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AOL Real Estate - Blog

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    Kiernan Burke, a resident in the Queens borough of New York City, was charged $1,600 for electricity and gas usage over the past seven months, and he would dutifully pay his debt -- if his home had even existed in that time. The Burke family's home was destroyed in October 2012 by a fire that swallowed a swath of the Breezy Point neighborhood in Queens as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Their house -- which had been in the Burke family for four generations -- was one of 80 to 100 that burned to the ground and Sandy roared through.

    %Gallery-169603%
    Still, the Long Island Power Authority continued to bill the Burkes, NBC New York has reported. And here's the rub: The Burkes said that they believe LIPA is responsible for the fire that ravaged the neighborhood because the utility company never cut off power to the area during Sandy. Several Breezy Point families who lost their homes are suing LIPA for that reason.

    "How on earth could they, with a straight face, not even have the common courtesy and the dignity to understand that certain addresses were wiped off the map by their negligence?" Kiernan Burke told NBC New York. "It's just the highest level of ineptitude. It's crazy." LIPA, however, said that the bills were based on estimated meter readings -- although no meter survived at the Burke's former residence or at any of the homes in Breezy Point that were destroyed.

    Burke told NBC New York that although LIPA recently informed him that he won't have to pay the electricity bills, he worries about his credit as he tries to rebuild his life.

    View more videos at: http://nbcnewyork.com.



    See more about the impact of Hurricane Sandy:
    Old Map Keeps Breezy Point From Rebuilding After Sandy
    Homebuyers Searching for Deals in Hurricane Sandy Wreckage
    Hurricane Sandy and 2012's Other Natural Disasters Could Cost Homeowners for Years to Come

    More on AOL Real Estate:
    Find out how to
    calculate mortgage payments.
    Find
    homes for sale 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.

     

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    Canyon Creek Apartments in St. Louis, Mo.

    We've seen some pretty bad things drive tenants out of their apartments and homes -- sewage leaks, mold, rodents and bedbugs -- but this case is easily one of the most morbid. Residents of a St. Louis, Mo., apartment complex are in an "unlivable" situation due to the strong, putrid smell of a decaying body permeating the property.

    St. Louis TV station KMOV-4 reports that police found the source of the lingering stench: A man, found dead in one of the apartments, and that police confirm that he had been dead for at least three weeks.

    Residents of Canyon Creek Apartments say that the stench remaining after the removal of the body has spread across the complex and has brought in flies. According to crime scene cleanup firm Bio Ops, the decaying body smell can seep into wood, brick and metal -- and if left untreated, can last indefinitely. "It's pretty bad, you got the odor in your clothes and hair. You're licking and smelling it," neighbor Tom Shaeffer told the TV station.

    Though the owner of the apartment complex confirms that there have been cleanup efforts, with more to come, residents say that they can't take it much longer and want to move. Residents tell KMOV-4 that they are concerned that if they do move they will be charged a transfer fee and a fee for breaking the lease.




    See more on landlord disputes:
    When You Can Force Your Landlord To Listen To You
    Gun Owner Sean Blakley Says Landlord Is Evicting Him Over Firearms
    Tenants' Rights in Eviction: When Do Landlords Go Too Far?


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


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

     

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    Visitor with camera at Ariel Castro home

    The white-shingled, two-story home at 2207 Seymour Ave. in Cleveland might look like many American homes from the outside -- if it weren't for the tall chain-link fence now surrounding it and the crowds of visitors fighting to take pictures. The home, where Ariel Castro allegedly held Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight captive for more than a decade, has become the city's latest tourist attraction for all the wrong reasons.

    Fencing, police tape surround Ariel Castro homeDespite the fence and a police officer guarding the home at all times, the curious continue to gather at the Castro home, Cleveland TV station WKYC reported. "It's like they got a movie or something over there. [This is] going to last all this week. Watch. A lot of people are going to come from other states to take a picture of the house," neighbor Arivar Santiago told the station.

    Even area residents are keen to see Cleveland's "newest destination" in person. "I just came to see it with my own eyes. But next time I come, I'll probably bring my cellphone, take a picture," Stan Miller, who lives about 10 miles from the house, told WKYC.

    The property already appears to have joined many other homes that have been stigmatized by notorious crimes -- the Akron, Ohio, childhood home of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, for example, or the Houston home where Andrea Yates drowned her five children. Homes such as these have been known to drop sharply in value because of their chilling associations.

