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AOL Real Estate - Blog

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    Phoenix couple Heather and Jeremy Kerr were ready to own a home at the beginning of 2012 as they saw the lease on their apartment about to expire -- or so they thought. After contacting a Realtor and getting pre-qualified for a loan, they were anxious to put down offers and buy. What the Army veteran -- whose service included the action in Mogadishu that inspired the movie "Black Hawk Down" -- and his wife weren't ready for was how challenging it was going to be to find a suitable house.

    As they describe it in the video above, it didn't start well: "The very first house we looked at went on the market an hour before we looked at it," Heather Kerr says. "And the hour after we looked at it, it was already off the market." Although Phoenix was one of the hardest-hit housing markets in the economic downturn, by the time the Kerrs (pictured at left) started shopping it already was being picked over by blocs of real estate investors. The Kerrs also had to find a home that was in "100 percent working condition" to meet the requirements of a Veterans Administration loan. The couple discovered that this eliminated a surprising amount of the available inventory in their area.

    The Kerrs even reached a point at which they were bidding on homes based solely on the photos their Realtor showed them. View the video to see the creative steps they took that eventually put them in a house that they could fall in love with.

    More on homebuying:
    America's Top 10 Disaster 'Safe Zones'
    Housing Recovery's Next Hot Spots
    How Much House Can You Get for $150,000

    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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    How can you turn a property that won't sell into three that will, and make half a million in the process? A Michigan man thinks he's found the answer. But so far he's had to spend thousands and move house -- literally -- to find out.

    Fritz Kruer had been trying to sell his 6,600-square-foot house in East Grand Rapids without much luck, he recently told West Michigan TV station WXMI (as seen in the video above). "Everybody in town is more interested in building new homes than big old houses," Kruer (pictured at left) told the Fox affiliate, "so we thought to make it possible to develop the property and create a couple more lots, we'd move the house." He only needed to have it moved about 60 feet, but "it's not cheap," he told the station, "about a hundred thousand dollars to move the house, with putting in a new basement and all the other things."

    Kruer figured that he'd be able to sell the two vacant lots beside it for about $300,000 each to developers, and told WXMI that one already has sold. "People are tearing down homes worth more than that in town to get lots about the same size," he said.

    Dietz is hardly the first in his neighborhood to take on such a project, though. A slightly smaller house in East Grand Rapids was moved 150 feet last year as the result a 30-acre development project, reports Michigan news site MLive. In that case, though, the effort was made to preserve and re-sell the 5,000-square-foot Robert Wilcox House, an 87-year-old Spanish-style mansion and local landmark that otherwise would have been demolished.

    Man Moves House 30 Feet, Gets $600,000

    More about moving a house:
    3 Chicago-Area Homes Priced at $1

    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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    A Texas city that made headlines last month when a contractor that it hired mistakenly demolished the wrong house says that the same thing happened recently, though for a slightly different reason. The city of Fort Worth got some unwelcome notoriety in July when a wrecking crew looking to knock down an abandoned and derelict home bulldozed a home nearby that was merely vacant, even as a neighbor warned them that they were at the wrong address.

    That incident sidetracked a couple's plan for turning the lakeside house into a place to spend their retirement. But in looking into that error and how to prevent another home from being demolished by mistake, reports KVTV in Fort Worth, the city discovered that it wasn't the first time: Just the day before the lakeside home was razed, the same wrecking crew under the authority of the same code-enforcement officer had taken down a fire-damaged building -- as they should have -- but went on to level an undamaged residence at the same address. That vacant dwelling (a remnant of which is shown above) was supposed to remain.

    A member of the family that owns that property told another Fort Worth TV station that clothing that was stored there along with a number of other precious possessions and momentos of deceased relatives, such as pictures, were lost in that demolition. "My mom's stuff, her clothes, her shoes, her boots -- everything," Juanita Anchonda told KDFW. "Her pictures, my grandma's pictures." Anchonda went on to tell the TV station that until now the family had not raised objections because they did not think that they had any recourse. "If they did it, they had the authority to do it. So what can you do?"

    The work order on the fire-damaged home didn't include anything about knocking down a second structure, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram said, and a code officer's report about that mistake was, in the words of city spokesman Bill Begley, "not communicated up the chain." The newspaper also reported that the city already is in court as part of a lawsuit over a commercial property that it knocked down in 2011, allegedly mistaking it for a property next door.

