Getting Your Home Ready for Trick-or-Treaters

Consider these tips to ensure a fun and safe Halloween night.

As we settle into fall, many of us start looking forward to Halloween. It’s a holiday adults can enjoy as much as kids. But, homeowners do have one serious obligation on this fun night: If you expect trick-or-treaters, you must make sure the path to your door is a safe one.

Take no trips

Inevitably, some giddy ghosts and ghouls will race excitedly to your door. Be prepared.

In the full light of day, inspect your lawn, driveway and front path for trip hazards like exposed tree roots, cracks in concrete or missing pavers. Make repairs where possible, or, at the very least, cut off access to unsafe areas.

Meanwhile, if you’ve decorated the front yard with decorations like light-up pumpkins and animated figures, keep electrical cords away from your walkways.

Light the way

Make sure the path to your house is bright enough for trick-or-treaters to approach safely.

You don’t need to install a full suite of year-round landscape lighting simply to accommodate visitors on Halloween night. There are plenty of temporary and affordable options for illumination, from glow sticks to tea lights.

And although it may seem more in keeping with the mood of this spooky night to switch off your porch light, it’s much safer — not to mention more inviting — to keep it on.

Resist flammable decor

Whether vandals or accidents are to blame, there are many more fires on Halloween than a typical October night, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Holiday decorations are often quite flammable, involving materials such as paper, hay and dried cornstalks.

If you can’t resist adorning your home and yard with such potentially dangerous items, then be sure to keep them away from candles and other heat sources. If jack-o’-lanterns or luminaries figure into your celebrations, illuminate them using LED tea lights, not open flames.

Curb your dog

Chances are yours is a friendly dog. But if some Halloween costumes are convincing enough to frighten small children, those same get-ups could be equally disturbing to your pooch — particularly on such a high-energy night.

It’s good sense to contain your dog in an indoor space that’s comfortable and secure.

A festive parade of goblins and ghouls, princesses and superheroes will soon be marching to your house. Do your part by clearing the path and lighting the way. Be safe out there, and have a happy Halloween!


Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Originally published October 2014.

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Hot Seat: Ted Manley of Manley Deas Kochalski

Declining foreclosure volume has created a “new normal” in default levels, but servicers can’t get complacent. Ted Manley, co-founder and principal at Manley Deas Kochalski, explains why now is the perfect time to optimize processes with talent and technology to prepare for the inevitable volume increase.  

HousingWire: What are some of the pressing issues facing servicers right now from a regulatory standpoint?

Ted Manley: Interestingly, the most pressing issues aren’t regulatory in nature. Instead, they relate to foreclosure volume now and later. The key issue is how servicers are going to adapt to “the new normal” created by declining volume. We all know that the default rate remains at a pre-crisis level. The data indicates – and experts say – that foreclosures won’t adjust upward from current levels for approximately 12 to 18 months.

However, FHA delinquencies are trending higher than expected, while modified mortgages are experiencing higher failure levels. It’s hard to predict the impact these two factors will have on the forecast, but we need to remain prepared for volume to increase. Managing a low-volume business while staying flexible and prepared for the inevitable increase is one of the most pressing challenges right now.

HW: How are you seeing companies adapt to these challenges?

TM: Many organizations are using this time to create even leaner and more effective processes to ensure procedures are optimized. This advance work will make sure they can handle future volume expeditiously within the highly regulated default landscape.

On our side of the business, in addition to optimizing our processes, we’re offering a wider range of services to existing clients and using our expanded offerings to attract additional clients. For example, two relatively new areas we’ve embarked upon with great success are timeshare mortgage defaults and a nationwide bankruptcy practice. Implementing this strategy while foreclosure levels are manageable allows us to provide even greater support to our long-time clients while expanding our client base.

We couldn’t do that, of course, without maintaining our ability to attract top talent and exceed client expectations, so both remain priorities. In addition, we continue to innovate, automate, and streamline our processes to provide the best client service in the industry.

HW: Law firms aren’t always associated with tech innovation, but MDK seems to be the exception. How does your proprietary technology distinguish your firm?

TM: Great question. Our clients regard MDK as one of the most sophisticated law firms in the industry. As the environment changes, we continue to improve our proprietary system, Casee. For example, we’ve added flexibility and additional customization features to ensure we can quickly adapt to industry challenges and at a significant scale.

We are developing systems that allow us to launch new lines of business and services. As we research, experiment, and analyze technology in new-to-us service areas, we share these efficiencies and improvements with our core clients in the residential mortgage industry.

One example is the auction management system we built to support the private-selling officer option created by Ohio’s foreclosure reform bill. This platform’s back-end workflow capabilities stand to provide additional value in default servicing beyond its original design.

HW: Looking forward, what should servicers keep an eye on for the second part of the year?

TM: We strongly encourage our clients and colleagues to embrace the new normal while preparing for a foreclosure volume increase in the not-too-distant future. Rather than merely accepting and managing current levels, look for ways to streamline and optimize processes with both talent and technology. It’s the best way to prepare for change, and change is a constant for all of us.

