Tesla Claims Its Solar Roof ‘Pays for Itself’

Tesla Inc. started taking orders on its solar roof on Wednesday, saying the product’s price is comparable with the price of a regular roof once energy savings are factored in.

Earlier Wednesday, Chief Executive Elon Musk had spilled the beans on the solar roof orders to his 8.6 million followers on Twitter.

In other posts, he said the smooth and textured glass tiles will be first, with tiles that mimic slate and clay (called “Tuscan”) coming in about six months, he said.

While the tiles can be ordered from any country, “deployment” will be this year for the U.S. Overseas deployment, including the U.K., will be next year, Musk said.

A blog post on Tesla’s website confirmed the U.S. and overseas timelines for installation and the roof styles. A $1,000 refundable deposit is required to place an order, and Tesla said it will offer financing options for U.S. solar roof installation by the end of the year.

Tesla TSLA, -0.42% estimated that a typical homeowner would expect to pay $21.85 a square foot for the solar roof, “and benefit from a beautiful new roof that also increases the value of their home,” it said.

Tesla cited a Consumer Reports roof estimate for the 3,000 square feet of roof needed for the average U.S. home size.

“Solar Roof is more affordable than conventional roofs because in most cases, it ultimately pays for itself by reducing or eliminating a home’s electricity bill, “Tesla said in a blog post. The company also put up online a solar roof calculator, where potential customers add their home addresses and home size to arrive at their energy savings.

The move comes as part of a long-term goal of Tesla’s to offer solar panels to its customers. Tesla in November completed its $2.6 billion acquisition of solar-power provider SolarCity Corp., which was founded by Musk’s cousins, Lyndon and Peter Rive.

The list of planned Tesla products has grown this year: Last month, Musk said the company was working to unveil the concept of a freight truck in September. On previous exchanges on Twitter, Musk also spoke about a planned new passenger car, a compact SUV dubbed the Model Y, and a redesigned Roadster.

Tesla has said it is on track to begin production of the Model 3, its $35,000 sedan aimed at the masses, in July. The car is a key element of Tesla’s expansion plans, which include ramping up production to a rate of half a million cars by the end of 2018.

Shares of Tesla were up 0.8% on Wednesday, and have climbed more than 50% in 2017. That compares with gains around 7% for the S&P 500 index SPX, -0.26%  so far this year.

Will Your HOA or Condo Board Hike Its Fees Soon? How to Tell

If you’re looking to buy a home that’s part of a condo complex or homeowners association, you’re going to have to pay fees—either monthly or yearly—that go toward the upkeep of common areas such as the parking lot or swimming pool. And these fees can be significant, amounting to $200 to $300 a month for even the most basic amenities.

But consider this: Who’s to say those fees won’t rise once you join the club?

While no one has a crystal ball into a condo or HOA’s future, you can get good clues to what might likely happen by peering into the past. Namely, the group’s financial documents.

As a prospective home buyer, you will be given a period of time (typically three to 10 days) to review all of these financials—and yeah, it can be piles upon piles of paperwork. So in case your eyes glaze over at the mere thought, let’s point you to the crucial areas that are well worth scrutinizing, and what they mean in terms of the fees in your future.

1. Cash reserves

Generally speaking, the cash reserves listed on a board’s current financial statement is how much money it has lying around, liquid and ready to come to residents’ rescue in the event of sudden problems. It’s like a rainy day fund to fix a broken elevator, or to hire professional snow plowing in the wake of a huge storm.

So how large should this cash reserve be?

“There should be enough to cover at least three to six months of the expenses, which should be prominently listed in these documents,” says Roger Erickson, a licensed broker with Douglas Elliman Real Estate in New York City.

Think about it: Chances are you have some money banked in case of an emergency; you want your board to be similarly prepared. If it isn’t, it might have to issue an assessment—that’s a temporary hike in your fees—every time something breaks. Large cash reserves ward that off.

2. Receivables

Take a good look at the building’s “receivables,” which refers to the money that residents owe for their common charges.

“Ideally you don’t want that number to be higher than 10% of the annual fees,” explains Erickson. “Otherwise it might mean that some [residents] are not paying their fair share or are behind in their payments.” And that will not only affect the board’s cash flow, it can also be an underlying symptom of bigger problems (e.g., an economic downturn in that community or general dissatisfaction with how that condo complex or HOA is run).

3. Recent purchases

Also check for recent purchases. These can actually spell good news for you!