    Begley said that in the case of Anchonda's property, the wrecking crew went too far, reported KVTV, but the house that it razed the next day was "inappropriately" marked for demolition by a city employee. The spokesman also told the media that Fort Worth has stopped such demolitions until it can determine the source of the problem and that the city will "do what is right" toward the property owners. The city code supervisor involved reportedly is on administrative leave in the meantime.

    This kind of error is hardly limited to Fort Worth, though. As AOL Real Estate previously reported, a dozen homes sold at auction were mistakenly razed in late 2012. In that case, The Detroit News said, the city pointed the finger at the state -- which leveled them as part of a program to end blight near schools. However, the state said that the 12 homes were so unfit to occupy that they should never have been sold in the first place.



    More about demolished homes:
    Phoenix Home Wrecked in Hostage Standoff -- Who's Responsible?
    Not-So-HighTimes: Rental Wrecked by Weed Growers

    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.

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

     

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    BRITAIN-ARHCITECTURE-WEATHER
    Leon Neal/AFP; Getty Images


    A dramatic new skyscraper going up in London's financial district is creating such an intense zone of reflected heat from its concave design that it's reportedly able not only to fry eggs on the pavement below but melt very expensive automobiles. London businessman Martin Lindsay is quoted by the BBC as saying that a side-view mirror and exterior panels of his Jaguar were warped last week after he'd only been parked in the reflected light of the so-called "Walkie Talkie" building for a few hours.

    Another witness saw the seats on a row of bicycles parked nearby made so hot by the rays that they began to smoke, reported the International Business Times. And there were other reports of damage to paint, furniture and carpet in nearby businesses from the 37-story tower dubbed the "Walkie Talkie" because of its shape. (The photo above shows the light reflected from the "Walkie Talkie" onto another building and the tower itself is pictured in the gallery below.)

    While the developers of the building, the Canary Wharf Group, said in a statement that it's aware of the problem and that it will last "approximately 2 hours per day, with initial modeling suggesting that it will be present for approximately 2-3 weeks," this kind of issue is well known in the world of architecture, especially in the era of curving glass towers. The slideshow below looks as some of the most notable examples of buildings in the past 50 years that have created glaring problems -- or at least been suspected of causing them.

    BUILDINGS ACCUSED OF GLARING OVERSIGHTS:


    More stories about skyscrapers:
    Squatters Organize Co-Op in 'World's Tallest Slum'
    Incredible Shrinking Building in Tokyo Skyscraper Demolition (VIDEO)
    Superstition Keeps Richest Man Out of Billion-Dollar House

    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.


     

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    While many were flocking from Detroit, leaving abandoned homes and distressed neighborhoods in their wake, Laura Breisch was house hunting.

    A faithful Motor City denizen, Breisch started looking for a new place two years ago, after a divorce forced her from the Detroit suburb she had called home for nearly a decade. She began her search on Why Don't We Own This?, a site that maps the city's foreclosed houses that are up for auction.

    Breisch had her work cut out for her. With a huge directory of homes to comb through, she began to scope out the Detroit neighborhood that she wanted to live in. "I didn't want to be in the one house standing amongst a bunch of burnt-out houses," she said.

    Breisch's perseverance eventually paid off. After narrowing the list down to just three, she walked away from an auction with keys to a huge home with an inviting porch and fireplace. But Breisch still had a long way to go to make the house livable.

    For the full story, watch the video above.

    More on real estate auctions:
    Selling Homes at Auction Helps Homeowners Unload Properties Quickly
    Gianni Versace's Opulent Mansion Headed for Auction Block
    What Is an REO?

    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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    Despite repeated warnings from authorities and continued media coverage about the rental scams that have become epidemic on Craigslist and elsewhere, many continue to fall victim. Among the latest apparent targets of a now-familiar con game -- a family of five in Southern California who say that they found a Craigslist advertiser so persuasive that they lost thousands of dollars in a phony deal and even ended up having their vehicle towed and being evicted by authorities. Mark Ames, an above-the-knee-amputee and his wife, Sharon, a disabled Navy veteran, moved with their children into a home in Riverside last month, through an ad they found on Craigslist. "It was everything it was supposed to be, except it wasn't," Mark Ames told Los Angeles TV station KTLA.

    Their story -- viewed in the video above -- bears a striking similarity to other recent fraud cases reported by AOL Real Estate, including those of:
    o. A alleged con man who used the name of an employee at a legitimate real estate company while showing a New Orleans home to renters, after sneaking into the home through an open back window.
    o. Scammers who reportedly collected rent from a family in St. Louis for months, on a home going through foreclosure, after changing its locks and forging ownership papers.