    According to MSNBC, neighbors already are hoping to see the home burned or knocked down, and are getting some support from City Hall. "It is too early to tell right now how long it will take before we are able to demolish it, but that is what our hope is," Cleveland City Councilman Brian Cummins told MSNBC. But it's more likely that the house will remain in limbo while Castro is on trial.



    See more about crime scene real estate:
    Bad Neighbors: Why the Brothel-Next-Door Goes Unnoticed
    Black Dahlia' Murder Home?
    Adam Lanza's Newtown Home Was 'Black Spot' in Neighborhood, Resident Says

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

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

     

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    Property Listing Tips: Should You Put Your Dog in the Listing Photograph?


    Humans are known to discard all pretenses of rational thinking when it comes to pets, but could photos of playful pups in real estate listings really drive purchases?

    New York realtor Phyllis Galloway thinks so, and in her 30 years at Sotheby's International Realty she's made a name for herself marketing homes to pet owners. "Pets warm up a listing and give a home character," she told The Wall Street Journal.

    But Galloway also recognizes that people who don't like animals or have allergies may be turned off. And although pets draw eyeballs to a listing, it usually ends up becoming all about the sweet-faced quadruped rather than the property on sale.

    "Eight out of 10 people -- if you show them a photo with a dog in it, they wouldn't remember the apartment, they would remember the dog," Nicole Oge, senior vice president of marketing at Town Residential, told the Journal.

    See more on real estate listing practices:
    Photoshopped Listings Sometimes Make for Not-So-Real Estate
    Home Listings: 10 Terms That Can Kill a Sale
    Real Estate Broker Warms Up Cold Listings With Hot Models

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


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

     

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    Rent protest Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village

    Tenants of a New York City apartment complex are fuming after its owner raised their rents -- some by more than $1,000 a month -- in the middle of their leases, WABC-TV in New York reported. Residents of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village complex on the east side of Manhattan got the surprise rent hikes when notices were slipped under their doors. Four thousand units are being affected by the increases.

    The rent hikes are part of a longstanding court battle between tenants and building management. In 2009, tenants won a fight against Tishman Speyer, then-owner of the complex, charging that many apartments were illegally deregulated under rent-stabilization laws. The tenants were given a temporary agreement to lower rents. But a permanent settlement was reached in November, allowing the current owner, CW Capital, to raise rents on 4,000 units, according to the Daily News. Now the notices give those residents two weeks' notice that there rents will be raised anywhere from hundreds of dollars to $1,100 a month starting June 1. (The complex has 11,200 units.)

    "We signed a two-year lease, we've been here for one year and our rent just went up $700," tenant Heidi Fredrick told WABC-TV. Another tenant, Jennifer Lutz, had a $1,000 hike on her rent. "Oh, there's no way -- it's $1,000," Lutz told WABC-TV. "That's $12,000 a year."

    Tenants are reportedly planning to protest the rent increases, and they are even considering a rent strike. "It is simply unfair and disrespectful, and we are tired of people treating this community like an ATM," New York City Councilman and Peter Cooper Village resident Daniel Garodnick told the Daily News. "Make no mistake about it. These increases are eviction notices."

    CW Capital said in a statement that in recognition of the hardship the short-notice rent increases causes for some residents, the company is willing to give them a 30-day extension until July 1 to decide whether they will pay the rent hikes or move out.



    See more on landlord disputes:
    When You Can Force Your Landlord To Listen To You
    Gun Owner Sean Blakley Says Landlord Is Evicting Him Over Firearms
    Tenants' Rights in Eviction: When Do Landlords Go Too Far?


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


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

     

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    Ricardo Cerezo of Geneva, Ill., with lottery ticket that saved him from foreclosure

    Man about to lose his home, finds lottery ticket and wins millions of dollars: It's the stuff of dreams, right? Well for Ricardo Cerezo of Geneva, Ill., that scenario was a reality.

    In February, Cerezo appeared at a foreclosure hearing where he was told he had mere months before his family was to be evicted from his home, the Chicago Tribune reported. Three months later, Cerezo's wife was cleaning out the kitchen and asked Cerezo to tend to the stash of old lottery tickets that had been piling up in a glass cookie jar over the past month -- an "old habit" he had, according to ABC News. "It was either take them, get them checked, or she was going to trash them that night," Cerezo told the Chicago Tribune.

