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AOL Real Estate - Blog

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    Naomi Campbell's Moscow mansion by Zaha Hadid

    There's only one thing that can top the epic "Star Trek" home shaped like the Starship Enterprise. That would be supermodel Naomi Campbell's "Battlestar Galactica" mansion. Campbell's billionaire boyfriend, Vladislav Doronin, is building the dream home of sci-fi nerds, dubbed the "Capital Hill Residence," in a forest near Moscow, Russia.

    The 27,524-square-foot house by renowned architect Zaha Hadid -- who also designed the Olympics Aquatics Center in London -- is nearly complete after six years of construction. The home features two large white towers rising about 65 feet above ground which, according to the architect, houses the master bedrooms (who lives with only one master bedroom?) and a lounge with an exterior terrace. To add to the apparent spaceship theme, the tower is connected to the lower levels with a transparent glass elevator and staircase.

    %Gallery-169949%
    The home's interior aims to be just as eccentric as the exterior. It will feature enormous glass panels, extremely high ceilings and smooth curves throughout. Some luxurious amenities will include an indoor pool (that converts to a dance floor), a gym, a Finnish spa, and both a Turkish and a Russian bath.

    See also:
    The Carolwood Estate, a Home That Replaced Walt Disney's Spread

    Alicia Keys to Buy Eddie Murphy's $15 Million Home?
    Hilary Swank Lists Home for $9.5 Million

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    Scarface was never afraid to go big. And the house portrayed as the intrepid drug dealer's in the iconic 1983 film of the same name certainly reflects that personality trait.

    The "Scarface" home, lauded for its exquisite landscaping, was once listed at $35 million -- a price you might not have to be a ruthless gangster to afford, but that probably wouldn't hurt. According to Trulia, that 2008 asking price was reduced to peanuts, by comparison, when it was snapped up for $6.239 million in 2009. Today it rents for $30,000 a month.

    Located in Santa Barbara, Calif. (not Miami, where "Scarface" was set), the home sits on 10 acres of tree-blanketed land overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Dubbed "El Fureidis" -- which is said to loosely translate to "Pleasure Gardens" -- the home boasts gardens encircled by towering palms and statuary, and features four terraced pools that descend 70 feet from the home to a lower casino. The property also has an interior courtyard (perfect for climactic gunfights), several verandas and a motor court.

    On the inside, the five-bedroom, five-bathroom home has a library, a conversation room, a "staircase gallery," a pool and spa.

    %Gallery-170032%
    Learn more about the home on Trulia.

    Click on the images below to see more homes for sale in Santa Barbara, Calif.



    See more Houses of the Day on AOL Real Estate.

    Got a tip for House of the Day? Know of an exceptional or unusual property currently listed for sale? Please email krisanne.alcantara@huffingtonpost.com with your suggestions and be sure to include links to listing details and photos. (Due to the volume of response, we unfortunately are unable to reply to each submission.)

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    Al Pacino on Say Hello to My Little Friend

     

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    Edgel family rental, former grow house

    One reason why a thorough inspection is necessary before moving into a home? It could reveal that the property used to be a massive marijuana grow house.

    But the Edgel family wasn't thinking in those terms when they moved from Utah into a house in Cypress, Texas. They didn't know the backstory: The home was involved along with 50 others in a massive drug bust by the DEA. Another home swept up in the sting belonged to Dana Nance who, as AOL Real Estate reported in August, unwittingly rented the home to a marijuana grow operation.

    Christy Edgel told TV station KRIV in Houston that shortly after her family moved into their well-maintained, 4,000-square-foot rental home, they started to get sick.

    Edgel family rented a former grow house"My eyes were burning. My throat was burning. My chest felt heavy," Edgel said. "Then I became very congested. My youngest daughter started getting green goop in her eyes, and she would cough until she threw up."

    Edgel quickly discovered mold growing all over the house, including on the air vent above her daughter's crib.

    Though their neighbors knew, the Edgels had no idea of their home's notorious past.

    "We never would have dreamed there was an organized crime ring growing marijuana here," Edgel told KPRC-TV in Houston.

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    Under Texas law, landlords must reveal if a home was used to manufacture crystal meth -- but they are not required to reveal whether a property was used as a marijuana grow house.