*This article has been updated with correct information on Ted Manley and Manley Deas Kochalski LLC

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Black Renters In The South Are Bearing The Brunt Of America’s Eviction Crisis

ATLANTA — On a brisk morning in mid-December, Valencia Hicks was running late to the Fulton County courthouse in hopes of avoiding eviction.

The 43-year-old mother had been forced out of her home the year before, a process that had uprooted her family from their apartment in East Point, Georgia. At her new brick split-level, Hicks decided not to pay her $995 monthly rent because her landlord hadn’t adequately fixed broken appliances, preventing the family from enjoying affordable home-cooked meals. The landlord, in turn, filed for eviction.

Like most tenants facing eviction in Fulton County, Hicks is African-American and lacked a lawyer. She planned to tell the judge about her family’s hardships. Not only did she have a disability, reliant on government checks for rent, but she also was raising two boys who each had autism.

Without a favorable ruling, a landlord could move forward with padlocking the door and placing their items on the curb. If she was lucky, she might get her wish of celebrating Christmas there.

A long understudied facet of the American housing market, evictions have hit no area of the country harder than the South, a region home to most of the top-evicting large and mid-sized U.S. cities, according to a list released by Princeton’s Eviction Lab.

Last year Eviction Lab debuted what’s thought to be the nation’s largest eviction database, revealing that U.S. property owners had submitted at least 2.3 million eviction filings in 2016. For housing experts from Louisiana to Virginia, it provided the evidence to confirm what they long suspected: Black renters disproportionately bore the brunt of the eviction crisis.

Eviction Lab found that nine of the 10 highest-evicting large cities were not only located in the South but also had populations that were at least 30 percent black.

Moreover, the top 25 entries in its ranking of mid-sized cities — including East Point, population 35,000 — experienced an eviction rate at least four times higher than the national average of 2.3 percent.

“If you’ve read about the housing crisis, it seems located in New York and San Francisco, but the eviction crisis is happening in cities with a fairly low cost of living like North Charleston, South Carolina, and Tulsa, Oklahoma,” said Matthew Desmond, a professor of sociology at Princeton and the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Evicted.

“There’s a lot of questions left unanswered, but the data allows us to see the problem in a way we’d never seen it before,” Desmond said. “That’s allowed the narrative to change in some communities.”

The current shutdown of many federal agencies could make the matter worse. If the shutdown lasts much longer, housing experts fear evictions could spike nationwide because landlords who rent to low-income tenants might not be able to get rental assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Strengthening tenant rights

As some southern legislatures kick off their 2019 sessions this month, many state lawmakers are considering a new slate of bills to curb the larger affordable housing crisis. Following the launch of Eviction Lab’s database, local advocates intend to further raise awareness of the consequences of eviction, a process that can start with a single missed rent payment.

Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, a Democrat, greets attendees after remarks at a 2018 meeting of the Campaign to Reduce Evic

Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, a Democrat, greets attendees after remarks at a 2018 meeting of the Campaign to Reduce Evictions in Richmond, Virginia.

Not only do evicted people face barriers to new housing, studies suggest evictions also are linked to worse health and educational outcomes, according to research respectively from Desmond and the Urban Institute. With evictions often clustered in lower-income black neighborhoods, entire communities can face the fallout of a churn of new neighbors that severs close-knit social networks.

This status quo is often protected and nurtured by politicians and property owners. Landlords in Mississippi routinely file for eviction as a legal way to collect rent, according to an investigation last year by Mississippi Today.

Meanwhile, some lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Georgia statehouse have stymied proposals to strengthen tenant rights.

From 2012 to 2016, Republican state Rep. Wendell Willard, then the chairman of the influential House Judiciary Committee, received at least $30,000 from various companies with ties to the housing industry, based on a Stateline review of campaign contributions. No bill to bolster tenant rights advanced out of his committee.

The former chairman of the Georgia Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican Josh McKoon, didn’t grant a hearing to a bill that would have forced landlords to fix “unsafe or unhealthy conditions” in rental units such as mold growth, pest infestation and tainted water.

McKoon says the committee under his leadership granted hearings to any lawmaker who requested one, but that lawmakers sometimes file legislation “to have a broader conversation” about an issue.

“We try to give judges a fair amount of discretion,” said Willard, who said campaign contributions had no influence on his decision-making on the issue. “I think we have a pretty good body of law in Georgia that’s been developed over many decades on dispossessory. But if something needs to be changed, we try to change it.”

Armed with data and heightened public awareness, in part thanks to Desmond’s book Evicted released two years ago, some housing advocates are pursuing changes in law with a renewed energy to decrease evictions, increase affordable housing and reduce disparities that exist for black renters in the South.

While eviction rates have spiked in states like South Carolina, according to Eviction Lab data, Georgia and Virginia have seen their rates trend downward since the Great Recession.

“Evictions are both a consequence of cumulative forces of poverty — and black poverty — and a cause of it,” said Dan Immergluck, an urban studies professor at Georgia State University. “Evictions hurt folks in all kinds of ways. Because evictions are concentrated in black neighborhoods, it impacts whole communities.”

