Archive for August, 2010

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How to Get Organized and Have an End of Season Garage Sale

Have a garage sale this weekend! Trust us; it's easier than you think.

By Serena Norr

Maybe you’re in the process of moving and need to get rid of some junk or you’ve been living in your home for awhile and notice that you surrounded by stuff you never use. You know exactly what we mean: old knickknacks, clothes with tags on them and your old blender from the 1970s. Clearing up the junk in your life is one way to declutter your home; not to mention it will make you feel better. But before you drop off your stuff to your local Salvation Army or pass your items along to a friend, consider squeezing one last dollar (or two) out of them by having a garage sale. As the summer is winding down (sad, but true), garage sales are a great way to get rid of your unwanted baggage aka junk and make a small profit in the process.  Here’s how to get organized and throw one this weekend.

1.    What to Sell. Before you create the buzz about your garage sale, you will need to know exactly what you are selling. Going from room-to-room, make a list and collect the items you no longer need or want (most likely you know what these are). You can also make a list of items that you are thinking of selling but aren’t 100 percent sure of. If possible, pack the ‘to be sold’ items together in boxes or garbage bags for the big day.

2.   Signage. If you have a sale, you will need to tell people about it. Word-of-mouth may work in small communities, but to really get the word out you will need signs. Enlist a crafty friend to help you create colorful posters stating the date, time and your address as well as alternative date should it rain (after all, Mother Nature can be a fickle one.)  Don’t leave any of these details out – or people will not know where to go. Your sign should also list (briefly) what you will be selling such as books, antiques, baby clothes, etc. You don’t want to make the list too long, but if you have a rare or valuable item such as a 1950s Mickey Mouse doll or a slightly used Mac laptop definitely list them. Hot items like that are sure to draw in an excited crowd.

3.    Post. You should post your sign one week before your sale. Any earlier and people will likely forget about it, not to mention your sign may be torn down. Post your signs everywhere in your neighborhood and think outside of the box. Ask your local coffee house, library, theater, grocery store or community garden if you can post your sign there. You may also want to place an ad in your local newspaper to get the word out.

4.   Internet. The internet is yet another useful way to get the word out about your sale. Post the information from your sign on a local list serve or on Craiglist. Be careful about posting your address and phone number on Craigslist, though, but rather, write your email address so that interested parties can contact you directly.

5.    Get Organized. Now that your neighbors are counting down the days to your sale; it’s time to solidify your list. If there are items that you are questioning such as sentimental items that you want to keep but is taking up space, then consider storage. Do one more assessment of your home and really try to get rid of your old stuff, consider them useful, but no longer useful to you. Two-three days before the sale, get all of the items together and start labeling. [We would advise labeling before a sale because many people are die-hard garage sale enthusiasts who will show up right when your sale begins (if not earlier).] This will also enable you to have your pricing figured out so that there is no uncertainty the day of. This is also helpful if someone is helping you with your sale – enabling you both to be on the same page and not making up prices throughout the day.

6.   Check it Twice. The day before your sale, make sure everything that you want sold is packed away and that everything is labeled and ready to go. Also, make sure that you have your table ready and food for the day of your sale. Trust us, standing outside exchanging bucks will surely make you hungry.

7.    Take Care of Yourself. Make sure to get enough rest the day before since you will likely be on your feet and outside for five or more hours. On the day of your sale have a hearty breakfast and begin setting up your items at least 30 minutes before the sale – like we said before, people will come early and they will be ready to shop.

8.   Be Flexible. Try not to be too firm on your price (unless there is a reason) and be open to negotiating. Sometimes taking five bucks off your asking price will enable you to get rid of more stuff.

9.    Enjoy Yourself! You worked hard to make this day happen, take it all in and be happy that your old items are now finding their way to a new home.