“If [the building] has had big expenses for things like a new roof or plumbing, that means new buyers won’t get hit for those costs,” says Erickson. That said, you’ll want to make sure those expenses make sense to you. Buying a new boiler is important; but not everyone might feel the same way about burning through the reserve fund for something more arbitrary like having the hallways repainted a trendy new color.

4. Accounts payable

In the financial statement’s “accounts payable” section, you’ll spot money that the HOA or condo complex owes and will pay soon to cover taxes, repairs, and the like. Again, that should be no more than 10% of the board’s annual expenses.

“Otherwise,” Erickson warns, “it might indicate that the building is slow to pay bills because of a possible cash flow problem.”

5. Notes

Even if you’re not a numbers person, you can still appreciate the “notes” section provided on every financial statement.

“Here is where you’ll find out if there are any issues behind the scenes: tax problems, pending lawsuits, big repairs coming up,” explains Erickson. “It’s often overlooked by a condo buyer but can provide a wealth of background detail not obvious in the financial statement itself.”

6. Minutes

You also want to check out the minutes of past meetings.

“First, just make sure they exist,” advises Dottie Schindlinger, governance technology evangelist at BoardEffect, a software company that provides online management of board information. “This will give you a clear sense that the board is recording its decisions in a transparent way, and also ensure that board members are doing their jobs.”

Beyond checking that minutes exist, here’s what to look for, according to Schindlinger: Good attendance at each meeting, an established quorum, and real discussion and deliberation taking place.

In other words, it shouldn’t be just Mrs. Smarmypants bullying everyone to hire her interior designer daughter to decorate the lobby and threatening to evict anyone who objects. Because dictatorships, after all, are rarely good news for a board’s financial health.

What do you do if you spot something strange?

If you do have some serious misgivings, bring them up during your board interview or by contacting board representatives directly. From there, if you find their explanation even more worrisome, you may want to consult a real estate attorney. And it’s entirely within your rights to back out on your offer and keep your deposit provided you’re within deadline.

Sure, it would be a shame to move on considering you’ve gotten this far, but a condo building or HOA with weak or worrisome financials could end up costing you way more trouble than it’s worth, and make it hard for you to sell the place later.

Think about it: When you’re buying a home, everyone scrutinizes your finances to the nth degree. Shouldn’t you take the same precautions?

‘Small Town Southern Man’ Alan Jackson Lists His Grand Georgia Estate

A luxe lakeside retreat is the perfect spot for a honky-tonk crooner to chill with the fam. But now singer-songwriter Alan Jackson, the recipient of two Grammys, is unloading just such a pad.

His five-bedroom, nine-bath estate is on the market for $6.4 million, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He lives in the home with his wife, Denise, and their two daughters.

Located in Clarkesville, a small community 90 miles northeast of Atlanta, the home hugs the Lake Burton shoreline on a 1.2-acre lot. It’s listed with Julie Barnett of Harry Norman Realtors.

Exterior3531MoccasinCreekRdClarkesvilleGA
The property also comes with a two-story boathouse.

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The property comes with a two-story boathouse with a rooftop deck—ideal accommodations for visiting family members and friends.

The main home displays a “cottage chic” style, but on a grand scale. Wide-panel walls and ceilings evoke a beach vibe, while the stained woodwork and beamed ceilings speak to the home’s custom detailing.

LakeView3531MoccasinCreekRdClarkesvilleGA
On the shores of Lake Burton

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Kitchen3531MoccasinCreekRdClarkesvilleGA
Kitchen

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OutdoorDining3531MoccasinCreekRdClarkesvilleGA
Covered patio with fireplace

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The 8,000-square-foot home has stone fireplaces, an open layout connecting the kitchen with a sitting area featuring a wall of windows, and bathrooms with gorgeous soaking tubs.

On the lower level is a bar and game area. A massive deck in the back boasts water views, and the flagstone patio features a fire pit. Naturally, with such sweet views on this property, the lake can be seen from every room.

Desk3531MoccasinCreekRdClarkesvilleGA
Home office

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StairLanding3531MoccasinCreekRdClarksvilleGA
Cozy nook for reading, napping, or playing guitar (Jackson’s guitar is not included, alas)

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Fireplace3531MoccasinCreekRdClarkesvilleGA
One of the home’s stone fireplaces

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In some of the listing photos, Jackson’s guitars are shown resting on their stands, perhaps to entice the next buyer who might want to follow in his footsteps and write music in this grand manse?

