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AOL Real Estate - Blog

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    For $250,000, how much house can you get? We asked our friends at Realtor.com to pull out some of the best homes for sale right now for $250,000. You might be surprised at how much space is available for that price. There are quite the deals out there! Click through the gallery below to see what $250,000 buys you.

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    Michael Shimshoni associated properties

    There's nothing worse than a nuisance landlord: except for a nuisance landlord that no-one can do anything about. Michael Shimshoni, a St. Petersburg, Fla. landlord that authorities say is at the center of numerous of shady and chronically problematic properties, is "virtually untouchable," according to reports Tampa Bay TV station WFTS.

    Michael Shimshoni, landlordShimshoni has been connected to over 120 properties (see map pictured above) and one-fifth of the nuisance fines collected by the city of St. Petersburg since 1997 -- to the tune of $41,667. City records also show that Shimshoni's companies own "notoriously blighted" properties in St. Petersburg that have been connected with drug activities, armed robberies and even deaths.

    Most recently, a neighbor of the residential building at 1075 17th Avenue North (where Shimshoni is the property manager) claimed that it was the hub of regular drug activity. He soon learned that it was known widely as "the crack house," and that crimes reported at that property included illegal drug use, child abuse and burglary.

    But Shimshoni told the local ABC TV station that he'd done "more and above than average" what any other property manager would do. Furthermore, Shimshoni denies owning the 120 properties the city links to him, saying there is "no document" to prove the city's claims. The only property Shimshoni said he owns is one $500,000 home in Tierra Verde.

    And according to St. Petersburg Nuisance Abatement Coordinator Elizabeth Ledbetter, there's little they can do. Shimshoni often "slips through the cracks" because the landlord will transfer problematic properties to different ownership companies that he creates -- companies that he distances himself legally from so he cannot be be charged or fined, or simply asked to "clean up his act."

    "Our problem is, when he changes ownership, it puts us back to square zero," Ledbetter told ABC. "He knows how to play the game, and he has an attorney who helps him play the game."



    See also: Bad Neighbors: Why the Brothel-Next-Door Goes Unnoticed
    Keep Bad Neighbors From Derailing a Home Sale

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    Kanye West home, Hollywood Hills

    Kim Kardashian just sold her Beverly Hills home, so now it's Kanye West's turn. The Hollywood duo is clearly looking for bigger and better things, so West has re-listed his Hollywood Hills home to finally get out from underneath it once and for all, Trulia's Luxe Living blog reported. West has tried before to sell the home (pictured above), to no avail. It was first on the market in 2010 for $3.995 million, but seeing as it didn't win any buyers, the rapper is hoping a price cut will. His re-listed home is now going for $3.3 million

    Kanye WestWe're confident that it's just because West and Kardashian are moving into a new stage of life with a baby on the way, but he may also want out of this Los Angeles home because of some bad memories there. The home was burglarized last June while West was on tour in the U.K. It didn't appear as though anything was stolen, but still, that's enough to rattle anyone. The current listing is a bit camera-shy -- with only two photos -- and we're guessing that the burglary might be a reason why previous photos were taken down.

    According to Zillow, West bought the property for $1.75 million in 2003, so if he can unload it this time, he stands to make a healthy profit. The 4,214-square-foot home has three bedrooms, four bathrooms and some wild style. There's cartoon art everywhere (including a really awkward statue of Buzz Lightyear), and don't miss the aquarium wall in the bathroom. Yeah, that s--t crazy.

    See more celebrity homes.

    Find more homes for sale in Los Angeles, or search listings in your area.

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    See also:
    Christina Aguilera, Jordan Bratman's Beverly Hills Home Close to Being Sold?
    Carly Simon's New York City Home Gets Another Price Cut
    Elvis Presley's Home a Teardown?