    So Cerezo took the tickets to a 7-Eleven nearby and had them scanned. The first eight or nine tickets didn't yield any results, one yielded $3. "The last ticket said, 'file a claim.' Not a congratulations, not an amount, just said 'file a claim," NBC Chicago reported Cerezo as saying.

    He went home to check the numbers online and was shocked to discover that he might be a big winner. "So I called my son over, and I asked him to double check this," Cerezo told Chicago TV station WGN. "And he looked it through and said 'Yes, it looks like a winner.' " The Illinois Lottery confirmed that the piece of paper was worth a whopping $4.85 million. Needless to say, Cerezo's family is no longer facing foreclosure: They'll pay off their house in full, Cerezo said, and will even have some change left over.



    See more on the foreclosure settlement:
    Robo-Signing Scandal: Hundreds More Military Members Were Victims
    Do Banks or Homeowners Win in Mortgage Settlement?
    Foreclosure Settlement Money: Are States Using It the Right Way?

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

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

     

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    Aerial view of highest priced home listing

    We thought the Crespi/Hicks Estate in Dallas was expensive at $135 million, but this brand new listing blows that right out of the water. The Greenwich, Conn., estate of timber mogul John Rudey has just hit the market for an absolutely astounding $190 million -- making it the highest priced listing for a private home in the United States.

    So what can $190 million buy you? To begin with, the enormous and lavish Copper Beech Farm boasts 4,000 feet of water frontage and two offshore islands. The main house, a French Renaissance mansion constructed in 1896, measures 15,000 square feet and boasts a wood-paneled library, a staff wing and a solarium. The grounds -- sprawled across 50 acres -- include an apple orchard, two greenhouses, a tennis court, and a 75-foot-long heated pool. But is it all worth $190 million? Judge for yourself.

    %Gallery-188880%

    See more on high-priced homes:
    The 20 Most Expensive Homes Sold in 2012
    2nd Most Expensive Home Sale in U.S.? Silicon Valley Mansion Reportedly Snags $117.5 Million
    Most Expensive NYC Apartment Sale Closes at $88 Million

    More on AOL Real Estate:
    Find out how to
    calculate mortgage payments.
    Find foreclosures in your area.
    See celebrity real estate.

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

    The Most Expensive Apartment In New York

     

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    As the massive tornado that ripped through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore has shown, we're in the midst of tornado season. Dozens are dead after Monday's storm, and the death toll is expected to rise as rescue crews continue searching through the rubble for survivors, The Associated Press reported. In the town of Moore, Okla., an elementary school was demolished and scores of homes were flattened.

    For those living in the swath of the Great Plains, Midwest and South known as "tornado alley" -- which covers a big part of Oklahoma -- this is a reminder of how devastating the storms there can be. And it also shows that, as homes can be completely destroyed in a heartbeat by powerful twisters, you need home insurance. At this time of year, home insurance is doubly important considering the huge tornado outbreaks that tend to occur in the spring. But what does home insurance cover? Here's our guide:

    What's Covered in Home Insurance, Section I

    Coverage A covers the house itself -- roof, walls, cabinets, plumbing and electrical systems, HVAC (heating, ventilation and cooling system), etc. Most policies provide replacement cost coverage for the structure, provided that the property owner purchases sufficient insurance to cover 80 percent of the replacement cost. Failure to "insure to value" can result in a co-insurance penalty, that is, the insurance company pays only a percentage of the claim.

    Coverage applies for "all risks." In other words, the coverage applies to a loss by any cause, except for those that are specifically excluded. Examples of excluded losses are earth movement (earthquake) and flood. Examples of covered losses include fire, theft and water that escapes from within an appliance. A windstorm is typically a covered peril, but there are areas of Florida in which private insurance companies will exclude them from policies. In these areas, property owners may purchase such an "x-wind" policy, and then purchase a separate windstorm-only policy from Citizens Property and Casualty. Citizens is the state-run insurer of last resort.

    Coverage B covers "other structures" on the insured location that are separated from the primary structure by a clear space. This can include sheds, detached garages and the like.

    Coverage C covers personal property. Under the base HO-3 policy, personal property is covered for "named perils." These are specified in the policy and include fire and lightning, theft, water that escapes from within a plumbing system or appliance, windstorm (again, the x-wind discussion above applies), rain (if wind damages the structure so that rain can enter), damage from vehicles or flying objects, etc. For an additional premium, many policies will provide "all risk" coverage, as for the structure.

