Primary Residence vs. Second Home vs. Investment

Sometimes I’m surprised I miss the most basic of mortgage definitions, seeing that this blog has been around for more than a decade, but alas, I’ve never written about occupancy specifically.

So without further ado, let’s talk about the three main types of occupancy with regard to qualifying for a mortgage because they’re pretty important.

Mortgage Occupancy Type

mortgage occupancy type

Primary Residence (Where you live)

  • This is the property you live in
  • All or most of the year
  • Underwriting guidelines are easiest for this property type
  • And mortgage rates are the lowest

This is your standard owner-occupied property, a home or condo you plan to live in full time. Or at least the majority of the time. It may also be referred to as your principal residence.

It can be a single-unit property or a multi-unit property, but you must live in it most of the year.

The property should also be reasonably close to where you work, if applicable, and you must sign a form that says you plan to occupy said property shortly after closing.

Now the good news. Since it’s your primary residence, mortgage rates are the lowest, and it’s also easier to get a mortgage because guidelines are more flexible. This means you can potentially put less down or refinance at a higher loan-to-value (LTV).

We’re talking a 3% down payment mortgage, which is pretty much the lowest down payment you can get away with unless the lender has a zero down program, which again would likely only work on a primary residence.

Additionally, you can get all types of different loans, from an FHA loan to a VA loan to a USDA loan. There are few restrictions because it’s a property you intend to occupy.

For this reason, unscrupulous borrowers will sometimes try to fudge the occupancy and say they live in the property, even if they don’t intend to. This is not a matter to be taken lightly as it constitutes fraud.

If you’re a real estate investor, or simply own more than one property, it’s imperative that your bank statements and other important documents are mailed to your primary residence each month.

If you claim one house to be your owner-occupied property, but your bank statements and other financial materials are currently going to another one of your properties, it’s a red flag.

The mortgage underwriter will surely question the occupancy, and your mortgage application will very likely be declined.

Here’s a common scenario. A borrower submits a home loan application for the subject property as their primary residence.

When conditioned to provide verification of assets, they use bank statements from another property they own and the file gets declined for occupancy fraud.

In the eyes of the bank/mortgage lender and the investor, it doesn’t make sense for a borrower to send bank statements, cable bills, and other financial statements to a property they don’t occupy for the sheer reason it wouldn’t make sense if you didn’t live there.

Banks and lenders will likely decline a file if it’s listed as owner-occupied, or at best they’ll counter the borrower to re-submit the loan as an investment property.

Anyway, if the property in question will be the home or condo you plan to reside in, it is considered your primary residence.

Second Home (Where you vacation)

property rates

  • A second home is another way of saying vacation home
  • Not necessarily that you own two homes
  • Should be in a vacation area far from your primary residence
  • Can only be a single-unit property and mortgage rates can be slightly higher

Then we have the second home, which as the name implies, is secondary to your primary residence.

In a nutshell, this means you already have another home you live in full-time, or most of the year, along with this secondary property, which is often referred to as a vacation property.

Think your cabin by the lake, or your ski chalet up in the mountains. Or perhaps your beach house, if you happen to be so lucky.

Distance is a factor here by the way, as is location. Lenders generally want it to be at least 50-100 miles away from your primary home, though exceptions are allowed if it makes sense.

For example, if you live inland and have a beach house 30 miles away.

It should also be a single-unit property, for obvious reasons. And you should occupy it for some portion of the year.

Put simply, it has to make sense as a second home, otherwise the lender may think you’re going to rent it out.

Because the property isn’t your primary, there will likely be a pricing adjustment for occupancy. This has to do with risk.

In the event of financial distress, a borrower is more likely to stop paying on their second home as opposed to their primary. This means mortgage rates must be higher to compensate.

Expect a rate that is higher, all else being equal. How much higher depends on all the loan attributes, but maybe .125% to a .25% higher than a comparable loan on a primary.

Altogether, not too bad. The illustration above might give you a sense of what to expect.

Also note that there will be LTV restrictions as well, meaning you’ll need a larger down payment for the purchase of a second home, or more equity if refinancing the mortgage. Chances are you’ll need 10% down, or a max LTV of 90%.

You may also find that mortgage credit score requirements will rise, so you might need a minimum credit score of 680 instead of 620.

Investment Property (The one you rent out)

  • This is a rental property
  • Can be condo or home, single-unit or multi-unit
  • Typically require large down payment
  • And mortgage rates can be much higher

Finally, we have the investment property, which again as the name makes abundantly clear, is a property you plan to hold as an investment of some kind.

This generally means it will be rented out, and that it will generate income. This type of occupancy comes with the most restrictions because someone else other than the borrower will be living in the property.

Additionally, the borrower will be a landlord, which isn’t as easy as it might sound. That all equates to more risk, which results in more LTV restriction and higher mortgage rates.

You might be looking at a max LTV of 85%, meaning a minimum 15% down payment. This can get more restrictive if it’s a 2-4 unit property. If you want cash out, expect an even lower max LTV.

Also expect higher asset reserve requirements and higher minimum credit scores.

As far as rates go, it could be .50% to 1% higher than a similar loan on a primary residence, depending on all the loan details. It can get really pricey if the LTV is high and it’s a 4-unit property, for example.

