Where the Caribbean Meets the City – House of the Week

Tracking down Malene Barnett is as simple as searching for the turquoise door. 

It’s not hard to spot in the rows of traditional brownstones that line Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. Most have a conventional brick exterior in some rust-colored shade of burnt auburn or roasted carrot; Barnett’s has a clean coat of white with a pop of aqua smack dab on the first floor.

“They know me as the woman with the turquoise front door,” said Barnett. “I always wanted to live in a house identified by the color of the front door. And turquoise is my favorite color.”

The streak of bright colors continues inside the 2-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom brownstone, where Barnett, an artist and textile designer, painted rooms in shades ranging from Creamsicle to mint. 

Each room is inspired by her Caribbean roots. Barnett’s mother is from Saint Vincent, and her father grew up in Jamaica.

When she bought the home in 2008, Barnett figured she could bring that tropical feeling – quite literally – to her front doorstep.

“A lot of people like to paint white or beige. Teal is my neutral. My floors are teal. Instead of staining the floors, I selected a color,” she said. “I wanted the space to feel like I was in the Caribbean, because I can’t always get there, and one day I want a house there.”

The muted blue-green kitchen is a favorite spot for Barnett, who often unwinds by entertaining friends in the open space. She added a sea-glass tile backsplash to the wall behind the stove, where you might find her cooking up a favorite vegetarian dish, like sweet potato and kale soup.

The nearby living room is a brighter, but complementary shade of aquamarine that serves as a backdrop for the art and artifacts Barnett picked up in her travels worldwide, from ceramics in Ghana to sculptures in Senegal.

The front entryway is a radiant orange color, accented by a dark wood banister. It was the only thing Barnett was able to salvage while doing a complete gut renovation of the 1910 brownstone.

“There were holes in the roof, and water was seeping down, but I said, ‘OK, I’ll try for a mortgage anyway,’”  Barnett said. “It was run-down.”

She eventually found a bank to finance the two-year renovation, which included adding a 12-foot extension onto the back of the home on all three levels. The addition boosted space in the master bedroom, which she painted lavender from floor to ceiling. (No, really, the floors are a soft purple hue.)

The master bath features mosaic tile on the walls and floors. A large soaking tub is a welcome retreat for Barnett, who has been training for marathons.

“I love the space. There’s a double sink, there’s a double shower – it’s a room. Bathrooms can be so tight, but I didn’t want that because I am going to use this room every day,” she said. “I wanted it to be spacious and functional and pretty.”

While the designer has called the space home for nearly a decade, she’s constantly adding to it with art from her travels abroad. And, most of all, she’s become an advocate for others taking a risk on buying and renovating a home.

“I did this renovation on my own. I’m a single woman. Usually it’s couples doing this, or women are too fearful,” she said. “I bought this home and started a business at the same time. It was crazy, but I did it. It taught me about survival and my talents.”

“I didn’t have a lot of money,” she continued, “but I still found ways to survive.”

Custom photography by Sheena Kim.

Related:

from Zillow Porchlight https://www.zillow.com/blog/brooklyn-brownstone-222033/

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8 Places in America That Will Pay You to Move There

If you’re willing to make a move and fit the qualifications, many rural American towns – and whole states – are offering attractive incentives aimed at attracting new residents and reviving their communities. Ranging from cash grants to free lots of land, these enticing incentives are luring many city dwellers to rural America.

At the beginning of the 20th century, rural America housed more than half the country’s entire population. While the total number of Americans living in rural areas has been roughly stable over the past century-as urban and suburban America have boomed-its share of the total population has declined, falling from 54 percent in 1910 to just 19 percent in 2010. This is due in part to outmigration to urban cores, especially by younger generations and the middle class.

This decline in population – and the accompanying social and economic challenges – is forcing rural America to come up with inventive incentives to attract new residents back to rural communities.

