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AOL Real Estate - Blog
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    sea lions at La Jolla Cove, San Diego, California (20)
    Ken Lund/Flickr

    The San Diego enclave of La Jolla has a poop problem, and like many things in this affluent seaside neighborhood, it's hardly average. According to La Jolla Patch, those in the new gated community of La Jolla Shores have been complaining that protected marine life -- such as sea lions, seals and sea birds -- gather in such numbers on its ocean bluffs that their droppings have created a smell so noxious that it's sickening residents and driving away customers from local businesses.

    Last month, business owners in La Jolla -- a place that recently saw controversy over Mitt Romney's proposed oceanfront mansion -- filed a lawsuit against San Diego demanding that the city find a solution to the stink. The suit, according to the Los Angeles Times, includes the claim that boxing champ Floyd Mayweather had booked two villas and six rooms at a local hotel, but the odor left by the animals prompted him to leave with his entourage only 15 minutes after arriving, at a cost to the inn of "$5,000 in one day's rooms revenue." (Pictured above: sea lions on La Jolla's bluffs.)

    The city of San Diego might have caused the problem to begin with, some believe, by erecting a fence years ago along La Jolla's bluffs that barred humans from encroaching on marine life and from risking injury on unstable ground. But as Patch reported, this week La Jolla's newest gated community got another gate -- one that gives humans access to bluffs -- in the hope that "people scampering on the rocks will discourage large marine mammals from lounging there."

    Read more about the issue at La Jolla Patch.

    More recent articles about odors:
    Meth-Lab Cleanups Becoming a Cottage Industry
    Residents at Apartment Complex Complain About Stench of Death
    Hell's Kitchen Steaming Over Sewage Stench

    More from 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.

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    Sea Lion Found Lounging at Luxury La Jolla Hotel

     

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    Ordering a home from a catalog was at one time as normal as ordering a book on Amazon. Take for example the home in the video above, built in 1928 from a design sold by Sears. Known as "The Martha Washington," the model (pictured below) could be had for $3,727 -- with some assembly required.

    sears catalog home
    ulive/AOL On
    Here's how it worked: After choosing from among the many home styles (eventually numbering 447) that Sears featured in its Modern Home department, the home would be shipped in precut, numbered pieces by train or truck to the address where it was be constructed. The kits could fill as many as two railroad boxcars and included blueprints, instructions and all the necessary materials -- lumber, drywall, plumbing, shingles -- right down to the nails. They were also designed in such a way that they could be easily customized, and be erected by only one person.

    Sears estimates that it sold as many as 75,000 of the homes through mail order from 1909 to 1940, and it's believed that similar "kit" homes from its competitors brought the number constructed to about half a million in the U.S. And not only did Sears' kit houses make homes more affordable by reducing the cost of construction, financing could also be part of the package.

    Though Sears' Modern Homes haven't been available for nearly 75 years, the concept persists and ready-to-build kit homes can still be purchased. See more about classic kit homes in the slideshow below.


    THE APPEAL OF KIT HOMES:


    More about easily assembled homes:
    SEE: Hamptons Eco-Home Built From Shipping Containers
    Why Your Next Home Should Be Prefab
    Tiny Prefab Living

    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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    smoking marijuana in colorado
    KUSA
    Coloradans who think that the state's recent legalization of marijuana now makes it OK to fire up a joint at home might be in for a shock. If they're renting, they might be subject to a crackdown by landlords and protests from fellow tenants. Denver station KUSA already reports a flurry of contacts from renters in that state who are irritated by their neighbors smoking pot and, as seen in the video below, quotes an attorney from the Apartment Association of Colorado as saying that he's been fielding calls from landlords as well.

    Attorney Vic Sulzer told the TV station that Colorado's Amendment 64 -- legalizing the possession and use of a limited amount of marijuana -- is "not going to change anything" as far as landlords' rights are concerned: It's up to them if they want to allow their tenants to smoke marijuana on their property. "A landlord's lease has a provision that prohibits whatever landlord wants to prohibit," Sulzer told KUSA. As AOL previously reported, that includes growing marijuana too.

    In states such as California where marijuana use is permitted for medical reasons, landlords can prohibit the use of the drug for that purpose on their property. And despite what states may sanction, marijuana is still classified as an illegal substance under federal law, and is also subject to the same kind of local ordinances that now apply to smoking tobacco.