In other words, it’ll be harder to qualify and you’ll have to pay more to finance your non-owner occupied property.

The takeaway here is that it’s easiest (and cheapest) to finance a primary residence, followed by a second home, and then finally an investment property.

Each has different rules and guidelines that borrowers must adhere to if they want to qualify for a mortgage. Knowing this beforehand is important to avoid any unwanted surprises.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

The Latest Trend in Luxury Home Amenities: National Parks

With spectacular views and invigorating adventures, national parks attract millions of visitors every year. If you’re one of those visitors and love the outdoors, you’ll be happy to know there are communities that border our national parks, giving homeowners easy access to activities like hiking, camping and whitewater rafting.

For example, Balsam Mountain Preserve in western North Carolina is surrounded by the Nantahala National Forest, the Pisgah National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Residents in this luxury community enjoy 34 miles of hiking trails, an onsite campground and nature center, as well as easy access to the three national parks. Homesites average two acres, and prices range from the $600,000s to over $3 million.

If you’re more of a northeasterner, Meredith Bay in New Hampshire is another incredible place to live (and even has an on-property sugar shack to make maple syrup!). The luxury community offers easy access to Lake Winnipesaukee, the White Mountain National Forest and Mount Washington.

And if the southwest is more your style, Quail Run, located at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo mountains in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is for you. The community has a golf course, spa and gourmet restaurant, as well as the mountains and access to 103 acres of high desert.

Source: century21.com

For These Retirees, Short-Term Rental Bans Aren’t Just a Perk—They’re a Must>

When Wes Swenson sold his data center company in 2017, he was able to buy the retirement homes of his dreams in Utah. He purchased a $1.5 million house in Woodland Hills and a $1.2 million house in St. George. Both homes are in resort-like communities that tourists love; the former for skiing and the latter for access to Zion National Park, hiking and golf. Both are also in cities where homeowners can make high fees from short-term renting their houses.

But Mr. Swenson won’t make a penny that way. He sought out communities with homeowner association rules, known as Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions, or CC&Rs, that forbid short-term rentals and have histories of strong enforcement.

Real-estate agents around the country say that it is far more common for a buyer preparing for retirement to seek out a property where they can generate revenue by short-term renting until they are ready to occupy the house themselves.

But for a minority of buyers, making sure they will spend retirement in a community of neighbors, not a rotating cast of visitors, is essential. This is especially true for retirees who want the same deserts, mountains and coastlines as short-term renters. By a long shot, buyers over 65 in the NAR study identified a “desire to be closer to family/friends/relatives” as their top reason for buying a new home, indicating how important community and relationships are to this age group.

Ensuring a short-term-rental-free neighborhood has gotten harder in the last few years. From the beginning of 2015 to the beginning of 2020, U.S. units rented short term on both Airbnb and Vrbo grew from about 450,000 to 1 million; revenue grew by 150% in that same period, according to Jamie Lane, vice president of research at AirDNA, an analyst for the short-term rental industry. Though the pandemic caused travel, bookings, and revenue to nosedive, a recovery is already under way, Mr. Lane said.

Source: wsj.com

Britney Spears Calls This $7.4 Million Thousand Oaks Mansion Home

Britney Spears ruled the late 90s and early 2000s pop scene with hits like Baby One More Time, Oops!… I Did it Again, and Toxic. In fact, she has sold over 100 million records worldwide, including over 70 million solely in the United States, making her one of the world’s best-selling music artists — which rightfully earned her the title of Princess of Pop.

And while her crown has often been challenged by contenders like Katy Perry, Lady Gaga or Ariana Grande, if there’s one thing we can agree on, it’s that Britney is as resilient as they come. Despite the many ups and downs in her personal life and being the center of the media circus ever so often, she continues to be a timeless icon.

Thanks to Hulu’s latest documentary, Framing Britney Spears, the limelight is once again on the pop star’s life and conservatorship, as well as the way in which both the media and the public have treated her during her struggles. One thing’s for sure: the documentary, and its depiction of the media’s mistreatment of the pop icon, is also a well-deserved slap on the wrist to tabloid junkies everywhere for enabling the gossip media industry to tear down celebrities and revel in their humiliation. Right after the Framing Britney Spears premiere, the phrase “We are sorry, Britney” started trending on Twitter, with thousands of tweets showing appreciation and support for the pop star and apologizing to Spears for the public’s role in her difficulties.

Britney Spears performing in Las Vegas. Image credit: Rhys Adams via Wikimedia Commons.

While the #FreeBritney campaign is far from over, a judge recently denied a request by her father to exert more control over her finances. He will continue to work with the private trust company, Bessemer Trust to manage Britney’s finances. It’s all about small victories at the end of the day. After Hulu, Netflix also plans to release a documentary on the singer’s life. We suppose there’s no better time than now to take a closer look at the pop star’s life and home.

Britney Spears’ mansion in Thousand Oaks

Britney Spears bought her latest home — a Neoclassical Italianate Style mansion — in 2015. She paid a whopping $7.4 million for the home, which proudly sits in Thousand Oaks. Located in between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara in Ventura County, Thousand Oaks is nestled against the Santa Monica Mountains, and is recognized as one of the most desirable places in all of California to live, work, recreate, and raise a family.