    According to KPRC, the Edgels recovered their deposit from the homeowner and all of the rent they had paid. They are still looking to get reimbursed on moving costs.

    Believe it or not, things could have been worse. A family in Washington who got sick after moving into their new home had to tear it down when they found out it had been used to produce crystal meth. And in case you're worried about grow-houses in your neighborhood, here's how to tell if you're living next to one.



    See also:
    Police Can Install Hidden Cameras on Private Property Without a Warrant, Judge Rules
    Abandoned Home in Queens, N.Y., a 'Den of Violence,' Neighbors Say
    Old Haunts, New Buyers: How to Handle 'Stigmatized' Properties

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    Happy Monday, all! Not sure about you guys, but the past week's been pretty rough, and we sort of wish we were in the European countryside somewhere. Sipping, perhaps, on a glass of pinot noir and basking in the golden French soleil -- maybe in the sprawling, 300-acre backyard of this stunning French chateau in idyllic Marcenat, France.

    Granted, this newly listed chateau was an abandoned project by a ("half-*ssed," allegedly) French hotelier. From what we gather from the listing, the chateau and its grounds were designed specifically to house a five-star French country resort. The 44,000-square-foot main house was even decked out in full-fledged, high-end, chateau-style gilded gaudiness (slightly reminiscent of George Harrison's castle-like manse in Montagnola, Switzerland). But the entire project was abandoned before it was actually turned into a hotel. The listing says "[this] property is also allowed to develop an 18-hole Golf course and a Social Club. There is already a project designed for this purpose."

    And you can fulfill that purpose -- or just ditch the whole plan and keep the grounds to yourself -- for $32.25 million. Yeah, we're not sitting on that kind of bankroll either, but it's Monday. And we can dream, right?

    %Gallery-170104%
    Thanks to our pals at Curbed for the tip!

    See the listing here.

    See more Houses of the Day on AOL Real Estate.

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    It's Election Day, and we hope you're getting out to the polls to make your voice heard, but make sure you're making an informed decision.

    Though the battered state of the housing market hasn't played a huge role in the debates, the next president will be responsible for steering the direction of the real estate recovery. Just today, it was reported that, in September, home prices posted their biggest gain for that month in 6 years. That's one reason economists have been saying lately that the housing recovery is in full swing.

    President Barack Obama will tell you that this is because he took action fast to stabilize the market, putting in place several housing help programs to stave off the foreclosure crisis and holding corrupt lenders accountable for their actions.

    But Republican challenger Mitt Romney contends that Obama's programs are a waste of taxpayer money, and their benefits to the housing market have been meager at best. (Obama's Home Affordable Modification Program, for example, has reached far fewer than its target of 4 million distressed homeowners.)

    AOL Real Estate has put together a collection of articles telling you what you should know about housing as you head to the polls:

    Obama's Housing Policy Wins and Losses


    Is the Housing Market Better Off Than Four Years Ago? Survey Says No


    Mortgage Lenders Get Boost From Obama's Housing Efforts


    Why the Candidates Seem to Be Dodging the Housing Issue


    Will the Election Have an Effect on Homebuying?


    What Americans Want to See Change About Housing in the Next Four Years


    Housing Recovery Taking Hold, Government Says


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    King George IV's Cornwall estate

    Sick of staring dreamily at gorgeous, multimillion-dollar international listings? Of course you're not! Like us, you'll be especially tickled by today's House of the Day, which happens to not only be one of the most expensive listings in the world, but also boasts history to boot. These digs on London's Regent's Park were commissioned by King George IV, the Duke of Cornwall, in the early 19th century.

    As if that weren't classy enough for you, this palatial $159.76 million house, clad in marble-and-limestone, is one of eight separate and regal residences that make up historic Cornwall Terrace. But it has its own 21,500 square foot plot that includes a swimming pool and landscaped gardens. Naturally.

    It's a Grade I building, meaning that it must be historically preserved. See some gorgeous pictures below. (Don't expect classic, 19th century decor, though: Its interiors have been so modernized that King George IV is probably rolling in his grave).

    %Gallery-170335%
    Thanks to our pals at Curbed for the tip!

    Christie's Great Estates has the listing.

    See more Houses of the Day on AOL Real Estate.

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    Kevin Judd's 'Party Rock Anthem' house display for Halloween

    The party isn't rockin' this year for the home that hosted one of the country's most beloved Halloween light shows.

