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Dustin Johnson's new place.
Dustin Johnson’s new place.

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View of the property
View of the property

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$80M Malibu Castle Rises From the Ashes and Sets Pricing RecordMalibu, CA

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The best state to retire in is New Hampshire, according to a report.
The best state to retire in is New Hampshire, according to a report.


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Gold at The Villages
Gold at The Villages

The Villages

Former Cal Hoops Coach Cuonzo Martin Looks to Pass Piedmont Home

Cuonzo Martin, the former Cal basketball coach, is dribbling away from his home in pricey Piedmont, CA. The 4,123-square-foot residence is listed for $2.5 million. Teresa Baum of Pacific Union represents the listing.

The home, located in an exclusive enclave that is surrounded by the larger city of Oakland, was purchased by the coach for $2.5 million in 2014.

That’s the same year the 45-year-old Illinois native secured his position as boss of the hoops squad at University of California, Berkeley.

While Martin has had his share of wins and losses, this East Bay home is clearly a W. The “spacious Mediterranean” has been through “exceptional renovations inside and out” along with “many upgrades” since the last sale, according to the listing.

Professional-grade kitchen
Chef’s kitchen

The four-bedroom, 3.5-bath property boasts an expansive floor plan with vaulted ceilings in the main public rooms. The chef’s kitchen opens to a family room.

There’s also an elevator and a game room. The master suite includes a seating area and spacious walk-in closet.

The dining room and backyard patio could easily seat a full basketball team. However, it won’t be hosted by the wandering coach. Martin returned to his Midwest roots as the head coach of the University of Missouri Tigers. He finished his three-year stint in Berkeley with a record of 62-39 and two postseason appearances.

Vaulted ceilings
Living room with vaulted ceiling

Open layout
Open family room and kitchen

Private patio and fireplace
Patio and fireplace

Americans Are Taking Out the Largest Mortgages on Record

For the past few years, the housing market has been unbalanced. Strong demand and lean supply keep pushing prices higher and higher.

On Wednesday, a fresh piece of data confirmed that trend. The Mortgage Bankers Association’s weekly purchase loan data showed that the average size of a home loan was the largest in the history of its survey, which goes back to 1990.

mw-average mortgage size

Higher prices have a few different effects on the market. Buyers have to make tradeoffs on the kinds of homes they can afford, or may be shut out of ownership altogether.

They may also adjust their borrowing. Larger mortgage sizes may reflect not just more expensive properties, but also more leveraged ones.

The 20% down payment is a relic: the median down payment in 2016 was 10%. For first-time buyers, it was 6%. First-timers and other buyers of less-expensive homes are more leveraged now than they were at the height of the housing bubble a decade ago.

Home loan sizes aren’t the only things that have changed in the years since MBA started its survey. Back at the start of the survey, the median mortgage size was only about 3.3 times the median annual income. It’s now over five times as big – though buyers get bigger homes and lower interest rates.

Here’s a look at some housing market characteristics for select years.

Housing market data points

Rock On! Music Legend Bill Graham’s Estate on the Market in Marin County

Rock and roll impresario Bill Graham was also a real estate savant. The Corte Madera, CA, property he once owned is on the market for a jaw-dropping $25 million. It’s also the most expensive listing in Marin County.

This exclusive enclave was the last place Graham lived; the San Francisco Bay Area concert promoter died in 1991. Isobel Wiener of the San Francisco brokerage of Sotheby’s International Realty is the listing agent.

Graham’s home was largely demolished and replaced in 2003 with a 13,635-square-foot “ecologically correct” structure on the nearly 11-acre lot. Where possible, elements of the original home were preserved, notes Wiener.

“There’s a beautiful granite table on the outside terrace that remains. There are certain parts of the property that were parts of the original home,” she says.

Bill Graham's property
Aerial view

Graham’s musical legacy is also apparent in the design of the home’s professional music studio and theater. Santana and the Grateful Dead were reportedly among the musical groups to visit the estate.

Even if you’re not in the mood to jam, the property certainly rocks. Designed by green architect Sim Van der Ryn, the “ecologically correct” estate was constructed with reclaimed and sustainably sourced materials. The landscaping features native plants and eucalyptus trees.