A Swingin’ ’60s Time Capsule in Jersey Is This Week’s Most Popular Home

Let’s do the time warp again as we count down the most popular homes on realtor.com®!

A stunningly well-preserved and utterly shagadelic 1960s home in New Jersey attracted seven times as many clicks as our runner-up this week—it racked up views unlike anything we’ve seen thus far in 2017.

And in the case of this vibrantly decorated home, viral interest did translate into a quick sale. On the market for less than a week, the place attracted multiple offers and sold before the listing agent even had a chance to hold an open house. Words can’t fully describe the wild decor of this artifact from another era, so we advise you to check the listing for yourself.

Other intriguing homes also spurred click activity this week. There’s a sweet Victorian in Sioux Falls, a couple of lovable homes in Louisiana, and an Omaha home across the street from famed investor Warren Buffett.

While you ponder becoming buddies and hosting cookouts with the Oracle of Omaha, scroll down for this week’s full list of popular properties.

10. 22 Ronald C Meyer Dr, North Attleboro, MA

Price: $1,299,000
Why it’s here: The status of the home once owned by Aaron Hernandez is still the subject of speculation. This week a judge vacated the murder conviction of the former NFL star, who died last month in jail. Now technically considered not guilty because his appeal was never heard, Hernandez’s change in legal status means any proceeds from the eventual sale of his house are up in the air.

North Attleboro, MA
North Attleboro, MA

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9. 200 W Main St, Utica, MS

Price: $235,000
Why it’s here: Described as a “one-of-a-kind Antebellum mansion,” this vintage home might need a bit of repair for water damage on the roof and walls. Otherwise, this five-bedroom home looks to be in fine shape and is a portal to a bygone era.

Utica, MS
Utica, MS

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8. 1607 Vermont Ave, White Oak, PA

Price: $217,900
Why it’s here: Mid-Century Modern magic in Pennsylvania? Yes, please. Built in 1960, this three-bedroom brick charmer is also a bargain. It’s a cool opportunity for an MCM fan on the East Coast to turn this place into a true showpiece.

White Oak, PA
White Oak, PA

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7. 117 N Duluth Ave, Sioux Falls, SD

Price: $489,900
Why it’s here: Ever dream of running your own bed-and-breakfast in South Dakota? Yeah, us neither. But still! This beautiful seven-bedroom Victorian was built in the 1880s and could easily handle all your pancake proprietor fantasies.

Sioux Falls, SD
Sioux Falls, SD

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6. 14163 River Rd, Luling, LA

Price: $1,965,000
Why it’s here: Located along the Mississippi River, this five-bedroom home sits on nearly 3 acres of land. We’re in love with the home’s brickwork—the listing says over 120,000 bricks reclaimed from an old cotton mill were used.

Luling, LA
Luling, LA

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5. 5170 Buena Vista Rd, Prince Frederick, MD

Price: $1,290,000
Why it’s here: This gem sits on the Patuxent River about 45 miles southeast of Washington, DC. The five-bedroom home could be a perfect getaway for any government employee with deep pockets and oodles of free time.

Prince Frederick, MD
Prince Frederick, MD

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4. 225 S 55th St, Omaha, NE

Price: $1,250,000
Why it’s here: Nearly a century old, this home located across the street from famed investor Warren Buffett‘s Omaha residence was offered in 2015 for 10 Class A shares of Berkshire Hathaway—or approximately $2.15 million. With no real estate investor willing to pay a premium for proximity to the Oracle of Omaha, the home’s list price was reduced by nearly 50%. What would a value investor do?

Omaha, NE
Omaha, NE

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3. 1302 E Fairview Ave, Sapulpa, OK

Price: $219,900
Why it’s here: Built in 1905, this three-bedroom home has been totally renovated and shows evidence of a fabulous flip. Just south of Tulsa, this place is a bargain at only $93 a square foot.

Sapulpa, OK
Sapulpa, OK

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2. 5545 Marcia Ave, New Orleans, LA

Price: $1,150,000
Why it’s here: On the city’s north side in the Lakewood neighborhood, this bright four-bedroom home was recently renovated. Featuring a backyard pool that’s billed as “a private oasis,” this home is so easy to love in the Big Easy.

New Orleans, LA
New Orleans, LA

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1. 29 Avon Rd, Springfield, NJ

Price: $499,999
Why it’s here: This amazing blast from the psychedelic past is already under contract, according to listing agent Lucas Wolf. But that doesn’t mean we can’t ogle the pictures of this stunning four-bedroom home built in 1963.