    Renters should know that scammers will go to great lengths to make the bait in these con games look both legitimate and irresistible, even by copying and reposting legitimate listings. Among the red flags: Requests for money before a deal is confirmed and claims by a purported landlord or property representative that they're unable to meet with renters because they are out of town or otherwise unavailable.

    AOL Real Estate's guide on avoiding Craigslist rental scams also warns of these:
    1. A deal that sounds too good to be true. It probably isn't true, so compare listings to gain insight into the market rate. (And if the name of a legitimate real estate company of agent is used, contact that company to authenticate it and the person placing the ad.)
    2. The bait-and-switch. Finding out that an apartment you were interested in has, when you arrive to see it, already been rented -- but another is available at a higher price.
    3. Requests for deposit funds to be wired. Don't send checks or wire money to people that you don't know.

    More about rental scams:
    Homeless Man Allegedly Rents Out Vacant, Foreclosed Home
    5 Tip-Offs To A Rental Scam
    Renters Beware: Fraudsters Still Lurking on Craigslist

    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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    There's no better sign of a return to a seller's market in real estate than a bidding war, and here's one that really stands out. A pair of homeowners recently did epic battle over a narrow strip of beach property that lies near their respective properties in East Hampton, N.Y. -- and we do mean strip, at 1 foot wide and 1,885 feet long. The county had offered the land for sale to six property owners in the area with the expectation, at first, that it might sell for as much as $10, reports Newsday. But when the dust settled, the winning bid was 12,000 times that -- at $120,000.

    Ridiculous? The neighbors bidding on the property reportedly are financiers who maintain their pricey properties in the Long Island's Hamptons as getaways -- so they must know what they're doing, right? So too, it appears, must someone who works for Suffolk County. When only two of the six property owners contacted by the county -- Marc Helie and Kyle N. Cruz -- expressed interest in the narrow parcel leading to the Atlantic Ocean, the county decided to put the two neighbors in a room and have them bid on it, asking for a starting offer of not $10, but $1,500.

    Still, the outcome seems to have been something of a surprise. "We've had one or two pieces start off at $400 and maybe go to $10,000, but never like this," the county's property manager, Wayne R. Thompson, was quoted as saying by Newsday. "But you know what water's worth. ... You can say, 'Oh, yes, I have a right of way to the water.' " As the above video tells it, though, there might be more to it than bragging rights.

    How did the county end up with such an odd but ultimately valuable parcel of land in the first place? It was seized a decade ago for unpaid property tax.

    View the video above for the full story.

    More on real estate bidding wars:
    In a Bidding War? 5 Ways to Win the Home You Want
    The Home Bidding Wars Are Back!
    Winning in a Seller's Housing Market

    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.

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

     

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    Another city has accidentally demolished the wrong house, but in this case it might be hard to blame civic officials or even the demolition crew. Although the house in Pontiac, Mich., that was supposed to be leveled was actually just next door, the man who owns that house is accused of tricking the wreckers into razing the wrong one, reports Detroit TV station WXYZ.

    In the past year, AOL Real Estate has carried stories of several purportedly abandoned homes that were mistakenly demolished -- through foul-ups in paperwork or communication -- and in the case of Fort Worth, Texas, two of them in two days. While officials in Fort Worth fessed up to the errors, authorities in the Detroit suburb of Pontiac are accusing a homeowner whose house was slated for demolition of switching the numbers on his with that of a house next door. (Maybe because of the number of houses blighted or abandoned there, home-demolition snafus have been a recurring problem in the Detroit area.) The owner of that demolished home told the TV station that he'd planned to rent it out in October and might seek compensation from the city of Pontiac.

    As seen in the the above video, not everyone thinks that the destruction of that house in Pontiac was necessarily a bad thing, but the owner of the neighboring dwelling is now under investigation for his alleged role in the mix-up -- which only seems to have delayed the inevitable.



    More about wrecked homes:
    Abandoned New Orleans House Falls on Neighbor's Home
    Phoenix Home Wrecked in Hostage Standoff -- Who's Responsible?
    Not-So-HighTimes: Rental Wrecked by Weed Growers

    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.

