Messy Tahoe Home Filled With Mannequins Is the Week’s Most Popular Home

A wild residence in South Lake Tahoe, CA, crammed with clutter—including dozens of dead-eyed mannequins dressed in evening wear—is the week’s most popular listing on®.

The home ticked all the boxes for the kind of listing designed to be shared far and wide across the web. Unassuming exterior? Check. Listing details with no acknowledgment of the weirdness within? Check. Photos that defy easy description—and leave you with more questions than answers? Check!

Carefully posed throughout the house, with at least one mannequin sprawled across a rug wearing nothing, these eerie ladies—and at least one gentleman—serve a dual purpose. They force you to take a closer look at the listing for an otherwise humdrum duplex and serve to distract from the messy kitchen and bathroom.

The combination was enough to send the listing ricocheting on social media.

Bold move.

Mannequin mania
Mannequin mania

But that wasn’t the only off-the wall listing racking up clicks this week.

A Pennsylvania home with painstakingly customized interior touches—including rounded doorways, a honeycomb-style grand staircase, and floating light fixtures—grabbed your attention, as did a Disney-themed home in Disneyland’s home town.

Other popular picks this week included a pair of dreamy celebrity properties: the historic New Orleans home of a politically polar-opposite power couple, as well as A-lister John Travolta‘s 43-acre oceanfront Maine estate.

There’s a lot going on this week. Scroll on down through the list, and take it all in for yourself.

Price: $3,380,000
Why it’s here: No partisan bickering here. We love this house. The sellers, political consultants James Carville and Mary Matalin, are staying in NOLA but have decided to downsize from this 8,279-square-foot Colonial Revival home.

The massive home was built in 1906 and has been updated to perfection. The quarter-acre lot is described as a “tropical oasis,” filled with gardens, mature shade trees, a terrace, a pool, and fountains.

New Orleans, LA
New Orleans, LA


Price: $197,000
Why it’s here: This is for a buyer looking for something outside the box. Surrounded by 8 acres of privacy, it’s a legitimate, two-bedroom treehouse. There’s a fairly large caveat: The place isn’t finished.

The raised octagon has an open second floor, a deck, and a shop with kitchenette. The home is outfitted with electrical and septic systems and well service, but needs to be completed by a buyer with big dreams.

Cortland, OH
Cortland, OH


Price: $195,000
Why it’s here: Sitting on just over a half-acre at the top of a hill, this stone house from 1890 is a classic. The five-bedroom home comes with a four-car garage, lookout tower, original hardwood floors, curved interior walls, and updated bathrooms—for a combination of charm and convenience.

Ithaca, NY
Ithaca, NY


Price: $1,399,999
Why it’s here: This curious five-bedroom house is all angles and sharp edges from the outside, but the interiors were designed with curves in mind. The contemporary home features custom effects like the butterfly-wing entry staircase, rounded doorways, and floating light fixtures that suggest sand dollars from space.

Although it was designed for a very specific taste, the home, from 1987, is upscale, with a saltwater pool, kids playhouse, whole-house generator, and many upgrades.

Southampton, PA
Southampton, PA


Price: $535,770
Why it’s here: Known as the O’Leary mansion, this historic brownstone dates to 1890. It was built by James Patrick O’Leary for his mother, Catherine O’Leary—the woman considered to be responsible for the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

Today, the four-level, 12-bedroom home is in need of repair and is being sold as is. It still has much of the original woodwork and moldings, as well as walk-in vaults and a two-story coach house.

Chicago, IL
Chicago, IL


Price: $700,000
Why it’s here: This hideaway on 11 acres is just steps from the Ice Age Trail, and includes a three-bedroom home built in 1991. Highlights include a large kitchen, a living room with cathedral ceiling, log beams, a stone fireplace, and wet bar.

There’s a heated shop off the garage, a private pond, a new roof, as well as a number of other recent upgrades.