Wolf said he’s fielded calls from brokers, agents, and curious folks. Calling it “the coolest house I’ve ever been inside,” he said it received multiple offers and sold before he could even hold an open house.

The decor is dated,  but the home’s been “well-maintained,” he said. “The people who purchased the place are keeping some of it. Everything inside is perfect, and the interior of this place is truly pedal to the metal. It’s not halfway done.”

He said reactions to the decor were mixed, but buyers who appreciate a retro look were immediately enamored with the home.

“I knew it was going to sell quick,” Wolf said.

Springfield, NJ
Springfield, NJ

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This Mid-Century Modern Classic in Utah Comes With a Private Observatory

A Mid-Century Modern time capsule complete with a tricked-out private observatory and underground bunker can be yours for a cool $825,000.

Located just southeast of Salt Lake City and designed by famed Utah architect Dean Gustavson for his own family, the home is essentially a giant modernist glass box.

It’s situated on three-quarters of an acre in Holladay, a suburb that backs up to Wasatch Mountain State Park. This is only the second time the property has been on the market since 1957. Gustavson lived in the home until his death in 2011.

Mod bedroom
Bedroom

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Cool living room
Living room

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The architect framed the 2,000-square-foot main house with white-painted steel to allow construction of large glass areas. According to the listing, the home features a “tight core of essentials”—the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room—which “allow the rest of the home’s space to be used creatively.”

Floor-to-ceiling glass windows allow ample light into the living space, and lacquered walnut walls and travertine tile in the entryway and bathrooms keep the Don Draper vibes flowing.

The lot is surrounded by a privacy wall and gated entry. It also has mature pines and fruit trees, an outdoor eating area, and a studio.

So what’s up with the bunker, you ask? Apparently Gustavson was more than a little concerned about nuclear safety as the Cold War turned frosty in the 1950s. You can never be too careful, so we’d advise keeping an eye on the skies from your own home.

Sting’s $56M NYC Penthouse Is This Week’s Most Expensive New Listing

The Englishman in New York is selling his Manhattan pad for $56 million, and it’s this week’s most expensive new listing on realtor.com®.

Gordon Sumner, aka the musician Sting, and his wife, producer and actress Trudie Styler, are offloading the place they purchased in 2008 for the much lower price of $26.98 million, according to the New York Post.

The duplex hits a high note. The graceful Robert A.M. Stern–designed limestone-clad building, built in 2008, takes full advantage of its locale bordering Central Park.

Balcony overlooks Central Park
Balcony overlooks Central Park.

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Located on the 16th and 17th floors, the penthouse offers 44-foot-wide frontage with park and city views from the “grand windows” on both floors. It includes a glorious 396-square-foot terrace, the largest in the building.

“The balcony and the view over the park is everyone’s favorite feature,” says associate broker Suzun Bennet at Sotheby’s International Realty. “To have outdoor space in a building like that is extremely unique.”

Floor-to-ceiling glass
Floor-to-ceiling glass doors

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The 5,417 square feet of living space includes three bedrooms plus an office or additional guest bedroom, four full baths, and two half-baths. The foyer features a curved staircase leading to the second floor. Beyond beckons the living room with floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open to the large terrace. We know it’s a cliché—but seriously, this place is an entertainer’s dream.

White kitchen and spiral stair
White kitchen and spiral staircase

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There’s a dining room and a bright white chef’s kitchen with a spiral staircase leading upstairs.

The second level, which can also be accessed by a separate entrance off the elevator, boasts a “luxurious” master suite overlooking Central Park. It also has dual baths and sauna. Even the soaking tub includes a Central Park view. It almost makes you want to sing. Perhaps a relaxing ballad?

Bath tub with a view
Bath tub with a view

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When you buy into a luxury New York tower like this one, you get more than your private quarters. You also benefit from white-glove service, and amenities include a parking garage, gym, lap pool, private restaurant/catering, wine rooms, meeting space, game room, outdoor terrace, and children’s playroom, according to the listing. Those extras come with a pricey monthly maintenance fee of $10,842.

That’s rarified air. To get a berth in this building at a lower price, and a higher level, we advise you to check out the two- bedroom, two-bath unit on the 28th floor for $18.8 million. Or, you could consider a corner condo on the eighth floor for $8.6 million; it has two bedrooms and two baths. Both units come with Central Park views.

Given that Sting stands to double his money on this sale, perhaps an investment in this tony piece of property overlooking Manhattan’s backyard isn’t a bad bet. We can hum along to that tune.