    More about landlord-tenant disputes:
    Landlords Can Get Tougher on Tenants Under New Law
    Ways for Landlords to Deal With Deadbeat Tenants
    Gun Owner Says Landlord Is Evicting Him Over Firearms

    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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    When it comes to audacity, is Robert Tribble the Bernie Madoff of Craigslist rental scammers? Tribble stands accused of making millions in rent and deposits by trolling Florida's Broward, Palm Beach, and Martin counties for foreclosed and vacant properties, then forging documents on those properties so that he could rent and lease them out on the classified-ads website, claiming them as his own. Tribble, 50, of Jupiter, Fla., purportedly bilked scores of renters and homebuyers in the bold scheme, according to Florida authorities.

    Robert Tribble, alleged craigslist scammer
    WPBF/AOL On
    Like Madoff, the Wall Street financier and former chairman of NASDAQ who for decades ran a staggeringly successful Ponzi scheme involving billions of dollars, Tribble is said to have lured those who thought that they had done their due diligence -- examining documents, checking public records and consulting with lawyers. As seen in the video above, alleged victim Wes Bubeck says that he "spoke to all the references, met with his attorney ... who vouched for him" before giving Tribble a $15,000 deposit on a house. Then when Bubeck questioned Tribble about information that suggested that Tribble, in fact, didn't own the home, Tribble "threatened to have me arrested, he threatened to sue me," Bubeck says.

    Also like Madoff, whose targets included charities and hospitals, Tribble is alleged to have preyed on victims who included the elderly and disabled. Some had already spent thousands of dollars on improvements to the homes that Tribble put them in, authorities say, before they were confronted by the properties' actual owners about why they were occupying the dwellings illegally. The case involves at least 50 known victims and 35 properties.

    Tribble and his alleged accomplice, Mary Revoller-Chavez, 45, were arrested this week on charges including organized scheme to defraud, criminal use of personal identification and money laundering, reported The Palm Beach Post. Each was held on bail amounting to several millions, said WPEC-TV of West Palm Beach.

    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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    appraiser's lessons in legos, nasty neighbors
    Sacramento Appraisal Blog
    We've always thought that the ideal home appraiser would be someone with the X-ray vision of Superman, the wisdom of Yoda, the calculating mind of Iron Man, and the keen eye for value of Indiana Jones. Maybe that's why we found one California appraiser's use of Lego sets and action figures to be especially appealing in the way it crafts object lessons as to why a home might be languishing on the housing market.

    What are the reasons that the Lego-constructed home in the slideshow below been blocked from selling? Appraiser Ryan Lundquist lays it all out at his Sacramento Appraisal Blog -- with, he admits, a little help from his two sons. (The captions set into the images are Lundquist's; those below them are by AOL Real Estate.)


    See a few more reasons why the house above has been difficult to sell, at Lundquist's blog.

    More about home appraisals:
    Home Appraisal Lower Than the Price? What to Do
    Showing Your Home's Best Side for an Appraisal
    Home Appraisal for Sellers

    More from 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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    chart of home value by race
    Zillow
    [UPDATE, 2 p.m. EST: The live stream event has ended but video of the town hall is viewable below.] Join today's town hall meeting here with the Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan as he addresses -- via live stream viewable below -- the issues surrounding minority access to housing. The 1 p.m. EST (10 a.m. PST) meeting at Zillow headquarters in Seattle follows the release Jan. 16 of the real estate media company's report on trends in housing among the races in the U.S.

    The research by the AOL Real Estate partner found differences ranging from access to financing to (as seen in the chart at right) the depreciation of home values. Questions for the town hall meeting that Zillow is co-hosting with the National Urban League can be submitted at Zillow's Facebook page or by tweeting to @Zillow using the hashtag #BuildingEquality.


    Live streaming video by Ustream

     

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    view from 1 Madison penthouse
    Related Companies via CNBC

    With the news out of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, being that the 85 richest people in the world have as much wealth as half of the rest of us, here's a timely glimpse at where some among the top percentile live these days. Or at least a look at the perspective from those lofty heights.

    As part of its "Secret Lives of the Super Rich," CNBC offers its picks of "The Most Expensive Views in America." When it comes these properties, a prime location is just for starters. "To command an eye-popping price tag," says CNBC, "a property had better have eye-popping scenery."