    Kevin Judd made his Riverside, Calif., home "sing" to the soundtrack of LMFAO's infectiously catchy "Party Rock Anthem," using specially programmed, synchronized LED-lit animations that would twinkle and flash to the beat. A YouTube video (which you can see at the bottom of this article) of the "rocking" light display went viral, driving thousands from across the country to flock to the home for the daily light show in the weeks preceding Halloween 2011.

    But before the show could resurrect for a long-awaited 2012 run, the party was shut down by an angry neighborhood HOA.

    Kevin Judd and his family had a 'Party Rock Anthem' house display at Halloween"I was disappointed," Judd, the homeowner and creative lighting genius behind the now-infamous "Party Rock Anthem Halloween House," told AOL Real Estate. Judd, 40, lives at the home with his wife, Amber, and their two children (all pictured at left). "They didn't even give me a chance to work it out with them and with my neighbors. We just got a letter in the mail addressed to the whole community outlining a new set of holiday rules that basically shut us down."

    The letter, sent by the Euclid Management Homeowners Association in Upland, Calif., was particularly disheartening to Judd because he had spent five years conceptualizing and perfecting the light display and its complex programming.

    "It takes 10 to 12 hours just to program one minute of song," Judd said. Additionally, the display took eight months to actually create and build, he said.

    On the fame that his home garnered, Judd revealed that he had never dreamed that this "hobby" would have given birth to a viral music video covered by "Good Morning America," NBC, the Los Angeles Times and blogs across the world. ("Like many of you out there, I hate that song," blogger Matt Hickman said in a post. "But this viral video in question is nothing short of mesmerizing.") Judd said that he never fathomed that his synchronized light display would draw an average of 2,000 people a day -- from across the country -- to camp out in front of his family's house to catch the show. By 6 p.m. each night, the streets were crowded, and latecomers would be forced to stand far back. (See the gallery below.)

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    Judd said that even his neighbors enjoyed the show, with some enterprising families making a quick buck from visitors.

    "Many neighbors liked it, they would come out to watch every night," Judd said. "Some of my neighbors would even capitalize on the whole thing! They'd sell parking spaces, food and trinkets."

    And the City of Riverside couldn't have been happier. Riverside Mayor Ronald O. Loveridge even invited Judd and his family to City Hall in 2011 to thank them for the positive national attention that their display had brought to the city. Loveridge offered to assist Judd in the streamlining of cleaning efforts, traffic control, porta-potties and police presence during the 2012 festivities.

    But not if Judd's HOA has anything to do with it. In March 2012, the HOA cracked down on the neighborhood with a new set of "Holiday Display" rules, allegedly because of a number of neighbor complaints. According to the HOA's letter, the new rules outlaw "extreme" holiday light displays across the entire neighborhood -- although Judd is convinced that the rules were drawn up to specifically target his family's home.

    When AOL Real Estate contacted the Euclid Management Homeowners Association, a representative of the organization said that no one was available to comment on the matter.

    But have these new rules stopped Judd? Maybe -- but maybe not.

    "I was thinking about just putting some pumpkins on my lawn this year, but people keep telling me to just forget the HOA and have another display this Halloween. What's the worst they could do?" said Judd, who has since started up his own business selling synchronized lighting display software and equipment. "So ... I'm thinking about it."



    See also:
    'Rock Star Home' in Petaluma Can Party Hearty (House of the Day)
    Halloween Home Improvement: Zombie-Proof Your House

    AOL Real Estate's Totally Unscientific Trick-or-Treat Guide


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    %Gallery-168715%

     

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    As #houseporn fiends and real estate junkies, there's nothing we love more than poring through fabulous home listings -- except maybe sorting through the tragically un-fabulous ones. They'll definitely make you laugh, and some of them could make you cry. Every week, AOL Real Estate brings you the sorriest listings that we could find on the Internet to show you what you should never do when posting your home online. But this week, #listingfail gets no farther than the lawn signs. These Realtors all have names likely to make you look twice -- and some of them are definitely working it.


    This Week's Theme: Realtor Names You'll Remember



    If you want a Realtor who will create a buzz around your home, then there's no better guy for the job, in our opinion, than Jose Cuervo himself. We know Jose very well, and we can tell you that he's strong yet smooth and has left us drunk on real estate many times. And hey, even if he doesn't sell your home, he'll most certainly make you forget all about that problem.