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    Kanye West LA Home Robbed

     

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    A month after "the scent of death" was detected in its basement by a trained cadaver dog, the Lloyd Wright-designed John Sowden House in Los Angeles -- a purported site of the Black Dahlia murder -- has returned to market, asking $4.89 million. The 1927 home, which in February was said to carry "the scent of human decomposition," was once owned by George Hill Hodel, considered a prime suspect in the notorious murder and dismemberment of a young woman, Elizabeth Short, that caused a sensation in the 1940s.

    The Black Dahlia case has inspired several books and movies and the Mayan-influenced house (pictured above) has itself appeared in films including "The Aviator" and "The Rocketeer." Hodel was never charged in the murder (he died in 1999) and it remains unsolved.

    According to our pals at Curbed, a "cloud of mystery" seems to surround the house in "gloomy" listing photos that show off the updates made by the latest owner, designer Xorin Balbes. We're not sure "gloomy" is exactly the word we'd use for this over-the-top, 5,600-square-foot home, but there's certainly something a little eerie about the place. Or maybe it's just the lighting, or the idea that someone might have been murdered there.

    But don't let that put you off: Murder homes, or stigmatized homes, can be excellent deals if you can forgive their grisly histories. ("It might have a terrible history," said Chris Butler, who lived in the home where serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer committed his first murder. "But the house didn't kill anybody.") But the John Sowden House might -- that decor certainly slays us. The home boasts five bedrooms, six bathrooms and a stunning Mayan-style facade.

    See the listing for more details.

    Find more homes for sale in Los Angeles, or search listings in your area.

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    See more:
    Is John Sowden House Where the Black Dahlia Was Murdered?
    Jeffrey Dahmer, Andrea Yates, the Lemp Family: Life Inside Homes Where Grisly Deaths Took Place
    Full-Disclosure Laws: Janet Milliken Sues Seller, Realtor Over Home's Notorious Past

    More on AOL Real Estate:
    Find out how to
    calculate mortgage payments.
    Find foreclosures in your area.
    Find homes for rent in your area.

    See celebrity real estate.


    Follow us on Twitter at @AOLRealEstate or connect with AOL Real Estate on Facebook.

    Haunted Encounters: Black Dahlia - Captain Basement Sweep

     

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    Robert Swift, foreclosed home

    Former Seattle SuperSonics star Robert Swift finally moved out of his foreclosed suburban Seattle home this week, but the former basketball star apparently left it in shambles. TV station KOMO in Seattle reported that new owners Jessica Ko-Dalzell and Eric Dalzell found smashed glass, beer bottles, animal feces and even bullets littering their new home. Swift, who was drafted straight out of high school to the Seattle SuperSonics in 2004, but only spent four years in the NBA, bought the $1.3 million home in 2006, according to The Associated Press. But the house in Sammamish, Wash., fell into foreclosure last July.

    The Dalzells bought the foreclosed home in January for half its original price -- but the 7-foot-1-inch center refused to leave. "He never came to the door, he never talked to any of us. We came multiple times. We sent him letters. We left him letters," Ko-Dalzell told KOMO. The couple was forced to go to court to remove Swift from the home if he didn't leave. Though the former baller resisted, he reportedly left over the weekend. On Monday, the Dalzells finally were able to enter.

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    KOMO reported finding its kitchen strewn with piles of pizza boxes and beer bottles, and elsewhere in the home seeing punched-in walls, animal feces clogging its decks, and a handgun and live ammunition left lying in the open. The Dalzells also said the home emitted a putrid smell. "It was a shocker," Dalzell told the TV station.

    This sad case of an ex-NBA star -- who once held such promise but who lost his home -- comes soon after another former basketball star, Allen Iverson, saw his luxurious Atlanta home put up for auction after he lost it to foreclosure.




    See also:
    Another Former Allen Iverson Home Hits Market

    Michael Jordan Buys Massive North Carolina Home For a Great Deal (PHOTOS)
    Brooklyn Nets' Deron Williams Buys Penthouse

    More on AOL Real Estate:
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    Western town for sale in Caliente, Calif.

