close in as little as a half hour, although most take longer. Some closings take hours, even days, longer than planned. It’s a little like getting out a map and estimating cross-state driving time without knowing about a major construction project that has tied up traffic for miles.


Like the driver who asks about potential delays, the buyer who spends time researching potential problems in advance is the buyer most likely to reach the destination on time. Just remember that real life interferes with even the best-laid plans. There is no guarantee you will close on time.

Some of the delays in closing could be errors in documents, money arriving late or in the wrong amount and discoveries made during the buyer’s final walk-through.

Common problems

Here are some common problems and solutions:

Problem: Errors in documents

Document problems can be as simple as a name misspelled or a transposed number in an address, or as serious as incorrect loan amounts or missing pages. All of these glitches can cause delays of hours or even days because everything has to be in order before closing.

Solution: Communicate and review

Ask to see every piece of paperwork as far in advance as you can. Pay particular attention to loan documents. Double-check loan and down payment amounts, interest rates, spellings and all personal information. Question anything you don’t understand or that seems odd.

Problem: Money, money, money

You could have guessed that a number of potential problems have to do with money. Here’s what happens:

You go to the bank the day before closing and arrange to have your down payment transferred directly to the closing agent. Sounds simple. But your transaction falls through some inexplicable crack at the bank, and either the money doesn’t arrive by your appointment time, or it arrives short of the amount you need.

If it arrives short, you have the option of making up the difference, but personal checks are not accepted, so you’ll have to go somewhere to buy a certified or cashier’s check. Your closing is probably going to be rescheduled.


There are two ways to avoid this problem. One is for you to bring the down payment to closing yourself in the form of a certified or cashier’s check. The other is to arrange the wire or bank transfer of funds so it reaches the closing agent a couple of days early. If you don’t yet know the exact amount needed at closing, have more than enough money transferred. You’ll get a refund later.

Problem: Where are the loan documents?

Let’s say your loan package is being delivered to the closing agent by overnight express service. You arrive for the closing appointment to find that “pony express” is a better description. Is it lost? Misplaced? Will it arrive an hour from now? All you and the seller know is that closing has come to a screeching halt.

Solution: Your closing agent as best pal

Talk to your closing agent well ahead of your appointment — at least a few days. If you are working through a mortgage broker, they are often more than eager to assist you and your agent in expediting paperwork and guaranteeing its completion and arrival to the closing appointment. But you can assist in this process! Ask if everyone on all ends has everything they need. Between bank statements, tax returns and other documents, there are ample opportunities for items to go missing. On the morning of closing, if your agent and or lender is not in charge of corralling all parties and documents, you can make a call to verify that the file for your transaction is complete, and the documents are ready to sign.

Problem: It’s a cloudy day in title land

Let’s say the title company discovers that the seller never paid the contractor for the backyard fence, so there is a lien on the property, or that her estranged brother filed a suit claiming mom and dad left the house to him. The bottom line is that you, the buyer, have a problem. You need to insist on a clear, unclouded, problem-free title before closing. Your lender will insist on it, too.

Solution: Do your homework

You’ve heard it before and now again. Advance homework is your best defense against last-minute title surprises. You need to study the preliminary title report completed shortly after escrow opened. In fact, you need to read it as soon as you can get a copy. Often, the report goes directly to the lender. Arrange to receive your own copy.

At closing you’ll buy title insurance to protect yourself in case the title company missed anything in its search, but that policy is only effective from the day of closing forward.

Problem: Last-minute requests

Lenders are cited by the experts as sometimes asking for more information at the last minute — copies of a rental agreement, a canceled deposit check, the original hazard insurance payment. Last-minute requests make for delays at closing.

Solution: Stay in touch

Talk to your loan officer in advance. Is there anything else you can supply to complete the file? Another idea is to bring every piece of paper you can think of to closing.

Problem: Oh, dear — discoveries during the final walk-through

You are one day from closing, and during the final walk-through in what is almost your home you find that the seller left piles of trash in every room, ripped the basin off the bathroom wall and gouged a fist-sized hole in the family room wall when removing the television set.

Solution: Jump on it right now

Your agent should work with the seller’s agent to solve the problems. First of all, figure out what’s acceptable, how much it might cost and how to make the seller pay. One way would be to negotiate a credit on your closing fees, meaning the seller pays more at closing. Another would be to have the appropriate amount from the seller’s proceeds placed in escrow until the problems are fixed.