    Thanks to Banned in Hollywood for this intoxicating Realtor name.


    A Name You Can Trust?




    Uh, maybe.

    But who can you trust? These guys, in our opinion ... (Warning: some racy content follows.)

    %Gallery-170429%


    Don't let your home be a #listingfail! Take some pro advice from our home staging guides:
    Home Staging Mistakes Sellers Should Avoid
    Home Staging Tips for Every Season
    Home Staging: Hire a Pro or Do It Yourself?




    Join the conversation! Tweet us listing fails @aolrealestate and hashtag #listingfail, and you could get a shout-out in next week's post!

    See more AOL Real Estate galleries:
    Charming Homes You Can Score for $150,000
    Gayborhoods
    Best Beach Towns for Buying Foreclosures

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    Post-election hangoutThis live chat has ended, but view it on video below.

    Go to the AOL Jobs Google+ page at 12:30 p.m. EST and join in our post-election Hangout! We'll have our staff answering your questions about what Obama's second term could mean for the future of housing, jobs, and the economy.

    Don't have a Google+ account? No problem! You can follow along right here starting at 12:30 p.m.:

     

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    We've always wondered where David Hasselhoff hung his red "Baywatch" swim trunks out to dry after a long day's "work." Well, not really. But if you were ever wondering, now you know -- in fact, you can even buy the place if you have a loose $3.795 million. That's right, the Hoff is selling his palatial, 8,974-square-foot Colonial mansion in Encino, Calif.

    It features five bedrooms, a pool (naturally), a spa, a tennis court, a gymnasium, a library, a pub room, and enough dining and living rooms to make it an "entertainer's paradise," apparently. Though the home has great bones, Hoff's decor is a little questionable (is that a seat upholstered in badger pelts? And Kermit the Frog hanging out in the master bedroom?). But we still dig it, particularly if it comes with the complete collection of "Baywatch" in his office...

    %Gallery-170607%
    Thanks to our pals at Estately for the tip!

    Gina Martino of The Agency has the listing.

    Click on the images below to see more homes for sale in Encino, Calif.



    See more Houses of the Day on AOL Real Estate.

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    A Denver man renovating his 1891 Victorian home reportedly discovered a very dangerous past behind its walls. He said that he found rows of matches intertwined with wires buried behind the plaster, so that it would be easy to burn the house down.

    But who would do such a thing? Well, how about Denver's most notorious mob family?

    Denver TV station KMGH reported that homeowner Matt Feeney learned that the Smaldone crime family, famous for operating an underground gambling network throughout the mid-1900s, once owned his home. Feeney told the station that during the home's renovation he also discovered a hidden door leading to a small chamber and other artifacts suggesting the home's connection with the Smaldone family.

    Matt Feeney and Smaldone home in DenverFeeney first suspected that something was awry when he went into the house's walls.

    "So, as we're knocking out the walls, hitting right here, we're smelling matches, as if they're constantly being lit," Feeney told KMGH. He noticed groups of matches connected to a "fuse" that was wired throughout the walls and connected to canvas packets (pictured at left).

    He also found a bottle of what appears to be bootleg liquor, which he referred to as "poison."

    Feeney continued to turn up evidence in the home of a hidden past when he noticed a door, concealed by stucco, which led to a chamber.

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    But rather than being upset with the home's connection to an infamous family, Feeney is excited about its tie to local history. "It's a lot of fun trying to put myself in their shoes as the owner of the home now, living here just like they did," he said.

    Dick Kreck, author of "Smaldone: The Untold Story of an American Crime Family," told KMGH that the Smaldones "were sort of B-level gangsters, but I always tell people today we still love them because they were our gangsters."

    Eugene Smaldone, a descendant, told KMGH that he remembers playing as a child at the house now owned by Feeney.

    "My dad was a very interesting man. He was a smart man," Smaldone said. "The Sopranos? Nothing like them. Nothing at all. They [the Smaldones] were good businessmen. It's just that their business was illegal at the time."