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

     

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    luxury underground bunker las vegas
    realtor.com

    While "unique" is probably the most overused word in real estate listings, this five-bedroom, six-bath Las Vegas home just blocks from the Strip delivers on that while still managing to be one of those trendy luxury doomsday bunkers. The luxuries in this case are 1970s vintage, though -- hot tub, outdoor barbecue, intercom, large master bath -- and actually date from kind of late in the era of Cold War paranoia that started driving people to build nuclear bomb shelters back in the 1950s.

    By the late 1960s, though, the question seemed to change from "How to survive a nuclear holocaust?" to "What kind of world you be living in if you did?" And this bifurcated two-story home -- part above-ground and part below -- answers that question with an attempt, CNNMoney tells us, to reproduce the above-ground world in its bomb shelter basement, complete with faux lawn, trees and shrubs, lighting that simulates the changing light over the course of a day, and murals of idealized landscapes. So if the worst happens, why would you ever need to go outside? And in that respect, this home listing for $1.6 million may not be so different from the stagy and hermetic hotels and casinos of today's Las Vegas.

    It also anticipates the doomsday bunkers that fascinate so many nowadays with a promise of survival over the long haul. The bomb shelters of the late '50s were grim little cellars stocked with just enough canned goods, crackers and hard cheese to last for a few weeks past the initial annihilation. Who knew what you would do after that? Like the luxe bunkers being marketed now, though, this home seems built on the premise that it might actually be OK if we have to exist down there for a very long time.

    The photos from the listing of this bank-owned property (bombproof but, alas, not foreclosure-proof) are shown in the below gallery, and they're a little dim and hastily composed. A brighter look at this doomsday bunker has since emerged in this article from the Las Vegas Journal.

    DOOMSDAY BUNKER WITH LAS VEGAS LUXURY:

    More about doomsday bunkers:
    How Doomsday Real Estate Is Surviving and Thriving After 'The Apocalypse'
    Luxury Doomsday Bunkers Promise Survival -- and Pampering
    Man Makes 'Doomsday Bunker' Out of Stolen Trailers, Police Say

    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.

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

     

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    When Craig Bentley and Frank Polito's 500-square-foot New York City apartment started to feel like a shoebox, they decided it was time to upgrade. But instead of opting for a larger space in the City That Never Sleeps -- or, as it sometimes seems, gets cheaper -- the couple took their search 600 miles west to their hometown of Detroit.

    They chose an unconventional way to search for their new home. Using Zillow's Make Me Move search feature, Frank and Craig were able to look at homes that were not on the market yet, but had owners seriously interested in moving out. The frustrating part for buyers going this route is that it's their job to convince the undecided seller, who has no professional guidance from a Realtor and often has an inflated idea of the home's worth, to sell at a decent price.

    The couple eventually overcame that hurdle. Craig and Frank found a home they adored, with a tiled fireplace and gorgeous staircase, and soon settled on a price with the owner. The trouble came once they received the home's official value from the appraiser -- it was $10,000 less than their agreed upon purchase price. "That's a big issue, because the lender will only give you the amount for what it's appraised for," Craig said.

    Fortunately, after a long period of negotiation, they struck a second deal just as the couple was about to move in. To see the full story, watch the video above.

    More from the Bought series:
    Auctioned Detroit House Becomes Dream Home
    Shut Out By a Seller's Market? A Letter Goes a Long Way
    Son Surprises Mom With a Gift She Could Live In

    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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    Chicago wants renters to be able to keep living in buildings that have fallen into default or be paid thousands for their pains. A new law designed to protect renters from suddenly losing their homes because of foreclosure just took effect this week in Chicago, with the hope that it will also stem a tide of vacant and derelict dwellings that have afflicted that city and many others in the wake of the housing crisis. The ordinance, called "Keep Chicago Renting," requires that a renter of a foreclosed property be paid $10,600 to relocate or be granted a rent-controlled lease until that property is sold.

    In 2010, AOL Real Estate reported that the occupants of more than 8,500 rental units in Chicago were pushed out by foreclosures in 2009. Along with losing their homes, it was estimated then that it cost Chicago's renters $7.3 million in lost security deposits. The situation then got even worse, with "banks systematically empty foreclosed buildings, leaving them vacant for months or years," according to the Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing (which Bloomberg Law described as a primary force behind the Chicago ordinance). Chicago radio station WBEZ cited committee figures for 2012 that said there were 4,346 foreclosures on Chicago apartment buildings that affected 11,932 rental units.