    Why buy a house when you can buy a town? And not just any town, either: a Wild West town that looks like it's been lifted right off the set of "Django Unchained" or "High Noon." That's right, this 80-acre swath of land for sale in the desert town of Caliente, Calif., has its very own Western ghost town complete with a saloon, jail, barbershop, general store and stage coach.

    Granted, it's a fake Wild West town (meaning it was built for fun). Its structures are inhabited by mannequins, and no actual cowboys lived there. But still, there's something so cool about strutting around your own Wild West town and throwing parties in that saloon! It even has slot machines! Wild West town aside, the property also boasts a 3,000-square-foot main house and a 1,000-square-foot guest pad. And the whole thing can be all yours for $1.175 million!

    See the listing here (and thanks to our friends at Curbed for the tip).

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    See more:
    'The Hunger Games' Town on Sale
    Tiny Tuscan Town Can Be Yours
    Billionaire Builds His Own Wild West Town on Colorado Ranch

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    Utah Ghost Town Up for Sale

     

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    St. Helena, Calif., home

    Tired of your boring, typical four-poster bed? Then this St. Helena, Calif., home might be for you: It boasts an open-air loggia with a hanging bed. That's right, this bed is suspended from the ceiling from what looks like several ropes. You'll never be bored in the bedroom again!

    Floating bed and "sleeping tower" aside, the gorgeous 3,600-square-foot home in the Napa Valley also boasts five bedrooms, four bathrooms, a guest suite with a balcony overlooking the courtyard, and a swimming pool. The home's design strikes a beautiful balance between modernist, rustic and earthy, with clean lines and simple, functional decor combined with wood and stone elements. We were sold on the bed, but put it all together and you have the complete dream home! And it can be all yours for $3.95 million.

    See the listing on Estately.

    Find more homes for sale in St. Helena, Calif., or search listings in your area.

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    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 colin.croughan@teamaol.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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    Versace look home, Brooklyn

    There are some homes that are so ridiculous that you just look at them and think, "No way." This home in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn is one of them. The entire $1.575 million penthouse home is draped from head-to-toe with Versace. (Well, the Versace logo, anyway). The floors, couches, shower, bathroom towels, bedspreads and most of the furniture -- it's all Versace, all the time. Now we're not trying to be haters -- and we're certainly not professional interior decorators -- but in our humble opinion, this is just a little too much. Even for Versace himself, we would think. (Your house should not match your handbag, people!) See for yourself below.

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    And if you thought this New York City home was bad, there's more logo love to be had. In the gallery below, you'll see whole houses draped in Louis Vuitton, Burberry and, uh, Hello Kitty.

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    Natalie Salykine of Nest Seekers has the listing. Thanks to our friends at Curbed for the tip!

    See also:
    Gianni Versace's Magnificent Miami Home

    Fashion-Inspired Decor Dresses Up Drab Apartments

    More on AOL Real Estate:
    Find out how to
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    Versace Mansion On Sale For $100M

     

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    Some people like to play it safe, but not us. We think outside the box, and so do our friends at @MalibuPatch. With this modern Malibu marvel, they fought their way to the top of our #housepornthurs contest on Facebook this week. It was a tight race, though. Runner-up @FHAllenRealtors trailed by just a few votes with their respectable historic bungalow in Sausalito, Calif. Good game, guys!

    On a pristine 17-acre lot, the modern Malibu home is breathtaking -- particularly because of those glimpses of the Pacific Ocean. Go inside, though, and it's like you're living in a modern art museum. Vaulted steel-framed ceilings line the home, with walls of windows going for what seems like miles. Two "cylinders" house twin bedrooms on one end of the house, and the master suite sits at the other end. There's a study, kitchen and living room in the central part of the house, all with the finest modern touches you can find. The living room will lead you to a large deck overlooking the pool outside.

    Here's the best feature of the house, though: There's a private helipad for your jet-setting convenience. This property is "not for the faint of heart," the listing says. Try us, we'll take this gem any day.

    See the listing for more details.

    Find more homes for sale in Malibu, Calif., or search listings in your area.

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    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 colin.croughan@teamaol.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.)