    Coverage D covers additional living expenses that are necessitated when a covered peril causes the structure to be unlivable.

    What's Covered in Home Insurance, Section II

    Section E covers liability. This is typically for property damage or personal injuries to third parties, due to the neglect of the insured. Examples would be injuries to a guest who slips and falls in the insured's home due to a hazard of which the insured person was aware and failed to correct. If the friend sues, the policy will provide a defense, but in most cases, the insurance company will attempt to negotiate a reasonable settlement based on the severity of the injuries and the degree of the insured's negligence.

    Available coverage amounts vary, and the insurance agent should be able to recommend a level of coverage suitable for the individual's needs. Obviously, people with significant assets should carry higher limits of coverage. Consumers should be aware of the increasing use of exclusions. Specifically, insurance companies are excluding claims for animal liability (dog bites and the like), trampolines and swimming pool injuries, to name a few. Agents can explain the differences between policies and should always advise clients on the coverage that they require.

    Section F provides medical payment coverages, which pay for medical bills incurred by persons injured on the insured property. The important distinction is that this coverage applies, regardless of the existence of negligence. Coverage amounts vary and can be increased by payment of an additional premium.

    Finally, consumers like the Joneses should be 100 percent truthful with their agent when they're applying for coverage. If the applicant provides a false response to an underwriting question and the insurance company issues the policy, the insurance company may have the right to later deny a claim. The Joneses learned the hard way, finally coming to their senses and opting for another insurance company once they were dropped, but by then, the damage had been done and lots of money was lost. This list at the outset could have saved them a few headaches.

    Differences Between Home insurance and Fire Insurance

    Dwelling fire policies are less expensive, but coverages are more limited. The more-comprehensive dwelling form is the DP-3. Dwelling fire policies are most often used by landlords for rental properties, but they're sometimes purchased by owners who occupy the property.

    The Form HO-3 is the most common type of homeowner's policy. It's generally the most comprehensive coverage and therefore the most expensive. The HO-3 policy is divided into two sections: Section I covers property, and Section II covers liability. Policies are typically divided into sections which identify what's covered, what it's covered against, what's not covered, and general terms and conditions.

    See also:
    Should You Buy a Standby Generator for Your Home?
    How To Protect Your Home From Damage in a 'Perfect Storm'
    Homeowners Insurance 101: What You Need to Know

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

    Follow us on Twitter at @AOLRealEstate or connect with AOL Real Estate on Facebook.
    6 Ways to Save on Home Owner's Insurance

     

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    Airbnb home page

    New York City has effectively deemed the vacation rental website Airbnb illegal with a finding that a man there broke the law by renting out his apartment through the service. A judge arbitrating the case for the city's Environmental Control Board declared that using Airbnb violated New York's illegal hotel law, reported The Verge news site. That law prevents citizens from renting out their properties for less than 29 days -- a law established to stop landlords from turning residences into hotels.

    According to CNET, the administrative law judge's May 10 decision -- fining New Yorker Nigel Warren $2,400 for violation of the hotel law -- doesn't necessarily mean that citizens with active Airbnb listings should close shop: The law is only actionable as a secondary offense. In other words, the city will only enforce the rule if a complaint is filed. Warren had faced a $7,000 fine for violating building and zoning codes in addition to hosting guests in his condo via Airbnb, and CNET added that it's not clear why Warren was investigated, but he did have a housemate at the time of the renter's stay.

    Airbnb told CNET in a statement that it was not happy with the city's decision saying that the illegal hotel law shouldn't be applied to "occasional hosts" like Warren, who are not trying to run illegal hotels in their homes but are simply "trying to make ends meet." In fact, Airbnb argued that the online service "supports the city's desire to preserve living accommodations because it allows tenant the ability to bolster their income and pay rent."

    Currently, there are over 1,000 listings available in New York City through Airbnb, Business Insider reports. Airbnb said it will continue the fight to ensure that New Yorkers are able to occasionally rent out their homes.

    See more about rental rules:
    Tenants of Manhattan Complex Irate Over Mid-Lease Rent Hikes
    When You Can Force Your Landlord To Listen To You
    Tenants' Rights in Eviction: When Do Landlords Go Too Far?

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


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

    Facebook's Mike Curtis Joins Airbnb

     

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    China's housing bubble may be ready to pop if the government doesn't take measures to prevent it, some economists are saying. The impact on China's economy could be devastating and permanent, much like Japan's crash of the 1980s, analysts speaking to CNNMoney warn. Home prices have spiked as much as 8 percent or more in some parts of the country over the past year. The National Bureau of Statistics found that of 70 major Chinese cities, 67 saw a rise in prices in April.