Pool with slide
Pool with slide

There’s also plenty of luxe amenities, including a pool, water slide, cabana, gym, and racquetball court, according to Wiener. There’s even a small orchard with plum, orange, and apple trees.

Natural light in the living room
Living room

The spacious residence has seven bedrooms, five baths, and nine half-baths. There’s also a separate guesthouse.

Professional music studio
Music studio

The price takes into account “the size of the estate and the amount of money that it took to build ecologically,” Wiener says.

Bill Graham's granite table
Lounge area with granite table

While the home looks like an oasis far from the madding world, it’s only 10 miles from San Francisco.

“It is so close to the city, and yet you have this unique country estate that you would never find anywhere else,” the agent says.

The Parent Trap: 4 Home-Buying Mistakes People Make for Their Kids

Ah, the things people do for their kids. One of the biggies? Buying a megamansion with a massive backyard perched in a stellar school district so they can give their offspring the best life possible—even if they’re mortgaged to the hilt. And yet, making real estate decisions solely for the sake of your kids can be a recipe for regret that can actually undermine your family’s happiness.

“People get idealistic and sometimes irrational when they choose the home they plan to raise their kids in,” says Holly Breville, a McEnearney Associates real estate agent in Washington, DC. As proof, just check out some real-life home-buying mistakes so that you can avoid falling into the parent trap.

Mistake No. 1: Buying too big

“Expectant parents often want more space,” says Breville. “They want an extra bedroom for visiting grandparents, or they might want every child to have their room.”

They might also want expansion room in case they have more kids down the road. But affording a big home usually means buying in a more remote area, which isn’t always worth the trade-off—something San Francisco mom Abbe Clemons learned the hard way.

“When I was pregnant with our second child, I was convinced we needed a bigger home, so we sold our bungalow in a great neighborhood where we could walk everywhere and bought a big, cavernous house in the hills, where we had to get in the car to go anywhere,” says Clemons. She regretted the decision as soon as her second child arrived.

“I felt totally isolated and, with two tiny kids, we lived on top of each other in a couple of rooms, so a big house was unnecessary.”

Breville encourages clients to think hard about whether more space is worth what they’ll sacrifice for it.

“If a larger home means moving a half-hour away from your friends and community, or to an area where you can’t walk anywhere, the impact on your quality of life might not be worth the extra bedroom,” she says.

“And ask yourself if a guest room is worth the money. How often will family members really stay with you? Do you even like having your in-laws stay with you?”

It might make sense to put them in a hotel for their brief visits rather than straining your budget for a bigger home.

Mistake No. 2: Buying before you can afford it

Blame it on hormonal nesting instincts or societal programming, but new parents (or parents-to-be) can become fixated on owning a home, without regard to financial practicalities.

“The moment I found out I was pregnant, I wanted to buy a house. It was an overwhelming ‘I have to do this or I’m going to freak out’ desire,” says Amy Klein of Eugene, OR. “Everything in our price range was old or ugly, so we wound up maxing out our budget on a home 12 miles out of town. I didn’t care that the interest rate was 5.75%. I didn’t care that I had to drive on somewhat of a dangerous road to get to work. All we cared [about] was that we had a house. But now I care a whole lot.”

The reality: Having a new baby can be stressful enough without a backbreaking house payment, so you’d better think hard about whether homeownership is right for you at this point. Here’s how you can figure out how much home you can afford.

Mistake No. 3: Buying for a school district

A home with top-rated schools is the holy grail for parents, but keep in mind that great public schools aren’t truly free.

“Homes in highly regarded school districts usually come at a premium in terms of home prices and property taxes,” says Breville. “So you need to factor in how long you will stay in the area, how many children you have, if your children will definitely use the public schools, and for how long.”

Maureen Legac learned firsthand that buying for a school district doesn’t always work out as planned.