Reminiscent of a beautiful Italian villa, the 13,264 square feet home sits on 21 sprawling acres of private land and is hidden away by two private gates. Needless to say, the pop star takes her privacy and security very seriously. But the lucky few that do walk through the gates will feel like they’ve been transported to beautiful Italy. Bellissimo!

The estate has beautiful manicured lawns, a rear motor court with access to a six-car garage, flowering gardens, an infinity pool, a stand-alone spa and an orchard. There’s also a lighted tennis court and a three-hole golf course on the estate’s grounds, giving the pop star tons of options for spending quality time outside.

Britney Spears’ house in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Image credit: Luxury Architecture.

Inside Britney’s house

If the exterior of the house seems grand, just wait until you see what’s inside. The entrance has a marbled floor, massive pillars, and floor-to-ceiling windows that let in plenty of natural light.  Talking about ceilings — this home features 35-feet high ceilings that give the whole place a palatial feel. There’s also a large black marble fireplace where the star can cozy up with boyfriend Sam Asghari.

A grand staircase leads to the second floor where there are five bedrooms and eight bathrooms. The master bedroom has an enviable closet perfect for a world-famous pop star. What’s a celebrity home without a killer view, you ask? Well, the views of the LA skyline and Santa Monica mountains from Britney’s home are spectacular, to say the least. Even the wood-paneled library overlooks the mountains making it the perfect reading nook.

Inside Britney Spears’ house in Thousand Oaks. Image credit: Berlyn Photography
Inside Britney Spears’ house in Thousand Oaks. Image credit: Berlyn Photography

Neither Britney nor Sam shy away from showing their affection for one another. They often surprise each other with delicious home-cooked meals so it’s perfect that they have a massive open kitchen with moody dark wooden cabinets and a large center island. The house also a wine cellar that can accommodate 3,500 bottles, so bring on the romance! The couple also spends a lot of time in their media and game room. We can only imagine how handy those rooms were during the quarantine.

Inside Britney Spears’ house in Thousand Oaks. Image credit: Berlyn Photography

The couple loves to enjoy the Californian sun in the luxurious infinity pool. In fact, they have a 1,200-square-foot poolside pavilion with its own full kitchen, 3,500-bottle wine cellar, and bath, so no one has to leave the pool party. The grounds even have a tennis court, a separate spa, and a three-green golf course with sand traps.

Britney’s pool house. Image credit: Berlyn Photography

To see more of Britney’s house, go to the star’s Instagram profile

If you really want to get up, close, and personal with the Toxic singer, check out her Instagram feed. She often posts videos of herself dancing, working out, cooking, and even painting in her grand home. Britney has come a long way from her modest childhood home in Kentwood and we love that she gives fans a glimpse of her life and her home in all its glory!

Lead image credit: Property photo – Zillow.com, Britney headshot – Drew de F Fawkes via Wikimedia Commons.

More celebrity homes

Beyoncé Lives in a Bel-Air Mansion Fit for Royalty
The Story of Taylor Swift’s Holiday House — Home to “the Last Great American Dynasty”
Spotlight On: the Razor House — Alicia Keys’ Crazy New Mansion
Where Does Lady Gaga Live? See Inside Her ‘Gypsy Palace’ in Malibu

Source: fancypantshomes.com

High-Low: The priciest and cheapest homes in La Cañada Flintridge

La Cañada Flintridge: home to Descanso Gardens, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a healthy stock of hillside homes with commanding views of the city below. Between the houses draped along the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains or the larger estates on the south side of the city, it’s hard to go wrong — but it’s also hard to find anything for less than $1 million.

Here’s a look at the highest- and lowest-priced homes in La Cañada Flintridge.

High: A dazzling blend of Spanish Colonial Revival and Art Deco style, this 1920s mansion has been expanded over the years to include a pub, theater, gym, sauna and lanai. Throughout the 13,000-square-foot floor plan, one-of-a-kind spaces combine Batchelder tile, barrel ceilings, stained-glass windows and custom art such as a peacock made of colorful tile in the bathroom. Koi ponds, fountains and a swimming pool liven up the grounds outside.

Address: 607 Foxwood Road, La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011

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Price: $10 million

Agent: Gina Olivares, Deasy Penner Podley

Low: A fresh paint job brought this 1960s single-story into the 21st century. Perched above the street at the end of a cul-de-sac, it opens to sunny living spaces with wood floors. At the heart of the floor plan, a whitewashed brick fireplace runs floor to ceiling.

Address: 4407 Rockmere Way, La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011

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Price: $1.094 million

Agent: Stephanie Vitacco, Keller Williams Realty

Source: latimes.com

10 Relaxing Home Decor Ideas to Transform Your Space

Much of our time these days is spent at home. Whether you’re still working from a home office, meal-prepping in your kitchen on weekends, or spending most of your leisure time looking at other homes for sale on your favorite real estate app, you may feel your home is not the calming space you’d hope it to be. Regardless of how you spend your time, your home is your sanctuary, where you should feel relaxed and be able to unwind from your daily life. If you want to design a more calming space but don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered.