    Chinese skyscrapers shown on 60 MinutesAs seen in the Newsy video above, CNNMoney reports that a 2,000-square-foot, three-bedroom home fetches as much as $2.27 million in Shanghai, as property values have soared there and in other tier-one cities such as Beijing and Guangzhou in the past decade. The trouble is that China measures GDP by what is built, unlike the U.S., which measures growth by what's bought and sold. This has put pressure on the state to build as much as it can and has resulted in what have been dubbed "ghost cities" -- multiple-block stretches of vacant skyscrapers. That's a clear warning sign for a country that builds an average of 12 to 24 new cities a year, a financial analyst in Hong Kong, Gillem Tulloch, told "60 Minutes."

    One idea is for the government to introduce an annual property tax based on a home's market value. "That would reduce speculation, discourage owners from holding empty flats and provide a fresh source of funding for cash-strapped local governments," The Economist suggested (via Business Insider).

    The Chinese government has stated that it will implement a plan to curb the spike in prices in Shanghai and Guangzhou, but hasn't said when.

    See more on Chinese Real Estate:
    China's Empty Cities: These Satellite Images Will Shock You
    Guangzhou, China, Sinkhole Swallows Buildings (VIDEO)
    Tricycle House in China Gives New Meaning to Mobile Home

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


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

     

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    police cars at scene of landlord-tenant dispute in hialeah florida

    Landlord-tenant disputes happen with some regularity, but they can usually be tamed quickly and amicably. A little communication goes a long way, just like in any kind of relationship. The last thing you want to do is let a disagreement spin out of control. If you don't try to diffuse the situation early on, things can get ugly.

    That's what happened between one landlord and his tenant on Thursday in Hialeah, Fla. The landlord fatally shot his tenant in the chest during a heated argument, WSVN-TV in Fort Lauderdale quoted authorities as saying. The tenant, a man in his 20s, reportedly was wielding a baseball bat when he confronted the landlord at a home the tenant had been renting. Police have not disclosed the cause of the argument, but NBC Miami reported that the tenant had been evicted from the home the day before. The landlord, who has not been identified, is not being charged with a crime, and the incident is being considered self-defense, police said.

    Now this is an extreme example, but landlord-tenant disputes never have to go this far. With some simple precautions, there are ways in which landlords and tenants can avoid disputes. But in the case a dispute still arises, there are ways to stop it from escalating.

    Avoid Disputes Altogether by Knowing Where You Stand

    According to the Rentalutions blog, the primary cause of disputes between landlords and tenants is a misunderstanding regarding the lease agreement. To avoid this, before entering into a contract, landlords and tenants should thoroughly read through the entire rental agreement together and ask questions to ensure that each party has an understanding of their relationship and responsibilities. According to Rentalutions, if there is mutual understanding before the lease is signed, then the chance of a dispute arising later is significantly diminished.

    If There Are Problems, Take Pictures and Keep Documentation

    The less ambiguity, the better. According to legal site Nolo.com, landlords and tenants should keep copies of any correspondence and make notes of conversations about any problems. In the case of repairs, for example, tenants should write a letter requesting repairs and keep copies of that letter. The landlord should also keep a copy of the request letter, and keep documentation, receipts and pictures of when the issue was repaired.

    The more hard "evidence" there is between parties when it comes to real estate matters, the less chance there is for blaming and "he-said, she-said" arguments. Anything less than hard-copied communication, according to Inman News, opens up a chance for miscommunication.

    If an Altercation Arises, Communicate -- or Get Help

    Keeping the communication lines open is key, but if talking it out just won't work, then get the issue resolved by using a local landlord-tenant dispute resolution service. Many cities offer landlord and tenant dispute services in order to prevent the situation heading to court, eviction -- or worse.

    See more on landlord-tenant disputes:
    Tenants of Complex Irate Over Mid-Lease Rent Hikes
    When You Can Force Your Landlord To Listen To You
    Tenants' Rights in Eviction: When Do Landlords Go Too Far?