Tribune, Kansas is one such town with one such program. “If you move here, we will pay down your student debt,” explains Christy Hopkins, community development director for Kansas’ least populated county, Greeley (in which Tribune sits). This program, called the Rural Opportunity Zone program, incentivizes post-grads from big cities to move to under-populated towns in one of 77 participating Kansas counties. One of the incentives? They’ll help you pay off your student loans – up to $15,000 over the course of five years.

And it seems to be working, for both the town and its new residents. “We knew we needed young people in our community, and so we were looking for opportunities to bring them back,” explains Hopkins. “Since beginning the ROZ program, Greeley’s population has increased by 55 people-25 of them being direct program participants benefiting from the student loan incentives.”

Here are five towns and three states that offer a robust set of loans, programs, and/or assistance for those seeking to become homeowners:

Curtis, Nebraska

Population: 896
Median home value: $79,000

Dream of building your own home from the ground up? Curtis, Nebraska has a sweet deal for you: Construct a single-family home within a specified time period and receive the lot of land it sits on for free.

Marne, Iowa

Population: 114
Median home value: $75,300

Just 45 minutes east of Omaha, the town of Marne will give you a lot of land for free – all you have to do is build the house (conventional construction or modular) and meet program requirements. Houses must be a minimum of 12000 square feet, and the average lot size is approximately 80 feet x 120 feet.  

Harmony, Minnesota

Population: 1,013
Median home value: $93,900

Dreaming of a peaceful life in a newly-built home in the Land of 10,000 Lakes? Good news: Your dream comes with a cash rebate. The Harmony Economic Development Authority offers a cash rebate program to incentivize new home construction in Harmony. Based on the final estimated market value of the new home, rebates range from $5,000 to $12,000 and there are no restrictions on the applicant’s age, income level, or current residency.

Baltimore, Maryland

Population: 621,849
Median home value: $123,000

Definitively not a rural town, Baltimore’s homeowner incentives were just too appealing and inventive to live off this list. Baltimore has not one but two programs offering robust incentives towards buying a home in the city. Buying Into Baltimore offers a $5,000 forgivable loan (forgiven by 20 percent each year, so that by the end of five years you no longer have a balance) if you meet certain qualifications. The second solution offered by the city is a brilliant one: the Vacants to Value Booster program offers $10,000 toward downpayment and closing costs of buyers to Vacants to Value (distressed or formerly distressed) properties.

New Haven, Connecticut

Population: 129,964
Median home value: $157,900

Also not a rural area, but offering an incredibly generous package of homeowner incentives: The city of New Haven, CT has a suite of programs totaling up to $80,000 for new homeowners, including a $10,000 forgivable five-year loan to first-time home buyers, $30,000 renovation assistance, and/or up to $40,000 for college tuition.   

Alaska

Population: 741,894
Median home value: $268,800

Chances are, if you’re moving to Alaska, the state has a program for you. The state offers an interest rate-reduction program for those financing new or existing energy-efficient homes or improvements. Alaska also offers incentives for veterans and live-in caretakers of physically- or mentally-disabled residents. They even have a manufactured home program and a rural owner-occupied loan program. See the full list of programs here.

Colorado

Population: 5,540,545
Median home value: $337,900

Like most states, Colorado offers traditional programs that assist with down payments and low interest rates, but the state also has a disability program that helps first-time buyers who have a permanent disability finance their home. The state also has a down payment assistance grant that provides recipients with funds up to 4 percent of their first mortgage, which doesn’t require repayment.

Wyoming

Population: 585,501
Median Home Value: $195,400

Interested in buying a home with history (and maybe some wear and tear)? Wyoming just might be the place for you. The state offers programs like the Wyoming Rehabilitation & Acquisition Program, which takes homes that have been foreclosed on or abandoned and puts them back on the market for households with low incomes after they’ve been rehabbed. Wyoming offers another rehab program that allows for older homes to be “spruced up” if they need more than $15,000 worth of repairs.


Related:

from Zillow Porchlight https://www.zillow.com/blog/8-places-america-will-pay-move-222241/

Why Cities Must Become Affordable For the Middle Class

This article was originally published on attn.com.