    More on AOL Real Estate:
    Find out how to
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    homes for sale in your area.
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    Home sold sign

    Immigrants will generate almost 36 percent of the increased demand for U.S. homes this current decade, according to new research reported by USA Today. A study by the Population Dynamics Research Group at the University of Southern California found that immigrant buyers filled a "big hole" and played a key role in boosting home demand over the past decade -- when demand from native-born homebuyers was low. (Last decade, immigrants generated 39 percent of demand for U.S. homes.)

    Though the report shows that homeownership demand from U.S. natives will pick up as the number of buyers in the 25- to 34-year-old age group grows, demand from immigrants will continue to remain strong. "We'll be firing on all cylinders," Dowell Myers of Population Dynamics told USA Today. "The native-born were absent in the last decade. Now, they're more present."

    For six states, it's projected that foreigners will drive the majority of homeowner demand this decade: California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Michigan, according to the USC report. In California, that figure will be 71 percent; in New York, 59 percent. The report projects, though, that 5.1 million native buyers will be added this decade -- but that's down from 7.9 million in the 1990s.

    An increased demand for homes across the board is yet another sign the housing market is gaining momentum. Latest figures also reveal rising U.S. home prices: up 9.7 percent in January from a year ago, according to data released Tuesday by CoreLogic. That's up from an 8.3 percent increase in December and the biggest annual gain since April 2006.

    See also:
    Marco Rubio Didn't Mention His Miami Home Is for Sale

    Illegal Immigrant 'Stash House' Had 48 People Living Inside, Police Say
    Housing Bust Puts Brakes on Decades of Suburban Sprawl

    More on AOL Real Estate:
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    Understanding Mortgages

     

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    San Francisco micro apartment



    We thought a 325-square-foot apartment was tiny, but San Francisco has shrunk the size of a studio even further -- to a ridiculously minuscule 160 square feet. Patrick Kennedy of the development firm Panoramic Interests designed a life-size model of the smallest-size studio apartment that's legally allowed in California -- and yes, it really is only 160 square feet. But according to Kennedy, that's really all you need: Decked out in custom, modular, multipurpose furniture, the "micro-apartment" offers the functionalities of a regular one-bedroom. It even has space for a home office and dinner parties! (The only thing we don't like? The "euro-bath": An shower that's undivided from the rest of the bathroom and drains into its floor. Nobody likes to shower right next to the toilet.)

    According to Kennedy, living arrangements like the micro-apartment are necessary in San Francisco, where 42 percent of the population lives alone. "That percentage is much higher than in any other American city, yet there's very little addressing the needs of just a single person," said Kennedy. "Especially [spaces] that would be affordable to a single person."

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    Kennedy's thoughts are echoed by Sarah Watson, senior policy analyst at the Citizens Housing Planning Council. Watson says that the housing options available in New York City and other big cities, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, no longer reflect residents' needs.

    "Currently, laws in New York City are still based on the demographics and living arrangements of the 1960s," Watson told AOL Real Estate in January. "We need to move forward." Could "moving forward" be living in 160-square-foot and 325-square-foot apartments? You decide. (See the tour of San Francisco's 160-square-foot micro apartment above.)

    Find (bigger) apartments for rent in San Francisco, or search rentals in your area.

     

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    Greenpoint Hotel

    Rats, bed bugs, silverfish, collapsed ceilings and shared bathrooms flooded with smelly water: That's what nearly three dozen tenants are living with in their building in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Most of us wouldn't take more than a second to walk away, but these tenants aren't going anywhere -- because of the incredibly low rent. Some are paying less than $300 a month to rent in the Greenpoint Hotel (a mind-boggling amount for New York City, the most expensive city in the U.S.), and they say they simply can't afford to live anywhere else. So they're forced to live in squalor.

    Now the tenants are suing their landlord, Jay Deutchman, DNAinfo.com and other news outlets reported. "It's the only thing I got," tenant Anthony Mirabal told New York's Daily News. Like other tenants of the Greenpoint Hotel, Mirabal lives in a single room with a communal bathroom, an arrangement widely known as single-room occupancy, or SRO. "The conditions are so bad. I am surprised that the health department hasn't shut this place down."