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The Celebrity Beat: Relocation.com’s Celebrity Real Estate Report

Tyler Perry's new home - purchased for $7.6 million. (Photo Credit: Zillow.com)

By Serena Norr

The biggest home sale this week on the Beat – in both price and size – was the massive mansion purchased by Tyler Perry aka the man behind the sassy Madea. The mansion, called Dean Gardens, was created in the early 90s by software developer Larry Dean and his wife, Lynda, who certainly had their wild imagination come to life in this overly done 58-acre mansion. From a carousel-themed nursery to art deco-inspired bedrooms, the Deans personal taste is not for everyone, and some may even say that the home is more famous for the time it has been on the market. Listed on the market since 1993 (following the couples split), Perry plans to remodel and tear several rooms in order to create an environmentally-friendly home made out of concrete. To shift from extreme homes to an aesthetically pleasing one,  Bradley Whitford and Jane Kaczmarek have placed their 6,769-square-foot Italian-inspired villa on the market. The couple, who also separated, is seeking $6.7 million for their six bath, six-bedroom home.  Courtney Love’s public real estate plight has been reported on Curbed NY, the New York Post, and even here on Relocation.com.  Searching for a home next to Anna Wintour proved unsuccessful (Love was rejected by the condo board) and we guess living in Soho’s posh Mercer Hotel had its days numbered as Love is now leasing Milla Jovovich’s townhouse (which has been on the market since 2008). We’re interested to see how that living arrangement plays out…From extreme homes to peaceful abodes, we have you covered on the Celebrity Beat.

Front door entryway at Tyler Perry's new home -- purchased for $7.6 million. (Photo Credit: Hooked on Houses)

Some themed-rooms at Dean Gardens -- now owned by Tyler Perry. (Photo Credit: The Real Estalker)

•    Tyler Perry Buys Georgia Mansion for $7.6 Million
Entertainment maven (comedian/actor/director/producer/playwright), Tyler Perry recently purchased the massive Dean Gardens estate in the suburban outskirts of Georgia for $7.6 million. The 58-acre estate, located along the Chattahoochee River, has been on the market for 17 years (Michael Jackson was once an interested buyer), which was conceptualized by software developer Larry Dean and his wife, Lynda. The 32,000 square foot mansion was designed by the Dean’s 21-year-old that took four years to create a massive wonderland of themed-bedrooms and grandiose chandeliers. The Deans, though, never did enjoy their overactive mansion. Shortly after the construction of the home (in 1993) the couple separated and placed it on the market, which it has been on for 17 years. It was recently listed for $13,900,000 for the home and its furnishings (carousels, an entry way with massive-sized Italian paintings, custom murals and a room with Peacock décor were some features); however, Perry declined that offer and paid $7.6 million solely for the home. The home has been recognized (both praised and scoffed) for its unique décor options, formal gardens, outdoor band shell, 18-hole golf course, 12-car garage, 12 fireplaces, eight themed-bedrooms, nine bathrooms and on-site wedding chapel. We’re not sure what to make of some of these odd features and perhaps Perry wasn’t either as he plans to tear down the house and “… build one that is environmentally friendly and made of concrete,” according to Zillow.com. Zillow broke down even further, “this will include paying $25 million to build it, $18 million to pay for staff, taxes and utilities over the years and $1 million in annual maintenance.” Perry also owns homes in Los Angeles, an 11.4 acre home in Fairburn, Georgia and a mansion in Atlanta, Georgia. It sure pays to be a quadruple threat…

Jane Kacmarek and Bradley Whitford's villa - listed for $6.7 million. (Photo Credit: Luxist.com)

•    Jane Kaczmarek, Bradley Whitford Place San Marino Villa on Market for $6.7 Million
Jane Kaczmarek and Bradley Whitford filed for a divorce in 2009, and sadly selling their gorgeous San Marino Villa was also involved in their separation. Located in San Marino (near Pasadena, California), the 6,769-square-foot home is described as an “Italian Renaissance Revival estate.” Designed in 1924, the home is situated on more than an acre of land that includes an outdoor swimming pool, original formal gardens, a spa, six bedrooms and six bathrooms, a library, hardwood flooring and a private guesthouse. The home, which underwent a massive renovation in 1997, was originally purchased for $5.9 million in 2004.