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


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

     

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    Phoenix home wrecked in hostage standoff

    After seeing the ruined interior of a Phoenix home stormed by a SWAT team, some may ask: Did authorities go too far? A wanted man allegedly held five hostages at the house -- including the homeowners. To get inside, officers rammed an armored vehicle into the walls of the house several times. After the chaotic scene, the homeowners invited Phoenix station KNXV-TV inside, where it reported that the home is now unlivable. Along with crumbling walls, the destruction includes bullet holes, shattered glass and blood spatters.

    The mess resulted from a police pursuit Monday night of 32-year-old Israel Celis Sr., who allegedly abducted his 3-year-old son and held him hostage along with the others in the home, KNXV reported. Another Phoenix station, KSAZ, said that Celis refused to surrender to officers, leaving them no choice but to use an armored truck on Tuesday morning to drive "nearly entirely into the house."

    Bullet holes reportedly riddle the entire structure. And the two bedrooms where the vehicle entered the home are strewn with debris and were nearly obliterated, and it's on this side of the home where KNXV said that blood is found throughout. Celis took his own life in a bathroom there as police closed in and the hostages were freed.

    %Gallery-189356%
    The homeowners were described as friends of Celis, and asked not to be identified or appear on camera as they told KNXV that they had filed a claim with their insurance agent but did not know whether the City of Phoenix would be involved in the process. They said they were "shaken and upset" about the whole situation and the amount of damage to their home. It was not clear when the home would be livable again.



    See also:
    Homeowners Insurance 101: What You Need to Know
    How To Protect Your Home From Damage in a 'Perfect Storm'
    Ariel Castro's Cleveland Home Becomes a 'Tourist Destination'

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

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

     

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    Doing roofing projects and repairs can be challenging -- and downright dangerous -- if the proper safety measures aren't taken. Though Mark Graham of the National Roofing Contractors Association advises that most roofing projects -- from heavy-duty, complex installations to smaller projects like fixing leaks -- should be handled by a roofing professional, there are some precautions that homeowners can take if they decide to go down the DIY route.

    Tip No. 1: Don't go it alone. If you must do roof repairs or projects, do it with a buddy. Not only can the extra pair of hands help with, say, moving large quantities of heavy shingles, but having someone to discuss and work through issues with can be helpful as well. Most importantly, if an accident should happen, there will be someone there to help you.

    Tip No. 2: If you must do repairs alone, use a safety system. Install roof brackets before engaging in any serious work up there, or even better, invest in a roofing harness system. According to Family Handy Man, a safety harness and rope tied to something sturdy is the "next best thing to a parachute" and can save your life in the case of a fall.

    Tip No. 3: Check the weather. Avoid doing projects or repairs on excessively windy or rainy days. Under no circumstances should you work on a wet, icy or snow-covered roof: It's downright dangerous.

    Tip No. 4: Invest in safety gear. Being on a roof puts the body in positions that are uncomfortable or unsafe. That said, DIY Network suggests wearing soft, rubber-soled boots to provide the best roof traction. Always wear a helmet to protect your head and minimize injury if you fall. Roofing Networks also suggests wearing safety glasses and gloves.

    Tip No. 5: Prepare a checklist and make sure you know what you're doing, and in what order. Before tackling a massive roofing project or repair, organize yourself ahead of time so you have a clear head when you're up there. There's nothing worse than feeling frazzled or realizing you're lacking the tools needed when you're stuck in a precarious position on a steep roof.

    Tip No. 6: Clean up as you go. Keep the site clear of debris and other objects while you work. Nails, old shingles and stray tools can create a hazard. If you're not using tools, get your buddy to remove them from the work site to prevent a slipping or tripping danger.

    If at any point in time you don't feel confident or comfortable doing your own repairs, Graham advises you consult a professional. "It's not worth the risk -- leave complicated roofing repairs to the trained professional," he said.



    More about DIY projects for the home:
    Want a Patio? Try Stamped Concrete as a Low-Cost Alternative
    Use a Salvaged Tub to Turn Your Backyard Into a Soothing Oasis
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    crime scene tape on tree by trailer where body was found

    All the fun was taken out of a game of hide-and-seek when children at a mobile home park in Bloomington, Ind., made a grim discovery under a trailer: a dead body. The four kids came across the body while playing over Memorial Day weekend, The Herald-Times in Bloomington reported. David Langley, 14, was the one who spotted the body while crouching down behind a mobile home. He looked across the way and saw two feet sticking out from under a trailer, Indianapolis station RTV6 reported.