Hartford, IL
Hartford, IL


Price: $255,000
Why it’s here: Although this storybook home hasn’t been featured on HGTV’s “Home Town,” that didn’t stop folks from clicking. Built in 1929, the three-bedroom residence recently had a stylish makeover, including new paint, windows, and refinished floors.

Laurel, MS
Laurel, MS


Price: $835,000
Why it’s here: Built in the shadows of Disneyland, this ranch home has been decked out as an homage to all things Mickey Mouse. Happiest Airbnb opportunity on Earth?

The custom Disney designs are so spectacular, the four-bedroom home was featured on the Discovery Channel. Besides the decor, the home includes a heated pool, custom carpets, and a toddler-safe playroom floor.

Anaheim, CA
Anaheim, CA


Price: $5,000,000
Why it’s here: This 48-acre oceanfront estate is being sold by actor John Travolta. The massive 20-bedroom mansion was featured in Architectural Digest in the 1990s and has been recently renovated.

The extraordinary property includes a deepwater dock, open fields with ocean views, a third-floor children’s space, and a detached barn used for car storage.

Islesboro, ME
Islesboro, ME


Price: $650,000
Why it’s here: Nondescript from the curb, this five-bedroom residence made waves this week, thanks to the mannequins staged throughout the property.

Most of the mannequins are dressed in evening gowns—adding to the mystique. Built in 1962, the place could use some work—and a lot of tidying up. There’s no word on whether the list price includes the mannequins and/or their glittery gowns.

South Lake Tahoe, CA
South Lake Tahoe, CA


Should I Buy a Backup Standby Power Generator for My Home?

In October 2019, Californians experienced a series of rolling blackouts aimed at preventing wildfires. Afterward, Aaron Jagdfeld, the CEO of home generator company Generac, told CNBC its sales there had more than tripled. He also said generators were going quickly in the Northeast as homeowners sought emergency power in the wake of repeated hurricanes and ice storms.

Demand for generators tends to surge after major storms as people realize how easily they could be stuck without power for a week or more. In 2014, I learned firsthand what it was like. Over 14 days, we had eight power outages varying from a few hours to a full day. After 10 days of bitter cold and limited connection to the outside world, I found myself wondering whether we should buy a backup power generator.

But I didn’t take the plunge right away. Instead, I took the time to do some research on generators first — their downsides as well as their benefits.

If you’re thinking about buying a generator, it makes sense to do the same thing. Before you shell out the money, consider the purchase from every angle — the costs, downsides, hassle, and what you really want the generator to do. That way, if you decide to take the plunge, you’ll know how to pick the best type of generator for you and your family.

Should You Buy a Backup Power Generator?

Only certain people need a generator to make it through a disaster. How well you can manage without one depends on where you live and how much you rely on electricity at home.

For instance, Sandra Bockhorst of American Preppers Network writes that she managed just fine during a week without power in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Hortense by using stored water, kerosene lamps, and a propane grill. However, after moving to Pennsylvania, she decided to buy a generator after a series of storms took out the power to her farm and nearly cost her a freezer full of food.

To figure out whether a generator is a worthwhile investment for you, you must be able to answer several questions:

  1. How Common Are Power Outages? Only buy a generator if you’re really going to need it. If the power grid in your area goes down every time there’s a big storm, a generator could make a significant difference in your comfort — but if you’ve had one blackout in the last five years, you can probably get by without one.
  2. How Long Do They Last? Even frequent power outages are no big deal if they only last a couple of hours. A generator is much more useful for handling prolonged outages that last for days. And if blackouts in your area can last for weeks, it could be worth investing in a more expensive generator that lasts longer.
  3. How Extreme Is the Weather in Your Area? Think about the weather conditions in your area. In a mild climate, going a week without heating or cooling could be no big deal. But if you live in the Deep South, where summertime temperatures can reach over 100 degrees F with punishing humidity, a whole week with no air conditioning could be incredibly unpleasant or even unsafe. And if you live in a very cold area, you have to worry about both protecting yourself from frostbite — which you can probably manage with enough layers of clothing — and keeping the pipes in your home from freezing and bursting in the cold.
  4. Do You Have the Space? A running generator needs a spot in your yard that’s a safe distance from your home. Stationary generators have to stay in this space all the time, and portable ones also need a separate space for storage. Both types require a supply of fuel, which you must also store.
  5. Do You Have the Time? It takes a bit of work to keep a generator in good running order. And if it’s a portable generator, it takes effort to set it up and get it started during a storm. That’s a hassle that could outweigh the benefits of getting the power back on a little sooner.
  6. What’s Your Budget? Generators cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars — and that’s not even counting fuel costs. Not everyone has that much money to spare, and everyone has other things they could do with it. Consider what else you might use the money for, then think about whether a generator is really what you want most.
  7. What Are the Alternatives? The more dependent you are on electricity, the more a generator is likely to help you. Make a list of all the things you use power for at home — for example, heating, cooling, and refrigeration. For each one, ask yourself whether there’s some alternative you could rely on if the power were down for a week. If you have no other way of keeping your home warm or cool or rely on your well-stocked freezer for your food supply, then keeping the power on at your home is crucial. But if your only real concern is keeping your cellphone working, there are other options, such as solar and hand-crank chargers.

You can answer some of these questions based on previous experience. But others require a bit more information. Before you can make an informed decision, you need to know more about how generators work, their costs, the amount of space and maintenance they require, and the possible alternatives.

How Backup Generators Work

A generator works on the principle of electromagnetic induction. That means that when you move a wire through a magnetic field, it creates a current in that wire. A generator simply spins a magnet repeatedly around a wire, forcing electrons through the wire like a pump forcing water through a pipe.

To make the magnet turn, a home power generator contains a small engine, which can be powered by gasoline, liquid propane, or natural gas. The engine pushes a piston back and forth, causing the generator to turn and produce a steady electric current.

There are two main types of home power generators: portable and stationary.

Portable Generators

These smaller generators are mounted on wheels. When a power outage hits, you have to wheel the generator outside, start it, and hook it up to your home’s power system. You can plug your devices directly into the generator or hire an electrician to install a special cable called a manual transfer switch, which feeds the current into your home’s electrical system. From there, you can flip the circuit breakers to route power to the devices you need, such as the fridge and lights.

Portable generators can typically provide enough backup power to keep a few critical systems running, such as your refrigerator and a few lights.

Stationary Generators

Also known as a standby generator, a stationary generator sits in a permanent location outside your house. A stationary generator has an automatic transfer switch built in. If the power goes out, it automatically starts and feeds power into your home’s systems.

Standby generators are bigger than portable ones and can produce enough wattage to run an entire house. However, these whole-house generators are a lot more expensive than portable generators, and you have to hire a professional to install one.

Downsides of Owning a Generator

The benefits of owning a generator are easy to see.

When a storm knocks out power to your area, and all your neighbors are shivering in the dark, you’ll still have heat and lights. If the power outage continues for several days, your generator can also save hundreds of dollars’ worth of food in your fridge and freezer. And if you choose a portable generator, you can take it with you to power a few essential gadgets on a camping trip or at a tailgate party.

However, that doesn’t mean everybody should rush out to buy one. Owning a generator has its share of downsides, including cost, space, maintenance, noise, and safety considerations.


Home generators aren’t cheap. According to Consumer Reports, the smallest portable models are good for powering your fridge, a sump pump, a few lights, and maybe a TV, and they cost at least $400. Larger portable models can run bigger appliances, such as an air conditioner, and can cost up to $1,500.

Standby generators are more convenient to use but usually run at least $2,000. On top of that, you have to pay a professional installer to hook them up. According to Consumer Reports, generator installation can cost anywhere from a few thousand to over $10,000.


It can be hard to find a place to use a portable generator. It has to be on level ground and at least 20 feet from your house — but close enough to connect to it with an extension cord.

You also have to protect it from the weather because it could electrocute you if it gets wet. But you can’t put it inside a shed. It’s unsafe to run in an enclosed space. And between uses, you have to find a place to store it to protect it from harsh weather and theft.