From adding cozy blankets and scented candles to dedicating a space to practice meditation, creating a relaxing house is just a couple of design steps away. Whether you live in warm Los Angeles, CA, or rainy Seattle, WA, one of these 10 relaxing home decor ideas is sure to transform your home into an even more calming place you’ll be happy to spend time in.

relaxing-home-decor-ideas

relaxing-home-decor-ideas

1) Design your space with cozy fabrics

There’s no better place to start designing a calming space than decorating with cozy fabrics. Whether that’s getting a new throw blanket for your couch or reupholstering your chair with a crushed velvet fabric, you can decorate just about anything with textiles. Soft fabrics bring a soothing, cozy feel to your home and can make you feel like you’re in a serene environment no matter the season. So break out the quilts, incorporate a fuzzy shag carpet, or pick up some soft throw pillows to make your space more relaxing after a long day.

2) Create balance between colors

When looking for the right relaxing home decor idea, think about how you’ll strike a balance between the colors in your space. Rather than bringing in lots of bright colors, consider adding a pop of color with a pillow or throw blanket against a neutral couch or chair. Unless you find yourself drawn to vibrant colors, less is more when it comes to incorporating these statement elements in your home. 

3) Choose classic and calming decor ideas

When it comes to choosing relaxing home decor, you may find yourself tempted by all the up-and-coming home trends. Opting for the latest trends can be fun, but if it’s not something you totally love, chances are you may not feel that relaxed in your space. One of the keys is to pick trends that you like along with those that will stand the test of time. If you’re interested in a new style but not sure how that fits into your home, looking into reversible home design ideas may just be your best option. 

4) Carve out a space for yoga or meditation

Nothing makes a home more relaxing than creating a designated space to wind down. Whether that’s a simple corner of your living room or a small room of its own, you can easily design a space that feels secluded from the rest of your home. With a yoga mat or a floor pillow, a few green plants, and a photo you love, you can easily make a calming nook for your yoga flow or mindfulness practice.

relaxing-house

relaxing-house

5) Use a weighted blanket in your bedroom

Chances are you’ve heard about weighted blankets. If you haven’t, weighted blankets range from 5 to 30 pounds and mimic therapeutic techniques of deep pressure stimulation, much like a massage. For those that have trouble balancing work and home life, choosing a weighted blanket for your bed or living room may help you relax. Either way, having a great blanket is one of the easiest relaxing home decor ideas to bring into your space to help you shut off for the evening. 

6) Light candles or diffuse essential oils throughout your home

Scents can be the gateway to creating a relaxing environment in your home. Whether you gravitate towards a calming chamomile scent or the smell of lavender before you go to sleep, there’s an essential oil for everything. If you’re more of a candle user, you can find a variety of scents perfect for cultivating a relaxing space. Fresh baked cookies, check. Christmas cheer, check. Nothing beats lighting your favorite candle or turning on your essential oil diffuser after a long day and letting your favorite aromas fill your home.

7) Mood lighting makes a relaxing home

If the weather is gloomy or it’s dark by the time you finish your workday, some much needed light can be all you need for a peaceful home. From sun lamps that mimic the benefits of sunlight or just incorporating string lights throughout your home, the options are endless. You can easily make your space more relaxing by switching up your lights and bringing a new vibe to your home. 

bright-living-room

bright-living-room

8) Embrace any and all natural light

Natural light is one of the easiest elements to brighten up your space. But if you live in an apartment with minimal windows or your living room doesn’t let in much natural light, there’s no need to worry. It all starts with embracing what natural light you do have in your home. Highlight the windows with high drapes to draw your eyes upward or keep window shades pulled open for as long as the daylight hours allow. Making an effort to let in any light from clouds or sun into your home can make your space more calming and welcoming. 

9) Take inspiration from nature for relaxing home decor

If getting out into nature makes you feel more relaxed, look to nature for inspiration when designing your house to be more relaxing. Incorporating the right shade of wood furniture into your home can evoke feelings of the mountains or the beach. Consider lighting a Fraser fir-scented candle or adding a few drops of pine essential oil in your diffuser to bring the mountain relaxation into your home. Taking inspiration from nature may be as simple as hanging a picture of your favorite beach or lake. That way you’ll have a serene feeling every time you see the photo.

10) Incorporate a plant garden

Plants are known to be a great way to incorporate nature and its properties into your relaxing home decor. The key is to choose plants that work with your space, like small succulents against a windowsill or tall fiddle leaf figs in a sunny room. For greenery that has multiple uses, consider starting an herb garden so you’ll have fresh herbs year-round. No matter how you bring plants into your home you’re likely to find yourself enjoying the greenery you see each day.

Source: redfin.com

10 Relaxing Home Decor Ideas to Transform Your Space – Redfin

Much of our time these days is spent at home. Whether you’re still working from a home office, meal-prepping in your kitchen on weekends, or spending most of your leisure time looking at other homes for sale on your favorite real estate app, you may feel your home is not the calming space you’d hope it to be. Regardless of how you spend your time, your home is your sanctuary, where you should feel relaxed and be able to unwind from your daily life. If you want to design a more calming space but don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered.