    In a story that year about the impact of vacant properties on neighboring homes and whole neighborhoods, the executive director of Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago described to AOL Real Estate how they were pushing other homes toward foreclosure and worse. "They become magnets of crime," Ed Jacob said of the vacant properties. "They'll get stripped of all their copper. People use them to stash their drugs. It's a huge psychological effect on homeowners who are hanging on." The Lawyers Committee said criminal activity in such buildings rose 48 percent in seven years.

    Banks, landlords and real estate agents opposing the "Keep Chicago Renting" ordinance warned that it would only aggravate the problems it's designed to relieve. "It's going to be a disincentive for investment in multi-units from a wide range of financing sources," Brian Bernardoni, senior director of government affairs and public policy of the Illinois Association of Realtors was quoted by WBEZ as saying. "Any time you have a lack of investment, there's going to be a lack of rehab, a lack of sustainable affordable housing and preservation of affordable housing units."

    See more details and reaction to the "Keep Chicago Renting" ordinance in the video above.

    More about vacant homes:
    Abandoned New Orleans House Falls on Neighbor's Home
    U.S. Cities With the Most Vacant Homes
    Abandoned Home a 'Den of Violence,' Neighbors Say

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

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

     

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    A fire that briefly trapped some residents and injured six people as it destroyed most of an apartment building in southeastern Wisconsin was set, authorities say, by a woman seeking revenge after an ugly breakup with her boyfriend. Trisha Krueger, 28, of Watertown, Wis., faces 100 years in prison if convicted on the charge of arson along with six counts of reckless endangerment, after allegedly setting fire Saturday night to the apartment there that she shared with her ex-boyfriend, Jacob J. Verriden, and his two young daughters, reported the Watertown Daily Times. Authorities say that Krueger confessed to setting the blaze to "hurt Verriden back."

    trisha krueger arson suspect
    WISN; AOL On
    Krueger is also accused of disorderly conduct and battery after allegedly putting a stranglehold on Verriden as he slept Friday. He showed officers a text message purportedly sent to him by Krueger early Sunday that included the statement "you will burn." Krueger was supposed to move out of the six-unit building on Monday, Verriden reportedly told police, after a contentious couple of weeks in which she's said to have threatened him several times. The Daily Times quoted the criminal complaint as saying that Krueger "snapped" after being asked to leave a bar where she'd confronted her ex-boyfriend, then started the blaze because "she needed a release."

    As described in the video from Milwaukee station WISN above, Verriden and other residents, some of whom jumped from the building's second floor, were lucky to escape with their lives. Some lost all their possessions, though, and WMTV in Madison reported that none of them had renters insurance.

    More articles about renting:
    Students' Mysterious Housemate -- A Lesson for Tenants
    Instances When Renter's Insurance Can Really Save You
    What Renters Should Do Before Natural Disaster Strikes

    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.

    THE MOST DEPRESSING RENTALS?:
    %Gallery-188320%








     

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    How far is too far when it comes to patriotic displays? Residents of a central Florida town who have posted "God Bless America" signs on their front lawns for months are now facing fines if they don't remove them. The temporary lawn signs that were distributed by a local church around the Fourth of July have been determined by City of Bartow Code Enforcement to be in violation of a local ordinance. If not removed soon, the city warns, those displaying them could be fined $25 per day.

    As described in the above video, some residents are baffled by the rule and are resisting. But the city says that the ordinance is not aimed at any particular sentiment, and allows for exceptions.
    god bless america sign ban bartow
    Morning Rush

    "They can have those signs out on holidays that are relevant," Bartow Code Enforcement Director Gregg Lamb told Tampa Bay's WTVT this week. You can have a temporary sign around Christmas if it's related to Christmas. Or the Fourth of July. The sign ordinance has exceptions for that."

    Some Bartow residents don't see patriotism -- or lawn signs that celebrate it -- as seasonal, though. And the TV station reports that a group of them will seek a waiver from the ordinance at the next Bartow City Commission meeting. And while AOL Real Estate has carried several stories of similar conflicts, those have usually involved homeowner or condo associations, not cities -- such as the case of Army Sgt. Brandon Weir, who ran into trouble at his Huntsville, Ala., condominium complex earlier this year because he flew the U.S. flag in front of his home there. And in a similar case, Meagan Schmidt of Katy, Texas, battled her HOA over a sign in her yard that advertised her church, which the association saw as violating a rule against commercial signage.