Stationary units live in the same spot in your yard year-round, so you don’t need to worry about storing them. However, they take up a fair bit of space and can be unattractive.

You also need to store fuel for your generator. That’s easy if you have a home standby generator that runs on natural gas, but you must store gasoline and propane outside your home for safety reasons. That said, you must keep the fuel locked up to protect it from thieves and vandals, which means adding a shed or detached garage unless you already have one.


Like any appliance, a generator needs regular maintenance to keep it running well. You have to keep it fueled and check the oil, filters, and spark plugs regularly. You also need to start it monthly and run it for about 20 minutes to keep the battery charged and the fuel lines free of moisture.

You also have to maintain your fuel supplies. Gasoline can go bad over time, so you must add a fuel stabilizer and refill your cans every year or so. Regular maintenance is necessary if you want to be able to count on your generator to work when an emergency strikes.


Generators are loud. The best ones are quiet enough to avoid bothering you while you’re indoors, but you could still get complaints from the neighbors. Some towns even have anti-noise ordinances that restrict how loud your generator can be or at what times you can use it.


You have to be careful when using a portable generator. It must be properly ventilated to avoid causing a fire or producing deadly carbon monoxide. HuffPost reports that during Hurricane Sandy, generators were responsible for at least nine deaths, mostly from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Even a properly vented generator gives off some fumes. So ensure it is at least 20 feet from all doors and windows to avoid letting any harmful fumes into the house. Burning gas or propane produces carbon dioxide, which is toxic to humans. It’s also the main gas responsible for climate change. That means the more you run your generator, the more you increase your carbon footprint.

Alternatives to Owning a Generator

Despite the many drawbacks of owning an emergency generator, some people think they have no choice because it’s the only way to keep the power on. But there are other ways to provide power for a few of your devices — or to get by with no backup power source at all.

In many cases, it’s possible to stay safe and comfortable for at least a few days without electricity.

Portable Power Stations

If your power needs are modest, you can meet them with a device called a portable power station. These backup power mini-systems are basically large batteries inside protective cases with built-in AC outlets and other ports for plugging in your various devices.

According to Wirecutter, they weigh around 50 pounds and can store anywhere from 100 to 1,800 watts of energy. That’s enough to keep key electronics, such as a phone or laptop, running for hours or even days at a time.

Unlike generators, portable power stations run silently and don’t require a backup supply of fuel. You can charge them with ordinary household current or, in some cases, with a solar panel.

However, they typically cost more than portable generators, and their power output is insufficient to run your central air conditioning or any large appliance. And even if you’re using them only for electronic devices, fans, or medical equipment, such as a CPAP machine (breathing mask), they can’t store enough juice to get you through a weeklong blackout.

Cooling Methods

There are many ways to stay cool without air conditioning. You can block out the sun’s hot rays with curtains and reflective window film and keep your home well insulated to prevent it from heating up as quickly. At night, when it’s cooler, you can open windows to let in the breeze.

You can also cool yourself, rather than the space around you. Taking a cold shower or applying cold compresses lowers your body temperature directly. Or if your home has a basement, you can retreat down there during the day to take advantage of the cooler temperature.

Heating Sources

Most heating systems depend on electricity to either create heat or distribute it throughout the house. So if a winter storm takes out the power to your home, you need some way to stay warm until the power comes back on.

You can heat an indoor space with a wood-burning or gas-burning fireplace, wood stove, pellet stove, or kerosene heater. Like a generator, all these fuel-burning appliances need proper ventilation for safety.

And if the winters in your area aren’t all that cold, you might be able to get away with bundling up in your warmest clothing and piling on the blankets at night.

Water Supply

If your home is hooked up to the municipal water and sewer lines, a power outage shouldn’t disrupt your water supply. But if you have a well that works with an electric pump, you need another source of water for bathing, drinking, and flushing your toilets.

One solution is to store water in jugs to get you through an emergency. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends keeping at least 1 gallon of water per day for each person and each pet in the house in your family emergency kit. Ideally, you should have a total of 14 gallons per person — enough to get you through two weeks without water.