    'THE MOST EXPENSIVE VIEWS IN AMERICA':

    More about wealth from CNBC:
    10 Richest States in America
    Ridiculously Expensive Supercars
    10 Poorest States in America

    More from 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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    bob backo house icy pavement
    WTAE/AOL On
    While it's common for extreme temperatures to cause water mains to break. Much less common is for that kind of problem to be left to linger. The strain on public utilities from freezing temperatures in much of the U.S. could explain why a fractured pipe was left to gush water for several hours in a Pittsburgh neighborhood this week, reportedly leaving a family's home sealed in ice.

    Homeowner Bob Backo told Pittsburgh TV station WTAE that when he first called the water company on Wednesday, and was assured that workers there would "check it out." Then he called another dozen times as water continued to fill the street above his house overnight and flood his property, he said, before eventually freezing into a thick layer of ice (pictured above) that trapped some family members inside and left his pickup truck stuck.

    When the TV station contacted Pennsylvania-American Water Co. about its response to the water main break in Backo's neighborhood of Knoxville -- which wasn't repaired until Thursday -- it was told by a spokesperson that the break "wasn't classified as an emergency" because the outflow of water didn't appear to be causing damage. But as described in the video above, Backo maintains that not only was his yard and driveway affected, but the water from the break entered his house and dripped down a wall.

    More about damage caused by ice:
    Black Ice Poses More Than One Risk to Homeowners
    See How to Protect Your Home in Extreme Cold
    For Renters: The 411 on Frozen Pipes

    More from 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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    shneka johnson home icicles
    WBND
    As if the cold outside isn't bad enough this winter, a family in northern Indiana has had to endure freezing temperatures inside as a door at their rented home has continually been forced open by the harsh weather. But the response from the landlord about fixing the problem has been chilly so far, reports a South Bend TV station.

    A major problem at the house in South Bend says WBND, is that one of its entry doors won't close because its poorly insulated frame is jammed with ice. "About a week ago I woke up about 4:30 and it was extremely cold in the house so I got up and I walked back toward the kitchen and the back door was open," tenant Shneka Johnson, who shares the dwelling with her two young children, told the station. And the door has continued to be a problem since then, said her attorney.

    Johnson told WBND that the landlord refused her plea for a remedy, and when the TV station called the number on Johnson's rental agreement, it reportedly was told that it was the wrong number. As seen in the station's video below, even though building code enforcement officers have inspected the property twice, any action by the landlord to fix the problem could be far off.


    More about coping with extreme cold:
    Adding Home Insulation to Your Rental
    Tips on Protecting Your Home in Extreme Cold [Video]
    Energy Efficient Homes for Winter Cost Savings

    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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    Dana Schmieg at luge run in Cologne, MN backyard
    AOL On
    Looking for a cool backyard project this weekend, or for several weekends? If you've got some snow (and who in the Midwest and Northeast doesn't?) and the space, you could do worse than follow the example of a dad in south-central Minnesota. Dana Schmieg got in the Olympic spirit by building a luge run for his children. As these kind of projects often do, the sledding hill constructed by Schmieg in the small town of Cologne started out to be something else -- a barrier to protect a garden. But as Schmieg says in the above video, "it just snowballed from there, literally."

    Maybe just the thing to keep the kids from getting bored on those snow days?

    But if your thoughts already have turned to spring, or you just want a more permanent playspace, you might follow the lead of another Minnesota dad, who constructed a home-made batting cage that the youths in his Minnetonka neighborhood have been using on their way to winning athletic scholarships. And his son, even ended up setting a state record for hits in a high school career.

    As Rick DesLauriers told a local TV station last year, "I've had a lot of crazy ideas; this one worked out well."

    And as if those 10,000 lakes weren't enough, Minnesota now seems to be making a strong play to be home to the coolest, most ambitious fathers.

    More about unusual DIY projects:
    WATCH: How Indiana Man's Roller Coaster Project Grew
    Building 'God's Treehouse'
    Digging a Memorial to Mining

    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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    landlord larry curtis, clarendon ark
    KATV
    A TV station in Arkansas has been reporting on how laws there give the advantage to landlords over tenants, but for some landlords, operating within the law doesn't seem enough. As seen in the video below, even a 10-day eviction notice appears to be far too long for landlord Larry Curtis of Clarendon, Ark., a town of about 2,000 residents in the eastern part of the state. "I don't do that," Curtis, who is also the town's barber, tells a KATV reporter. "I give 'em 30 minutes, son."