    See also:
    Roberto Gonzalez Broche's 'Doomsday Bunker' Was Made of Stolen Trailers, Police Say

    L.A. Landlord Charged With Turning a Triplex Into 44 Rentals
    Jail for Sale: Live in a Former New York State Prison

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    Find
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    Toni Braxton, foreclosed home

    Though she's got a hit reality television show on the WE TV cable channel and an alleged talk show in the works, songstress Toni Braxton isn't so successful in the world of real estate.

    Toni BraxtonThe six-time Grammy Award-winning singer has officially thrown back on the market the same Duluth, Ga., mansion that she tried "desperately" to save from foreclosure. In 2004, Braxton took out a loan for $1.5 million to save her stunning digs -- now on sale for $1.1 million -- but according to the bank, the famous spendthrift failed to make at least 10 monthly payments on the home between 2004 and 2009. (Braxton has also filed for bankruptcy twice in the past 15 years and has been accused of bankruptcy fraud. Her debts are said to be between $10 million and $15 million).

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the home has gone under contract, but that could not immediately be confirmed.

    We can actually understand why Braxton fought so hard to keep the home, though: Just like her singing career at one point, it's impressive. The 11,400-square-foot, six-bedroom mansion is decked out with sprawling living spaces, a gourmet kitchen, a library and a Jacuzzi tub.

    According to TMZ, this is the second home Braxton has lost to foreclosure -- her mansion in Nevada was also sold off in 2010. Hopefully, once she rids herself of this last mansion, she'll be able to "breathe again"

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    See also:
    David Hasselhoff Sells California Mansion
    King George IV's $160 Million Estate Hits the Market

    'Zorro' Cabin Where the Hit Show Was Filmed


    More on AOL Real Estate:
    Find out how to
    calculate mortgage payments.
    Find
    homes for sale in your area.
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    air qualityThe average person takes thousands of breaths a day but probably doesn't think about the quality of the air he or she is breathing.

    Residents of New York City, you should be particularly concerned: You're breathing in bacteria, pollen, clothing fibers, fungus, tire rubber, dead skin cells, cooking fat and carbon emissions, the Daily News recently reported.

    Gross, eh? Well, if you're in an urban oasis of pollution and other grimy things, and you'd like to move to an area with cleaner (and safer!) air quality, you might start with Florida. Kaz, the makers of Honeywell air purifiers, researched the top 25 cities with the best air quality -- and six of the metros are in the Sunshine State.

    The rankings are based on pollen counts, ozone concentrations, public smoking laws, green initiatives and other factors. Click through the gallery below to see if you live in one of the regions with the cleanest air.

    %Gallery-170817%
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    national median home price

    The national median home price among all housing types was $183,900 in September, the latest data available from the National Association of Realtors. What can you get for that price?

    We scoured our listings database for a sampling of homes on the market with asking prices close to the national median sales price for existing homes. You might be surprised at how much house it buys.

    In most areas you can find a sizable single-family home, and in areas where prices have been particularly hard hit by the housing bust, you can get something close to a mansion. Of course, in larger urban areas like New York or Los Angeles, it won't buy much space.

    Click through the gallery below to get an idea of the kinds of homes that are out there for around the national median home price of $183,900.

    %Gallery-170931%
    See also:
    25 Regions With the Best Air Quality: Metros Where You Can Breathe Easy

    10 Most Expensive Neighborhoods in America

    Multimillion-Dollar Foreclosures: Mansions Claimed by the Housing Crisis



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    Find out how to
    calculate mortgage payments.
    Find
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    Artist Sam Francis house


    The former home of artist Sam Francis was recently listed for $18.75 million. Pay that whopping price and you'll bag a property packed with features and designs so exquisite that it's easy to see why the renowned abstract expressionist once cherished it.

    There are two houses on the residence -- located in Santa Monica, Calif. -- and both are said to reflect Francis' fascination with Zen. Sheltered behind a 60-foot "waterfall wall," radiant Japanese gardens dotted with sculpture span the premises while glass walkways straddle streambeds filled with lily pads.

    The home was recently updated by Chris Sorensen, an architect who has designed homes for celebrities including Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Sorensen preserved the home's earthy vibe by using natural materials, including 500-year-old reclaimed teak for floors, walls and cabinetry and hand-carved stone for vessels and baths. The kitchen even has "pebble stone pool beaches."

    In tribute to Francis, who died in 1994, Sorensen jazzed up the interior with furnishings evocative of Francis' paint-splashed studio.