You can also use rainwater collected in buckets or a water barrel for washing or flushing toilets.

Backup Power for Sump Pumps

Many homes rely on a sump pump to keep the basement from flooding. But if a storm knocks out the power, it can disable the pump when you need it the most.

To avoid this problem, you can choose a pump with a battery backup, which uses a car or boat battery to keep it going while the power is out. If you’re on the municipal water system, another option is to install a backup pump that relies on water pressure rather than electricity.

Food Storage

During a prolonged power outage, keeping your refrigerator door closed as much as possible helps the food stay fresh. Food stored in a full freezer should stay safe for up to 48 hours without power, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. However, food in the refrigerator will go bad much faster.

Packing the fridge with blocks of ice or dry ice can keep food safe to eat for a couple of days. Alternatively, you can transfer perishable food to a cooler, which requires less ice to pack. A good rule of thumb is to eat all your perishable food first, before it goes bad. After that, you can rely on shelf-stable foods, such as canned goods, cereal, pasta, dry beans, crackers, peanut butter, and powdered or ultra-pasteurized milk.

Cooking Methods

If you have a gas stove, you can continue to use it during a power outage. Most modern stoves use electric igniters, but you can always light them the old-fashioned way — with a match.

You can also cook outdoors on a grill, portable camp stove, or solar cooker. If you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace, you can do some cooking on that.

Power for Phones

If you have an old-fashioned landline phone — the kind that runs on actual copper cable — it will probably still work during a power outage. If not, there are several ways to recharge your cellphone when the electricity is out.

For $25 to $80, you can buy a solar phone charger that can top up your phone battery after about half an hour in direct sunlight. There are also inexpensive hand-crank chargers, which often double as emergency flashlights or portable radios. And finally, you can conserve your phone’s battery power by keeping it switched off in between calls.

Lighting Sources

At night, you can keep your home lit with candles, flashlights, or battery-powered lanterns. Modern LED technology makes it possible for a lantern or flashlight to last a lot longer on one set of batteries. However, it’s worth keeping extra batteries on hand in case the power outage goes on for weeks.


In the modern world, we tend to rely a lot on electronic gadgets — TVs, smartphones, computer games — to keep us amused. During a power outage, you have to fall back on more old-fashioned diversions, such as books. Besides reading to yourself, you can take turns reading aloud with your family members to entertain each other.

You can also work on jigsaw puzzles or play tabletop games, such as board games, card games, and party games like charades.

Final Word

In the end, my husband and I decided not to invest in a generator.

Instead, we opted to find other ways to prepare for winter storms. We installed a gas fireplace for heat, bought a hand-cranked radio that could also charge our cellphones, and got an LED lantern for lighting. These supplies — plus a gas stove and plenty of water, nonperishable food, and books — give us the confidence we can make it through another long stretch without power if we have to.

And in the end, that’s the most critical consideration: peace of mind. If you can’t sleep easy without a generator or some other backup power source to get you through a lengthy power outage, then a generator is a worthwhile investment, regardless of what the numbers say.

But if you decide the expense and effort of owning a generator outweigh the benefits, there are plenty of other ways to weather a natural disaster.


Asbestos in Your Rental: How to Know and What to Do

Renting a home may come with certain unseen hazards.

One hazard that could cause serious harm to tenants, if exposed, is asbestos. Commonly found in homes built before the 1980s, asbestos was used in a variety of building materials such as pipe wrap, insulation, floor tile and popcorn ceilings. Friable (or easily crumbled) asbestos is known as a serious health threat, as it can become airborne and easily inhaled.

This article will explain why asbestos is dangerous, how to identify it and what to do if you suspect asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in your rental.

Asbestos: An extensive history in building

As creatures of comfort, we have continuously sought after new building materials to make our homes more efficient, cost-effective and, of course, comfortable. From brick and mortar to Tyvek and vinyl siding, new materials are continuously being discovered and used to make more efficient building materials. Updated methods and materials have helped newer homes become incredibly energy efficient and older homes are easily retrofitted, too.