The point is, don’t wait until closing to bring up any issues. Get them resolved beforehand. If you can’t, postpone the closing while you work it out.

Buyer’s tips

  • Both buyer and seller must agree to any changes in the closing instructions. Amendments describing changes must be written up, signed by both parties and attached to the instructions.
  • Review every document before signing your name. Once you sign, you’ve agreed.
  • Avoid unnecessary delays. Your lender’s loan commitment has an expiration date, as does the day by which the escrow must be closed.
  • One of the very best things you can do is make sure you, and everyone else involved in closing, arrives on time. (Your spouse/partner needs to be there, too!)
  • If a sale fails to close, the fate of the buyer’s earnest money is dictated by the wording of the sales contract or the reasons for the failure. You may need to consult an attorney.
  • Double-check information on the final settlement statement that the closing agent will mail to you after the deal is done. It’s an important document. You want it right.

This article was originally published by Diane Tuman on Zillow. See the original article here

For Sale: Picasso’s Last Home and Studio

Found in a field of poppies in the hills of Mougins, France, Notre-Dame-de-Vie makes it clear why Pablo Picasso chose to spend his final years there. Since renamed Domaine L’Antre du Minotaure or Lair of the Minotaur as a nod to the artist, the charming estate combines sprawling views with provincial architecture to create a picturesque environment for an artistic mind.


The historic home, where many of Picasso’s last works were created before his passing in 1973, was said to be purchased by a Belgian art dealer for $10-12 million some years ago. However, after a substantial restoration to the property, which includes a total of three houses, it has now returned to the international marketplace for a staggering $220 million.

Picasso's Home

Photo A. B.-J |

In addition to its priceless history, Picasso’s former villa features a main home, a guard house and a studio. The 35-room main home offers roughly 2,600 square feet, with a total of 10 bedrooms and 8 bathrooms. Also included in the $220 million price tag is a wood-burning fireplace, a private health club, a pair of pools, a tennis court and a garden.

While $220 million may be out of your price range, there happen to be plenty of homes in the French province for sale on International. In a nod to Picasso’s property, we have highlighted some of the most picture-perfect listings in Mougins, France.

Price: $5.1 million


Description: Built in the 1970s by a noted French architect, this villa offers resort-style living with beautiful arches and custom lighting. The main house is comprised of two levels and features a central area and a wing reserved for guests. Outside, the residence boasts a pool and a pool house with a fully equipped kitchen, bar and sauna.

Price: $24 million


Description: Featuring an updated design and dramatic views extend from the sea to the old village, this exceptional property brings a contemporary vibe to the country. Inside are luxuries ranging from a sauna to a fitness center to a wine cellar and even a projection room. The property rounds out with a beautiful Japanese terrace and pool area.

Price: $26 million


Description: The listing hails ths property as one of the most prestigious in Côte d’Azur, and it’s easy to see why. Located within a beautiful park, the former residence of the monks of Lerins Islands boasts beautiful rose gardens, thousands of olive trees and a four-level “castle.”

Price: $5 million


Description: A quaint farmhouse in the old village, this property enjoys views stretching from the Lerins Islands to Esterel. It features a large living room that opens onto a terrace and the pool.

Price: $7.9 million


Description: Found within the heart of an old village farm, this Mediterranean plantation evokes a Caribbean feel with rows of palms and other mature foliage. It features a main villa, a swimming pool and a pool house, as well as a caretaker’s apartment.

This article was originally published by Neil J. Leitereg on To see the original article, click here.

Click here to see the source of the second photo.

President Obama’s Former New York Apartment for Rent

It’s not the Oval Office — it doesn’t even have a separate office — but in 1981, the 2-bedroom, 1-bath apartment was Barack Obama’s home during his junior year at Columbia University.

Source: StreetEasy

A photo of President Obama, thought to have been taken in the apartment, now hangs in the rental.

Source: StreetEasy

According to the Huffington Post, the future president lived in the pre-war home with a roommate, sharing a monthly rent of just $360. Today, the apartment is listed for $2,400 a month, which isn’t bad considering the unit’s presidential history and the Upper West Side’s median rental list price of $ 3,250.