    %Gallery-170948%

    Click on the images below to see other homes for sale in Santa Monica, Calif.



    See more Houses of the Day on AOL Real Estate.

    Got a tip for House of the Day? Know of an exceptional or unusual property currently listed for sale? Please email krisanne.alcantara@huffingtonpost.com with your suggestions and be sure to include links to listing details and photos. (Due to the volume of response, we unfortunately are unable to reply to each submission.)

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    When Justin and Kate Treher purchased their stunning, four-bedroom Tudor in Harrisburg, Pa., in June 2010, they were relieved. After a long search, they thought that they'd found their dream home -- located in a quiet, wooded area with a spacious layout and generous yard that "seemed perfect" for raising their children.

    "Most importantly, we liked that it did not need any work," Justin Treher told AOL Real Estate. "We had no interest in changing anything, not even the paint scheme."

    But, like the old adage goes, if it looks too good to be true, it usually is: Just eight months after their purchase, the Trehers found themselves knee-deep in problems.

    The couple's "finished" basement became entirely flooded when their sump pump failed. Although the previous owner supposedly had just installed and tested the existing sump pump -- and had not declared any previous water problems -- before the sale, the Treher family found themselves not only with a soaked basement but with draining issues throughout the entire home. (The real estate disclaimer given to the Trehers before purchase listed no issues with the home other than upgrades and repairs that had supposedly already been completed.)

    Just weeks after the discovery, the Trehers also found termite swarms in their "professionally done" sunroom. Despite a previous inspection turning up no signs of termites, the Trehers were suddenly forced to shell out an additional $2,000 to have their new home treated for the pests. Even still, their sunroom did not "seem right" after the extermination, Justin said.

    "I kept noticing a musty smell in the sunroom," he recalled. "When probing along the window, my finger went through the sill and out crawled hundreds of termites."

    The Trehers soon discovered that there was no caulking -- which keeps out moisture -- around any of the windows and that the home's insulation could be seen from the outside. They ultimately had to tear down a wall and take out windows and flooring, as the sunroom turned out to be entirely soaked and mold-ridden.

    As if that weren't enough, a few months later, the frustrated Treher family also discovered a serious crack that developed alongside an existing repair line in the ceiling of their living room. Within days after the discovery, the ceiling became almost entirely detached. (When the Trehers attempted to remove the ceiling in order to replace it, it took "just one tug" for the ceiling to detach in its entirety). According to the Trehers, the house was "literally unraveling itself" -- and continues to do so, even two years later.

    "After the issues started mounting up, the house has never felt like home," Justin said. "[But] we are stuck and will make the best of it -- hopefully saving up an emergency fund for any future repairs after we shell out for the exterior work next year."

    How to Ensure You're Not Buying a Lemon

    Though there's no such thing as a perfect house -- every home, even newly-constructed ones, will have some issue or another -- the trick is to make sure the home is free of any major problems before signing the dotted line. Like when buying anything, purchasing a home is a financial transaction and should be treated as such.

    But, much like the Treher family's case, that can be challenging for many homebuyers. According to Kirk Juneau, a licensed home inspector in Washington State who is a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors, the majority of homebuyers are more concerned with the "views" than the "issues." (His thoughts are echoed by real estate attorney John Braun, who said that most people spend more time test driving their cars than looking at the home they intend to buy.)

    "I think a lot of people -- 80 to 85 percent of people -- buy emotionally, and I get that. Buying a house is a dream," Juneau told AOL Real Estate. "I know it's hard, but homebuyers really need to separate their emotions from this transaction. Don't look at the home through rose-colored glasses; don't get too emotionally attached before the inspection. That's one of the most important things I can recommend."

    Juneau recalled a case where he was commissioned to inspect a brand-new home in the Bellingham, Wash., area. He discovered significant structural issues with the home. Despite noting that in the inspection report -- and advising his clients against buying -- his clients went ahead and purchased the property. ("Where else can you find these views?" Juneau recalled his clients saying.) A year later, his clients contacted him, complaining that their home had settled by three inches -- a problem Juneau had predicted in his initial inspection report.