Cities need the middle class. They need nurses and teachers. Yet if people have a well-paying job like those, they’re finding it increasingly hopeless to afford to pay for a house in the city in which they work. Cities tend to have the most job opportunities, but they also have the highest cost of living. In recent years, the housing costs in urban areas have grown more than anywhere else.

“This isn’t just a coastal problem,” explains Zillow economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. “We’re seeing rapidly appreciating home values in places like Nashville, Provo, Charlotte, Orlando. These people that have good jobs are running into the problem that they simply cannot afford to live in cities anymore.”

Not Enough to Go Around

So, what happened that is causing housing costs to rise so much? A classic problem of supply and demand. “We’re in a really strong part of the recovery,” says Gudell, “and it comes down to not enough homes available to sell right now, but a lot of people demanding housing.”

Even though cities are becoming unaffordable, there is still an intense desire for people-especially millennials-to move there. “For a lot of people, their jobs are actually located in cities, so the appeal of a short commute is right there,” says Gudell. “Millennials are starting to think about renting, leaving their parents’ basements and perhaps even buying their first homes. They have a preference to be in cities, oftentimes. The acute inventory shortage that is being experienced all across the country right now is because cities don’t have as many single-family homes. They have more condos available.”

Smaller and Smaller

Brooklyn. New York; Shutterstock ID 684623227Unfortunately for potential buyers, there are not many choices that you can make in this situation of high demand/short supply. “You can choose to simply rent,” says Gudell, “but you end up missing out on wealth building because you don’t actually invest in equity by paying off a mortgage. Or you have to choose to move further out, where housing gets a bit cheaper, but then you face very long commutes.”

If you’re in an average, middle class-paying job, buying a home in a city with your current employment isn’t realistic at all. Unless that home is under 500 square feet-about the size of a toolshed. For the biggest cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Washington, D.C., your average affordability falls to under 300 square feet.

So, why shouldn’t we have cities be just for wealthy people, and suburbs and rural areas for people who are not? “In every city, you’ll find a coffee shop,” says Gudell. “You’ll need garbage pickup, you’ll need all these things and it simply doesn’t work to say, ‘If you’re a janitor, you’re going to have to commute in for an hour and a half, but if you’re ultra-rich, you can live in the city.’”

Fill In the Cities

The middle class should be able to afford the cities they serve without incurring the burden and long-term physical and mental stressors of a multi-hour commute. With America’s supply and demand problem not getting any better, there are certain steps that both governments and the private sector could do to try to help impact cost in a positive way.

“Cities have to evolve with the times and that means adding more units,” says Gudell. “People oftentimes are afraid that higher-density living will ruin their cities, but in the end, higher density will just change the character of a city. It won’t ruin it. But pushing people out and having only a city for the rich will probably ruin cities.”

This article was originally published on attn.com.

from Zillow Porchlight https://www.zillow.com/blog/cities-middle-class-222090/

Pending Sale: Sting and Trudie Styler’s $56M NYC Penthouse

Rockstar Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler, have been living large in their New York City pad at 15 Central Park West. Measuring 396 square feet, the terrace off their living room is bigger than some New Yorkers’ entire apartments. The penthouse interior spans an additional 5,417 square feet.

The famous couple seems ready to move on after nearly a decade of ownership. Given the home’s iconic address and spacious quarters, it’s not surprising to see a pending sale after just 8 months on the market – even with an original ask of $56 million.

The 4-bed, 5.5-bath residence is spread over two floors and connected by a spiral staircase. Views of the city and Central Park can be found from almost every room.

Photos by Andrew Kiracofe

Even for a luxury home, the penthouse offers some spectacular touches. Instead of a standard set of appliances in the kitchen, the buyer will receive two full-size refrigerators, an oversized Wolf range, four ovens and three Miele dishwashers. In the master suite, two dressing rooms and a lavish, spa-like bathroom are accompanied by a separate steam room with a rain shower.

