Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch for Sale for $100 Million

Filed under: Buying, Celebrity Homes, Selling

By Melissa Allison

The acreage that was once a fantastical amusement park for the King of Pop is on the market — but without the carnival rides, orangutans and elephant, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The 2,700-acre estate north of Santa Barbara is listed for $100 million.

Associated PressMichael Jackson in 2002

Still standing are the railways and grand train station Jackson built, the Journal reports, as well as a floral clock that spells out “Neverland,” and a fire department, minus the firefighters.

The property features some 22 structures, including a 12,000-square-foot main house with six bedrooms and attached staff quarters. There are also two guesthouses, a swimming pool, basketball court, tennis court and 50-seat movie theater with a private viewing balcony.

Jackson, who died in 2009, paid $19.5 million for the property in 1987. A real estate investment firm later bought a loan on which he defaulted and put the title into a joint venture with him, the Journal reports.

Suzanne Perkins and Harry Kolb of Sotheby’s International Realty and Jeffrey Hyland of Hilton & Hyland hold the listing for the property, now known as Sycamore Valley Ranch.


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Pharrell Williams Should Be Quite Happy in $7 Million LA Home

Filed under: Buying, Celebrity Homes, Selling

ZillowThe architecturally significant contemporary home sits on 1.5 acres overlooking the lights of Los Angeles.

By Melissa Allison

Pharrell Williams and his big hat are headed west.

The “Happy” singer recently dropped $7.14 million on a contemporary estate high in the hills above Los Angeles, according to a report from Variety. Its Jetsons-style living room, complete with a floating fireplace, is surrounded by walls of glass with views of an infinity-edge pool and an expanse of city lights below.

The compound on 1.5 acres includes five bedrooms in the main home, a sixth bedroom in a detached guest house, and an outdoor theater. The listing agent was Justin Mandile of The Agency.

Pharrell also owns homes in Miami and Virginia Beach. He has listed the Miami condo off and on for the past few years.


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Nicole Richie and Joel Madden Put Home on the Market in LA

Filed under: Buying, Celebrity Homes, Selling

ZillowOriginally built in 1914, the home has been remodeled to include skylights and elements of midcentury modern style.

By Melissa Allison

The upheaval in Nicole Richie and Joel Madden’s life — which includes rumors they’re splitting up, the filming of her new reality show, “Candidly Nicole,” and the purchase of a new home in Beverly Hills, according to Varietynow includes a house on the market.

Matt Sayles/Invision/APRichie and Madden in 2014

Richie and Madden, who paid $1.912 million for the place in 2009, are asking $3.495 million for the home in the Laurel Canyon enclave of Los Angeles.

Built in 1914, the home looks more like a cross between midcentury modern and California bohemian. Soaring ceilings plus lots of windows and skylights bring sunshine into the five-bedroom, five-bath home, which also features courtyard-style open spaces and dark, exposed beams. An attached guesthouse offers access to a backyard with eating and play areas alongside a lagoon-style pool, spa and waterfall.

The listing belongs to Thomas Atamian of Dilbeck Real Estate, who sold the home of Madden’s brother, rocker Benji Madden, last year.


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Mortgage Rates Edge Up to 3.79%, Remain Well Below 4%

Filed under: Buying, Financing, Refinancing

ZillowThe weekly mortgage rate chart illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest rate in six-hour intervals.

By Lauren Braun

Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans rose this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgages at 3.79 percent, up 2 basis points from the same time last week.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell Thursday, then hovered around 3.78 percent before rising to the current rate Tuesday.

“Despite some volatility early on as markets parsed typically unimportant data for signals of the Fed’s first rate hike, mortgage rates remained flat with lenders focused on the Memorial Day holiday,” said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. “We expect these ups and downs to continue this week.”

Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.96 percent. For 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.91 percent.

Check Zillow Mortgages for mortgage rate trends and up-to-the-minute mortgage rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.


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Add a Dash of Style and Curb Appeal With Just a Little Cash

Filed under: How To, Lifestyle, Selling

Shutterstock / Artazum

By Abby Hayes

Looking to sell your home? Or maybe you just want to feel proud of the place as you swing into the driveway each evening?

Either way, you can add some serious curb appeal without making a huge financial investment. For less than $50, you can make your home more attractive with these eight DIY projects.

1. Paint the front door.

If your front door is a boring gray or brown — or blends into the facade of your home — it’s time to glam it up. Bright blue and red are both great options for a front door. Keep it classy, but choose a color that will coordinate with — and still stand out against — your home’s facade.

Cost: $25 for a gallon of paint, plus a few hours of your time.

2. Upgrade your house numbers.

House numbers are a practical necessity, but they can also be a statement. You can pick up large metal house numbers for around $5 each. Or you can buy wooden numbers from a craft store and stain or paint them yourself. (Maybe paint them to match that newly painted front door?)

Cost: $20 or less.

3. Jazz up the mailbox.

If you have a mailbox attached to the front of your house, it’s another great place to add some color. Those who lean more traditional may prefer to simply replace the mailbox with a new one. But if you’d like to add even more color to the front of your home, you can spray paint the mounted mailbox a fun color. Add your new house numbers to it in a contrasting color for eye-catching appeal.