    And though some homebuyers just won't listen, Braun told AOL Real Estate that the most important tip for homebuyers is still to hire a trained, licensed and well-reviewed home inspector. This is absolutely necessary, Braun said, as the average homebuyer is not trained to look at homes the way a certified inspector is. Ensure that your home inspector is licensed if your state requires it. (Unfortunately, only about half of states require any kind of certification or licensing for home inspectors.) Also, make sure the inspector is affiliated with a professional inspection organization, such as the National Association of Home Inspectors, American Society of Home Inspectors or National Institute of Building Inspectors.

    Juneau adds that homebuyers should interview their inspector on the phone for at least 15 minutes before hiring them. "Ask for his resume, ask for guarantees," said Juneau.

    Most importantly, insist on attending the inspection.

    "It will take them much longer to inspect the house -- they'll have to stop and answer your questions -- but you absolutely need to be there. You'll get a wealth of knowledge and information about the home just being present during the inspection," Juneau said. "If the inspector isn't willing to let you attend their inspection, then that inspector isn't for you."

    Tagging Along With a Home Inspector



    Be Careful Whom You Trust

    Also beware of inspectors recommended by the Realtor trying to sell the home, Justin Treher warned. While the Treher family did hire an inspector to look at their home before purchasing it, it was an inspector whom they later found out their Realtor knew -- and "knew was awful," Treher said.

    "I just remember that the inspector repeatedly mentioned how great of a condition the house was in and applauded the former owners," Treher told AOL Real Estate. "Unfortunately, that was a veneer."

    Treher also recommended that homebuyers hire a remodeling contractor to look at the property. It's important, he noted, to have a professional inspect and dissect the home with "no relationship to the real estate machine" -- particularly someone who is able to assess the quality of workmanship in the home and spot shoddy DIY attempts.

    And because you can never be too sure, some poking around yourself doesn't hurt either, according to Steve Sochacki, an Ohio-based Realtor. According to Sochacki, a thorough visual inspection -- looking out for cracks, sloped floors or failed siding with a flashlight and binoculars -- is never a bad idea. Braun also advised that after your own physical inspection, homeowners should do thorough background inspections on the home. This includes asking the Realtor and seller many questions and reading the seller's disclosure documents very carefully. Doing added research on the property and the neighborhood can also save homebuyers future grief.

    "The recent sales history of the property can give clues: a house that sells every two years like clockwork, for example, may have an annoying neighbor or some other chronic problem. Police blotters are also full of information about 'trouble houses' in the community, potentially including the one you are looking at," Braun told AOL Real Estate. "Also, agents and sellers are required to disclose to potential buyers anything that might materially affect the buyer's use and enjoyment of the home. Known physical problems, like a leaky water heater, are included in this requirement."

    Home warranties can also protect homebuyers from problems, particularly in their first year in their new home. Though Sochacki isn't their biggest advocate ("I've found home warranties to be ineffective in many of my own personal experiences, with sellers often reneging on what they cover," Sochaki said), many Realtors still recommend it as another way of protecting yourself.

    "Although not perfect, home warranties do cover most major mechanical systems of the house and electrical, plumbing, among others," said Realtor Denise Manderfield of Ohio's Home Information Network. Warranties ensure, Manderfield said, that homebuyers will not have to worry about shelling out money in case basic systems in the house do not work, or if minor repairs are needed within the first year of occupancy.

    I Bought a Lemon! What Now?

    If, like the Trehers, you believe that you've just purchased a lemon, you still have options. Depending on the reasons behind your purchase, you might even be able to get your money back.

    For example, if a Realtor has misinformed you about the quality of a home or omitted information that might cause potential buyers to walk away, then you have grounds to sue, Braun said. Many states, such as Texas, Minnesota and New Jersey, have an action to recover from a failure to disclose a defect. (This is the case for many homeowners who have unknowingly purchased "bad" homes.) The law is very clear that the homeowner is entitled to compensation by both the real estate agent and the licensee in such a situation. But it's still easier said than done: Treher learned that litigation is an extremely costly, time-consuming process that can be very risky.

    "We did contact a couple of attorneys, but all of them stated that it really sounded like the worst of luck," said Treher. "While proving negligence might be possible, it would be expensive between engineer and attorney hours."

    In the case in which the homeowner has not done their due diligence -- he or she didn't conduct their proper research on the home and didn't hire a home inspector -- there are even less options, according to Braun. Finding issues in the home that are unknown to the seller or Realtor is the sole responsibility of the potential buyer.