Higher rents, more evictions

Evictions are the latest in a long line of housing policies that have disproportionately harmed black Americans. Over the past century, well-documented discriminatory practices like redlining, restrictive covenants and predatory lending have denied black people the opportunity to buy homes.

Discouraged from homeownership — and the accompanying wealth-building benefits — many black people rented instead. In 2015, the African-American homeownership rate was about 42 percent, more than 20 points lower than the rate for all groups, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But a 2018 study found that black people are more likely to pay higher rents than white people in the same areas.

And a Cleveland State University researcher surveying rental agreement laws found that no southern state had a suite of laws protecting tenants over landlords.

Every week, attorney Jesse McCoy sees this play out inside eviction court in Durham, North Carolina. The tenants, he said, are mostly black. Many make honest pleas to a judge about their life’s circumstances — which almost always lack legal standing.

McCoy thinks many of those same tenants would have legitimate grievances, from roach infestations to black mold, that might yield a favorable outcome. But without consulting counsel, he said, they rarely raise legal arguments.

“If you don’t understand rights, you can’t advocate for yourself,” said Sue Berkowitz, director of the SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center, an organization that helps clients in South Carolina, a state with an eviction rate of 8.9 percent, nearly four times the national average.

Housing attorneys throughout the South think that tenants facing an eviction case could have better outcomes in court if they were guaranteed the right to counsel — a right now ensured in select cities such as New York.

“An eviction — even a filing — follows you around,” said Elora Raymond, an assistant professor of city planning and real estate development at Clemson University. “If you get evictions filed against you in Georgia, and move to California, you still have that history.

“If that’s happening more in South Carolina or Georgia,” she said, referring to two states with high percentages of black residents, “and less in Montana or Colorado — there’s a racial implication.”

Virginia Poverty Law Center attorney Christine Marra said tenants who have had rental applications denied are less likely to find safe or affordable housing.

In some cases, those renters often can find housing only farther from where they lived before, potentially impacting other family issues, such as a child’s academic performance. And health care researchers have found that evictions are linked to higher rates of depression, stress and suicide.

Garland Nellom, a 51-year-old mother of three who faced eviction in New Jersey, said she moved to Georgia four years ago after her youngest son, who had asthma and an allergy to the mold she later discovered in their apartment, died. He was 11 years old. Nellom found an apartment in College Park, Georgia, for $745 a month.

Soon, she noticed problems including rodents and mold. She withheld her rent in protest — a practice that in some northeastern and western states can be done legally to force serious repairs from a neglectful landlord, but in Georgia can be grounds for eviction. Her landlord took legal action.

They ultimately settled the dispute, thanks to a lawyer Nellom had secured through the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation, and she stayed. This past summer she left for good upon finding exposed wire in her laundry room, which had flooded once again. Given her spotty housing record, landlords wanted her to pay a higher security deposit, which she was unable to do living on disability.

“I was fearful I was going to die,” she said. “I had nowhere to go — nowhere. I put my name on homeless shelter lists. They were full. I had neighbors gracious enough to let me stay.”

Focused on change

Faced with the scope of the eviction crisis, advocates are lobbying for changes to address housing disparities throughout the South.

In North Carolina, McCoy has helped oversee Durham’s eviction diversion program, which pairs Duke law students with unrepresented tenants facing eviction.

South Carolina state Rep. Marvin Pendarvis, a Democrat from North Charleston, is pushing a bill to approve “repair and deduct,” a practice allowed in many states, in which tenants front the costs of repairs if a landlord doesn’t fix the issue, and deduct that amount from a future rent payment.

And in Virginia, which is home to some of the nation’s highest eviction rates, a coalition of lawyers, researchers and activists last year launched the Campaign to Reduce Evictions.

The group has drafted more than 30 proposed changes that would make it easier for tenants to understand the court process for evictions, increase tenant legal rights trainings, pump $20 million into the state’s housing trust fund and expand the state’s low-income housing tax credit.

In response to news reports about Virginia’s high evictions rate, National Apartment Association President Robert Pinnegar recently claimed that “misunderstandings” about evictions have unfairly cast landlords in a negative light.

“Apartment owners do not target evictions for any group or reason,” he wrote in a letter to the Washington Post. “Evictions are a last resort in the rental housing business.”

Housing advocates further recognize that changes can only be effective if they also address the shortage of affordable housing affecting many southern cities.

Some officials have recognized the need: Atlanta Democratic Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has vowed to put $1 billion toward more affordable housing. But low-income housing developers say additional funds or tax credits are needed to build new units.

Policies like inclusionary zoning — requiring developers to make a fixed percentage of rental units affordable in new developments — have received a mixed reception across the South.

“Don’t just build new affordable housing,” Immergluck said. “States and localities need to think about creating their own voucher program that might focus on particular populations like families with kids. I don’t see southern states funding a permanent voucher program. Maybe it’s short term.”