From adding cozy blankets and scented candles to dedicating a space to practice meditation, creating a relaxing house is just a couple of design steps away. Whether you live in warm Los Angeles, CA, or rainy Seattle, WA, one of these 10 relaxing home decor ideas is sure to transform your home into an even more calming place you’ll be happy to spend time in.

relaxing-home-decor-ideas

relaxing-home-decor-ideas

1) Design your space with cozy fabrics

There’s no better place to start designing a calming space than decorating with cozy fabrics. Whether that’s getting a new throw blanket for your couch or reupholstering your chair with a crushed velvet fabric, you can decorate just about anything with textiles. Soft fabrics bring a soothing, cozy feel to your home and can make you feel like you’re in a serene environment no matter the season. So break out the quilts, incorporate a fuzzy shag carpet, or pick up some soft throw pillows to make your space more relaxing after a long day.

2) Create balance between colors

When looking for the right relaxing home decor idea, think about how you’ll strike a balance between the colors in your space. Rather than bringing in lots of bright colors, consider adding a pop of color with a pillow or throw blanket against a neutral couch or chair. Unless you find yourself drawn to vibrant colors, less is more when it comes to incorporating these statement elements in your home. 

3) Choose classic and calming decor ideas

When it comes to choosing relaxing home decor, you may find yourself tempted by all the up-and-coming home trends. Opting for the latest trends can be fun, but if it’s not something you totally love, chances are you may not feel that relaxed in your space. One of the keys is to pick trends that you like along with those that will stand the test of time. If you’re interested in a new style but not sure how that fits into your home, looking into reversible home design ideas may just be your best option. 

4) Carve out a space for yoga or meditation

Nothing makes a home more relaxing than creating a designated space to wind down. Whether that’s a simple corner of your living room or a small room of its own, you can easily design a space that feels secluded from the rest of your home. With a yoga mat or a floor pillow, a few green plants, and a photo you love, you can easily make a calming nook for your yoga flow or mindfulness practice.

relaxing-house

relaxing-house

5) Use a weighted blanket in your bedroom

Chances are you’ve heard about weighted blankets. If you haven’t, weighted blankets range from 5 to 30 pounds and mimic therapeutic techniques of deep pressure stimulation, much like a massage. For those that have trouble balancing work and home life, choosing a weighted blanket for your bed or living room may help you relax. Either way, having a great blanket is one of the easiest relaxing home decor ideas to bring into your space to help you shut off for the evening. 

6) Light candles or diffuse essential oils throughout your home

Scents can be the gateway to creating a relaxing environment in your home. Whether you gravitate towards a calming chamomile scent or the smell of lavender before you go to sleep, there’s an essential oil for everything. If you’re more of a candle user, you can find a variety of scents perfect for cultivating a relaxing space. Fresh baked cookies, check. Christmas cheer, check. Nothing beats lighting your favorite candle or turning on your essential oil diffuser after a long day and letting your favorite aromas fill your home.

7) Mood lighting makes a relaxing home

If the weather is gloomy or it’s dark by the time you finish your workday, some much needed light can be all you need for a peaceful home. From sun lamps that mimic the benefits of sunlight or just incorporating string lights throughout your home, the options are endless. You can easily make your space more relaxing by switching up your lights and bringing a new vibe to your home. 

bright-living-room

bright-living-room

8) Embrace any and all natural light

Natural light is one of the easiest elements to brighten up your space. But if you live in an apartment with minimal windows or your living room doesn’t let in much natural light, there’s no need to worry. It all starts with embracing what natural light you do have in your home. Highlight the windows with high drapes to draw your eyes upward or keep window shades pulled open for as long as the daylight hours allow. Making an effort to let in any light from clouds or sun into your home can make your space more calming and welcoming. 

9) Take inspiration from nature for relaxing home decor

If getting out into nature makes you feel more relaxed, look to nature for inspiration when designing your house to be more relaxing. Incorporating the right shade of wood furniture into your home can evoke feelings of the mountains or the beach. Consider lighting a Fraser fir-scented candle or adding a few drops of pine essential oil in your diffuser to bring the mountain relaxation into your home. Taking inspiration from nature may be as simple as hanging a picture of your favorite beach or lake. That way you’ll have a serene feeling every time you see the photo.

10) Incorporate a plant garden

Plants are known to be a great way to incorporate nature and its properties into your relaxing home decor. The key is to choose plants that work with your space, like small succulents against a windowsill or tall fiddle leaf figs in a sunny room. For greenery that has multiple uses, consider starting an herb garden so you’ll have fresh herbs year-round. No matter how you bring plants into your home you’re likely to find yourself enjoying the greenery you see each day.

Source: redfin.com

Former Dodger Mark Ellis sheds Scottsdale home with a batting cage

Mark Ellis, the veteran Major Leaguer who spent two seasons with the Dodgers during his long baseball career, just wrapped up a deal in the desert, selling his amenity-loaded mansion in Scottsdale, Ariz., for $6.4 million.

It’s a hefty profit for the second baseman; records show he paid $1.2 million for the land in 2007 and finished building the nearly 10,000-square-foot showplace five years later. It spans an acre in Silverleaf, a gated community nestled at the foot of the McDowell Mountains with celebrity residents over the years including rocker Bret Michaels and pro golfer Geoff Ogilvy.

Even during quarantine, it’d be tough to get bored at the compound, which includes a sports court, swimming pool, spa, in-ground trampoline and an exercise room with a batting cage, rock-climbing wall and steam shower.