    Mirabal and his fellow tenants say they're taking Deutchman to court because the building has become completely uninhabitable. Jeffrey Earnest (pictured at left), who lives across the hall from a defective radiator in the Greenpoint Hotel, says the place lacks "basic sanitation" and that tenants were becoming seriously ill. Their complaints were supported by documents from NYC's Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which revealed 514 violations connected to the Greenpoint Hotel. Conditions in the building were so bad, according to the HPD, that they, too, were forced to start litigation against Deutchman.

    But according to Deutchman, he's done everything in his power to keep the building in order and has addressed each violation that he has been slapped with. In fact, Deutchman says, he's fulfilled all his duties as a landlord, and it's the tenants who are largely to blame for the building's squalor. "When I bought this place in 2009, there were 300 violations, and over the years I brought that down to 13. But I keep needing to address violations as they come, and many are out of my control," Deutchman told AOL Real Estate. "One tenant set another tenant's room on fire. So I had that handled, and the perpetrator [was] reported and arrested. I got the fire systems up to date. There were rodents, so I got an exterminator in and had that handled."

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    Deutchman added that he has also hired a plumber to come in and unclog the toilets "on a daily basis." But the bathroom flooding never gets remedied because the tenants continue to flush litter and other garbage down the toilet, he said. "I keep knocking violations off and keep handling these matters -- but they keep coming, because the tenants have absolutely no respect for the property," Deutchman added. "It's a battle that's difficult to win."

    The New York Times reported in 2006 that the Greenpoint Hotel was one of the most dangerous single-room-occupancy hotels in NYC. It was a known residence for drug addicts, as well as the old and sick, and violence often erupted there, the newspaper said. At the time, federal prosecutors were trying to have the hotel foreclosed on and taken over by the government. Local blogs also have written about the hotel's notorious reputation.

    Greenpoint Hotel Tenants 'One of Many'

    Greenpoint HotelAccording to Greg Hanlon, a spokesperson for St. Nick's Alliance, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that focuses on neighborhood sustainability and tenants' rights, Deutchman's accusations that the tenants are at fault for the building's conditions ring hollow. "Did the tenants go out of their way to rip off the floorboards? Did the tenants deliberately turn off the heat and hot water for months on end during the winter?" Hanlon told AOL Real Estate. "No and no. These types of comments are an attempt to stigmatize these tenants to shift the focus from Deutchman's inhumane treatment of them."

    While Deutchman has made repairs to the building, Hanlon added, the repairs are not thorough and the problems return almost immediately. Hanlon says that Deutchman's treatment of his tenants is but one particularly egregious instance of what has become a disturbing "epidemic" in North Brooklyn. Deutchman's actions, Hanlon says, are part of a growing pattern that's seen landlords in the area trying to displace longtime, rent-stabilized tenants by any means possible -- in order to make way for larger luxury establishments or even regular, non-SRO apartments.

    "This building is a stone's throw away from [a proposed] luxury mega-development, and could bring him a lot more money than it does now with SRO tenants paying $250 a month," said Hanlon. "When there's gentrification, there's displacement. The tenants of 1109 Manhattan Avenue are just one of many."

    See also:
    Landlord Charged With Turning a Triplex Into 44 Rentals
    Raw Sewage in Your Apartment: Repairs Your Landlord Can't Ignore
    Nightmare Stories of Renting Out Your Home

    More on AOL Real Estate:
    See homes for rent in your area.
    Find out how to calculate mortgage payments.
    Find
    homes for sale in your area.
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    foreclosures in your area.

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    Landlord Whips Tenants

     

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    Home of MIchael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones home in Bermuda

    We were getting worried that glamour Hollywood couple Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas had dropped off the face of the earth. (Come on, what was the last notable movie either of them did?) But we realize it's because, like our girl Taylor, they've been keeping busy with real estate.