I Hired the Contractor From Hell and Survived: Here’s What I Learned

It seemed so simple: All I wanted was to get my co-op apartment painted and prepped to sell—but then I hired the contractor from hell.

My story starts with my hiring a “friend of a friend” who had done minor repairs for me before; I’d figured he’d be fine. Wow, was I wrong—and it turns out I’m hardly alone.

Many homeowners’ renovations go off the rails in far worse ways than mine. And although we learned from our mistakes the hard way, that doesn’t mean you have to. Heed these mistakes, and save yourself a ton of pain and suffering.

Lesson No. 1: Get a contract—email doesn’t count

It all started well. My contractor and I agreed on a list of items to be completed. He told me how much he wanted to be paid for the project, and I accepted. The problem is that we did this all through email. There was no contract, and no one signed anything.

Weeks later my contractor decided in his professional opinion that some of the tasks in the project were unnecessary. Tasks like, oh, painting the kitchen, which had multihued walls from previous failed paint jobs. Yes, it did need to be done. Worse, after he finally completed the job and came to collect the final payment, he claimed I owed him more than the amount we’d agreed on. He said the job was worth triple the amount. 

I learned later that I could have avoided much of this heartache by having a legit contract, signed by us both, stating timeline, fees, and penalties for work left undone. And if your contractor does hand over paperwork for you to sign, make sure to read it carefully.

According to Jody Costello, who got burned and founded ContractorsFromHell.com to help others, “Contractors typically use ‘boilerplate’ contracts that contain language that protects them over the homeowner.”

Lesson No. 2: Set up a payment schedule

It sounds obvious, but that’s another thing I neglected to do. I thought my project was small enough not to need that. I was wrong. I paid my contractor a portion to purchase supplies and get started, and then he proceeded at a snail’s pace. What should have taken a week ultimately took him over two months. And through it all he kept asking for more payments, saying the money would “put some snap into my step.”

It was just plain stupid that I wasn’t able to say, “I’ll give you the next payment after the doors are painted as stipulated by our contract.” This total lack of structure did me no favors. I was basically bribing him to keep going.

Lesson No. 3: Check their license and background thoroughly

It never occurred to me to check if my contractor was licensed. It turns out that was a huge mistake that many have made before me.

Costello recalls, shortly after paying him, “The contractor rarely showed up to the project or returned phone calls or emails. Eventually he abandoned the project, and it all ended up in litigation, a costly last resort.”

Based on her experience, Costello recommends thoroughly vetting contractors by not only checking only their license, but also looking for construction litigation like mechanic’s liens and online complaints.

“Had we done this, we would have discovered a couple of lawsuits, a poor credit history, and an arm’s length of liens filed against former customers,” Costello says. “This step alone could save so many folks from hiring an unethical contractor.”

Lesson No. 4: Check their progress regularly

When Jake Sabatino hired a contractor to add a second story to his California home, he moved in temporarily with a friend so he could live (and work at home) in peace. He assumed the work would get done, but he drove by his place one night to confirm it.

“I found at least 30 strangers partying in my home, including the contractor,” he says. “The place was completely trashed!”

Sabatino would have been justified firing his contractor on the spot, but instead he requested that he clean up the mess and repair the damage.

“He agreed to finish the project for free if I didn’t press charges,” he says. “Needless to say, I kept an eye on him for the remainder of the project. My biggest takeaway from this experience is that I need to be more hands-on with these types of projects.”

Lesson No. 5. Know your local laws—and rights

When my contractor tripled his fee after his job was finished, I simply refused to pay a penny more than his original fee. Then he threatened to put a lien against my apartment—and I spent a few days freaking out. A lien, for those of you fortunate enough not to know, is a legal tool that puts the sale of your home on hold until you pay off the disputed amount. I knew I was in the right, but I had to research the law to find out how serious this threat was.

I got lucky. In my state, a contractor must be licensed to file a lien. And guess who wasn’t licensed? So I called his bluff, and the threats stopped. But here’s my point: If you end up butting heads with your contractor, don’t just cave out of fear without researching your rights first.

“Consumers need to know what [the laws] are and how they can protect themselves from getting taken advantage of,” says Costello. For example, most homeowners don’t realize they can get stuck with paying for work twice if a contractor fails to pay their suppliers or workers.

She adds that including a “lien release” in a contract can protect homeowners from that unfortunate situation.

Having work done on your home is stressful enough. You can make sure your contractor doesn’t add to your problems.