    Why would a city want to ban all lawn signs to begin with, and challenge free expression on private property? Might there be a clue in some of the yard signs and other displays in the slideshow below?

    BIZARRE, FUNNY, OUTRAGEOUS SIGNS ON HOMES:


    More stories about codes and rules for homeowners:
    County Housing Code Pushing College Students Out of Shared Home
    HOA Horrors and How Not to Fall Victim to Them
    Gay-Bias Ban Helping Revive 'Dead Town' of Vicco, Ky.


    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.

     

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    The shutdown of the federal government is really hitting home for some with cabins on Lake Mead. Several of them who've been leasing federal land for their vacation homes about 70 miles from Las Vegas were told to pack up and leave their cabins until a federal budget passes and the government is again operating at full capacity. The evictions reportedly are sending some of them scrambling for shelter.

    Joyce Spencer Lake Mead homeowner
    KVVU; Morning Rush
    About 60 families with homes on federal parkland surrounding the lake, which is on the Arizona-Nevada border, were given notice last week, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "They are all vacation homes and everybody who lives in them are considered visitors," the paper quotes a spokeswoman for the Lake Mead Recreational Area as saying. The structures are privately built and owned, but the terms for those leasing the federal land under them includes having an alternate residence. Practically speaking, that apparently isn't the case for everyone right now.

    Joyce Spencer, 77, and her husband Ralph, 80, have had to stay in the family ice cream store and with relatives since the order was issued, reports Las Vegas TV station KTVN. Although she remembered his walker and scooter as they were leaving, she forgot her husband's pants, Spencer (pictured above) told the station.

    The National Park Service says it's not going to force anyone to go pantsless, though. "If anybody needs to gather their personal belongings, we're not going to deny them access," the spokeswoman told the Review-Journal. "They just can't spend the nights there or have barbecues during the day. They need to get in and get out."

    The newspaper says that after Hoover Dam was built -- creating Lake Mead -- federal land around it was leased at a low rate to encourage tourism, and that the annual rent for the land has gone from $500 to $2,400.

    More stories related to housing and the federal shutdown:
    How Government Shutdown Could Derail the Housing Recovery
    How Mortgage Rates Are Rocking the Housing Market Rebound
    Mortgage Applications Slip Even as Rates Fall

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    Find out how to calculate mortgage payments.
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    WILDEST VACATION RENTALS:

     

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    Just in time for Halloween, a Reddit user in the U.K. has gone onto the website to complain -- or is it to brag? -- that he's discovered a dingy old "dungeon" under a trapdoor in his tidy new studio apartment. Britain's Metro newspaper describes the unidentified tenant as being a bit creeped out by the discovery of the "secret dungeon complex" in "an old English monastery conversion" that contains 30 apartments. (Its exact whereabouts are also unidentified.)

    apartment with dungeon on reddit
    Buzz60
    Perhaps in the spirit of the season, his description on Reddit of exploring the space -- amply illustrated with photos and seen in the video above -- seems to waver between fright and delight (though he doesn't even seem to appreciate the potential extra storage space). He describes its "beautiful vaulted ceiling" and "proper 19th century layout of corridors and hatches." But he also speculates, maybe a little wildly, about a brickwork platform that could be a "bed or a crypt" (pictured at right); another space that seems to resemble a "sacrificial altar"; and a patch of bare earth that might have been "recently disturbed."

    If nothing else, it's the perfect place for a "dungeon party," he concludes. (Though it's unclear if that's a British thing or a reference to the online game.)

    Those who might not be invited to the affair, though: Online commenters who've said that the space was likely the site of nothing more sinister than an old furnace, and who warn that although it might indeed host a malevolent force, that force would be radon gas.

    Open to more creepy and mysterious finds? Others that AOL Real Estate has come across in recent years include tales of: a medieval well and sword found under the floor of a house in England; and -- closer to home -- human skeletal remains in a Battle Creek attic; as well as a long abandoned S&M club in Louisville. The last is viewable in the slideshow below.

    ABANDONED S&M CLUB FOUND IN LOUISVILLE:

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    Hotel Evicting Racine Woman After 9-Year Stay
    Nearly a decade after moving to a hotel after losing her home in foreclosure, a Wisconsin woman faces eviction for an unpaid bill of $29,000. Jana Ganjian says that her poor health put her out of a job and then her home, and that she's only stayed at the hotel all this time because she was unable to find a place to rent.