Short of a universal housing voucher program, something that Desmond has called for, the Princeton professor thinks states could reduce evictions by making smaller policy changes, such as providing additional legal support, wraparound services, short-term financial assistance or better record keeping.

“We might have a referendum on housing in 2020 — and we haven’t had that in a long time,” Desmond said. “I do think we’re in a moment where we could ask for something ambitious.”

Until tenant rights and affordable housing supplies improve, many experts say black southerners like Hicks will remain vulnerable to eviction. Hicks showed up over 30 minutes late to her Dec. 18 court date. Weary and worried, she said she experienced more traffic than usual.

In a letter to the judge, Hicks explained that she hadn’t slept well because one of her autistic sons had tried to open the upstairs windows of their house late that night. But the judge, offering no explanation, denied Hicks’ request to stay longer in her brick split-level.

According to court records, Hicks’ landlord could have filed for a writ of possession immediately to regain possession of the house. So Hicks called apartment complexes and family members hours away in case she needed to relocate fast.

She desperately wanted a place nearby to keep her boys in the same special-needs program at Banneker High School. But no one she called had immediate availability. She felt disheartened.

“Evictions shouldn’t hurt you after the eviction,” she said. “The laws are more for the landlords and rental companies than the tenants. It’s hurting people. It’s hurting us.”

The day after New Year’s, Hicks was finishing up packing her house, thankful the county marshals hadn’t yet been called to place her possessions on the curb. Her landlord had let her stay through the holidays, but wanted her out in just a few days’ time. She didn’t know where her family would go next. But one thing was certain: She couldn’t stay there.

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The May 1 Ban On Pocket Listings Will Marginally Benefit Buyers And Hurt Sellers

In any industry, insider information is valuable. Having a tip gives you an advantage. It has been the MO of successful real estate agents for decades, but business as usual is coming to a halt on May 1, 2020.

On November 11, 2019, the National Association of Realtors board of directors voted 729-70 to ban the practice of “pocket listings,” also often referred to as listings coming soon, private listings, exclusive listings or off-market properties. Specifically, “within one business day of marketing a property to the public, the listing broker must submit the listing to the MLS for cooperation with other MLS participants.”

Pocket listings are defined as real estate listings “retained by a listing broker or salesperson who does not make the listing available to other brokers in the office or to other multiple listing service (MLS) members.”

Wanting what you can’t have has created this situation while FOMO has popularized it. The premise of the decision to ban pocket listings stems from the practice of withholding inventory from ready and able buyers. In any market, but especially tight ones, this infuriates fatigued buyers who are unable to find their way home.

This hardship is well known for any buyer who can’t find their dream home. When it does come online and they rush to submit an offer, they are often met with a multiple offer situation, often losing. When wanting an explanation of why they lost, they are only met with “There was a stronger offer.” A few months later they see the closed property online and respond back with “I would have paid that!”

What’s missing from the public discourse is the benefit that pocket listings have brought sellers. Homeowners benefit by cutting through insincere buyers and avoiding inconvenient showings, uncompetitive offers and multiple open houses where unqualified consumers, nosy neighbors and researching future sellers peruse the home while the owner takes the dog for a two-hour walk.

Buyers benefit from pocket listings too. Anyone who has purchased a home will tell you to pay a premium (that you’re comfortable with) to put the right home under contract. Searching is exhausting, and pocket listings force you to make a decision. Private listings create a unique situation for decisive buyers to put their best foot forward to get what they want.

 Forcing a seller to publicly market their property cheats them of the opportunity to test the waters on price and interest. No two homes are created equal, and price per square foot is a high-level vantage point complicated by finishes, floor plan, elevation, location and orientation. Pricing a unique home is more art than science and only becomes more difficult as the price increases.

The opportunities pocket listings bring may not be easily found by everyone, but if a buyer is serious, or their agent is working hard for them, they will find them. Most every established real estate brand or portal in the country has a “coming soon” section. If an agent found an off-market listing for their client, they would approach the listing agent, and the two would make a deal.

Smart companies conduct focus groups before they release a product and often release it in test markets before launching to major ones. This isn’t any different. Listing something as “coming soon” allows an agent to take it to the market and get input from colleagues and the public before finalizing the price. Pocket listings allow sellers to do this without adversely affecting the property by adding market time. If the public decides they want it, the situation will persuade a buyer to make an offer and avoid competing with other buyers. If they are willing to pay a premium acceptable to the seller, who is using their best judgment to weigh the risk/reward of bringing the home to market or not, why should a trade organization tell a seller their thinking is faulty?

This policy has created tension in the industry, with the public and for regulators, due to a lack of education and transparency. In most cases, these properties are not being hidden from the public — they just aren’t available in one place. Real estate brands want you to use their app instead of a competitor’s. Knowing you can find exclusive inventory is a good way to get you there. This is a long-established practice. In places like New York, there is not one central database or MLS.