If the posh residence and its high-end touches aren’t enough, residents of the white-glove condo building are privy a host of amenities. Between the 14,000-square-foot gym, sky-lit lap pool, wine cellars and game room, there’s something for everyone.

Deborah Kern of Corcoran holds the listing.

Photos by Andrew Kiracofe.

Related:

from Zillow Porchlight https://www.zillow.com/blog/sting-56m-penthouse-off-market-221966/

How Historic Racial Injustices Still Impact Housing Today

For the majority of Americans, regardless of race or ethnicity, owning a home is a major goal. According to the first Zillow Housing Aspirations Report, 63 percent of whites, 63 percent of blacks and 73 percent of Hispanics believe owning a home is necessary to live the American Dream. But although they share the same dreams as whites, for blacks and Hispanics getting into a home remains as challenging as ever-in part due to financial challenges and decades of discrimination.

Historically Denied

Historically, the homeownership rate among people of color has lagged behind the homeownership rate among white Americans, in part because of institutional barriers to entry. Until the late 1960s, federal government-backed subsidies-many of them funded through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-were off limits to people of color. The FHA, which was established to help people remain in their homes during the Great Depression, began to promote homeownership during the years after World War II.

And the lagging homeownership rate wasn’t just the result of one program. There were others created to boost homeownership that resulted in similar outcomes for people of color. Black military veterans, for example, weren’t able to borrow money through the GI Bill to purchase homes.

Middle- and lower-income whites benefited most from federal government programs, including low-cost mortgages and subsidies for home builders to construct affordable homes in racially-segregated communities.

Even today, minorities still face more hurdles, similar to the ones they experienced in the past. When blacks and Hispanics try to secure FHA loans, they’re denied about twice as often than their white peers-denials which can sometimes be linked to injustices endured outside of housing. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that fewer blacks and Hispanics apply for these programs.

But for those who do, “far fewer actually get accepted, and the groups that are highly at a loss are black potential homeowners and Hispanic potential homeowners,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell.

The Consequences

“Housing segregation has not been something that has been quickly changed due to personal prejudice,” said Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, director of the Racial Wealth Divide Initiative at Prosperity Now.

Yesterday’s outright discriminatory policies helped keep minority homeownership low and largely limited to less-advantaged areas. And today, those disparities persist. The Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trend Report 2017 revealed that although they each account for 13 percent of all U.S. households, blacks and Hispanics only account for 8 percent and 9 percent of U.S. homeowners.

Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, director of the Racial Wealth Divide Initiative at Prosperity Now, said low homeownership rates is connected to other disparities.

“African-Americans, in particular, still faced the income wealth disparity, legal segregation, legal job discrimination,” he said. “That continued on through the creation of the American middle class, which limited African-American participation as it pertains to homeownership.”

“Housing segregation has not been something that has been quickly changed due to personal prejudice,” he said. That’s especially true when it comes to those same FHA loans-it’s not just a problem of the past.

Discrimination Still Exists

While Asante-Muhammad says outright legal discrimination has since been outlawed, we’re still seeing the repercussions of the country’s historic discriminatory practices.

“In the 21st century, I think we’re looking more at the issue of the results of housing discrimination and discrimination as a whole,” he said. That discrimination, he added, leads to strong racial economic inequality, which, in turn, makes it harder for people of color to move into more expensive neighborhoods.

Part of the problem, he said, is there’s still market discrimination against homes in black communities.

“A home in a predominantly black neighborhood and the exact same home in a predominantly white neighborhood will have less value because it has less market appeal because people don’t want to live in neighborhoods with black populations somewhere above 20 percent,” he said.

Asante-Muhammad argues some of the discrepancies can be attributed to racial and personal animosity keeping people of color out of higher-valued neighborhoods. But the gap could also be due in part to high negative equity rates-the share of homeowners who owe more on their home than it’s worth-in largely minority communities. When a homeowner is in negative equity, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to sell their home at all, let alone for a profit they can then use to help buy a different home in another neighborhood.