One of Emeril's kitchen's in his Manhattan Condo - Sold for $4.6 million. (Photo Credit: Wall Street Journal)

•    Emeril Lagasse Sells Midtown Loft for $4.6 Million
Emeril Lagasse, famous for the catch phrases (“Bam” and “Lets Kick it Up a Notch), and of course for his Cajun cooking, recently sold his loft at the Beekman Regent NYC condo for $4.6 million. Located in Midtown Manhattan, the 4,000-square-foot apartment is a combination of two adjacent apartments that includes two kitchens – both of which have modern and stainless steel appliances, a formal dining room, a media room and two master suites. The apartment also features views of the skyline and the East River whose building’s interior includes 24-karat gold hardware and mahogany wood. According to the New York Post, Emeril won’t have to worry about his living situation that much longer since he reportedly just closed on a 6,900-square-foot Upper East Side townhouse. His new $11.5 million pad is recently renovated and includes two terraces, six fireplaces and a chef’s kitchen.

•    Courtney Love to Lease Milla Jovovich’s NYC Townhouse
Much has been reported about adventurous tales of grunge rocker Courtney Love and her search for an apartment in NYC. Seems this tale has a happy ending, at least temporarily, as it was reported that Love is leasing a townhouse from actress/model Milla Jovovich. Love has been living in the luxurious Mercer Hotel in Soho for the past year while searching for a home in the West Village. Love has been looking to live next to Anna Wintour whose board rejected her request. Seems like a perfect situation for both parties as Jovovich has been trying to sell her Greenwich Village townhouse since 2008. Listed for sale at $7.5 million, the four-floor home includes four bedrooms, a private garden, a dining room and a rooftop deck. Curbed NY reported that Jovovich was seeking $24,000/month for rent. However, there was no word if this is what Love will be paying.

Weinberg's home for sale -- listed at $3,399,00. (Photo Credit: The Real Estalker).

•    Max Weinberg Asking $3.3 Million for Flipped Home
Max Weinberg, resident drummer on the “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and former member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band recently listed a Hollywood Hills home for sale. Purchased in February 2009 for $2,888,000, Weinberg and his wife, Rebecca, renovated the home and is now looking to make a profit by listing it for $3,399,000. The contemporary five bedrooms, three bathroom home – previously owned by the parents of Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal – includes views of the city, a swimming pool among a lush garden and angled stairs and 2,916-square-feet of living space. An infamous house flipper, Weinberg has been purchasing homes in California and New York, renovating them and selling them since the early 2000s.

Which home sparks your interest?

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The Great De-Clutter: Getting Rid of Your Belongings While Packing for a Move

Does this junk pile look familiar? Don't relocate with stuff you don't need.

By Kathy Woodard

So, you finally found the perfect home, congratulations! The next step is planning for your big moving day, and the first thing you need to think about is packing. While packing for a move, getting rid of unneeded or unwanted belongings can save you time, money and a whole lot of aggravation. Here are some great ideas for The Great De-Clutter!

Room by room:
Most of us have a whole houseful of clutter that we don’t even realize we move! It can feel overwhelming to consider everything you need to go through, so start by breaking it down into smaller jobs.  Sort through each room one at a time; don’t try to tackle the whole house in a weekend. Plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time to decide what’s worth keeping, and what needs a new home. Have three piles; one for trash, one for give away, and one for packing. When you finally get through all the rooms, move all your give away piles into a garage or empty floor space, and begin the de-cluttering! Here’s what to do with all that stuff…

Sell it:
Lots of the things you no longer want may be old for you, but may be a great find for someone else. And guess what; they may be willing to pay you for it. Items often in demand are electronic equipment, furniture, books, entertainment and items of value, such as jewelry. You may even sell enough stuff to help pay for your move! Great ways to find buyers for your unneeded belongings:

  • Craigslist.com
  • Local classified newspaper
  • Bulletin boards at apartments, churches, and health clubs
  • Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter
  • Friends and family

Speaking of friends and family…
Many times the people you love the most have similar tastes and needs as you. They may have had their eye on that dog painting above your fireplace for years, and now is their chance! Host a “Moving On” party. Move all your give away items to a garage space, a yard, or an unused room. Now invite all your friends and family for pot luck, inviting them to bring both a dish, and plenty of extra space in the car for the ride home A good time to be had by all, and everyone gets to pick and choose what they would like. Everyone wins!