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Vaguely Mediterranean in style, the home features a tan exterior that opens to voluminous living spaces with vaulted ceilings, neutral tones and hardwood floors. Marble tops the tiered island in the chef’s kitchen, and the two-story great room is overlooked by a playroom with sliding farmhouse doors.

Six bedrooms, 8.5 bathrooms and a wine cellar complete the interior. Outside, highlights include a courtyard, ivy-covered dining area, spacious turf lawn and chandelier-topped cabana with a fireplace.

Ellis, 43, spent time with the Athletics, Rockies, Dodgers and Cardinals during a 12-year career in which he hit 105 home runs and 550 RBIs. His .991 fielding percentage is the fifth-best in MLB history for a second baseman.

Silverleaf Realty held the listing. Cindy Marquardt of Realty Executives represented the buyer.

Source: latimes.com

How to Decide Where to Live If You Work Remotely From Home

When you no longer need to physically report to work, it detaches where you live from where you work. Suddenly you can live anywhere in the world, rather than being restricted to a single city.

It’s an incredibly freeing feeling. But it also leaves remote workers, freelancers, and other digital nomads with an overwhelming abundance of options. How do you choose a place to live when you can live anywhere on the planet?

As you review the following checklist, sort it by your priorities. For some, living near their parents or children is nonnegotiable. Others feel perfectly happy living in another state or even another country.

Most of all, look to design your perfect life starting from the ground up, in the most literal sense.

Choosing a Country & State

It never occurs to most Americans that they might enjoy living in another country. Most never even move to another state; North American Moving Services reports that 72% of Americans live in or near the town where they grew up.

Yet as an expat myself, I can tell you firsthand how many advantages you can find living in another country. I’ve also lived in multiple U.S. states, some of which I liked far more than my home state.

Consider the following as you choose a country and state to live in, and don’t get caught up in the details of “how” when you first consider places to live. Focus on the “why” first, and when you’ve chosen a country or state based on your ideal lifestyle, you can then figure out the “how.”

Time Zone

As an international school counselor, my wife gets job offers all the time in Asia and the Middle East. But my business is located in the U.S., and I refuse to do any more 3am conference calls.

Just because you can work remotely doesn’t mean you can necessarily set your own hours. And even when you can set your own hours, you still have to communicate and collaborate with others. That could mean coworkers and supervisors, or it could mean partners, suppliers, or clients. Sometimes you need to hop on a phone call with people in real time, and if they work in a time zone on the opposite side of the world, that means working inconvenient hours.

Know your work, and set your own limits on time zones.

Proximity to Family

If you can’t stand the idea of living more than an hour away from your family members, you have a clear radius you must live within. It makes your decision easier, if more limited.

But if you have a little more leeway, such as a living “within a few hours from family, it frees you up to explore travel by air and rail rather than just road travel.

For example, if you want to be able to reach your family within three hours, that gives you 150 to 200 miles of driving radius but over a thousand miles of flying radius. You can then start looking at cities with cheap direct flight routes (more on that shortly), rather than simply drawing a circle around the town where your family lives and shackling yourself to it.

Tax Policies

Different countries tax in vastly different ways. As a remote worker, you have the luxury of choosing a low-tax country or state.

My wife and I spent four years living in the United Arab Emirates, where they don’t charge income tax at all. That saved us tens of thousands of dollars in taxes every year, allowing us to save and invest that money to build wealth faster.

Even within the U.S., some states charge vastly higher taxes than others. Look at total tax burden, combining income tax, property taxes, and sales and excise taxes to compare states and countries, and start with these states with the lowest tax burden.

The difference can easily amount to thousands of dollars a year — a sum that can dramatically change your quality of life and wealth over time.

Connectivity & Communication Infrastructure

Becoming a digital nomad requires a strong digital Wi-Fi connection. In today’s world, most cities around the globe offer reliable, fast Internet connectivity. But smaller towns in developing countries may not meet your needs.

Ask around among residents, especially knowledge workers and expats, before moving to a smaller city in a developing country. If the connectivity and communication infrastructure can’t meet your needs, look elsewhere.

Climate

Not everyone wants to spend half the year bundled up in coats and scarves to weather the frozen tundra. I certainly don’t.

Consider climate as you choose a country and state to live in. Whether you enjoy having four distinct seasons or would just as soon hike and swim all year round, find a place where you actually enjoy the weather most of the year.


Choosing a City

Many countries and even states are sprawling, with an enormous diversity of big cities, small towns, and everything in between.

As you consider the best cities for remote workers, keep the following factors in mind to choose the right fit.

Airport Routes

Not all airports are created equal. Depending on your penchant for travel, you may want easy access to a major international airport with hundreds of flight routes.

Smaller regional airports often only offer a few routes to nearby hubs. It adds hours to each trip, and usually costs more to boot.

If proximity to family matters to you, then air routes can play a major role in where you feel comfortable living. You can cross a thousand miles in two hours of direct flight time, or you can waste 10 hours on multiple flight legs, layovers, and driving gaps.

Natural Amenities

There’s an old trope that all people fall into one of two camps: seaside people or mountain people. Whether you buy into it or not, the fact remains that you can’t have every natural amenity you want, so you have to choose based on your priorities.