    And a video taken by one of his renters, Christine Clark, apparently shows that in one case he enforced that rule with a two-by-four -- smashing a television and then appearing to strike his soon-to-be-ex-tenant with the lumber when, Clark says, she attempted to rescue some of her family's possessions from a pile of them that Curtis was about to burn. (That's Curtis above, in a screen grab from Clark's video.)

    Curtis disputes that account, telling KATV: "She told the judge I hit her in the head with a two-by-four and gave her a concussion. But she didn't have no medical records to show it."

    While so many of the reports that you see in the news about landlord-tenant disputes stem from neglect of the property by the landlord or the tenant, the conflict between Curtis and the Clarks is purportedly very personal. Christine Clark alleges that the landlord's grievance with them is about more than having lingered for two days at their rental after getting an eviction notice -- that it was actually about Curtis' interest in raising the Clarks' 9-year-old daughter.

    See the TV station's full story, including what happened when the case went before a judge, by clicking on the video below.



    More about landlord-tenant disputes:
    SEE: Tenants' Door Won't Close in Extreme Cold
    Evicted Tenant Allegedly Trashes House To Make It Uninhabitable
    Former Tenant's Critical Yelp Review Might Be Libelous

    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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    mill junction shipping container housing
    GeoBeats/AOL On
    Converting shipping containers into homes is something that's been done successfully and stylishly for several years now, but a developer in South Africa is taking the process to another level with a student-housing project in Johannesburg. The just-completed project involves stacks of the shipping containers that have been hoisted and attached to another reclaimed industrial structure -- a complex of grain silos. As seen in the video above, the 11-story project called Mill Junction includes 375 apartments -- some with balconies -- along with lounges, computer rooms, libraries and game rooms.

    The developer, Citiq, says on its website that the firm has opted for the reclamation of abandoned structures in urban centers as a way to combat the "urban sprawl" that results from most new residential projects and which leads to "people becoming increasingly marginalized." It also quotes its CEO, Paul Lapham, as saying that "reusing these structures often provides for an artistic and eclectic look and feel, which appeals to people wanting to establish their own individuality."

    As part of the shipping-container project, Citiq also invited architecture students to contribute concepts for the Mill Junction conversion, with the aim of designing a "space that will not only redefine student life, but also student lifestyle." Judging of the design competition is scheduled to take place Feb. 14, with cash prizes to be awarded for the top three designs.

    More about alternative architecture:
    SEE: Hamptons Eco-Home Was Made Using 6 Shipping Containers
    Green Real Estate: Homes Made Mostly From Recycled Materials
    Is Off-the-Grid Living the Future of Housing?

    More from 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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    Trevor Thornton says that as a kid he always dreamed of having a tree house but missed his chance. He didn't want the same to happen to his children, so when he finally got the opportunity to build one, it was an elaborate structure that most children can only dream about. But the scene of Nerf Gun battles is now the setting for a fight with City Hall as Thornton has been ordered to tear down the tree house, reports a Los Angeles TV station.

    trevor thornton tree house LA
    KTLA/AOL On
    As seen in the video above from KTLA, not only do Thornton's children love it, but their friends in their Sherman Oaks neighborhood do too. And to hear Thornton tell it, they're not the only ones.

    "They all think it's fantastic," Thornton (right) says of his neighbors' reaction to the structure. "Well, all apart from one." That neighbor being the person who called the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, which Thornton says informed him that his family's tree house violates a code that requires that structures have more than a tree for support.

    There might be some hope, though, that Thornton can keep the dream alive. As KTLA further reports, Thornton is in discussion with city officials about a possible compromise to keep the tree house standing.

    If you have a large play structure, or are planning to build one, note that building codes can vary across the U.S., so homeowners and renters are wise to contact local authorities before making modifications to their yards or dwellings. For instance, structures such as playhouses might in some locales be classified as utility buildings, and might require a permit. They might also be subject to fire code, depending on their location to other structures. And as AOL Real Estate has reported on many times, some communities and homeowners associations might have restrictions that go beyond issues of safety to matters of aesthetics, such as acceptable paint colors or exterior displays.

    More about play structures:
    Backyard Batting Cage Project Grew Into a League of Its Own
    Minnesota Man's Backyard Project Soars to Olympic Heights [Video]
    Indiana Man Turns Backyard Into Mini-Roller Coaster Park

    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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    Though tales of booming housing markets have pushed foreclosure horror stories out of the headlines, the problem persists in those stubborn pockets of the economy still mired in crisis. That includes California, which has seen a dramatic turnaround in the past year, but where rapid growth -- followed by a high rate of unemployment second only to Michigan -- still leaves many homeowners in economic distress, and vulnerable to schemes that promise to rescue them from default.