    The Oscar-winning couple have thrown their stunning harborside villa in Bermuda onto the market for a whopping $28,000 a month. The home served as their primary residence from 2002-2009 and we guess that now they've found some other glorious tropical island digs in which to lay their heads.

    The 3-acre property boasts a 7,381-square-foot main house and a guest cottage, a fruit grove, a tennis court and a "secret garden with a hot tub." Uh, say what? Who's got a loose $28K they'd like to lend us?

    Bermuda Realty has the listing. Thanks to our pals at Curbed for the tip!

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    See also:
    Mischa Barton Turns Beverly Hills Home Into a Rental
    Christina Aguilera, Jordan Bratman's Beverly Hills Home Close to Being Sold?
    Elvis Presley's Home a Teardown?


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    Find out how to
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    homes for sale in your area.
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    in your area.
    See celebrity real estate.

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    Zeta-Jones:

     

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    James Franco home

    We'd always wondered what it would be like living next to a celebrity. Would they ever knock on our door, asking for a cup of sugar? Could we pop by with a "Welcome to the Neighborhood" cake? Would we be invited to their dinner parties, and rub shoulders with their other A-list friends over glasses of wine and pie? Well, if we're going by the latest celebrity neighbor complaint, these scenarios aren't likely to happen with James Franco. According to Curbed, Franco -- like fellow celebs Chris Brown and Meryl Streep -- is apparently a nightmare neighbor.

    Last year, Franco purchased a small compound in the artsy Los Angeles neighborhood of Silver Lake. Initially, his new neighbors (who wrote Curbed a long, impassioned email) were pleased and excited to have the "Spiderman 3" star living next door. That was, until Franco began to run a big, noisy, obtrusive production company out of the house.

    According to Franco's irate neighbors, the celebrity has allowed film shoots to take place on the property, causing large white production trucks, clothing racks, and hair and makeup sessions to block their driveway. The email details crowds of people mulling constantly about the property with business meetings being conducted right in front of their home. "Then [they] treat us as if we are eavesdropping sycophants when we walk out our gate to our car," the neighbors wrote.

    Our favorite part of the email: "We like James Franco and we like some of his movies, but we're not so enamored of his presence that we are willing to give up our sanity in our own home."

    Oh, these celebrities. When are they going to learn they can't just do whatever they want? In Franco's defense, however, at least he's not holding dog races by his property like singer and "annoying neighbor" Chris Brown, or allegedly building a dam in front of his house like "nightmare neighbor" Meryl Streep.

    See also:
    Helipad Plan Lands Pilot in Trouble With His Neighbors
    Loud Laugh Sends Him to Court

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    James Franco Takes Hot Air Balloon Ride To 'Jimmy Kimmel Live!'

     

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    Ray Lewis home, Palm Beach

    Once you've earned the Lombardi Trophy (twice), all others pale in comparison. That must be why former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has no need for his trophy home anymore. The two-time Super Bowl champ has thrown his 6,788-square-foot oceanfront mansion in Palm Beach, Fla., on the market for $5 million, Realtor.com reported.

    Florida is the first place that many retirees head to, but clearly not Lewis, who retired from the NFL after helping lead the Ravens to victory last month in Super Bowl XLVII. (Lewis first snatched the Lombardi as a Raven at Super Bowl XXXV in 2001.) That makes sense because he's headed to Bristol, Conn., to become an analyst for ESPN. It's too bad, though: We can't think of a more perfect retirement spread than his Palm Beach pad.

    The Mediterranean-style seven-bedroom, nine-bathroom home spills right onto the beach, with a gorgeous patio, outdoor kitchen, infinity pool and spa. Inside, huge windows offer panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. There's a chef's kitchen with honeycomb ceilings and top-notch appliances, and the master suite is truly delectable, with a huge marbled bathroom and private balcony overlooking the ocean. Soaring ceilings and French doors give the living rooms and dining rooms plenty of space. (We can't say the exterior color of the home jibes with Lewis' often-fiery persona on the field.)