Asbestos was no different, and at the peak of its use, ACMs were considered top-quality products. As the link between exposure to asbestos and serious health conditions like mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer became more clear, asbestos was slowly phased out of building products. It wasn’t until the 1980s when a partial ban occurred which stopped any new ACMs from being used. However, homes built mid-century are likely to contain this once widely used carcinogen.


Where might asbestos be?

Loose-fill insulation or pipe wrap are two insulating products that once contained asbestos. In attics and basements, asbestos-based insulation was easy to use and cost-effective for builders. Highly fire and chemical resistant, while remaining lightweight, asbestos-containing insulation products were convenient to work with while achieving outstanding value.

Asbestos was also used in popcorn ceilings, drywall applications, mortar mixes and cement. Its incredible strength provided drywall and masonry with added support. However, ACMs are still prone to deterioration. This is when asbestos fibers become dangerous.

Identifying asbestos and deciding what to do

It’s nearly impossible to identify ACMs with the naked eye. However, there are some clues that can help inform your decision. Having a general understanding of some of the products that used to contain asbestos is important. The next step is knowing if your rented home was built before the 1980s. Any item that was potentially made with asbestos should be treated as if it does until you have it tested. If the material is intact, it should be left alone. If the material is damaged or deteriorated and you suspect asbestos could become airborne, action should be taken.

The first step is to contact your landlord or leasing agent to request any documentation on asbestos tests performed in the past. Sometimes landlords or leasing companies may include this information with your lease. If they have, ensure that the documentation is from a licensed asbestos abatement professional. These individuals are the only ones who can safely perform the tests necessary and determine whether an ACM is safe in its current state.

If your landlord isn’t able to supply documentation of previous asbestos testing, ask them to have a test performed. As a resident, you should avoid trying to test, encapsulate or remove any ACMs yourself. This will only leave you liable in the future. Any reasonable landlord should willingly have tests performed — especially if building materials are deteriorating.

What if your landlord refuses to test?

If your landlord refuses to test the material in question there are a few things you can do. First, getting the material tested at your own expense will at least provide peace of mind. If the material does contain asbestos, it’s important to get an official assessment from a professional.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any specific regulations stating that landlords are required to remove asbestos or even make tenants aware of ACMs upon signing the lease agreement. Unlike lead paint, landlords aren’t even required to have suspected ACMs tested or inspected for safety before renting out a unit.

If airborne asbestos is present at dangerous levels — exceeding OSHA’s exposure limits — landlords must take action to mitigate the hazard. If the landlord remains negligent, one course of action is to prove that the residence is uninhabitable.

Protect yourself and your family

Unfortunately, many hazards often hide throughout the home. While some are obvious, like mold or water damage, others, like asbestos, may hide in the basement or attic. You can’t always protect yourself from these hazards, but you can make yourself more aware of some of the things in homes that could harm you and your loved ones. By doing so, we can mitigate risks to our health and improve the living conditions for ourselves and our families.


SoCal Home Renovated by Jasmine Roth on Season 2 of ‘Hidden Potential’ Sells in a Flash>

The potential of a home in Huntington Beach, CA, was readily apparent to buyers.

And if they blinked, it was easy to miss the fact that this four-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom home was actually on the market at all.

One huge reason behind the speedy sale? The place was renovated by Jasmine Roth on Season 2 of her popular HGTV series “Hidden Potential.”

In less than a week, the home, which was purchased for $825,000 in 2017, had an accepted, contingent offer above the asking price of $1.1 million. Thanks, Jasmine!

Of course, it helps that the 2,223-square-foot residence is located in a great neighborhood. It’s within walking distance of the Bolsa Chica Wetlands, and a 2-mile drive (or skateboard ride) to the Pacific Ocean and legendary Huntington Beach itself, as well as to shopping, restaurants, a golf course, and highly rated schools.

Combined with the location, Roth’s riveting redo made this home a hot commodity. Built in 1969, the home had undergone some renovation over the years, but nothing nearly as dramatic as Roth’s effort a couple of years ago on a $90,000 budget.