    Jewel Hinkles foreclosure rescue fraudster
    KCRA/AOL On
    Suspected to be among the most successful there was one that preyed on homeowners across California by claiming to put them in touch with investors willing to purchase their distressed properties. The mastermind of the fraud, Jewel Hinkles (right), swindled an estimated 1,300 hundred victims out of about $5 million through a network of companies, with names such as Save My Home and Pacifica Group, in locations including Beverly Hills and suburban Sacramento.

    "We have prosecuted quite a number of these and by their nature they have large numbers of victims," U.S. attorney Benjamin Wagner told Sacramento TV station KCRA. "But this is certainly among the worst of these kinds of cases that we've seen."

    As described in the video above, even though Hinkles eventually was convicted in the case, many of her victims remain in her grasp and unable to sell their homes -- and still at risk of losing them -- because Hinkles' name is on the deeds to those properties.

    And they're finding it much more difficult to get her name off the deed than it was to put her name on.

    From one of AOL Real Estate's guides on avoiding fraud, here are some ways to avoid being victimized in a foreclosure-rescue scam in the first place:

    o. The golden rule of avoiding fraud: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Remember that foreclosures are public information, so details about them can easily be gotten by scammers who will use that knowledge to misrepresent themselves as able to rescue homeowners in distress.

    o. Avoid foreclosure counseling companies that solicit business with fliers or by going door-to-door.

    o. Know what you're signing. A common "bait-and-switch" involves documents that purport to applications for a new, more-affordable home loan but that actually surrender the home's title. Also, don't sign any blank forms or allow forms to be filled out for you.

    o. Resist pressure tactics. As seen in the video, one of HInkles' victims describes being rushed to come to one of her offices to sign papers, under the threat of foreclosure.

    o. Be wary of the rent-to-buy scam. Represented as a refinance at a lower rate, it actually involves a transfer of deed from the homeowner to the foreclosure counselor, and the homeowner unknowingly becoming a renter and subject to eviction.

    o. Talk with a state board licensed attorney before signing anything that transfers the title of your home to another party.

    o. Work only with HUD-approved counselors. Consult the Department of Housing and Urban Development's list of approved agencies, or call 877-HUD-1515 for more information. o. Don't work with a counselor who collects a fee before services or who accepts payment only by cashier's check or wire transfer.

    o. Hire licensed attorneys to represent you. Check with your state bar association to see if the person is licensed to practice in your state and is subject to any pending investigations. But still attend court hearings about your property and get your court file number so you can obtain copies of documents at the courthouse or check the case's status online.

    More about foreclosure fraud:
    How to Avoid Falling for a HARP Scam
    Foreclosure Scam Could Cost You Your Home
    Short Sale Fraud Plagues 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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    medical marijuana
    Shutterstock
    In another sign that the battle over legalized pot is heating up on the home front, a bill introduced in Michigan would bar medical marijuana patients and caregivers from growing or smoking the drug without landlords' permission. The issue, reports the Michigan news media, is the damage that can result.

    The bill was introduced by state Sen. Rick Jones, a Republican from Grand Ledge, who told Lansing TV station WILX that the law is needed because pot-grow operations have caused water damage to property "and we've even had a light turn over and start a fire." His bill would exempt those who use pills or creams containing the drug, however.

    Another issue is the drug's odor when smoked. "I had a resident that when I asked him to remove it he stated he had a medical marijuana card," landlord Michelle Foley of Ann Arbor reportedly testified this week at a hearing on the bill. "I had to wait until the lease was up and then it was costly for us to turn the unit. We had to dissipate the smell and clean the ducts. It took us two months to clean."

    Other reports on AOL Real Estate have shown that Michigan landlords are hardly alone in pushing back against pot use. In California, a state at the medical-marijuana forefront, landlords can prohibit its use for that purpose on their property. And even in Colorado, where this year it became legal to possess and use limited amounts of marijuana recreationally, landlords have the right to bar it from their property, along with anything else they choose to prohibit.