“When we relocated to Florida, we were determined to buy in a great school district. We bought a home near A-rated schools, but it was 40 minutes from the beach, and 10 miles to the closest grocery store or gas station,” she says. “Then our children decided to participate in an International Baccalaureate program, which was located at the worst school in the district and had us driving across town past the A-rated schools to go to a D-rated one that happened to house the IB program. We wouldn’t have moved to an area so far from town and the beach if we’d known they wouldn’t be using the schools anyway.”

It might make sense to test out that great school district by renting in the area before you commit.

Mistake No. 4: Renovating for the age they are now, and not for the future

Coleen Christian Burke knocked down walls to four rooms on her main floor because she thought it would be easier to keep track of her kids in the house.

“It turned out fabulous,” she recalls, at least while the children were young. Once they became teenagers, “I learned that they hate open-concept,” she says. “There wasn’t space for them to have privacy when their friends came over, and they spent more time at the houses of friends who had 1970s-style dens and basements. They call our house the fishbowl!”

Lesson learned? Children grow up fast, and their habits and tastes change, too. That backyard play structure that seems so desirable when your kids are in kindergarten will never get used once sports or video games become their entertainment of choice. So try to imagine how any renovations might suit who they are now, and who they’ll become.

Dustin Johnson, Golf’s No. 1, Buys $3M Estate in North Palm Beach

Dustin Johnson, the world’s top-ranked golfer, picked up a sweet new place in North Palm Beach, FL, in December for $2.9 million.

The newly renovated estate in Harbour Isle boasts 90 feet of waterfront and a private dock. A mere three homes away from the Intracoastal Waterway, Johnson’s six-bedroom house has a new chef’s kitchen with island and breakfast bar, two media/entertainment rooms, two family rooms, an elevator, and an emergency generator.

It looks like Johnson may have scored a steal. The property initially hit the market in February 2015 for $4.5 million, then had a series of price cuts over two years before the golfer snapped it up in December 2016.

Dustin Johnson's new place.
Backyard pool and spa

Johnson is no stranger to the Palm Beach County real estate game. He sold a different property in the tony area in December 2015 for $3.83 million. He and his fiancee, Paulina Gretzky (Wayne Gretzky’s daughter), then bought a slice of Palm Beach Gardens paradise for $4.95 million.

Their 2-acre spread in Palm Beach Gardens includes an 8,200-square-foot, Mediterranean-style home sitting amid three country clubs: Admirals Cove, the Bear’s Club, and Trump International Golf Club. It’s also about a 15-minute drive from the new place the couple recently picked up.

Why Living Rooms Are Going Extinct (and How to Repurpose Yours)

Isn’t it ironic that the living room—the room of life!—is where people tend to spend the least amount of time? At some point in the late 19th or early 20th century the term “living room” was coined to describe the formal room where people sat to (politely) socialize.

Nowadays, though, living rooms have become the thoroughfare your friends and family pass through on their way to the kitchen island to relax. Whether you have children or enjoy throwing parties, the kitchen has generally become the most functional, popular place in the home to gather. As a result, living rooms can sometimes seem more like a furniture museum—one that no one ever visits.

Here, we’ll dig deeper into why the living room is on the brink of extinction—and how you can bring life back into it so it doesn’t suffer the same fate as your last VCR.

Why are living rooms falling out of fashion?

“Decades ago, our best-selling floor plan featured a formal living room,” says Jennifer Landers, president of New Dimensions, a custom home builder in Northern Virginia. But times have changed, and the ways people interact in the home are very different.

“Today’s families aren’t interested in formal spaces—more often they want an open floor plan and lots of flexibility,” Landers says. This usually means combining the kitchen, dining, and living rooms into multifunctional areas dubbed “great rooms,” where you can be with your family as you make dinner, check email, or help with homework.

“It all adds up to a more casual and less fussy feeling to homes,” she adds.

Another huge reason living rooms are fading to black? “Adults and kids spend much more time on mobile devices like phones and tablets than they used to,” says Nick Kinports, executive vice president of strategy at Notice Agency in Chicago. That means the TV, which traditionally anchored the living room, sees less foot traffic.

How to make your living room useful again

First, you need to figure out how you define “living,” says Marie Graham, a home stager in New York’s Westchester County.

