Starbird House by James Schildroth

This shingled starship-looking architectural home, aptly named the Starbird House, is the work of Frank Lloyd Wright disciple James Walter Schildroth. Recently listed in Bar Harbor, Maine, the brutalist construct is described as “unique,” “of-a-kind” and “inverted,” but we think a better description is, simply, pretty darn cool.

from realtor.com

from realtor.com

from realtor.com

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The design started with a request by the owner to exploit the prime vantage point where the Starbird House sits, a sprawling 5.1-acre promontory looking out over the Atlantic Ocean, Frenchman Bay and the forests of Acadia National Park.

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Schildroth’s creation was an expanding design that swells from the bottom to offer four floors with a total of 12 rooms, 5.5 baths and approximately 7,800 square feet of room to move.

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from realtor.com

On his personal website, the organic architect offers a proper description of each level of the home:

“The top level is the largest. This floor includes the main living with dining, cove with fireplace and  kitchen with breakfast all in one great space. A private study with full bath doubles as guest suite. Large outside balcony terrace areas complete the top level.”

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“Level Three below contains the Master Suite. Two guest suites are complete with private baths and balconies. A laundry and a bunk room that can sleep four young-at-heart folks, complete this level.”

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“Level Two is the entry point into the central stair which also serves as an art gallery. This level includes a billiard room, painting studio and a third guest suite, as well as the two-car garage and workshop.”

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“Level One is a utility basement and is where the wood for the fireplace is stored.  The necessity for the elevator with four stops is obvious.”

The Starbird House was previously offered as a primo, $9,000-a-week vacation rental, but you can proudly call the architectural property home for a cool $5.3 million.

from realtor.com

from realtor.com

Bety Bryer of The Swan Agency Sotheby’s International is the listing agent.

This article was originally published by Neal J. Leitereg on realtor.com.  See more photos and the article source here.  

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5 Ways to Organize Your Bedroom

At the end of another long day, doesn’t everyone want — or even need — the bedroom to be a peaceful, relaxing refuge from the rest of the world? Let’s face it: Messes are stresses. If you’ve been too busy lately to organize your boudoir, devote time to DIY bedroom-storage projects this weekend.

No. 1: Cut corners

Corners get a bad rap. People assume they’re good for nothing. But in the case of DIY bedroom storage, corners become very valuable, if only because they are so often left empty. Consider filling yours with a wooden magazine holder, space-saving corner table or floating shelves.

No. 2: Create a walk-by closet

Some grumble over not having a walk-in closet, but others must suffer bedrooms with no closet space whatsoever. For those miserable unfortunates, there’s the option of creating a walk-by closet like the one pictured above. Here, California Closets has designed custom hanging and drawer space that complements a diagonal window.

No. 3: Use unusual storage

Source: Urban Chalet

Like skinning a cat, there is more than one way to store clothing. Consider adding drawers in unexpected places like bunk-bed stairs. Surprisingly, vintage suitcases also lend themselves to DIY bedroom-storage solutions that are at once decorative and effective.

No. 4: Organize wall hangings

Source: Willey Design LLC

Source: Willey Design LLC

Cutting clutter plays a major role in successful DIY bedroom storage, so it’s time to finally hang that poster you bought at the museum gift shop last year. Wood-mounted artwork, clipboard displays, and picture frame collages stand out among countless gallery-wall projects.

No. 5: Install floating shelves

Source: Niche Interiors

Source: Niche Interiors

Especially in small bedrooms, bulky, standalone storage units hog what precious few square feet there are available. A space-saving alternative is to install floating shelves. You can achieve this sophisticated, modern look on Saturday morning, leaving the rest of your weekend free for browsing bookstores!

This article was originally published by Marisa Villarreal on Zillow Blog. See the original article here.

How to Get Maximum Value on Your Home Appraisal

So, you’ve got an offer on your house from a qualified buyer and you’re ready to call the movers. Before you pick up the phone, remember that a few hurdles still have to be overcome before settlement day—in particular, the home appraisal.

How to get maximum value on your appraisal

An appraisal, paid for by the buyer, is required by the buyer’s lender to ensure that the property’s value is equal to or higher than the loan amount. If your buyer has offered $250,000 on your home and intends to borrow $225,000, your home must be worth at least that much or more.