In the case that not all your treasures are snapped up by those who know you best…

Give it away

There are many benefits to donating items you no longer need, or just plain don’t want to pack. Donating so items can be reused is environmentally responsible, can give you a tax savings and most of all, will help you to accomplish the main objective… de-cluttering! Many charities will even come to your door and pick up for free. When you have sold all you can sell, and given away as much as you can to family and friends, this is your next step. Make sure to get (and save) a receipt from the charity you choose to donate to so you can deduct the value from your taxes. You might want to call several weeks in advance of your move if you want to get a pick up; some charities book far in advance for those services. Here are some great ideas for charities to donate to, but there are many more. Check your local phone book, or ask at a local church for more ideas.

Also, consider the website Freecycle.com. You can post your items to give away in your local area, just like on Craigslist. Things tend to get snatched up pretty quickly, so it’s a good place to try if you can’t wait for a charity pick up.

Getting rid of your belongings while packing for a move is a necessity not only for the packing process, but to help you enjoy your new home as well. After all, why start over in a new home with all your old stuff? On top of all that, having a little less stuff is sure to save you on some money when using movers.

Want free home and garden ideas? Kathy Woodard, is an author, columnist and home decorating expert. Visit her at her website  www.TheBudgetDecorator.com and also at www.DecoratingYourSmallSpace.com.

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The Celebrity Beat: Relocation.com’s Celebrity Real Estate Report

Views the undisclosed buyer of the 'most expensive home' in the world will enjoy. The home was purchased for $220 million. Photo Credit: www.telegraph.co.uk)

By Serena Norr

The spectrum of ridiculousness and luxury real estate just took a turn to the extreme on this week’s edition of the Celebrity Beat. To start things off with a bang, it was reported that the most expensive home was sold in London by an undisclosed buyer – insert your speculations here – for $220 million. Located in a building called One Hyde Park, the new owner will have six bedrooms, bulletproof windows and a panic room — perhaps these are standard amenities when you purchase a home of this nature. On a smaller scale (but not by much), there were many other homes shuffled through sales and placed on the market. In NYC, Rachel Maddow purchased a two-bedroom West Village apartment for $1.25 million that was once owned by the lead singer of R.E.M. Nicole Kidman and her hubs Keith Urban  are also on the Beat for reportedly buying a three-bedroom home in West Chelsea. This newly designed home is being touted for its modern amenities, in particular, a sky garage that transports cars to its resident’s homes and back to the garage – seems to us that Jetson-like living isn’t that far away.

An undisclosed buyer recently purchased the most expensive homes in the world, according to Housing Watch.com. The new development called One Hyde Park was purchased for a whopping $220 million. Beginning construction in 2006 — the building with 86 properties – is still undergoing development with plans to complete the landscaping by December 2010. The unit purchased by the mystery buyer is reported to be a two-story, six-bedroom place with view of nearby Hyde Park. The London home also includes bulletproof windows and a panic room — for what we could imagine is needed the homes hefty price tag

Sky Garage at Nicole Kidman's new $10 million-dollar home. (Image Credit: www.200eleventh.com)

The starchitecture district, located in West Chelsea will soon have new residents. The New York Post and Curbed NY are reporting that Nicole Kidman and her husband Keith Urban have purchased at new penthouse at the posh 200 Eleventh Avenue for $10 million. Originally listed for $12.5 million, the super luxurious pad features amazing views of the Hudson, a private elevator opening to their foyer and access to  Sky Garage, an automatic car elevator that will take Kidman directly to her apartment (see picture). The penthouse – featuring 3,248 square feet – includes three bedrooms and a master suite with a walk-in closest, 3.5 bathrooms, a large study and a modern kitchen with stainless steel appliances. According to the building’s website, Kidman and Urban can also enjoy several on-site amenities such as a 24/7 attended lobby and a fitness center with a spa.

Pics of Scarlett Johansson and Ryan Reynolds new home - Purchased for $2.9 million. (Photo Credit: realestalker.blogspot.com)

Super couple Scarlett Johansson and Ryan Reynolds recently purchased a new 2,835-square-foot home in Los Angeles for $2.9 million. The home, located in the hills of Los Feliz, includes two bedrooms, three bathrooms, a guest room with hardwood flooring and high ceilings. The small home also includes a two-car garage, a state-of-the-art security system and an outdoor area with a swimming pool and small garden. It is also reported by the RealEstalker that Johansson and Reynolds are looking for another home in Louisiana with eco-friendly amenities.