Few cities sit nestled between tropical beaches and mountains with pristine skiing. You can find cities with beautiful shorelines and beaches, cities up in the mountains near great hiking and skiing, cities near wine country, and everything in between, but it’s hard to find cities with everything. Prioritize what you want because it’s hard to get it all.

The few cities with easy access to many natural amenities — such as San Francisco and Santa Barbara — tend to come with outrageously high living expenses.

Cost of Living

The median home in San Francisco ($1,405,199) costs nearly 20 times the price of a median home in Cleveland ($73,686), according to Zillow. Twenty times!

Put another way, you could buy your own home in Cleveland plus 19 rental properties, all generating passive income, for the same price you’d spend on only your residence in San Francisco. The rental income from those 19 properties would likely cover your living expenses, allowing you to reach your financial goals faster.

Cost of living matters. It doesn’t just mean the difference between affording a three-bedroom and a four-bedroom house — it often means the difference between becoming wealthy and living a middle-class lifestyle. Between being able to pay for your kids’ college education or not. Between retiring at 45 and retiring at 70. Between an acceptable quality of life and a great one.

If you can earn a New York City salary without paying New York City rents, find somewhere fun and affordable to laugh all the way to the bank.

Keep in mind that cost of living doesn’t just include lower housing costs. Low cost of living can include low food and grocery costs, cheap restaurants and nightlife, low utility costs, affordable health care, and other discounts that help you save money across the board.

As a final thought, take a second look at living overseas. Start with these countries where you can live a luxurious lifestyle for $2,000 a month.

Cultural Amenities & Local Culture

For many people, the local culture matters, both in terms of amenities and the people themselves.

That could mean access to museums, sports teams, art galleries, and performing arts. Most smaller towns only offer these cultural amenities sparsely, although exceptions certainly exist. Larger cities tend to offer more of these amenities, though they still vary greatly.

Beyond amenities, most people also prefer to surround themselves with those culturally similar to them — politically, socioeconomically, and linguistically. If this kind of similarity is important to you, consider moving somewhere where you feel you’d fit right in and where the local values reflect your own.


Choosing a Neighborhood

As someone who hails from Baltimore, I can assure you that different neighborhoods within a city can feel like completely different cities. So choose your neighborhood with care.

Safety

When you can live anywhere, there’s no reason to live somewhere unsafe.

People feel comfortable with what they know, but you don’t have to play that game anymore. Choose a city and neighborhood with extremely low crime rates. With the world at your fingertips, you have infinite options.

And bear in mind that your impressions of a place might not match the reality. I still laugh when I think of my friends’ and family’s reactions when I told them I was moving to Abu Dhabi: “What?! Is it safe?!” Not only is it one of the safest cities in the world, but I was moving there from one of the most dangerous of the U.S. cities. Yet my family in Baltimore couldn’t wrap their heads around that notion.

Try NeighborhoodScout or AreaVibes to research any city’s, zip code’s, or neighborhood’s crime statistics.

Quality of Public Schools

In some cities and neighborhoods, the public schools are so bad that middle-class parents are forced to budget the money to send their children to private schools. It severely restricts their budget and savings rate.

Again, when you can telecommute, you don’t have to play by those rules anymore. You can pick a school district with outstanding public schools and actually cash in on those tax dollars you have to pay regardless.

Alternatively, you could home-school your children. But that requires far more effort and time on your part, both in educating them and in making sure they get plenty of social interaction with other kids.

Try GreatSchools.org to look up school quality measures for any given district.

Walkability

When my wife and I lived in the U.S., we each had a car, as many Americans do. Then we moved overseas, and our home sat in a somewhat walkable neighborhood. We shared one car there, which worked out well.

The next time we moved, we intentionally chose a city and neighborhood that was extremely walkable. It lay within walking distance of my wife’s work, a coworking space for me to work from, and dozens of restaurants, bars, retail stores, and other amenities. We no longer own a car at all, and I don’t miss it in the slightest.

When you can walk, bike, or Uber everywhere, it forces you to be more active. Physical activity aside, living without a car also saves you a phenomenal amount of money. The average American spends $9,282 per car every single year, according to AAA, between maintenance, repairs, gas, parking, insurance, and car payments.

Public Transportation

Similarly, an extensive public transportation system can also help you ditch your car while still letting you reach every amenity you need.

A city with excellent public transportation can reduce your transportation costs and save money far faster.


Choosing a Home

Found the perfect corner of the world to live in?

With the hard part behind you, you can focus on the easier business of finding a hospitable home.

Before even deciding whether to rent or buy a home, start by deciding how long you plan to live there. When you buy a home, you take an initial loss based on the closing costs, both those incurred to buy the home and the second round of closing costs you owe when selling it. It takes time to recover these expenses by building equity.

If you don’t know how long you plan to stay or plan on just a year or two, renting is definitely your best option. Beyond two years, sometimes it makes sense to buy. You have to calculate the costs both ways. Be sure to include all ownership costs, including maintenance, repairs, insurance, property taxes, and both rounds of closing costs. Far too many people just assume they should buy without actually running these numbers.

Bear in mind your changing needs in the years to come. For example, if you plan to have a family, you may need another bedroom or two soon. You may want to rent rather than buy if your needs may change shortly.