Your buyer pays for the appraisal, which is scheduled by the lender, but that doesn’t mean the appraisal process is entirely out of your hands. There are steps to take before and during the appraisal appointment that can maximize your home’s value, increasing the likelihood your transaction will include a smooth settlement day.

Pre-appraisal Steps

If you’re reading this before you’ve placed your home on the market, consider paying for a pre-listing appraisal. This appraisal can give you a firmer idea of the market value of your home so that you can accurately price it. In addition, you can give a copy of this appraisal to your buyer’s appraiser as a guideline.

If your home is already on the market and has an offer on it, be sure to gather the information your Realtor supplied you about comparable homes that recently sold. If you know about a home that sold without a listing agent, try to get information about that sale as well, to provide to your appraiser. Any information you have about the community or your home in relation to others in the neighborhood, such as the fact that your home has been built on the largest lot, should be given in writing to the appraiser.

Provide the appraiser with a complete list of all upgrades and updates to your home, such as new appliances, a new roof and even smaller items such as extra insulation or a resealed tub.

Appraisal Day Tips

While you don’t need to clean your home as you would if you’re showing it to prospective buyers, you should clean anything permanent in the home such as carpets and walls. A clean home gives the impression that you’ve maintained it.

Take care of the exterior clean-up, too, by pulling weeds, mowing your lawn, trimming your shrubs and putting away any toys or tools that could trip up your appraiser.

The appraiser will need access to your basement and attic and possibly a crawl space, if there is one. Moving items to make the appraiser’s job easier can leave a more positive impression of your home.

Make the appraiser comfortable by turning on the heat or the air conditioning, which also proves that your system works.

Keep your children and pets out of the appraiser’s way. You don’t have to be there to meet the appraiser, but if you are home, let the appraiser do the job without your interference. More importantly, make sure your pets are locked up or taken away during the appraisal, and keep your children from creating a distraction, too.

As a seller, you can’t necessarily change an appraiser’s mind about the value of your home, which is based on extensive research of comparable homes and the condition of your property. However, providing background information on your home and having a visibly well-maintained property will improve the chances of a better appraisal.

This article was originally published by Michele Lerner on realtor.com. To see the original article, click here.

5 Things You Should Know About New Home Construction

It’s not ‘new news’ that the real estate market has picked up in many parts of the country.

New House under Construction

Though lots of buyers are out shopping, inventory is still low. Nobody can predict when that situation will improve, of course. But large national home builders, as well as small local ones, are buying up land, getting plans drawn up, and starting construction on new homes.

But is a new-construction home the right path for you? Here are five things you should keep in mind.

1. New homes may not be listed in your local MLS.

Unlike a regular seller who lists their home with a local real estate agent, homebuilders often have their own employees working for them on site. They do this to have more control and to cut costs.

What does this mean for you, a buyer? Mostly, it may mean the home builder isn’t a member of the local MLS. As a result, the homes may not show up in your agent’s MLS search. The builder may be more apt to advertise online, in the paper or with billboards. So if you’re interested in newly built homes, work with your agent to make sure you’ve identified all the possibilities. (Note: Zillow has listings for new construction homes. Just choose “New Homes” in the search filter.)

2. New homes are often sold before they’re built.

A builder will generally get financing lined up and map out both a construction and a sales process. This means they’ll try to sell as many homes as possible, before they’re even built. To accomplish this, they’ll build out model homes and allow buyers to go in and review floor plans, fixtures and finishes while the homes are under construction. Depending on the state, builders need to get through some of the approvals process before they can actually start signing contracts.

For the most part, you can get a sense of what your new home would look and feel like and where it will be located in the community. Ready to move forward? You’ll likely have to put down a deposit, from a few thousand dollars to 10 percent of the purchase price.

Be aware that even if there are 100 homes in the community, they won’t all be available at once. Home builders tend to release the homes in phases. If the first 10 homes sell quickly at the asking price, and the market continues to do well, the builder can raise the prices on the second or third phase. Also, the sales cycle for a new community can take years. The last phase could end up being priced 10 percent or more than phase one, simply because the real estate market has appreciated.

3. The first buyers may get the best discounts.

A home builder, especially early in the sales process, wants to get a few homes under contract quickly. If the builder can announce they have 10 homes under contract in a few weeks, the project can seem more desirable to future buyers.

Also, builders like to go back to their lenders with positive news about the project and their investment. To do this, they need early buyers to sign contracts.