“I wanted to update the entire home to represent this fun, vibrant family’s love of the beach. They are a quintessential California couple, raising their family in a beach town, teaching their children a love of the ocean and community,” Roth said on her website.

So the HGTV star took what was previously drab and beige and converted it into a welcoming abode with a “super beachy” vibe, with splashes of aqua, coral, and gleaming white, both inside and out.

Exterior of home in Huntington Beach, CA
Exterior of home in Huntington Beach, CA

Family room
Family room

As Roth put it on her blog, “The front of their home needed to be opened up to showcase the welcoming, friendly nature of this family. Inside, the floor plan needed rethinking. By removing one of two redundant family rooms, and redesigning each space in the home with a designated purpose in mind, I helped breathe new life into each individual space.”

Dining area
Dining area

Living room area
Living room area

The home’s biggest highlight may be the bright and open gourmet kitchen, which features stainless-steel Viking appliances and quartz countertops, with a stylish tile backsplash. There’s also a large dining island with a dedicated beverage refrigerator.

Roth also added not one, but two work spaces right next to the kitchen—an addition that now makes perfect sense for a work-from-home lifestyle.

One workspace is for adults, the other is for kids, with the intention that a family can get work done “while in the good company the kitchen always provides.”


Dual workspaces
Dual workspaces

Other interesting “hidden” features include a secret bookshelf door under the stairs that leads to a children’s play fort, and a clever Biersafe outside—an in-ground cooler that costs nothing to operate, since it uses the ground’s thermodynamics to keep beverages chilled, and can be hidden underneath a flower pot.

Under-stairs bookshelf that leads to a children's play fort
Under-stairs bookshelf that leads to a children’s play fort

The house has two bedrooms and one bathroom upstairs, two full en suite bedrooms downstairs, and a powder room for guests. This can put much desired distance between the adults and the kids. When the episode aired in 2019, the owners had three of their four children, Grandma, and two dogs living with them.

Peach-colored beach bedroom
Peach-colored beach bedroom

Children's bedroom
Children’s bedroom

Additional child's bedroom
Additional child’s bedroom

More grownup sleeping quarters
More grownup sleeping quarters

With new landscaping, cement, fences, paint, and other finishes both in the front and in the back, the home’s renovation was complete, ready to be snatched up in no time after it went on the market.

When the work was done, Roth said she felt the home had a “purposeful update that it deserves.” It looks as if buyers agree.

Backyard with fire pit
Backyard with fire pit


Taking a road trip to earn Hyatt Globalist status and free nights

Taking a road trip to earn Hyatt Globalist status and free nights

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Mortgage hedgers won’t add fuel to rates fire, JPMorgan says

Mortgage hedgers are unlikely to exacerbate the Treasuries sell-off this time around, according to JPMorgan analysts.

Where once Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac held and actively hedged massive mortgage-bond portfolios, the largest players now in the market are those who don’t, such as the Federal Reserve and non-bank servicers.

Mortgage bonds are continuously callable, so when rates increase, a mortgage portfolio’s duration — a measure of its interest-rate sensitivity — can rise dramatically, which necessitates rebalancing. When mortgage investors react to that, the trades they make — such as selling Treasuries — can worsen the very event they are trying to escape, adding impetus to rate sell-offs.

The potential for that kind of hedging could worry any mortgage-bond investor, as the duration of the agency MBS universe is extending after hitting post-2008 lows last year. Meanwhile, the overall weighted-average coupon of mortgages has dropped by 0.3% over the past six months, according to JPMorgan analysts Joshua Younger and Nicholas Maciunas.

But today the mortgage players who most actively hedged — Fannie and Freddie, real estate investment trusts and large bank servicers — have significantly reduced their need to to do so, the analysts added. The government-sponsored enterprises, for example, owned more than 20% of the market in 2003; they hold just 1.5% now.