Cost: Around $20 to $30 for a new mailbox and $5 for a can of spray paint.

4. Add porch furniture.

Does your home have a nice front porch? Adding a porch swing or rocking chairs can make your home more appealing and more functional. Contrary to what you might think it will cost, this can be done for less than $50. You just have to thrift shop for the furniture, and you might have to do a bit of upcycling.

Cost: $20 to $40 for furniture, and $10 to $20 for a can of paint to touch it up.

5. Paint the porch rails and ceiling.

This is the last painting project on the list, but it’s an important one. Peeling, worn out porch rails are not good for curb appeal. Stripping and repainting them can be an extensive project, but it will be worth your time. While you’re at it, you can repaint any peeling wooden trim around your front door and windows.

Cost: $30 and a weekend’s worth of time.

6. Install an outdoor light.

If you have a bit of electrical knowledge, you can easily replace a light fixture on your porch ceiling or add a sconce beside the front door. Don’t feel comfortable with electrical projects? Try adding some late-night curb appeal with wire-free solar fixtures.

Cost: $20 to $50 depending on the fixtures you use.

7. Decorate with potted plants.

Green plants and healthy flowers are one of the easiest ways to make your home more appealing. If you don’t have much of a green thumb, you might hesitate to landscape in the front. But you can just as easily add appeal with potted plants. Place large pots near the steps or front door, or hang plants from the roof of the porch to draw the eye up.

Ask your local nursery which plants are easiest to grow in your local area. Make this project even more affordable by spray-painting cheap terra cotta pots or buying nicer pots secondhand.

Cost: $20 to $50, plus time devoted to watering and upkeep of the plants.

8. Plant flower beds.

Ready to really go green on the curb? Dig a new flower bed or two in front of your home. You can make this project super affordable if you know friends or family members with perennials ready to be divided. Most perennials, including irises, bulbs, astilbe, day lilies and easy-care hostas, need to be divided. This is a great way to get free plants!

Keep in mind, most plants divide best in early spring or late fall. And remember, it takes perennial beds a couple years to come into their full glory. Be patient, and fill in with cheap by-the-flat annuals while you wait.

Cost: Possibly free, or a few dollars for compost or other organic soil amendments.

There are plenty of other things you can do to improve curb appeal — consider a new fence or gate, for example. But these eight ideas will give you plenty of bang for your buck.


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Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie Selling Home in New Orleans

Filed under: Buying, Celebrity Homes, Selling

WireImage/GettyAngelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, shown here with local children in 2007, bought their New Orleans home in 2006.

By Melissa Allison

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have listed their prime French Quarter mansion for $6.5 million, but a rep tells US Weekly the couple remain committed to New Orleans and will look for “something off the beaten path down the road.”

Pitt and Jolie became involved in philanthropic efforts in the city after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and bought the renovated 1830s home in late 2006 for Pitt’s filming of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” In 2007, Pitt cofounded Make It Right, a non-profit organization based in New Orleans that builds environmentally friendly homes and other buildings for people in need.

The home the Jolie-Pitts put on the market has five bedrooms, five baths and all the grandness you’d expect from a Big Easy mansion: Venetian plastered walls, marble mantles and fireplaces, crown moldings, a grand spiral staircase and — bringing it into the modern era — an elevator. There’s also a two-story guesthouse.

The couple let actor Jonah Hill crash at the home when he was filming “21 Jump Street.” Hill, a months-long guest, called Pitt “the nicest guy” for letting him stay there but said it came with some fan baggage.

“I would go home every day from work, and there’d be a tour outside and they’d be freaking out,” he told Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show.” “I’d get out of the car, and you could hear a collective audible sigh of annoyance when it wasn’t Brad Pitt.”

The listing photos, alas, include only exterior shots.


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Live Like F. Scott and Zelda: ‘Great Gatsby’ House for Sale

Filed under: Buying, Celebrity Homes, Selling

ZillowF. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, rented the seven-bedroom home — since remodeled — in the early 1920s.

By Melissa Allison

If F. Scott Fitzgerald was right that we’re “borne back ceaselessly into the past,” then it’s fortunate when there are photographs to go with those backward glances.

And there are photos to accompany the $3,888,888 listing of the Long Island estate where Fitzgerald began writing “The Great Gatsby,” as first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, rented the seven-bedroom, 6.5-bath home for two years in the early 1920s. It has since been remodeled.

Zelda called it “our nifty little Babbit-home at Great Neck,” and it became their base for parties and visits to even more luxurious homes in the vicinity, which eventually became the class-conscious West Egg and East Egg of “Gatsby.”

The Fitzgeralds’ raucous parties here spurred the writing of half-facetious house rules such as, “Visitors are requested not to break down doors in search of liquor, even when authorized to do so by the host and hostess,” according to Andrew Turnbull’s biography of Scott Fitzgerald.

Scott and Zelda left this home in Great Neck for France, where he finished “The Great Gatsby.”

The listing agent is Nurit Weiss of Coldwell Banker.