    According to RealtyToday.com, property records show that Lewis bought the home for $5.2 million in April 2004. There's no attempt at making a profit for Lewis, but Palm Beach's market has been tough, post-housing bust.

    Find more homes for sale in Palm Beach, Fla., or search listings in your area.

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    Got a tip for House of the Day? Know of an exceptional or unusual property currently listed for sale? Please email colin.croughan@teamaol.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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    Ray Lewis' Surprising Sport Choice Before Football

     

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    Short sale signDon't worry, the housing recovery isn't wiping out the discounts on homes that were prevalent at the height if the housing decline. Short sales and foreclosures are still aplenty in many housing markets around the country. And the savings are steep. Here, we take a look at the best cities to buy short sales.

    Short sales went for an average of 23 percent below market rate in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to online foreclosure marketplace RealtyTrac. But there were plenty of markets where the discounts stretched further than that. "Short sales are on the rise as a better alternative to foreclosure in many areas -- good news for buyers and investors in markets where short sales are closing more quickly at solid discounts," said RealtyTrac vice president Daren Blomquist. "But buying from the bank may still be a better option in other markets because of increasing REO inventory, deeper discounts and shorter times to close."

    Click through the gallery below to see the 10 best cities to buy foreclosures.

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    5 Worst Cities to Buy Foreclosures in 2013
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    The Pros of Buying a Short Sale Home

     

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    SXSW lodging ad, Craigslist

    Rentals in Austin, Texas, during the week of SXSW can run you up to $834 a night for some decent downtown lodging. But your entire stay can be free, if you heed the call of this strange and slightly creepy Craigslist ad. A musician in Northwest Austin is offering free boarding to any ladies in town in exchange for their (undefined) "services."

    The ad has since been taken down, but according to Austinist, the musician identified as "Daniel" is offering "food, free Internet and computer access and all entertainment appliances," in addition to the company of a gentleman with just "6% body fat." Amazing. Additionally, Daniel explains this is a "business deal," which, Austinist jokes, must mean that the whole thing is "legit." Totally.

    Next time, to prevent even the slightest consideration of skeezy offers for free board with strange men (they happen more often than you think), you might just want to consider snapping up a home in Austin. Why not? The housing market there is red-hot right now, plenty of people move to Austin after SXSW and, most importantly, you'll always have a place to crash and will never, ever need to stay with Daniel -- who, just for emphasis, has only 6 percent body fat. Unless you want to, that is.

    Find less creepy rentals in Austin, Texas, or search rentals in your area.

    Enjoy this post? Check out all of our hilarious listing fail articles!

    See also: Homeless Man Allegedly Rents Out Vacant Home to Tenants
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    No Privacy, Nerds, and Swedish Massages

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    WeHostels Takes Over Firehouse Hostel at SXSW

     

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    Linden Estate, Southampton, N.Y.

    Even in a rich man's playground lined with one McMansion after another, the Linden Estate in Southampton, N.Y., stands out as one of the best. The stately -- and gigantic -- home sprawls across 18,000 square feet on a 9.11-acre plot, and it has not one but two outdoor pavilions and a bevy of resort-style amenities (including indoor and outdoor pools). But it seems like that might not have been enough to satisfy one tech tycoon.

    James H. Clark and wifeJames H. Clark, co-founder of Netscape (you remember that, right?), was reportedly under contract to buy the glorious property at a $49 million price tag last July -- after the mansion spent a staggering four years on the market. Clark and his wife (both pictured at left) even gave Haute Living magazine a tour of the home's immaculate grounds. But the sale was never completed, and now, less than a year later, the home is once again up for sale for $45 million, Curbed reported. It's unclear exactly what happened, but man, what a bummer for the owner.

    The home, built in 1915, is still officially owned by Juergen Friedrich, a former Esprit executive, Curbed said. This is what Friedrich is stuck with (poor guy) and what could be yours if you have the money: 12 bedrooms and 12.5 bathrooms, a full kitchen in each outdoor pavilion and a crazy carriage house. The property also has a tennis court, paddle court, gym, four-car garage and a large fountain outside. The home is listed on the websites of Corcoran Group Real Estate and Sotheby's International Realty.