In black and Hispanic communities, home values fell farther than in white communities, and haven’t been able to fully bounce back from the recession.

Less Money, More Problems

“In terms of closing the gap of white and black homeownership, we’re not moving,” Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell said.

While minority buyers are trying to enter the housing market, it’s made increasingly difficult due to their lack of wealth.

Gudell said wealth-building in predominantly black communities is hard because of yesterday’s inequalities. It’s actually impossible to point to one single event that led to gaps in wealth for minorities since there have been decades of inequality. Gudell says it’s a compounding effect and something that we “haven’t been able to figure out how to fix it yet.”

“In terms of closing the gap of white and black homeownership, we’re not moving,” Gudell said. “If you look at white homeownership, it’s increasing, while black homeownership is falling.”

Asante-Muhammad echoed those concerns.

“Wealth inequality … reinforces what had been maintained by law and by personal prejudice in the past,” he said. And that lack of wealth is only exacerbated when it comes to home buying.

“So, let’s say you’re getting a $200,000 house and want to put a 10 percent down payment, that’s $20,000. That’s much higher than the median wealth of blacks and Latinos,” he said. A 10 percent down payment is already outside the traditional norm. Typically, a down payment is 20 percent of the home’s value, so $40,000 for that same $200,000 home.

But even if these would-be buyers took advantage of some of the systems in place to help address some of these issues-including utilizing an FHA-backed loan which allows borrowers to make a down payment as low as 3.5 percent-it’s often still not enough.

Asante-Muhammad said even if these buyers got an FHA loan on a $200,000 home-the median-valued home nationwide-the down payment would still be beyond the wealth of most blacks and Latinos. For that $200,000 home, a 3.5 percent down payment would equate to $7,000-or roughly 68.5 times the wealth of African-Americans and 58.5 times Hispanic wealth.

And their wealth today is much less than it was even 10 years ago, when black and Hispanic wealth was $10,400 and $10,200, respectively.

“If things keep going the way they’ve been going, in 2053, the African-American median wealth will be zero,” Asante-Muhammad said.

And that lack of wealth has big repercussions for the future.

“I hope things will get better, but I don’t think the gap will close anytime soon,” Gudell said. “These are such big problems that you can’t just have a quick fix for them but my hope is that we would have equality and balance in the future.”

Related:

from Zillow Porchlight https://www.zillow.com/blog/historic-racial-injustices-housing-221898/

Katy Perry Lists Her Post-Divorce Mulholland Drive Compound

In 2013, Katy Perry scooped up not one, but two new neighboring homes shortly after her divorce from Russell Brand. Now, just four years later, the pop princess is ready to divorce herself from one of the homes. Listed by, Ernie Carswell, her long-term partner in all things real estate Perry is hoping to unload the Mediterranean-inspired estate for a cool $9.45 million.

Consisting of four separate residential structures, the Hollywood Heights home is actually more like a compound than a single house. In addition to a main residence, the 2.33-acre lot is also home to a two-story guest house, a fitness center, a security guardhouse, and a garage that can comfortably fit a limousine (a must-have for every California Girl).

The estate is atop Runyon Canyon Park, and any lucky visitors are treated to an opulent gated entrance, followed by a hand-hewn stone driveway leading up to the 4-bed, 6-bath home. Framed by lush greenery, the white facade of the 7,418-square-foot residence provides a cheerful contrast with the red tones of the Spanish tile roof.

Photos from Zillow listing

Inside the home, there’s no shortage of luxury (and comfort). Light-colored wood beams run across the ceilings throughout, and oversized windows shower the entire main floor with natural light. The kitchen features a stunning patterned white, red, and grey tile with a matching backsplash behind a professional kitchen-grade Wolf range and state-of-the-art oven. Upstairs, the sprawling master suite occupies the entire floor. A Roman bath sits underneath the skylight in an oversized bathroom, which-luxuriously-also boasts a fireplace of its own.