Live like the king for a night and rent Elvis' honeymoon home. (Photo Credit: Zillow.com)

•    Elvis Presley’s Honeymoon House for Rent

According to Zillow.com, the Palm Springs, California home where Priscella and Elvis Presley stayed during their honeymoon is currently listed for rent. According to the estate’s website, ElvisHoneymoon.com, you can also have a corporate seminar, tour, film or have your own wedding/honeymoon at the home. Once considered “the House of Tomorrow” for its art deco design concepts, the home has been preserved with furnishings from the 1960s that also includes two bedrooms, four bathrooms and 4,695 square feet of living space.

Shots of Rachel Maddow's new apartment - purchased for$1.25 million. (Photo Credit: NYCurbed.com)

•    Rachel Maddow Buys Michael Stipe’s West Village Apartment
Rachel Maddow, host of “MSNBC,” recently purchased a West Village apartment that was once owned by R.E.M’s front man, Michael Stipe. Purchased for $1.25 million, the luxurious loft is quite the step up for Maddow who was formerly living in a 275-square-foot NYC apartment, according to Curbed NY. Her new digs – on Jane Street – include two bedrooms, gorgeous view of the Hudson and 1,325 square feet of living space.  A former paper warehouse, the building was turned into condos in 1976.

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Urban Gardening: How to Garden in Your Small Space

Now, that's what we call an urban garden!

By Kathy Woodard

Urban gardening can seem to be a paradox; how can one garden in a small space especially in places like NYC that are renowned for their cramped apartments? The fact is, it can be done and it is a fast growing trend amongst city dwellers. There are a few guidelines that can help get you started if you too are determined to grow your own piece of paradise, no matter how small your outdoor space.

Grow-in:
The fact is, for most city dwellers you are going to be doing your gardening in containers. The choices in containers are larger now than it’s ever been, including lightweight choices for those of us with balconies and rooftops. Many containers are made to look like expensive pottery or stone, but are in fact easy maintenance foam or other lightweight material. These pots are tough, beautiful and practical, and come in large sizes.

What you put inside the pot is important also. When growing on patios, terraces or balconies, it’s critical to make sure your pots are not too heavy. Using a soil less potting mixture will ensure you have healthy plants without the extra pounds. Many potting mixes even have time release fertilizer right in the mix, eliminating one more aspect of container gardening maintenance.

Grow-up:
When space is limited as it is in an urban garden, think up. Many plants can be grown in pots up trellises, tepees or poles. This is a great way to utilize your small space garden effectively to ensure you have room for a variety of plants. Think easy colorful vines, fresh pole beans, even roses!

Grow-down:
Growing down simply means using hanging pots to create space where there is none! Trailing plants are perfect for this, but shorter upright plants can be used in these designs as well.

What makes your garden grow?
An urban container garden in a small space needs the same things any garden does… water, nutrients and sunlight. Make sure you water regularly, as containers have a tendency to dry out quickly, especially during hot weather. Make sure each container has adequate drainage so the roots don’t sit in water and rot.

Nutrients get washed out of the soil in container plants quickly. Make sure there is a time released fertilizer in your potting soil, and every other watering consider adding a water soluble fertilizer to your watering can at half strength for an added boost.

You may be limited in the plants you can have in your garden if your outdoor space faces only one direction. Whether your small garden space gets mostly shade or mostly sun, or somewhere in between, there are great plants you can use. Be sure to stick to ones for your exposure. Planting a shade loving hosta in the blazing afternoon sun is never going to work. Likewise, expecting dwarf sunflowers to give you beautiful blooms with nothing but filtered shade is unrealistic.

Finally, while there is definitely a lot less weeding and maintenance with a container garden (one of the many percs!) make sure you take care of those things when they occur. Birds can drop weed seeds, flowers still need to be snipped off as they fade and occasionally you will want to replace plants that aren’t working.

Grow this!
Here are my top choices for plants to grow in your urban garden…

Edibles

  • Pole and bush beans
  • Herbs of all kinds
  • Lettuce and other greens

Flowers

  • Allysum
  • Lobelia
  • Geranium
  • Sweet potato vine
  • Purple fountain grass
  • Verbena

Vines

  • Pole vegetables
  • Morning Glory
  • Cardinal Flower
  • Black eyed Susan Vine

No matter where you live, there is always a way to garden. Look for what you have, not what you don’t have. Grow, nurture and enjoy a garden in your small space!