For as long as agents have been selling real estate, there have been pocket listings. This change will make a slightly more equitable landscape for buyers while hurting sellers who don’t own cookie-cutter homes or don’t want to announce to the world they’re selling. I also see it as un-American. Sellers should have the right to make this decision, not a collective of Realtors who are pressured by politics and optics.

Parking spaces in the same building on the same floor don’t command the same price. It varies due to demand like any market, but the distance to the elevator, proximity to a column, where it is in the garage and other seemingly inconsequential factors have varying degrees of importance to everyone, and they adjust the price accordingly. Now apply all that to a home.

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Housing Affordability in December 2019

At the national level, housing affordability conditions improved in December 2019 compared to a year ago and fell modestly compared to November, according to NAR’s Housing Affordability Index. Median home prices rose 8.0 % in December from one year ago. The effective 30-year fixed mortgage rate1 also rose to 3.78% this December from 3.75% in November although this mortgage rate is still lower compared to the year-ago level of 4.99%.

Bar chart: December Housing Affordability in 2019 and 2018

As of December 2019, the national and regional indices were all above 100, meaning that a family with the median income had more than the income required to afford a median-priced home. The income required to afford a mortgage, or the qualifying income, is the income needed so that mortgage payments make up no more than 25% of family income. The most affordable region was the Midwest, with an index value of 211.5 (median family income of $78,785 is almost twice the qualifying income of $37,248). The least affordable region remained the West, where the index was 116.1 (median family income of $85,720 and the qualifying income of $73,824).  For comparison, the index was 165.6 in the South (median family income of $72,900 and the qualifying income of $44,106) and 165.9 in the Northeast (median family income of $90,618 with a qualifying income of $54,624).

Housing affordability2[> increased from a year ago in all four regions.[>

However, with home prices rising faster than income, affordability is down from last month in two of the four regions.

Nationally, mortgage rates were down 121 basis points from one year ago (one percentage point equals 100 basis points). The median sales price for a single-family home sold in December in the US was $277,000, up 8.0% from a year ago, while median family incomes rose 3.3 % in 2019 from one year ago.

Bar chart: U.S. and Regional Incomes 2019 and 2018

With lower mortgage rates compared to one year ago, the payment as a percentage of income fell to 15.5% this November from 17.1% a year ago. Regionally, the West has the highest mortgage payment to income share at 21.5% of income. The Northeast and the South had the second highest share at 15.1%. The Midwest had the lowest mortgage payment as a percentage of income at 11.8%.

Line graph: Payment as a Percent of Income December 2018 to December 2019

This week the MBA reported mortgage applications increased 1.1% compared to last week for the third straight week. There is still a housing shortage and more inventory is needed for potential home buyers. Mortgage rates are still historically low.

What does housing affordability look like in your market? View the full data release.

The Housing Affordability Index calculation assumes a 20 percent down payment and a 25 percent qualifying ratio (principal and interest payment to income). See further details on the methodology and assumptions behind the calculation.

1 Starting in May 2019, FHFA discontinued the release of several mortgage rates and only published an adjustable-rate mortgage called PMMS+ based on Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey.  With these changes, NAR discontinued the release of the HAI Composite Index (based on 30-year fixed-rate and ARM) and starting in May 2019 only releases the HAI based on a 30-year mortgage. NAR calculates the 30-year effective fixed rate based on Freddie Mac’s 30-year fixed mortgage contract rate, 30-year fixed mortgage points and fees, and a median loan value based on the NAR median price and a 20% down payment.

2 A Home Affordability Index (HAI) value of 100 means that a family with the median income has exactly enough income to qualify for a mortgage on a median-priced home. An index of 120 signifies that a family earning the median income has 20 percent more than the level of income needed pay the mortgage on a median-priced home, assuming a 20 percent down payment so that the monthly payment and interest will not exceed 25 percent of this level of income (qualifying income).

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Kim Kardashian and Kanye West Bought Land in La Quinta: Here’s Why

Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West already own a massive house in Hidden Hills, CA, but apparently that’s not enough space. Witness their most recent acquisition: an undeveloped 2-acre plot for $6.3 million in La Quinta, CA.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the plot was quietly purchased at the end of last year through a trust, and the seller is a corporation with ties to billionaire businessman Ronald Burkle.

The Kardashian-West parcel is located in the Madison Club, an exclusive golf and tennis community in La Quinta, which is a two-hour drive (or, in Kardashian-West terms, a short private plane ride) from Los Angeles.

Why Kim and Kanye purchased property in La Quinta

So has this A-list couple just discovered the joys of hitting the links? Odds are, La Quinta attracted Kimye for far different reasons. For one, the Madison Club isn’t just any old golf club, but one with an exclusive clientele, counting Cindy Crawford and Rande Gerber among its members.

Best known as a winter playground for the rich and famous, “this spot is also close to Coachella, SoCal’s largest music festival grounds, so you can expect Kanye to headline there for a few years simply out of convenience,” says Tyler Drew, CEO of Anubis Properties in Los Angeles.

The couple’s latest land grab is also conveniently located close to family, as Kardashian West’s mom, Kris Jenner, has her own mansion on the same street. Little sister Kylie Jenner also owns a piece of property nearby.