    "I'm glad he did the right thing and came and told his parents instead of just not saying nothing and letting somebody else find it," David's father, John Langley, who called police to report the discovery, told RTV6. The body was identified as that of Michael Droll, 52. The Monroe County Coroner's Office ruled Droll's death an accident, possibly by a slip-and-fall injury while the man was intoxicated.

    But a cloud of mystery hangs over the incident in the mobile home park for some residents, who discount the coroner's conclusion and suspect foul play in Droll's death. Among their theories about what really happened to Droll, who was found partially clothed:

    "From what I heard, he got beat with a 2-by-4," resident Larry Stancomb told RTV6.

    "From what they [police] said, I think it was foul play," said another.

    "He looked like a pretty good size boy -- no one person's gonna put him up there [under the mobile home]," said neighbor Dave Terrell.

    While authorities insist that they do not yet see it as a criminal case, residents of that small, mobile-home community still wait for a clearer picture of what happened.

    In another recent case involving the discovery of a cadaver, it wasn't the suspicion of foul play but a foul odor that confounded a community earlier this month. It took several days for the smell of death at a St. Louis apartment complex to be traced to a resident who died there three weeks earlier, and the lingering odor was leading many there to consider moving.



    More about notorious discoveries in homes:
    Ariel Castro's Cleveland Home Becomes a 'Tourist Destination'
    Realtor Discovers Explosives Inside Nashville Home for Sale
    Landlord Dennis Alan Van Dusen's Smoke Detectors Hid Spy Cameras

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    Whether you're sprucing up your home to sell or just want to give it a quality makeover, consider adding touch-ups that will boost your home's value -- and help you get a higher price when you do eventually put it on the market.

    Blanche Garcia discusses home makeovers on HowcastAs Blanche Garcia (pictured at left) explains to Howcast, you should focus on your kitchen countertop and appliances, wall colors and flooring. Granite or stone countertops are always the way to go, Garcia advises. You might think you're saving money by going with cheaper laminate variety but these types of countertops typically don't outlast a year. And if you have outdated kitchen appliances, consider getting them replaced. They speak greater volumes to perspective homebuyers than you might think.

    Want more advice on value-driving renovations? To find out what color never to use in the bedroom and which type of flooring works the best, check out the video above.

    See more on home makeovers:
    Spring Home Makeover Don'ts: HGTV's Sabrina Soto On Big Mistakes
    Tyler Leone, Disabled Teen, Gets Home Makeover That Will Change His Life
    Listing Fail: Even 'Ugly' Homes Need Buyers

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    My Next Move: On My Own


    One thing about renting is for sure: You get what you pay for. Marc Haynes found that out the hard way. When he was ready to leave behind the Philadelphia party pad that he shared with roommates, he though that he'd found a perfect apartment for his return to living solo. Even more perfect was the low rent: $235 a month. But Haynes quickly found out why it was so cheap.

    One thing went wrong, then another, then another. The quaint little place in one of Philadelphia's hippest neighbors turned into a nightmare -- and became known by Haynes as the "Mole Hole." Haynes looks back on the time that he thought he was making the best move of his life and now says, "It was the worst decision I've ever made." So what could've gone so wrong? Just about everything. Watch the video above to learn why. Haynes also documented the experience on his blog, Frazzled at Forty.

    See more on moving challenges:
    Biggest Decision of Their Lives in Only a Matter of Days
    Paradise Isn't Always What It's Cracked Up to Be
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    Mark Haynes 'Mole Hole' apartment

     

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    Marilyn Monroe was the epitome of beauty and style -- and so it comes as no surprise that her final home, located in Brentwood, Calif., is no different. With soaring, wood-beamed ceilings, big, airy windows, earthy decor and tasteful Spanish architectural influences, Miss Monroe shows us that even her abode is all class.


    Both of them: Tucked away by nature preserve forty miles away from Los Angeles is Marilyn's "rendezvous hideaway home" -- Farralone Estate -- that she purportedly used to "meet" with President John F. Kennedy. The estate is just as stunning as her Brentwood home and even boasts a vineyard and equestrian trails.

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    bedbug investation

    A tenant has been awarded $800,000 in damages after suing her landlord for renting her a bedbug-infested apartment in Annapolis, Md. -- apparently a record sum in such a case. Faika Shaaban, 69, had lost "practically everything" in an infestation that left her with "hundreds" of bites and lesions, her attorney contended.