For buyers, this means there could be room to negotiate the price down early in the sales process. But with the reward, there is potential risk. By being an early buyer, you’re committed to the project. If for some reason sales don’t manifest or you don’t want to move ahead before the home is built, you risk losing your down payment. For example, right after the housing downtown, some buyers were stuck under contract on new homes where sales had stalled.

4. Builders don’t have a personal or emotional attachment to the house.

A typical seller has lived in the home for many years, raised their family or built memories there. So when it’s time to sell, the seller may experience all kinds of issues, questions and uncertainties, which can come out in the negotiation and purchase process. As a consequence, the seller may unconsciously price the home too high because they’re not ready to emotionally detach from it. They may want to know more about you or what your plans are for the property. If given a choice between two buyers, the seller may pick one over the other for non-financial reasons.

With a home builder, it’s just a numbers game. They’re focused more on spreadsheets than sentiment. They want to make sure you’re qualified and can get a loan. They set the prices based on their inventory, though there may be a little room for negotiations.

5. Discounts may be available in the form of upgrades.

Is the project you’re interested in nearing the end of its sales cycle, with many homes already sold? If so, the builder may be a little more willing to negotiate with you, not so much on price but on upgrades. If they reduce the price on your home and the sale closes, then that sale price becomes public record. But if they offered you an upgrade package (hardwood floors instead of carpet or higher-end appliances), there isn’t any way to track that. What could amount to thousands of dollars in upgrades could end up being a better deal than simply getting a price reduction.

For many first-time buyers, new construction could be a great idea. If you’re used to renting and relying on the landlord for mechanical fixes and general maintenance, you can almost be assured that your first few years in a new home will be maintenance-free.

This article was originally published by Brendon DeSimone on Zillow Blog. See the original article here

Government Shutdown Ends – What It Means for Mortgage Market

Now that the U.S. government is once again up and running, it’s time to take stock of the government shutdown’s impact on the real estate market (especially the mortgage end of that market), and what happens immediately going forward.

One quick red flag comes from the National Association of Home Builders, which reports that newly-built single-family homes were down two points in October.

The NAHB says the decline may be due, in part, to the shutdown; but now that Uncle Sam is back in the chips the decline should be reversed in the coming months.

“A spike in mortgage interest rates, along with the paralysis in Washington that led to the government shutdown and uncertainty regarding the nation’s debt limit, have caused builders and consumers to take pause,” NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said on Wednesday, just as a deal was being reached in Congress. “However, interest rates remain near historic lows and we don’t expect the level of rates to have a major impact on sales and starts going forward. Once this government impasse is resolved we expect builder and consumer optimism will bounce back.”

Crowe’s view seems to be the prevailing sentiment among real estate industry observers.

To get a good grip on where the real estate market is now, and where it’s going, realtor.com reached out to a handful of industry experts to set the record straight on the following key issues:

What Was the Damage From the Government Shutdown?

“Luckily not much,” says Jason Bonarrigo, a senior loan officer with Residential Mortgage Services in Braintree, Mass. “Most banks and investors continued to close loans and come up with short-term guidelines to work around getting tax transcript records from the Internal Revenue Service, but that’s about it.”

Others aren’t so sure the damage hasn’t been more severe.

“Unfortunately, Washington probably set the real estate market back six months at least,” said Cal Haupt, chief executive officer at Georgia-based Southeast Mortgage. “When they deadlocked previously in July 2011, they stalled a fledgling recovery six months.”

The recent shutdown was worse due to the impact of shutting down the government for 16 days and preventing mortgage lenders from obtaining IRS 4506T documents needed to close most borrowers’ loans, Haupt said.

What Happens Now?

The real estate market can pretty much pick up where it left off 16 days ago, our experts said.

Many lenders continued operating through the shutdown so the FHA did not have an effect on them,” said Malcolm Hollensteiner, director of retail lending at TD Bank. “So now that the FHA is fully open once again, we expect that it will be business as usual.”

Hollensteiner had one caveat: “Because lenders were continuing to process FHA loans through the shutdown, there may be a slight backlog of approvals on the FHA’s end, but that should not cause any significant issues.”

Others agreed with that sentiment.

“The only loans that were directly and immediately affected by the shutdown were USDA loans, which were completely unavailable, and jumbo loans, in those cases where the lender wanted documentation from the IRS,” said Rick Sharga, executive vice president at Irvine, Calif.-based Auction.com.