“This seems like a very strategic move from the Kardashian-West clan, as creating a family land bank is something wealthy families have been doing for decades,” says Odest T. Riley Jr., CEO of WLM Financial, a real estate brokerage firm in Inglewood, CA.

And compared with Los Angeles, La Quinta is a bargain, with acres of wide-open desert for the taking.

“You get so much more for your money here—there’s no way Kim and Kanye could have picked up 2 acres for this price in the vicinity of L.A., and even if you could find it, you’d have to tear something down,” says Cara Ameer, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker in Los Angeles.

Another perk of La Quinta’s remote location is fewer hassles when it comes to construction.

“Building something rather large in the desert doesn’t come with as much red tape as it does closer to L.A.,” adds Drew.

With an empty lot, Kimye can put their personal imprint on a mansion that’ll suit the needs of their growing family.

“I could see them building an all-encompassing compound where they wouldn’t have to stray too far for what they need, including a huge pool and grotto, guesthouse, and a private spa or massage rooms so people can come to them,” says Ameer.

So would this mean they’d just kick back at home, or might they also socialize with their neighbors at the Madison Club?

“I doubt they’ll sit by the pool,” says Ameer, “but I’m sure the Madison Club is extending facility privileges to all of the Kardashians, and I could imagine them plugging into the health and wellness aspects of this club as well as hiking and biking on their trails to relax.”

The Kardashian effect on La Quinta

While this growing swell of “KarJenner” sisters (and the attendant paparazzi) could leave the neighbors tearing their hair out, there’s an upside as well.

“The Kardashians buying in the Madison Club and specifically La Quinta is good for property values and raises the prestige factor overall,” says Ameer.

“This purchase could benefit the club by highlighting how exclusive the brand is—and from a business perspective, all free publicity is good publicity,” adds Riley.

Potential downsides to an investment like this one could include resale issues—and even the baking sun.

“Living in the desert isn’t a year-round thing to do, as the temperatures really start to soar from April through the fall, so there’s a short window of comfortable weather in which to enjoy this property,” says Ameer. “This spot swells with crowds in the winter months and has a lot of properties that are second homes or rentals, so there aren’t many year-round residents. Though this probably suits the Kardashian-Wests, as they’re on the move more than anyone else.”

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12 Tasks to Tackle This Fall

Cooler weather is coming — prep your home for its arrival while it’s still nice outside.

The days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting cooler. The kids are trudging off to school again with their backpacks, and leaves are falling from the trees.

Yep, it’s official: Fall is here. Now’s the time to finish up any pre-winter maintenance projects and get your home and yard ready.

Take care of these 12 tasks to get your home clean, warm and cozy for the cool days to come.

Exterior prep

1. Fix cracks in concrete and asphalt

Depending on where you live, these may be the last weeks this year when it will be warm and sunny enough to repair driveway and sidewalk cracks.

2. Clean out the gutters

No one loves this job, but we all need to do it annually. A few hours of work can prevent big problems later on.

While you’re up on that ladder, visually inspect your roof for damaged shingles, flashing or vents. You can also inspect the chimney for any missing mortar and repair it by tuck-pointing, if needed.

3. Turn off outdoor plumbing

Drain outdoor faucets and sprinkler systems, and cover them to protect them from the freezing weather to come.

4. Start composting

If you don’t already have compost bins, now’s the time to make or get some. All those accumulated autumn leaves will bring you gardening gold next summer!

5. Clean outdoor furniture and gardening tools

It may not yet be time to put them away, but go ahead and clean your outdoor furniture and gardening tools so they’re ready for storage over the winter.

6. Plant bulbs for spring-blooming flowers

Plant bulbs in October, as soon as the soil has cooled down, to reap big rewards next spring. If you’ve never planted bulbs before, select a spot in your yard that gets full sun during the day.


Interior prep

7. Prepare your furnace for winter duty

If you didn’t already do it last spring, consider getting your furnace professionally serviced in time for the cold season. At a minimum, visually inspect your furnace and replace the furnace filter before you start using it on a daily basis.

8. Clean the fireplace and chimney

Clean out the fireplace, inspect the flue, and ensure the doors and shields are sound. Have the chimney professionally swept if needed. Now’s also the time to stock up on firewood!

9. Keep the warm air inside and the cold air outside

Inspect your windows and doors. Check weatherstripping by opening a door, placing a piece of paper in the entryway and closing the door. The paper should not slide back and forth easily. If it does, the weatherstripping isn’t doing its job.

Also, now’s the time to re-caulk around windows and door casings, if needed.

10. Light the way

Bring as much light into your home as you can for the colder, darker months. To accentuate natural light, clean your windows and blinds, especially in rooms that get a lot of sunlight.

Add lighting to darker spaces with new lamps. And consider replacing traditional incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs.

11. Create a mudroom

Even if you don’t have a dedicated mudroom in your home, now’s a good time to think about organizing and stocking an entryway that will serve as a “mudroom” area for cold and wet weather.