    Shaaban said that property owner Cornelius J. Barrett and the West Street Partnership were fully aware of the bedbug infestation weeks before she'd moved in, The Baltimore Sun reported. Shaaban's lawsuit further alleged that Barrett and the West Street Partnership completely ignored complaints from other tenants before allowing her to move in. Furthermore, Barrett's efforts to to deal with the bedbugs only worsened the infestation and damaged Shaaban's personal property, according to her attorney. Barrett evicted Shaaban at one point, the Capital Gazette in Annapolis reported, among other "retaliatory measures" -- and when Shaaban's bedbug-infested possessions were put out on the street by the landlord in her absence, many of them were soon taken by unsuspecting scavengers.

    The jury in Anne Arundel County took just 15 minutes to reach a decision on the lawsuit, and the award was twice what Shaaban had sought, the Gazette said. The payout reportedly was the highest that lawyers had seen in such cases. (In 2002, a jury awarded $382,000 to a brother and sister who said they were attacked by bedbugs at a Chicago motel.)

    Shaaban's case joins a slew of other cases of tenants suing their landlords over bedbug infestations. Concerns about bedbugs have heightened so dramatically over the past few years that a law in New York state was enacted to force landlords to disclose to potential tenants whether bedbugs have been reported in a rental apartment or anywhere in a building.

    More about bedbugs:
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    Bedbug Killers Brainstorm at Chicago Conference
    Bedbugs: Bite Back at These Superpests

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    Woman Awarded $800,000 After Living in Bedbug-Ridden Apartment

     

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    What can't a smartphone do nowadays? Well, check on more thing off the list: running the electronic components in your home.

    TV station KTXL in Sacramento spoke with Kris Stringfellow, a local resident who uses his smartphone to control everything from his home security system to his thermostat. He can stream live surveillance footage of his home and even pan his camera remotely to get a better look at a potential intruder. "I get packages delivered -- I can tell when packages have arrived, and if someone decides to take them I can see who they are," he said.

    Could it get any more convenient? Maybe -- if it could start the laundry or prepare a meal on its own. To learn more about smart homes, watch the video above.

    See more about smartphones and real estate:
    How Your Smartphone Can Find Your Dream Home
    6 Real Estate Apps for Finding a New Home
    Mortgage Applications Over the Phone? They Could Be on the Way

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    scene of home renovation at jeremiah mackay home

    The family of a fallen sheriff's deputy is getting a better, safer place to live thanks to the big hearts of volunteers and the officer's comrades. Detective Jeremiah MacKay of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department was one of the officers killed in a shootout with Christopher Dorner (pictured below), the former Los Angeles cop who went on a murder spree against police in February after being fired from his job. Dorner's rampage sparked what local police describe as the largest manhunt in the history of Southern California, and it ended when he shot himself in a mountain cabin while surrounded by pursuers. Dorner killed four people, including two police officers.

    Christopher DornerNow, four months after MacKay's death, volunteers are pitching in to fix up his home to make life a little easier for the officer's wife and two children, whom he left behind, Los Angeles TV station KTLA reported. The Home Depot Foundation is behind the effort, called the MacKay Project, and volunteers are made up of Home Depot employees and MacKay's fellow police officers. The renovations include installing new windows and doors, as well as replacing carpeting, flooring, gutters and outdoor lighting.

    "Now they have a little better place, a little safer place for their children to be raised in," Capt. Lee Hamblin told KTLA.

    Lynette MacKay, the widow of the fallen officer, told The Press-Enterprise newspaper in Riverside, Calif., that she and her husband had many projects planned before he died. But they weren't to the level of what the volunteers were doing. "This house represents us, and so many memories are here -- not just for me, but his family as well," Lynette MacKay said. "He's still very much in the house with me. He's smiling down because he knows we're safe and taken care of."

    She added: "It's still very, very hard living in this house and going to dinner around town. The Sheriff's Department has been a rock for me. They've supported our family every day. They call us just to check in and say hi."

    According to L.A. station KTTV, the 80 volunteers working on the MacKay home also plan to do landscaping projects and add a new garage door. The MacKay project is part of many home improvement projects across the country that the Home Depot Foundation has put $80 million toward, KTTV reported.


    See more on home makeovers:
    Spring Home Makeover Don'ts: HGTV's Sabrina Soto On Big Mistakes
    Tyler Leone, Disabled Teen, Gets Home Makeover That Will Change His Life
    Listing Fail: Even 'Ugly' Homes Need Buyers

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    Find out how to calculate mortgage payments.
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