    Those marijuana users who can afford to buy their own homes still might find themselves subject to local restrictions that limit or bar its growth or use. Colorado real estate broker Bob Costello, who describes himself as "the 420-friendly realty broker," recently told CNBC, "I'm bursting people's bubbles on a daily basis."

    Speaking in opposition to the Michigan bill, renter and caregiver Maria Green told WILX that Jones' legislation would give "more ammunition to the police and prosecutors.

    "They'll to be able to prosecute these caregivers and patients who are sick," she said. Green suggested that landlords who are worried about damage to their property from marijuana growing and smoking could instead increase the amount of security deposits required by renters using the drug.

    An attorney for a Detroit law firm that specializes in marijuana-related cases called Jones' bill "discriminatory."

    "It would end up so some people couldn't even use it in their own residence," Mark Able of Cannabis Counsel was quoted as saying by the news site MLive. "People who can afford their own home don't have to worry about it, but people who are less fortunate and rent would be subject to the predilection of their landlords."

    On that point Able and Jones appear to agree, somewhat. "If you're going to smoke and bother people, you need to own your own home," the state senator told WILX. "If you're growing a mini farm, you need your own home."

    More about marijuana and property rights:
    Family's Rental Home Turns Out to Be a Grow House
    Police Can Install Hidden Cameras on Private Property Without a Warrant, Judge Rules
    $175,000 Marijuana Stash Found Under a Hot Tub

    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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    derossett house lifted above floodplain
    WBAL/AOL On
    Instead of letting the threat of another Hurricane Sandy-type flood get him down, a homeowner in suburban Baltimore is building up. Derek Derossett of Middle River, Md., has joined many other American homeowners by literally lifting his house out of the flood plain -- in this case by raising it more than 17 feet high. But as TV station WBAL reports in the above video, it wasn't a quick fix. Derossett's 86-year-old house had to be lifted from the existing foundation by a foot at a time, over a period of eight hours.

    And the job is far from over. The next steps, Derossett told the Baltimore station, involve building a new foundation in place of the present one, then building a new floor beneath the raised house. Along with reducing the risk of flood damage, the homeowner should see lower insurance costs which could eventually recoup his investment.

    Though the cost of lifting a house can, says The Associated Press, exceed more than $100,000, many homeowners are seeing annual flood insurance costs skyrocket by as much as 800 percent. So the cost of lifting a house above the flood line might bring returns in a decade -- not to mention eliminate the additional expenses and frustrations that can result from storm tides inundating your home. (Among the many horror stories that followed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy were complaints about insurers being slow to honor policies, and offering far less in payouts than homeowners expected or needed to rebuild.)

    It might come as no surprise then that, according to the National Flood Insurance Program, lifting a house above the flood plain is the most common way in the U.S. to reduce flood risk.


    THOSE SUBJECT TO FLOOD INSURANCE HIKES:

    Previous posts about flood insurance:
    New Laws Set to Hit Home in 2014
    Move to Delay Flood-Insurance Changes Falters in Congress
    Storm of Protest Over Rising Flood Insurance Rates

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  • 03/01/14--06:49: Oscar-Worthy Home Theaters
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    home theater frank, teresa viola
    Zillow
    Among the highest priorities now for homebuyers with high incomes is that their dwellings have home theaters. According to a survey last year of homebuyers with incomes over $250,000, home theaters ranked above wine cellars, safe rooms, tennis or sports courts and even servants quarters. Of course, what qualifies as a "home theater" is in the eye of the viewer, but it's likely that what these luxury homebuyers have in mind is something more than a big screen and a couple of easy chairs with cupholders. As evidenced by some of the home theaters in the slideshow below, variations include rooms that recreate the movie-show experience as well as spaces adapted to a home's design.

    Think nothing beats the experience of sitting down with a bucket of popcorn in a reclining seat at a modern cineplex? What about reclining in a hot tub? In honor of this weekend's Academy Awards presentation, here are AOL Real Estate's picks for the best home theaters we've seen in the past year.


    More about luxury real estate:
    Most-Expensive Views in the U.S.
    NFL Coach Puts Texas-Size Mansion on the Market
    Las Vegas Bomb Shelter for Sale: Luxurious Blast From the Past

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    Nearly a year after their home was destroyed in the massive tornado that struck Moore, Okla., last spring, a family says that they've now fallen victim to a contractor who's left their house stuck in the early stages of rebuilding, with no end to the project in sight. And they suspect that they're not the only ones left in limbo by the builder.

    oklahome tornado home left unbuilt
    KOMO/AOL On
    As seen in the above video, Lesly Flood and her mother, Becky, tell Oklahoma TV station KOCO that they're in the process of hiring a lawyer as work on the house has come to a standstill, after being promised that the job would be done by Thanksgiving. "He hasn't paid electricity, he hasn't paid plumbing, he hasn't paid anybody," Lesly Flood says. That might explain the graffiti (pictured at right) apparently left by construction workers at the building site.