Want free home and garden ideas? Kathy Woodard, is an author, columnist and home decorating expert. Visit her at her website  www.TheBudgetDecorator.com and also at www.DecoratingYourSmallSpace.com.

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The Celebrity Beat: Relocation.com’s Celebrity Real Estate Report

Joey Fatone's home for sale - To be sold at auction for $6.5 million

By Serena Norr

We had quite the mixed bag of homes for sales and home purchases this week. “Extra” host Mario Lopez recently purchased a 4,430 square-foot home in Glendale, California for the obvious reasons: outdoor pool, courtyard with a fountain and state-of-the art and modern amenities as well as for the not-so-obvious reasons: it will be the location of his new reality show where he and his baby mama will be filmed as they experience the trails of becoming new parents. While  some may tune-in to catch Lopez juggle his abdominal workouts while changing diapers, we are more interested in seeing how he will upgrade and personalize his Spanish-style home with home improvement projects and decor. Disney star-turned-actress, Hilary Duff also made this week’s Beat for purchasing an elegant Toluca Lake estate with her fiancé Mike Comrie for $3.85 million. We also reported on an interesting auction of the home of Joey Fatone. Fatone, who was in the band ‘NSync, is asking $6.5 million for the home that features a swimming pool and an outdoor sushi bar. These properties never cease to amuse and amaze us! Until next week…

•    Former ‘NSyncer, Joey Fatone Selling Orlando Home for $6.5 Million
Joey Fatone, of the popular 90s boy-band ‘NSync, will auction his home for $6.5 million citing wanting to be closer to his family as the reason for the sale. The gated estate, located in Orlando, is situated on 4.4 acres of lakefront property that includes 10 bathrooms, a 10-car garage and six bedrooms, including a 3,800 square-foot master suite with a butler’s pantry. The home also has 12,400-square-feet of living space that includes a movie theatre with stadium seating and an outdoor grotto area with a sushi bar,  swimming pool and spa. The minimum bid for the auction is $3.7 million, which will take place on September 11, 2010.

•    Mel Brooks Sells Ocean-Front Home for $5.3 Million
Comedian and director Mel Brooks recently sold his Watermill, New York home for $5.3 million. The 1,968-square-foot property was originally purchased for $2,995,000 by Brooks and his late wife, Anne Bancroft, which has been rented out for several summers. The home, situated by the ocean on. 74 acres, includes three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a fireplace and is right down the street from last week’s celebrity beat seller, Christie Brinkley.

•    Leeza Gibbons Buys New Home for $6,600,000
Entertainment reporter Leeza Gibbons recently purchased a home in Beverly Hills, California for $6,600,000. The Mediterranean-style home includes five bedrooms, 5.5 bathrooms and backyard complete with a heated swimming pool, spa and lush greenery. The 6,579-square-foot home also includes walnut wood flooring, a family room, a fitness room, a billiard room, an office, a three-car garage, a home theatre, four fireplaces and a state-of-the-art security system.

•    Mario Lopez Gets a New Home for $1,940,000
Mario Lopez of “Saved by the Bell” fame recently purchased a new home in Glendale, California. Sold to Lopez for a modest price tag of $1,940,000 (at least in celebrity real estate terms), the home will soon be seen by the rest of America when VH1 starts filming a new reality series about the trials and tribulations of Lopez’s life with a new baby. If you can’t wait to see the show, we can tell you the Spanish-style home includes four bedrooms, six bathrooms, three-car garage and a gorgeous courtyard with a fountain. The home, built in 1929, is fully renovated that also includes 4,430 square-feet of living space, a eat-in kitchen with modern appliances, an office, a formal dining area with hardwood flooring, arched doorways, fireplace and a swimming pool.