The JPMorgan Chase & Co. logo. Photographer: ANDREW HARRER


Large banks have moved away from servicing mortgages, with non-banks, which rarely hedge, becoming major players in that space. Bank-serviced loans as a percentage of the universe have dropped to about 16% from 40% back in 2014.

REITs, whose hedging moves in 2013 had an outsized impact because they were caught off-sides, remain a relatively small player and are in a much better position now to handle a rate sell-off, according to the analysts.

U.S. commercial banks, due to the size of their holdings and infrequent rebalancing activity, “are the wildcard,” the JPMorgan analysts added.

It’s not the amount of mortgages so much as who exactly holds those mortgages that matters when trying to determine the level of hedging activity to come. With that in mind, the analysts expect “a fairly benign outlook” overall for mortgage hedging activity, with a repeat of the past unlikely.


Weiss Analytics launches AVM powered by geospatial AI

From thousands of feet above your home, a high-tech camera snaps pictures of your roof, the mess of debris in your yard, and that pool you hate cleaning. Pictures like these could cost – or save – you thousands of dollars when deals are about to close. It could also have big implications for appraisers, who are already nervous about the continued rise of automated valuation models.

With ValPro+, Cape Analytics and Weiss Analytics have created what they say is the first automated home valuation engine that uses geospatial imagery and artificial intelligence to integrate current home conditions – like a damaged roof or a pool – into valuations.

Cape Analytics’ AI system instantly extracts property condition from images, which is then run through Weiss’ valuation model, Raj Dosaj, Cape Analytics’ head of real estate, explained. The systems have condition data sets for 110 million buildings across the United States. Previously, an appraiser would need to make an in-person visit to note the condition of the property, Dosaj said.

The rise of AVMs over the years has waxed and waned based on the perceived risk of the product, but it’s caught fire over the last year with the COVID-19 pandemic and new initiatives by the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Condition data is the latest frontier, according to Cape and Weiss.

“One of the key missing ingredients which this now answers is, how do you know what the condition of the house is?” said Allan Weiss, head of Weiss Analytics and co-creator of the Case-Schiller Index. “Because most of the data is very out of date that you can get in computerized form – you can get assessor data, which could be a year more out of date, and does not tend to focus on condition of the house.”

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Cape Analytics and Weiss Analytics are primarily targeting real estate investors, real estate brokers and mortgage originators with the ValPro+ tool to help them identify undervalued purchase opportunities. The two companies claim their ValPro+ engine has shown a 7.7% improvement in PPE-10 predictions of on-market valuations. The model can also flag homes in distressed condition and will accurately predict they will sell at a 10% off-market discount, the companies said.

But the companies are especially interested in hooking loan traders, refinance and HELOC loan originators and iBuyers, who often want to bid on a home that isn’t on the market and doesn’t have an asking price. Overall, off-market houses sell for about 2.5% below their on-market peers, but Cape and Weiss say investors using their product achieved a median discount of 10% compared to their on-market peers.

Weiss wasn’t shy in saying the product represents a direct threat to appraisers and broker price opinions (BPOs), whom he says are both slow and expensive.

“There’s been a decades-long process by which the traditional appraisal has been, in some cases, augmented, in many cases, replaced by technology,” said Weiss. “And that’s been something that’s been going on since at least around the mid 1990s. Because of the cost of appraisals, and because of the delay that appraisals create and various transactions, they’re just not practical for all the ways that investors, lenders, and homeowners require in order to go about transacting the way they want to.”

Cape Analytics and Weiss Analytics said they spent about a year integrating the image data into the the home valuation models. Their model allows investors to get lists of all houses discounted below market value due to condition factors. The system also automatically scans real-time MLS listings and screens houses so bids are priced appropriately to maintain credibility with local agents.

“We now know if we have a house in South Florida, that has a pool and would otherwise be worth $600,000 versus a house that doesn’t have a pool, what that means in terms of the value of the house,” Weiss told HousingWire. “We didn’t know things like that before. We didn’t know what it meant if there was a lot of yard debris, or there was a lot of vegetation overgrowth or what it meant if the condition of the roof was very good versus very bad in a given market.”