Source: StreetEasy

As far as New York apartments go, this one is pretty standard: hardwood floors and exposed brick. High ceilings and a “walk-in” closet up the place’s appeal.

Source: StreetEasy

The apartment’s history was first revealed in 2010, and now the listing is using the previous tenant to its full advantage.

“Live where the president once lived, and who knows you might end up in the White House one day!” boasts the description.

So does a bit of presidential history help a place get rented more quickly?

“You know, a place to live is for you,” a listing broker told the New York Times back in 2010. “But people would be more inclined to take this one … even if the other was a little nicer. It’s a dinner conversation.”

Photos courtesy of StreetEasy.

This article was originally published by Erika Riggs on Zillow Blog. See it here.

Buying Foreclosures and Fixer-Uppers

“Free real estate!” “Save thousands on your next home!” “Make millions with no money down!!” Those ads and late-night commercials make it sound easy, don’t they? The truth is, sometimes you can save money by buying a foreclosed home, but you need understand the process and determine whether the potential rewards are worth the inherent risks.

Buying Foreclosures and Fixer-Uppers

The Facts About Foreclosures

Simply put, foreclosure is the process by which a bank or other lender repossesses a home when the owner fails to make payments on their loan. And since banks make their money lending money, not managing property, they’re often eager to unload their repossessed properties. The market did see a flood of foreclosed properties after the 2008 recession, but that did not diminish the need for potential buyers to be versed in the intricacies of buying one of these properties and the particular legal and financial constraints associated with them. Before you even consider buying a home in foreclosure, be sure to:

  • Visit, the website of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provides general information and links to specific property listings.
  • Search the foreclosure listings found on Zillow, in local newspapers, and in real estate magazines.
  • Work directly with the lender who holds the mortgage on the property, rather than via the auctions where many foreclosed homes are originally offered.
  • Tour the property and insist on the right to have it inspected.
  • Compare the home to comparable, non-foreclosed homes to calculate perceived savings and potential market value.
  • Be prepared for added paperwork, an extended closing period, and unforeseen problems.
  • Most important, work with a real estate agent who is experienced with buying foreclosed homes. Don’t go it alone unless you are very experienced.

Finally, be aware that those late-night ads and inside guides have enticed a lot of people into pursuing foreclosure homes. Increased competition means more pressure (and yet even more stress) as well as fewer bargains. Like instant wrinkle removers and machines that promise four-minute, six-pack abs, the reality rarely lives up to the promise.

Fixer-Uppers: The Sweet Smell of Sweat Equity

Still looking for something priced lower than the average home in a certain area? If you’re handy, have the time, and want to avoid the hassles of foreclosure sales, perhaps a fixer-upper is more your style. Neglected and in need of work, they’re the kind of houses where a little “sweat equity” can create a wonderful home and a substantial return on your investment.

How can you tell if a fixer-upper is worth fixing up? There’s no hard and fast formula, but there are several factors that can help you decide:

  • Are the repairs required cosmetic or structural? Generally speaking, cosmetic repairs cost less, are easier to complete, and provide instant eye appeal.
  • Are the repairs required worth it? If a repair (a new roof, for example, or upgraded kitchen) costs more than it adds to the resale price, it may not be.
  • Who’s going to do the work? Whether you do it yourself or hire others, you’ll pay for it — in time, money, and/or stress.
  • How well do you handle disruption? From dust and debris to the daily parade of workers, some people would rather just pay more for a more finished home.

That last one may be the most important of all. Let’s face it, repairs and renovations always take longer, cost more, and involve more stress than expected. That may also be why it feels so wonderful when they’re done.

The Principle of Progression

A good fixer-upper offers a prime example of one of the main tenets of buying real estate: Whenever possible, buy the worst house in the best neighborhood you can afford. The reason is the principle of progression, a fancy way of saying that nicer, more expensive homes have a positive effect on the perceived value of their smaller, less expensive neighbors. Why? Because most people want to live in nice neighborhoods and will pay a premium to do so, even if it means getting less home than they might somewhere else. So, even if that long-neglected cottage has a bit more “character” than you’d really like, it may pay off in the long run.

This article was originally published by Diane Tuman on Zillow Blog. To see the original article, click here.