Exterior shot of Hilary Duff's new home - Sold for $3.85 million

•    Teen Queen Hilary Duff Buys Home for $3.85 Million
Hilary Duff, former Disney star- and sometimes-designer/singer/actress recently purchased a colonial-style home for $3.85 million with her her fiancé Mike Comrie. Located in Toluca Lake, the elegant 5,260-square-foot two-story house includes five bedrooms, 6.5 bathrooms, an outdoor fireplace and a swimming pool and a modern kitchen with stainless steel appliances. Other amenities include a wet bar, French doors located throughout the home, a curved staircase, high ceilings and hardwood flooring. Duff and her fiancé Mike Comrie can also look forward to getting to know other Toluca Lake residents like Jenny Garth, Gwen Stefani and their next door neighbor, Britney Spears.

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Relocation.com’s List of the Greatest Books about Moving

By Joann Pan

The greatest adventures and “relocations” have taken place in books; if only, based on the sheer will given to the created characters, but it’s facilitated by the factor of otherworldly places. Think: Dante’s trek through nine circles of the Earthly Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso as depicted in “The Divine Comedy” or Homer’s journey home to Southern Greece from a long battle in Troy—not without time-consuming pit stops all along the Aegean Sea.

Even a person with an imperfect imagination can take in a modern tale of a magnificent journey in a favored spot at home—mine being a velvet couch next to my northern facing windows. I have often gone along to the rough slum houses of Mumbai where tightly knitted communities reign, have taken late-night walks on Roman cobblestone drunk on moonlight, and have simply walked the streets of New York City witnessing something even crazier than what happens day-to-day. I have learned that the greatest readers are also some of the greatest travelers—from my own firsthand experience as traveling and talking about books seem to be the top pastimes amongst friends and co-workers.

Here at Relocation.com, where we can’t stop talking about relocating and moving, we complied a list of the Top 5 Greatest Relocations in book form to inspire you (and ourselves) to take a trip of a lifetime and maybe introduce you to places you’ve never heard of. Happy Reading!

1.    “Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts
Where: From Australia to Mumbai [or Bombay as it was formerly called but still commonly referred to as].
Reason for move: Based on sort of true events…Roberts is convicted of armed robberies and convicted to imprisonment. But, like most adventure book protagonists, as Roberts sees prison is not in his destiny, he quickly rewrites fate by getting lost in Mumbai—probably to become lost in a sea of faces in the most populous city in India with over 14 million people.

2.   “Little Bee” by Chris Cleave
Where: From Nigeria to England
Reason for move: In this great chronicle of the disparity of the Third World of Nigeria and First World of England, Little Bee is saved by the O’Rourke family and brought to their safe haven of London. The juxtaposition of new nations is as striking as it is startling. There is a lot of violence in this sweetly covered and titled book.

3.   “Eat, Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert
Where: From New York to Italy, India and Indonesia
Reason for move: As Gilbert recounts her past relationships and the breakdowns of her life, there is no doubt she needed therapy in form of a life-changing trip by herself—in every sense of the word. Spending a couple months in each country, she learns to deal with the issues that have plagued her short life of 30 years which she has filled with responsibility and bad relationships. On her journey, she heals herself by eating, praying and eventually learning to love in a pure way. After you read the book, check out the movie version starring Julia Roberts.

4.    “Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy” by Frances Mayes
Where: From the U.S. to a summer home in Italy
Reason for Move: Yes, this is another memoir about a woman living a “troubled” life in American only to discover herself in Italy by buying an old farmhouse and refurbishing her way to recovery. This book is full of recipes, weather reports, gardening tips and a woman’s chronicle of falling in love with Italy.

5.   “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad
Where: England to the Congo in Africa
Reason for Move: Charles Marlow is on assignment from a Belgian trading company as he treks through the Congo River on a ferry where he will transport ivory. A simple job transporting goods down river turns into a psychological mission in trying to rescue a dark man named Kurtz after he has entwined himself with the native groups residing in the Congo.

Other books we love based on life-changing relocations are “Everything is Illuminated” by Jonathan Safran Foer, “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald and “Look Homeward, Angel” by Thomas Wolfe. What are your favorite books based on moving or traveling?

Joann Pan is a freelance writer and photographer based in New York City. She has interned and contributed to Buffalo Spree Magazine and Racked NY.