    "If there's a grave structural defect that the seller had no idea lurked under the house, that could have been caught by an inspection [that wasn't commissioned], then the buyer is out of luck," Braun said. "In these cases, it's too bad."

    If your house is a new construction, however, you might have another option: Check to see if the problems fall under federal construction standards violations. If so, then in Texas, so-called "home lemon laws" will give builders 60 days to fix defects that are a serious safety hazard. If these construction defects cannot be fixed, then the builders are required to buy back the home. (These laws are in the process of being enacted in states such as New Jersey, Arizona, Massachusetts, Florida, California and Nevada).

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    rustic ranch, Ashton, Idaho

    This property is a dream come true for anyone who loves the outdoors. The 5-acre ranch, located in Ashton, Idaho, comes complete with a four-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom log home.

    Equestrians should be especially excited about this home. For $795,000 you not only get one of the most rustically attractive log cabins we've seen, but the property also comes with a "stunning" four-stall summer barn, and has a jack fence around the entire property. There's also a private well. If you want even more than 5 acres, 4.6 more contiguous acres are available for purchase.

    But what might be the best draw of this property is its proximity to the Targhee National Forest, which has miles of trails for horseback riding, hiking and snowmobiling. The listing also points out the "tremendous" views of the Grand Teton range.

    %Gallery-171168%
    Fay Ranches has the listing.

    See more homes for sale in Ashton, Idaho by clicking on the images below.

     

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    With Thanksgiving just a couple days away (and guests sure to descend upon your home over the festive season), it's high time to take care of all the small-scale home improvements you've been meaning to handle all year long. From sprucing up your floors to fixing those squeaky door hinges and getting rid of those unsightly stains, we've got a list of small, quick fixes that will make your home shine on Thanksgiving Day and the rest of the year. And if you have a little extra time on your hands, there are some bigger fixes you could tackle as well. (Also, check out AOL Real Estate's comprehensive Home Improvement Guide.)

    %Gallery-171357%
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    Pet cemetery plots for humans

    Land doesn't come cheap unless you're buying a plot in a pet cemetery -- for yourself.

    Texans wanting to find a final resting place at a discount -- and remain close to their furry friends for eternity -- are increasingly snapping up plots in pet cemeteries for themselves, WFAA-TV in Dallas reported.

    Texas law doesn't allow pets to be buried next to humans in non-pet cemeteries.

    Bluebonnet Pet Cemetery in Dallas has been seeing an upswing in plots for people, owner David Stafford told WFAA-TV. Some people are buying plots even if they don't have pets. Bluebonnet already has the cremated remains of three people buried there.

    "It's something that is coming into demand because of the price," Stafford told WFAA. "It's cheaper to be buried with your pets than it is to be buried in a human cemetery."

    According to WFAA, it costs an average of $8,000 to be buried in a regular cemetery, but only $300 to be in a pet cemetery-- though, you'd have to be cremated first. With those kinds of savings, it's surprising the demand isn't even higher. But it isn't all about the bargain.

    Ken Martin (pictured above), who has no children, told WFAA that his pets are his family.

    "It's a bond between them and you," Martin said. "It's like that's your best friend ever. You don't have many best friends, but dogs are special."

    This arrangement didn't work out so well for one New York resident, though. In 2011, New York State banned the burial of humans in pet cemeteries. Taylor York, whose aunt already had been buried beside her dogs in the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery and Crematory just north of New York City, ran into trouble when her uncle passed away. York was unable to bury him next to his wife.

    But after York, an attorney and professor of constitutional law, filed several administrative appeals (and was preparing to file a lawsuit), the law was reversed. Now, New York allows pet cemeteries to host human remains as long as they don't advertise it or charge for it.


    See also:
    Plan to Build Home in Historic Cemetery Enrages Neighbors
    Alabama Man Fights City to Keep Wife Buried in Front Yard

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    Thankful homeowners at Thanksgiving

    It's no secret that the housing crisis and still-struggling economy have made life that much more difficult for Americans. But with an improving real estate market, low interest rates and largely affordable home prices, to name a few things, we can still find reasons to be thankful.

    In the spirit of Thanksgiving, AOL Real Estate asked homeowners and the real estate community to tell us what they're thankful for this Thanksgiving, despite the country still trying to emerge from a housing crisis. Click through the gallery below to see what they have to say.

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