    "I had no vision of staying for nine and a half years," Ganjian told Milwaukee TV station WISN, "but with no family, no longer with a home, the hotel became home and the staff became family." The Journal Times of Racine quoted her as saying that she's disabled by a disease similar to lupus and "If I could be working, this wouldn't have happened in the first place."

    jana ganjian lawyer joseph seifert
    WISN/AOL On
    Ganjian reportedly has been paying $89 a day, with the help of Social Security disability benefits, to stay at the Racine Marriott in Mount Pleasant, but the hotel sought to evict her after she filed for bankruptcy in August. Ganjian said that although she reached the highest level under Marriott's rewards points program, she wasn't allowed to apply those points to her stay. A judge ruled last week that Ganjian must leave the hotel by Oct. 24.

    The Associated Press said that it was unclear how Ganjian managed to stay long enough to accrue such a large bill at the hotel, and that the hotel's general manager, Brian Wismar, declined to discuss Ganjian's situation, as a matter of customer privacy. As seen in the video above, Ganjian's attorney (pictured) says it's also unclear where his client will go after she must leave the Marriott.

    More about foreclosure and eviction:
    Facing Eviction, Man Finds $4.85 Million Lottery Ticket
    Robo-Signing Scandal: Hundreds More Military Members Were Victims
    See the $2.8 Million Home Ex-NBA Star Lost to Foreclosure

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    Kathy MacDonald with damaged wall at her home
    KARE


    There are those tenants who are so bad that their landlords force them to leave, then there's the tenant in Minnesota who was so bad that he forced his landlords to leave. That's the story being reported by a local TV station there: A tenant in the home of Terry and Kathy MacDonald of Golden Valley has been so destructive and intimidating that they've fled their house to live in a hotel. And the kicker? Now they are paying him to move out.

    Here's how the story unfolded, according to KARE-TV in Minneapolis-St. Paul (and as seen in the video below): The McDonalds began renting a basement bedroom to the man (unnamed by the station) in July, under terms that prohibited smoking and drinking in the room. But their tenant not only ignored the ban, he sometimes became so noisily drunk and disruptive that neighbors several times called police. When the McDonalds told him that they wanted him to leave, KARE reports, "he started verbally abusing them and threatening to destroy the home," then acted on his threats by "punching holes in several walls, damaging the fireplace with a hammer, breaking light fixtures, dismantling smoke alarms, and burning holes in the carpet" -- even urinating on it. The McDonalds eventually learned that their tenant, who was briefly arrested on an outstanding warrant, has a record of arrests and convictions.

    The McDonalds told the station that after beginning eviction proceedings against the man, who is technically their roommate, they felt so threatened by his continued presence that they moved out and eventually decided that it was more expedient to settle with him out of court, paying him $500 to leave by today, as well as returning him his $450 security deposit.

    "My advice to people is to screen your renters and roommates," said Terry McDonald, "no matter what kind of a first impression they make."

    Here are some recommendations along those lines for landlords -- that can also apply to roommates:

    1. Know the law. Research the laws in your state in regarding landlords, tenants and roommates. Sites like Landlord411.com and Nolo.com have information about varying rules, but you might also want to consult a lawyer in your community.

    2. Check references, but keep in mind that current landlords or roommates might not be honest about problem tenants if they're looking to get rid of them.

    3. Check applicants' credit scores. If a prospective tenant has had a car repossessed, a foreclosure, or is in significant credit card debt, that should raise concern about that person's ability to pay rent and pay on time.

    2. Do criminal background checks. In another recent story out of Minnesota, an alleged deadbeat tenant dodged this by using a false name. So also ask for photo ID and other proof to make sure that prospective renters are who they say they are.

    3. Check with the motor vehicles department. In several states that allow online payments for license tab renewals, the DMV will also have drivers' information available online. Have potential tenants log into the site and show you verification of their drivers license information against the forms of ID they present.

    4. Take a cashier's check for the security deposit. For the security deposit or first month's rent, require that they pay with a cashier's check. Or if they will pay by personal check, make sure that the check clears at least a week before the move-in date. Though please note: Scammers have been known to write phony cashier's checks, as AOL Real Estate has reported.

    5. Call their employers. You only want to rent to those gainfully employed, so actually pick up the phone and call employers to see how long prospective renters have been employed by them. If an employer is fairly local, perhaps even make an in-person visit, as it's not unusual for someone looking to scam to also arrange to have someone other than an employer talk to you on the phone. That was the case with serial evicted tenant Pamela Winegardner who maintained several phone numbers and answered them in different voices, just to give herself rave recommendations.