Put down an indoor-outdoor rug to protect the floor. A fun and rewarding weekend project is to build a wooden shoe rack, coat rack or storage bench for your entryway.

12. Home safety check

Replace the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide monitors. A good way to remember to do this is to always replace the batteries when you change the clock for daylight saving time.

Create a family fire escape plan, or review the one you already have. Put together an emergency preparedness kit so you’re ready for any winter power outages.

Once you finish with your autumn home checklist, you can enjoy the season in your warm, comfortable home.


Originally published September 2016.

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Keller Williams launches new home search app

Keller Williams has launched its new neighborhood-based home search app to coincide with the updated website that was launched earlier this year.

The new home search tool is web- and app-based, and aims to give homebuyers and sellers a deeper understanding of the city they are searching in by neighborhood.

(Image courtesy of Keller Williams. Click to enlarge.)

On Jan. 1, the real estate company launched a redesign of its website, becoming more user-friendly and hyperlocal.

The experience will be continually updated to feature Keller Williams’ expanding home-search capabilities, the company said in a release. It is powered by data feeds from Keller Williams’ acquisition of Smarter Agent, announced in September 2018.

“I believe that in a lot of ways the cell phone is the remote control for people’s lives,” Keller Williams Vice President of Industry, Jason Abrams said to HousingWire in January. “…The app is less about the company and more about the relationship with the consumer and the real estate agent. When I think about an app, each real estate agent needs to have their app in the consumer’s phone.”

The company said the app is designed to empower agents, not replace them.

Via the app, homebuyers can view the market stats for any neighborhood, discover what neighbors have to say about an area, calculate commute times to popular destinations, check the report card of nearby schools, explore restaurants, grocery stores, shops and more.

Buy and sell guides are also available in the app, with real-time information about the status and full steps of a home transaction.

“With the release of the new KW App, agents will be able to enable their client to navigate the entire real estate transaction straight from their phone,” Gary Keller, co-founder and CEO of Keller Williams said in a release. “All while keeping the agent at the center of everything.”

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Kushner Company Reportedly Seeking Federal Loan For $1.15 Billion Real Estate Deal

Jared Kushner’s family real estate business is seeking federal financing for a $1.15 billion real estate deal, Bloomberg reports.

Kushner Cos. has been in talks with federal lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac about backing for its purchase of more than 6,000 rental apartments in 16 properties in Maryland and Virginia from private equity firm Lone Star Funds, two sources told Bloomberg. It’s not clear how much money the company is seeking.

It’s the firm’s biggest deal in more than a decade, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Kushner Cos. president Laurent Morali told the Journal that the firm plans to borrow about 70 percent of the cost of the Lone Star package. He said Kushner Cos. was “running a competitive process” to choose a lender, the Journal reported. Morali apparently didn’t mention the federal lenders to the Journal.

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law relinquished his management role at Kushner Cos. and divested from some assets in the family business when he became senior White House adviser. At that time the company held more than $500 million in loans from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, according to Bloomberg.

But Kushner remains a key stakeholder in the company and real estate deals. The real estate holdings and other investments of Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, were worth as much as $811 million last year, according to 2018 financial filings.

Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Jared Kushner’s attorney Abbe Lowell, emphasized to Bloomberg that Kushner no longer manages the company, adding that he is “walled off from any business or investment decisions and has no idea or knowledge of these activities.” 

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are regulated by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which is headed by Trump-appointee Joseph Otting. He used to be chief executive of OneWest Bank, which was founded by now-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who is considered a close “ally of Kushner” in the White House, Bloomberg notes.

Kushner Cos. properties have been the target of several lawsuits. New York state is investigating charges by tenants that they were illegally forced out of their apartments in a Brooklyn building owned by Kushner Cos. so their homes could be sold as luxury condos.  

Last year, New York City fined the company $210,000 for filing false construction documents claiming there were no rent-protected tenants in apartments the firm planned to sell.

The Maryland Attorney General also launched an investigation of operations at some of Kushner Cos.′ Baltimore-area apartment complexes after a lawsuit by tenants accused the company of charging them improper fees.

Kushner Cos. representatives have denied any wrongdoing.

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The Renaissance Of Brick-And-Mortar Locations As Ad Space

Traditional brick-and-mortar shopping offers customers more than an opportunity to purchase—it’s a chance to have a personal interaction with a brand. From the unique way a brand merchandises items down to the lighting and design, music and employees, a brick-and-mortar store experience is just that: an experience. As customers continue to move towards a digital landscape, brands are exploring new ways to break through the digital noise and offer customers tactile, sensory, and personalized experiences—effectively turning built environments into ad space.

Similarly, commercial real estate developers, architects, and investors are exploring new ways to reinvigorate historic, underused, or shuttered spaces that once served traditional brick-and-mortar purposes but struggle to remain robust in a digital economy. Brands and real estate developers alike are turning to firms like Skylight, a placemaking and venue development firm that combines adaptive reuse, redevelopment, and forecasting to transform traditional and struggling commercial spaces into immersive brand experiences.