In both of those cases, loans that were in process will restart now that the agencies are open. “There will likely be some delays in processing and other inconveniences, but things will most likely be back to normal within a few weeks,” Sharga said.

Anything Else Mortgage Consumers Should Know?

Consumers should be aware that the market changes very rapidly and they should be prepared for worst-case scenarios, warned David Williams, a vice president at Right Start Mortgage, in Pasadena, Calif. “Make sure you are working with seasoned loan and real estate veterans who have been through all types of markets, so you can navigate the obstacles with minimal effects,” Williams said.

Perhaps the best advice came from Haupt, who said Americans should shrug off the political shenanigans in Washington, D.C.

“Buying a home at the current lower prices and historically low rates is optimal,” Haupt said. “My advice would be: Do what is best for your family and take advantage of the favorable prices and rates. Rates will rise and property values will follow suit due to limited supply. Don’t let Washington get you down.”

This article was originally published by Brian O’Connell on Realtor.com. To see the original article, click here.

Make the Most of Your Home Inspection

A home inspection is a crucial element of any home purchase. Most buyers make their purchase offer contingent on the results of a home inspection, so they can decide not to buy if the inspection reveals significant structural problems.

Make the Most of Your Home Inspection

In a market with heavy competition for homes, buyers sometimes waive the home-inspection contingency to make their offer more appealing to the sellers. Even in those circumstances, it’s advisable to schedule an “information-only” inspection so you know what you’re buying.

Your home inspection can cost between $300 and $500, depending on where you live and the size of the property you’re having inspected. It’s worth spending a few hundred dollars to learn about the potential pitfalls of your future home.

What to expect from your home inspector

Your Realtor can recommend a home inspector, but you may also want to get recommendations from your lender and an attorney. Check out each home inspector’s credentials and reputation online and ask how many inspections each has completed. Most home inspectors will provide a written report after the inspection, but you should ask to see a sample report and how long it will take until you receive your report before choosing your inspector.

Prep for your inspection

You should always attend the inspection since this is your opportunity to learn about how to take care of your home.

Before your inspection look over the interior and exterior of the property for potential problems and areas you would like the inspector to review carefully, such as dark spots in the basement or underneath the bathroom sinks that could be water damage. Depending on the rules in your area, the seller may be required to disclose known defects in the home. Ask the seller’s agent, your buyer’s agent, and even the neighbors if they know about any issues with that house or others in the community — such as basements that flood.

Prepare a list of questions for the inspector and bring a notebook or tablet so you can take notes.

What to do during your inspection

While your inspector is looking for major issues such as a foundation problem, a leaky roof or mold, you should also use the hours of your inspection to learn how to take care of the home and its systems. Find out where the water shut-off valve is and ask for advice on how to maintain the property. Most home inspectors can tell you the life expectancy of your appliances so you can avoid being surprised when it’s time to replace the water heater. A good inspector will also point out small repairs you should make after you move into the property.

If the inspector finds a major problem with the home you intend to buy, you’ll need to consult with your Realtor and review your contract to decide how to handle the problem. Depending on what the inspection reveals, you may want to pull out of the deal or request that the sellers address the issue. You, the sellers and your agents can negotiate whether you want the sellers to fix a problem, give you a credit at settlement, or cash to make the repairs after you move in.

A good home inspection should do more than look for flaws, it should prepare you for homeownership.

This article was originally published by Michele Lerner on realtor.com. To see the original article, click here.

Castle Ruins for Sale in Upstate New York

The limestone ruins look ancient, like something abandoned by its residents hundreds of years ago along a misty loch in Scotland.

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from Zillow

104 Helderberg Castle Rd, New Scotland, NY

For sale: $179,900

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from Zillow

The property, however, is not across the Atlantic but in upstate New York, most fittingly located in the town of New Scotland. The ruins are not as ancient, either. The home was built in 1935 by the reclusive Bouck White, a potter and Socialist activist.

from Zillow

from Zillow

Located on 4.5 acres, the property also includes a contemporary 2,500-square-foot home, but the ruins of an old castle, a pottery studio and various other outbuildings are the most intriguing selling points.

from Zillow

from Zillow

The property is available as a short sale, and listing agent Brian Bosen doesn’t mince words about the type of work it requires, saying the buyer will need to be someone “with a vision and sense of adventure.”

from Zillow

from Zillow

This article was originally published by Erika Riggs on Zillow Blog. To see more photos and the original article, click here