    More about landlords and tenants:
    Evicted Tenant Allegedly Trashes House To Make It Uninhabitable
    Former Tenant's Critical Yelp Review Might Be Libelous
    Students' Mysterious Housemate

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    JPMorgan Mortagage Bonds Probe
    AP

    The Justice Department and JPMorgan Chase & Co. reportedly could sign a $13 billion agreement today that would be the largest ever reached between the U.S. government and a corporation, several news sources are reporting. The final issue in the settlement was said by persons familiar with the talks (but not authorized to comment publicly) to concern $4 billion that would go to aid consumers. Here's a breakdown of how those funds from the nation's largest bank would be divided to aid homeowners, prospective homebuyers and others, according to the unnamed sources:

    THE JPMORGAN CHASE DEAL -- HOW IT COULD HELP CONSUMERS:

    Previous stories about JPMorgan Chase:
    JPMorgan's $13 Billion Deal Hits Stumbling Blocks
    Why JPMorgan Settlement Could Make It Tougher to Get a Mortgage
    Mortgage Modifications Still Taking Banks Too Long, Report Says

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    A landlord in the Chicago area is accused of forcing two mentally challenged tenants into turning over their paychecks to him by threatening and physically abusing them after they began renting an apartment from him in August. Roy Estivez, 26, is charged with aggravated involuntary servitude and labor trafficking, as well aggravated criminal sexual assault, according to reports in the Chicago news media. The Calumet City, Ill., man reportedly is the first person charged under Cook County's new Human Trafficking Initiative.

    WGN-TV
    After he "threatened and beat them to get second and third jobs to work overtime," the landlord "kept the money and the victims were not allowed to keep the proceeds from any labor they performed," Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez (seen in the above video) told the media. Authorities allege that Estivez (pictured at left) used a hot butcher knive and an electrical cord to burn and whip the tenants of a South Chicago apartment, men aged 22 and 23, and sexually assaulted the younger of them with a power tool. He's also said to have intimidated his tenants into silence by claiming that he would harm their families and that he had paid off police.

    The Chicago Sun-Times quoted Assistant State's Attorney Mary Anna Planey as saying that after taking their money, Estivez even refused to allow his tenants food and instead told them to scrounge for it at work. But it was at a restaurant where the 22-year-old tenant worked that Estivez's alleged crimes came to light, reported the Chicago Tribune. A manager there told the newspaper that he learned that the two roommates had identical burn marks on their faces and repeatedly questioned his employee about it until the man tearfully admitted to being a victim of torture.

    Estivez's family, meanwhile, told the Tribune that they were baffled by the charges against him, with his grandfather, Tomas Estivez insisting that his grandson "likes to help everybody" and reasoning, "How can you be torturing somebody when they can go in and out whenever they want?"

    More about bad landlords:
    Insurance-Scamming Landlord Faces Life in Prison
    Landlord on 'Worst' List Faces Jail for 30 Housing Code Violations
    Alleged 'Nuisance' Landlord Eludes Authorities

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    Like something out of a fairy tale -- a creepy, nightmare-inducing fairy tale about abandoned children and cannibalism -- but not so Grimm, a chef in Texas has constructed the largest gingerbread house in the world, and one so big that you could easily live inside it. The holiday-themed edible house -- purportedly the first of its kind built outdoors (at least since "Hansel and Gretel") -- has set a Guinness World Record by being more than 39,000 cubic feet.

    Michael Menchaca gingerbread house builder
    AOL On
    And it wasn't easy, admits its baker and builder, Michael Menchaca (pictured at right) the executive chef at the Texas A&M Traditions Club in Bryan, Texas. As he says in the video above, the recipe had to be altered to suit the elements. That recipe, reports Austin TV station KVUE, included "1,800 pounds of butter, 7,200 eggs, 7,200 pounds of flour and 3,000 pounds of brown sugar." The calorie count of the home, which to qualify must have an entirely edible exterior, totals at 36 million.

    But it wasn't built to be eaten -- at least not yet -- but to raise money for a charitable cause. About $15,000 so far has been donated by visitors toward a local hospital's trauma center, said KVUE.

    Bryan TV station KBTX reports that tours of the home will continue through Dec. 14.

    More about gingerbread houses:
    Best Gingerbread Houses Ever?
    Taste Life in a 'Real' Gingerbread House

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