Many telecommuters prefer to work from home rather than from a coworking space or coffee shop. You can avoid distractions and boost productivity by choosing a home with a dedicated home office, rather than working from the sofa or dining room table.

Whether you have children or not, many people love having their own outdoor space. It proved a consistent trend during the COVID-19 pandemic. Suburban and rural areas saw a spike in demand as people clambered for outdoor space to call their own.

When you move to a new city, rent for a few months or a year before buying. It takes time to get to know a new city, and giving yourself the luxury of time helps you discover exactly what you want for the long term before you commit.


Visit Before Moving

Word to the wise: Don’t uproot yourself and move across the country or world without visiting your destination first.

It’s all too easy to fall in love with the idea of a place. But your vision of a city and the reality of living there will inevitably clash, so take the time to discover those differences firsthand before you move.

A long weekend spent visiting is better than nothing. A week gives you a better sense, and a month better still.

Walk the streets, talk to the locals, test the Internet speed. Get a sense of the local culture, eat the local food, attend the kind of social and cultural events you would if you lived there. You may find you love it just like you imagined — or you might discover it’s nothing like you envisioned.


Final Word

No one says you have to stay in the first place you move.

Remote work offers endless possibilities and lets you live anywhere in the world. I’ve lived in six U.S. states and five countries, some of which I enjoyed far more than others.

As you design your perfect life, bear in mind it will always be a work in progress. You don’t have to get it exactly right the first time around, and even if you do, your needs and wants will continue to evolve.

Stretch yourself and your comfort zone as you explore ideas for the ideal place to live. Otherwise, you’ll limit yourself to what you already know and remain one of the 72% of Americans who live where they grew up rather than choosing a home that fits the life they truly want.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Top Sales: Waterfront stunners were the must-have homes in January

Trophy homes sold like hotcakes to close out 2020, but Southern California’s luxury market was a bit quieter in the new year. January saw some surprising sales in unexpected places, with a home in Corona del Mar selling for more than any property in the Platinum Triangle of Beverly Hills, Holmby Hills and Bel-Air.

Here’s a closer look at the priciest deals that went down last month in Southern California.

$25.37 million — Santa Barbara

For the second straight month, Santa Barbara County had Southern California’s most expensive home sale. This one belonged to Mark Mitchell, a managing partner of Lorient Capital, who found a buyer after the home was on the market for nearly a year.

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Designed by the Warner Group of Montecito, the impressive estate spans 3.7 acres in Hope Ranch, a ritzy equestrian community overlooking the ocean. The property is perched on a knoll and descends to 204 feet of water frontage.

Expansive, chandelier-topped living spaces feature walls of glass that take in the Pacific. Amenities include a movie theater and three built-in saltwater aquariums.

In addition to the 10,000-square-foot mansion, there’s a swimming pool, spa, tennis court and guest unit set among rose gardens and palm trees.

$23.5 million — Malibu

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There’s fame in the floorboards of this ultra-stylish, all-black home on the beach in Malibu. It was once owned by action star Jason Statham, who sold it last year to Morphe co-founder Chris Tawil; he flipped it last month for a $5-million profit.

Statham is known for his striking taste in homes, and this one is no different. The bold, black exterior gives way to chic common spaces covered in white oak. A wall of logs frames a brick fireplace in the living room. There are two kitchens — in the main house and guesthouse — four bedrooms and four bathrooms.

Angled French doors open to multiple decks and patios that hover above the beach.

$21.5 million — Malibu

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A short walk down the sand from Statham’s former place leads to January’s third-priciest property. Records show it was bought by a limited liability company tied to Ken Moelis, the billionaire banker who founded Moelis & Co.

The Mediterranean-style home makes the most of its quarter-acre lot with a gated courtyard in front and a spacious wood deck out back. Upstairs, the primary suite boasts a view of the ocean from a private balcony.

The 4,600-square-foot home has an open floor plan with a sleek kitchen and living room with a fireplace. The dining area tacks on a wall of wine storage.

$16.65 million — Corona del Mar

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A new abode found its first owner last month when a modern mansion in the Newport Beach neighborhood of Corona del Mar traded hands for $16.65 million, making it one of the community’s most costly sales in recent memory.

The dramatic mansion was marketed with a long list of designer elements and amenities, as well as a lifestyle: It incorporates the Darwin Premier Wellness Ecosystem, a sensor-monitoring platform that handles air filtration, water purification and circadian lighting.

A sculptural helix staircase navigates the floor plan, descending to a lounge with a garden wall, billiards room, wine cellar and wet bar. Out back, a 900-square-foot terrace adds a reflecting pool.

$15.75 million — Montecito

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The largest home on the list, this French country manor spans more than 12,000 square feet, with the Santa Ynez Mountains above and the Pacific Ocean below. It had been waffling on and off the market for the last two years, originally listing for $22.45 million in 2019, records show.

Recently renovated and expanded, the walled and gated estate sits on 4.5 acres and includes a guest suite, pool house, tennis court, multiple stables and water features such as a saltwater pool, stream and koi pond surrounded by vegetable gardens and citrus groves.

Inside, formal living spaces feature wainscoting, molding, custom fireplaces and beamed ceilings. Most rooms open to the outdoors, including the primary suite, dining area, kitchen, living room and gym.

Source: latimes.com