    Find more homes for sale in the Hamptons or search listings in your area.

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    Got a tip for House of the Day? Know of an exceptional or unusual property currently listed for sale? Please email colin.croughan@teamaol.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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    Inside Look: The Beach Box

     

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    SXSW apartment rental, Austin, Texas

    It's a festival, not the presidential inauguration! But homeowners in Austin, Texas, don't seem to see the difference: They're trying to rent out their places to tourists for the week of SXSW at prices that rival the astronomical asks in Washington, D.C., during President Barack Obama's inauguration. You might recall that some D.C. natives were renting out their homes for as much as $10,000 for the four-day inauguration festivities in January. Now check out that cute apartment pictured above: It's a two-bedroom luxury pad in downtown Austin -- and it's going for $1,074 per night -- plus a $100 security deposit and $65 cleaning fee -- on Airbnb.com during the 10-day South by Southwest festival. Other apartments renting on Airbnb.com during SXSW are asking between $650 and $1,000 a night. (There is at least one free place to stay for SXSW, but you'll be required to room with this guy.)

    So how does that compare to an average Austin rental any other time of the year? According to Austinist, the average rent in the city is $917 per month. The inflated price of the $1,074-a-night Austin apartment will come down after SXSW. If you book it in April, it only costs $538 a night. SXSW rental prices are undeniably pricey, but attendees at the festival (which has grown to include not only music but film and emerging technology) often have no other choice. Rooms at hotels affiliated with the festival sell out months in advance. Currently, all rooms set aside for the festival by hotels in and around Austin are booked -- and in any case, such hotel rooms also sport inflated nightly rates of up to 500 percent.

    Local Realtors say that it's "savvy" for homeowners to take advantage of the swell in short-term rental demand around SXSW, and many are making a killing -- but only for that short window of time. "We definitely see people renting their homes out for extremely high prices during SXSW," said Theresa Bastian, co-owner of KeepAustinWeirdHomes.com. "That may work once in a while, but I would say $700 a night for a one-bedroom condo is generally not the norm."

    For cheaper rental alternatives, Realtors suggest booking with vacation rental sites like HomeAway.com, which lets users search rentals by price. Also, try your hand at some good, old-fashioned haggling (most homeowners will surprisingly be open to negotiation). If you're traveling to SXSW in a large group, consider renting an entire home a little farther outside of Austin and using a rental car to travel to the event. And, of course, if you're traveling alone (or just don't want to pay for lodging) there's also Couchsurfing.com.

    See more:
    Visiting Austin for SXSW? You May Want to Move There
    SXSW Craigslist Ad: Rent-Free Room With a Musician Who Has '6% Body Fat'

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    How to Find Cheap Places to Crash on Vacations

     

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    David Hasselhoff home, Encino, Calif.

    Our favorite former "Baywatch" stud David Hasselhoff dove into the real estate market not long ago, putting his Encino, Calif., house on the market for $3.795 million in November. It's taken a little time for the Hoff to get a bite, but his luxe home has finally come under contract, according to Trulia. And, hey, he might even get a little extra cash from the deal. He bought the place all the way back in 1991 for $2.975 million.

    No reports yet on the buyer, but hats off to them. Hasselhoff's stunning home boasts a spa, a tennis court, a pool (with a diving board, water slide and adjoining grotto), a gymnasium, a library and a pub room. Though the home has great bones, Hoff's decor is a little questionable. (Is that a seat upholstered in badger pelts?)

    We still dig it, though, particularly if it comes with the complete collection of "Baywatch" in Hasselhoff's home office. Hope the new owner enjoys that! So what's next for Hasselhoff now that his home is out from under him? He's apparently planning to save a portion of the Berlin Wall from demolition. Be that hero, Hoff.

    Find other homes for sale in Encino, Calif., or search listings in your area.

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    David Hasselhoff Remembers Singing On The Berlin Wall

     

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