    Adding to the family's concerns, they say, is the discovery of a lien against their house, and that there might be at least two other families in the same fix. (See more on their story -- including the contractor's response -- in the video above.)

    While at this point, the blame for the Flood family's predicament isn't clear, it's often the case that those hit hardest by natural disaster are victimized even further by those offering to help. Following Hurricane Sandy in 2012, East Coast residents were warned by officials to be on the alert for scams. They were particularly told to avoid contractors offering on-the-spot estimates, and requiring cash only or upfront payments, whom the Better Business Bureau calls "storm chasers." But a year after the hurricane the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs reportedly had received hundreds of complaints of unscrupulous contractors, many involving those who took down payments in the thousands of dollars and then failed to do the work.

    The key for homeowners is to do research. Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List, told AOL Real Estate in 2012 that a survey of Angie's List members then found that a third of homeowners admitted that they don't verify contractors' license status before hiring them. One of the risks of not checking: Unlicensed contractors can disappear with consumers funds without fear of being fined or having a license revoked by regulators.

    When possible, consumers should look for referrals from those they know and trust. And along with looking at reviews online at resources like Angie's List and the Franklin Report, it's also important tp check a contractor's rating at the Better Business Bureau and local office of Consumer Affairs. And of course to check references.

    Among other recommendations from the BBB:

    o. Get at least three bids in writing and compare the bids based on the same warranty, specifications, labor and time.
    o. Check to see if the company you plan to hire is properly licensed.
    o. Be sure to verify the company's liability insurance to protect you against any damage. You can also check them out with your state's department of insurance.
    o. Never allow work to begin without a signed, written contract that includes start and completion dates, exact costs, specific work to be done, and warranty information. Read the fine print carefully.
    o. Deposit required and payment -- Never pay a deposit of more than 25 to 33 percent of the total job cost. Final payment should only be due when the job is completed. Pay by check and credit card, and never by cash.
    o. Obtain warranty information in writing on all products and installation and read the fine print carefully.
    o. Be sure all workers are employed by the contractor are bonded to protect you against theft and damage.
    o. Check out anyone you allow into your home to see if they have a criminal record.

    More about home improvement:
    Chimney Sweep Scams: How Not to Get Burned
    Don't Move -- Improve: How to Rethink Space in Your Home
    Home Improvements That Get Your House Sold

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    The hottest home design trends for 2014 include sleek ergonomic design, organic materials and customization, says designer Campion Platt. As Platt comments in the video above, "One of the big
    black interior of ergonomic refrigerator
    AOL On
    trends is where you have ergonomic functionality, but also things feel good to the touch. They look good obviously, and they fit seamlessly into your kitchen."

    An example from the recent Architectural Digest Home Design Show in New York is the black flat-panel design refrigerator (pictured at right) that opens to reveal a black interior. (See more from that show in the video.)

    More recent posts about home design:
    Retractable-Roof Pergolas: Made for the Sun and Shade
    Why Sears 'Kit' Homes Are Cataloged as American Classics
    Sorting Truths From Myths About Home Storage

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    ZillowThe weekly mortgage rate chart illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest rate in six-hour intervals.

    Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans rose this week, with the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgages at 3.61 percent on Tuesday, up 8 basis points from the same time last week. On Thursday morning, the national rate was at 3.71%.

    However, the long-predicted rise in mortgage rates still appears to be on hold. After a report that economic growth slowed during the winter, the Federal Reserve signaled Wednesday it will not raise its benchmark interest rate in the near future.

    According to Zillow Mortgages, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose early in the week, then hovered around 3.60 percent before rising to 3.61 percent Tuesday.

    "Rates were essentially flat last week, remaining in the range they have been in for the past month," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow.

    Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.84 percent, and the rate for 5/1 ARMs also was 2.84 percent.

    Check Zillow Mortgages for rate trends and up-to-the-minute mortgage rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.

    A look at the broader mortgage rate trend for the past six months:

     

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