A large pool is tucked in behind the house, bordered by Italian quarried stone, and with a breathtaking hilltop view of Los Angeles. The outdoor opulence doesn’t end there; among the 2+ acre grounds are an amphitheater, multiple terraces, an orchard of fruit trees, fountains, a Buddha statue, a wood-fired oven, and more.

Ernie Carswell of Carswell & Partners holds the listing.

Related:

from Zillow Porchlight https://www.zillow.com/blog/katy-perry-divorce-compound-221260/

How to Actually Afford to Buy A Home in America

Home buyers today face tough challenges-housing prices have soared, a dollar doesn’t go as far as it once did and rent is more expensive than the past. How are people today making such a large purchase in spite of these hurdles? With more flexibility and a bit of creativity when it comes to financing, today’s buyers are finding ways to achieve homeownership.

Make Enough Money

With fewer resources to pull from than their older, wealthier counterparts, renters wanting to be buyers face tough financial headwinds. According to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2017, renter households typically earn a median income of $37,500 annually, which is $50,000 less than the median household income netted by households who recently bought a home (of whom the median household income is $87,500 annually). While there are ways to enter into homeownership without making $87,500 in household income, it’s hard to afford to buy if you make significantly less. “If you’re making $37,500 per year, it’s probably not feasible for you to buy in almost any market,“ says Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell.

Only 29 percent of Americans do make $87,500 or more, per U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2016 data. For perspective, only one of the top 10 most common jobs in the United States carries a salary above $37,500, meaning the jobs that the majority of Americans hold-fast food workers, cashiers, retail salespersons, customer service representatives, secretaries, housekeepers among others-bring in less money than the median renter household. While households purchasing homes are more likely to have two incomes than renter households (and thus a higher median household income combined), even two-income households struggle to afford to buy in competitive markets.

Save Up Enough Cash (But Not As Much As You Think)

One of the most daunting parts of homebuying? The down payment. In fact, two-thirds of renters cite saving for a down payment as the biggest hurdle to buying a home, according to the Zillow Housing Aspirations Report. Per findings from the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2017, almost one-third (29 percent) of buyers active in the market express difficulty saving for the down payment.

For people buying the national median home valued at $201,900, with the traditional 20 percent down payment, that’s $40,380 up front-just to move in.

“The down payment remains a hurdle for a lot of people,” says Gudell. “Although, they should know they don’t have to put 20 percent down.” Although putting down less than 20 percent means additional considerations, such as the cost for private mortgage insurance (PMI), some find it worth the hassle. In fact, only one-quarter of buyers (24 percent) put 20 percent down, and just over half of buyers (55 percent) put less than the traditional 20 percent down.

Buyers are also getting creative about piecing together a down payment from multiple sources. According to the report findings, nearly 1 in 4 buyers (24 percent) build a down payment from two or more sources, including saving, gifts, loans, the sale of a previous home, stocks, retirement funds and other resources.

Know Your Deal Breakers, But Be Flexible

In order to get into a home-even if it’s not the home of their dreams-some of today’s buyers are considering homes and locations outside of their initial wish list, and are having to get increasingly flexible when it comes to neighborhood, house condition, and even type of home.

Although single-family homes remain a dream for most home seekers, buyers today consider and buy condos and townhouses-in order to secure a home in their ideal location. Buyers with household incomes under $50,000 are more likely to consider homes outside of the traditional single-family residence (40 percent), compared to those with incomes of $50,000 or above (24 percent). “I do think people get discouraged when they look in their target neighborhood and they see homes around $170,000 when they’re looking for a $110,000 home,” Gudell says.

Affordably-priced homes do, in fact, exist. But in popular areas, where people most often want to live, it’s going to be harder to find that cheaper home, Gudell says. "If you’re willing to take a longer commute and make a couple tradeoffs, you might be able to find a home that is further out that might be cheaper,” Gudell explains. “You have to leave the paved path before you can find cheaper choices.“

from Zillow Porchlight https://www.zillow.com/blog/what-it-takes-buy-home-america-221191/