Skylight specializes in developing “intentional short-term real estate opportunities” for brands—most often activations, pop-ups, and launch events. Conceptually, these opportunities are designed to reenergize an underutilized built space and give customers a tangible experience with a brand. Over the last decade, Skylight has developed brand experiences for such companies as Amazon, Hermes, Nike, Hulu, Spotify, and Tesla. Brick-and-mortar locations include The High Line, St John’s Terminal, the Historic San Francisco Mint, the Row in Los Angeles, and New York’s Bleeker Street corridor.

We recently sat down with Stephanie Blake, CEO of Skylight, to learn more about the firm’s approach to brick-and-mortar and her thoughts on the ongoing push and pull between built commercial spaces and the digital economy.

Skylight is known for creating what you refer to as “intentional short-term real estate opportunities.” What do you see as the benefits to this approach?

SB: Intentional short-term real estate opportunities are the physical manifestation of the “drop” economy. It’s a disruption (and re-imagination) in both real estate and retail / brand approach to innovation and development.

It’s not replacing permanent brick-and-mortar concepts, but it is reimagining the industry in the way co-working companies changed the way we use office space and share ideas and resources to promote innovation…In a world where new collaboration, co-creation, and constant iteration is needed to maintain consumer interest, short term real estate plays provide the platform to showcase these moments while gathering intel and insights that inform the next move.

For example, Skylight worked with Nike and Virgil Abloh to find a home for their Nike “Off Campus” experience, which was created to showcase a collaboration between Nike and Off-White. Skylight brought the multi-day activation to 23 Wall Street, the former home of JP Morgan. The event, which included an immersive museum, programming, and a retail space, sold out almost immediately.

Short-term real estate opportunities have allowed brands the short-term flexibility to take RISKS and EXPERIMENT with different concepts, based on the willingness to suffer losses if costs are significantly lower.

Stephanie Blake, CEO, Skylight

Can you talk about your statement that one of the biggest real estate trends for 2020 will be the utilization of the physical and built environment as ad space?

SB: Storytelling is more important. The built environment provides something that screens cannot. There is a desire to reach consumers where they are with these stories, and brands are taking notice of the way audiences go about their daily routines, particularly in cities.

The physical and built environment can be utilized as ad space. At Google over a decade (15 years) ago, the focus used to be ‘how do we convince brands to move spend from traditional media to online?’ The pendulum is swinging back, but now with new tools informed by digital products and the growing importance of data.

Brand communities, referring to any investment of time or money that customer makes into a brand beyond purchase/transaction (think Harley Davidson die hard fans getting tattoos of the brand + meeting with other fans) is the most valuable brand equity that brand aim to achieve. Skylight has followed this shift first hand through our event and client experiences; while brands historically spent marketing dollars on traditional product launches and showrooms, we are noticing a transformation to experiences that aim to form brand communities and bring fans together.

For example, The Stalls at Skylight ROW DTLA hosted a sprawling, multi-sensory production in support of Billie Eilish’s debut album. The Billie Eilish Experience welcomed over 3,000 devoted fans for a weekend of art, technology, and the unexpected inspired by the artist’s own experiences with synesthesia. Conceived by Billie Eilish herself, and produced in partnership with Spotify and Adobe, the former produce stalls were transformed into immersive rooms imagined along the themes of the tracks on her album, “When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” This provided a tangible experience in which Billie could demonstrate her unique point of view as an artist, celebrate a career milestone, and give fans a platform for engagement and community in her home city.

What are your thoughts on the future of traditional brick-and-mortar retail?

SB: Cities were built around adjacencies—the pop-up economy responds to this by sharing space within communities and affinity groups…ALL brands need to consider a physical space, even e-commerce, direct-to-consumer brands still seek out brick-and- mortar opportunities to reach consumers.

Multi-brand formats, and even store-in-store residencies that showcase a brand and its partners / collaborators embody the co-creation model where 1+1=4. There should be core pillars or elements that give the brand environment a specific messaging and point of view, or some defining element that differentiates the store from others in a very competitive retail landscape where it is more difficult to get customers in store.

For example, Skylight created an urban landscape at the intersection of art, commerce, and culture: Love, Bleecker, a collective of locally-based, digitally-native brands, each paired with contemporary artists.

Eleven new brands have joined the corridor since Skylight debuted the project, resulting in a 63% decrease in vacancy with brands that share audiences and similarities to Love, Bleecker’s tenants. Skylight created and ran a comprehensive programming calendar engaging the neighborhood residents and NYC locals, and fostered community amongst the merchants. Over 120 unique events filled the corridor, igniting community building and experiential retail.

It’s interesting that digital brands are embracing the built environment. What is driving that?

SB: Digital saturation has spurred a movement toward IRL experiences for brand engagement with consumers, but it’s also informed the way that we approach them. Just as A/B testing is essential for innovation in the tech space, in-person interactions across a variety of markets, demographics, and formats / settings is crucial for companies to keep pace with breakneck changes in consumer preferences and behaviors.


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