Think about the ways your family likes to spend time together, and tailor the design of your living room around that. For instance, if your down time is about entertainment, hang a projector to play movies on a blank wall and install an impressive sound system. Your family will likely follow.

Here are some other ways to reclaim your living room:

Add a fireplace: Nothing draws a crowd to a room like warmth and dancing flames, so consider turning your living room into a hearth room.

“Like our prehistoric counterparts, modern man and woman are drawn to fire,” says Graham. This might sound like a major remodel, but modern electric or gas fireplaces are relatively easy to install.

Ditch the divan: An uncomfortable, low sofa without arms or legs—the strange piece of furniture known as a divan—doesn’t exactly cry out, “Curl up on me!”

Get rid of this and other fussy pieces of formal furniture, and replace them with comfortable upholstered pieces to encourage hanging out, says Graham. Other components of a space that will see use include side tables for food and drinks and good lighting.

Get wired: The living room can take on new life as a place for people to get stuff done, whether that means checking email on your laptop, reading a book on your tablet, or using the room as a de facto home office.

Make sure to add plenty of power outlets for tablets, laptops, and smartphones. There should also be space to spread out and semiprivate nooks that allow for multiple people to use their devices without disturbing others.

While everyone might be doing their own thing, the simple fact of everyone gathered in the same room fosters a sense of family time.

Curate a library: “In designing conventional rooms, we can lose sight of the fact that a home is a place to enjoy me-time,” says Bea Pila, interior designer and author of “Sacred Spaces for Inspired Living.”

If you’re looking to escape high-tech devices, turn your living room into a space that encourages people to disconnect with a good book. You don’t have to install towering bookshelves everywhere, she says. “A couple of tables stacked with favorite books next to a cozy chair can be enough.”

Create a cocktail room: If you love entertaining, make your living room the main party locale by incorporating a bar and tables to place drinks, appetizers, or full meals. Bring in lounge seating like a high table with bar stools (instead of the traditional sofa and coffee table) to encourage people to linger over good food and conversation.

Make a game room: This could mean adding a cabinet full of board games or a pool table to maximize togetherness.

“A circular arrangement around a card table encourages the long-lost art of games and interaction,” says Pila.

Double Your Pleasure! Two $1 Homes Are on the Block in Oakland

The San Francisco Bay Area isn’t known for bargain-basement housing deals. But once in a while, there’s a jaw-dropping offer too good to be true—or ignored. Behold the $1 houses in Oakland, CA.

Let us explain. The two older homes up for grabs sit on a site now owned by a development company that will be building an apartment complex in their place. So for a buck each, they can be yours—but you’ll have to transport them to a new location.

The houses have no historic designation, although the one pictured below is from the 1800s and the other is from the early 1900s, according to Betty Marvin, historic preservation planner for the City of Oakland.

“One of the requirements [for development] is a good-faith effort to get these houses moved,” says Marvin. If no one steps forward with a credible proposal to buy and remove the homes from the site, then the structures will be razed to make way for new construction.

Home or $1 in Oakland, CA
Home for $1 in Oakland, CA

Betty Marvin

Marvin says that while the houses are available essentially for free, the offer comes with a logistical headache and costs which exceed the skinny dollar bill a buyer would pay for each building.

There’s the cost of removing the homes from their foundation and transporting them to another site. A buyer would need to find a company that knows how to move an entire house, in addition to obtaining permits to move power lines and utilities away from the path of the houses in transport. Also, a police escort will be needed to manage traffic.

Have we mentioned the cost of a new foundation and the purchase of land? You’ll need those items, too.

“It’s probably in the same ballpark to buy a generic new house. The difference is you’ve got an 1886 very interesting house as opposed to your basic [home],” Marvin says.

Marvin notes that Oakland has successfully done this before (see video below), so there’s no reason to think it can’t happen again.

“It takes somebody with a lot of energy, focus, resources, and experience,” she says. “You have to have hope.”

Despite it being a costly and seemingly impossible dream, Paul Gryfakis, vice president of Lowe Enterprises, says, “We’re working hard to make it happen.

“We have several people interested between the two homes who have legit means of moving them, and we’re working with them the best we can to make it happen,” he adds.