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Robin Thicke Singing a New Tune, Buys a New Spread in Malibu

Filed under: Buying, Celebrity Homes, Selling

Getty Images

By Megan Johnson

Looks like someone’s got a new bachelor pad.

“Blurred Lines” singer and legendary lothario Robin Thicke has dropped $2.395 million on a four-bedroom California spread in tony Malibu. The R&B star, the son of one of the 1980s’ best sitcom fathers, Alan Thicke, has moved in with his 20-year-old girlfriend, April Love Geary. (Alan, by the way, just confessed that he and his wife like to get it on to his son’s music. Yeah, we’re a little disturbed too.)

David M. Benett/Getty Images for Annabel’s/ChopardRobin Thicke and girlfriend April Love Geary at a party during the Cannes Film Festival in France.

The 2,359-square-foot home may be just the place that Thicke needs after his tempestuous split from ex-wife Paula Patton. A single-story, midcentury-style house, it’s the picture of relaxation with ocean and mountain views, a 7,000-square-foot lawn, and 60 fruit trees. The property is also a fully-functioning equestrian compound, with almost two acres of gated land plus a four-stall corral, tack room, and full-size arena.

The house boasts some other interesting aspects: It has a recent “seismic retrofit,” which means it’s prepped to be sturdy in case of earthquakes. And then there’s the eight-line phone system with an intercom, which really isn’t all that surprising if you think about all the girls Robin probably needs to keep in touch with. A beautiful chef’s kitchen with bird’s-eye maple cabinets and quartz countertops complements ash and granite floors.

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing since moving to this chill location at the beach, however. Turns out, Robin’s pet dog likes to party almost as much as he does: The pup apparently got into Robin’s weed stash multiple times and had to be brought to the vet for treatment, Page Six reported.


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The True Costs of Owning a Pool

Filed under: Buying, Investing, Lifestyle

ZillowThis California home on a hillside in Laguna Beach has a swimming pool as well as views of the Pacific Ocean.

By Susan Johnston

As summer approaches, perhaps you’re daydreaming about putting in a swimming pool or buying a property with a backyard pool. That way you can take a dip and cool off in your own pool whenever the mood strikes, never mind piling the kids in the car on a hot summer day or jockeying for space at a community pool. (Plus, a beautiful pool can make you feel like you live the glamorous life.)

But before you dive in (pun intended), consider these financial implications of a swimming pool.

Upfront Cost

If you’re planning to install a pool, be prepared to open your wallet. PK Data reports that the average cost of a residential in-ground swimming pool was $39,084 last year. Don’t expect to recoup all of that money when you sell your house in the future, cautions Sabine H. Schoenberg, a home improvement expert and founder of SabinesHome.com. “It’s not something that’s value-enhancing to a lot of people,” she says. “Just as there are people with positive feelings towards pools, there are those with negative feelings. I would never put a pool in as a speculative builder.” Whether to buy an investment property with a pool is another decision to consider carefully.

If you decide to move forward with a pool installation, Schoenberg suggests thinking carefully about the placement of the pool in your yard. “If it’s in one faraway corner, people aren’t going to use the pool,” she says. “You need to look at the natural daylight as it travels around the house. I don’t think it’s a good idea to put a pool into a dark, shadowy place.” She also suggests finding an installer who offers a five-year warranty, not just a one-year warranty.

Also investigate your town or municipality’s regulations around pools. “Each town will have its own definition of a ‘pool,’ often based on its size and water depth,” says Loretta Worters, spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute, an industry organization that provides insurance information to the public. “If the pool you are planning to buy meets the definition, then you must comply with local safety standards and building codes. This may include installing a fence of a certain size, locks, decks and pool safety equipment.”

Ongoing Maintenance

Before you buy a home with a pool, try to get the pool inspected. “The best way, I find, is to get a pool company to come and look at the pool closely,” Schoenberg says. “Sometimes that’s a challenge if it’s the winter, and the pool is partially drained down, so you may not be able to do a full inspection.”

Also, find out if the previous homeowner had a pool company servicing the pool so you can find out if it’s been serviced regularly and what that company charges. Peter Wingskam, owner of Crystal Clean Pools of New York, says the quality of a pool’s construction matters more than its age. “You might have above-ground pools where you’ve got ladders pulling on the side and ripping the vinyl,” he says. “Some people cut costs, and there’s thicker vinyl or better grade vinyl available.” In-ground pools can also get cracks, he adds.


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Mortgage Rates Edge Downward to 3.77%

Filed under: Buying, Financing, Refinancing

ZillowThe weekly mortgage rate chart illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest rate in six-hour intervals.

By Lauren Braun

Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans fell this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgages at 3.77 percent, down 5 basis points from the same time last week.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell early in the week, then hovered around 3.71 percent before rising to the current rate on Tuesday. Hawaii saw 30-year fixed rates as low as 3.67 percent.

“Rates fell late last week as a string of weak data raised concerns about the underlying strength of the U.S. economy,” said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. “This week markets will look to a few Fed speeches and minutes from April’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting for further guidance.”

Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.91 percent, For 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.84 percent.

Check Zillow Mortgages for rate trends and up-to-the-minute rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to check monthly payments at the current rates.


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