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The Celebrity Beat: Relocation.com’s Celebrity Real Estate Report

By Serena Norr

What an exciting week in the world of celebrity real estate. The home that Michael Jackson rented before he died was listed on the market for a whopping $28,995,000! With seven bedrooms, a game/media room, a theatre and a pool the new owner will never have to leave the property. Meg Ryan also made an appearance on the Beat for leasing her home for rent. Asking price? A mere $40,000 a month — or what we figure is better spent on two years worth of rent.  Christie Brinkley is also in the news for placing her beachfront home on the market. She is reportedly a huge fan of home improvement projects but cited lack of time to maintain the property as one of the reasons for the listing. We also reported on the foreclosure of Damon Dash’s (co-founder of Roc-A-Feller Records) NYC condos. Dash reportedly fell into the old spending-more-than-what-you-have bit and was unable to pay his $78,504 monthly mortgage payments.

The estate of the late Michael Jackson - Listed for $28,995,000. (Photo Credit: The Real Estalker)

•    Michael Jackson’s Home on the Market for $28,995,000
Yes, those numbers are correct and yes, this is the very home that Michael Jackson rented for $100,000 a month before he passed away in June of 2009 (owner is Hubert Guez, CEO of Ed Hardy).  This Holmby Hills estate (located in Los Angeles) is certainly fit for a King, or maybe just the King of Pop. The list of amenities goes on and on for “French Chateau” such as a wood-paneled den, a library, a modern eat-in kitchen, seven bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, seven garage spaces and 12 fireplaces all of which is situated on 1.26 acres of land. On top of all, the 17,171 square feet home (about $1,689 per square foot) also has a wine cellar, a media room, an art studio, a movie theatre, an indoor bar, a spa and a gym, lush gardens and greenery and an heated outdoor pool. Property listings describe this luxurious and gated abode as a “major achievement in design and proportion, incorporating classic design and impeccable craftsmanship and offering the perfect integration of charm and elegance in a world-class setting.” With that asking price and all that is included we wonder what King or Queen will be the reigning owner of this property.

You too can enjoy Meg Ryan's pool -- Listed for rent at $40,000 a month. (Photo Credit: Zillow.com)

•    Meg Ryan Renting Her Home for $40,000 a Month
Back in October, actress Meg Ryan listed this California home for $14.2 million only to be removed from the property listings a mere two months later. According to Zillow.com, Ryan has now listed her Spanish-style Bel Air home for rent at $40,000 a month. A bit steep for a lease but the world of celebrity real estate follows its own set of rules. And for whoever can afford this agreement will have quite the gorgeous beachfront estate to look after. The spacious home includes six bedrooms, seven bathrooms, four fireplaces and of course stunning views of the ocean. There is also hardwood flooring, open archways, wood-beamed ceilings and a modern kitchen with state-of-the-art appliances. There are no reports as to how long the rental agreement would last.

•    Hip Hop Mogul Damon Dash Losses Home to Foreclosure
Damon Dash, Co-Founder of Roc-A-Feller Records recently lost his TriBeCa condo to a foreclosure. Sold for $5.5 million, Dash reportedly stopped paying his $78,504 in mortgage payments on his two condos — one on Moore Street and the other on Laight Street. (We wonder why one would need two condos in the same neighborhood but perhaps that is a part of the whole celebrity real estate conundrum.)  Dash attempted to sell the Moore Street condo right after the real estate market crashed for $7.9 million and again for $5.75 million in 2009 with no interested buyers. Since he was unable to pay  his loan, Dash was sued twice and finally ordered to put his home through the auction process by the New York Supreme Court. A California-based finance firm, Platinum Capital, purchased the home. His second home (on Laight Street in NYC) went unsold and was taken over by Eastern Savings Bank.

Steve Carell's new home -- Purchased for $6 million. (Photo Credit: The Real Estalker)

•    Steve Carell Buys Home for $6 Million
Steve Carell of “The Office” recently purchased 1.27 acre estate for $6 million dollars. Located in Toluca Lake, California, the 5,126-sqaure-foot home includes six bedrooms, five bathrooms, a pool house and a tennis court. Toluca Lake is home to many celebrity neighbors that Carell can soon mingle with. According to the Real Estalker, Eric McCormack, Markie Post, Swoosie Kurtz, Andy Garcia, Demi Lovato, and Ashley Tisdale all live in Toluca Lake.”

Christine Brinkley's home -- Listed for $15.75 million. (Photo Credit: Luxist.com)

•    Christie Brinkley Lists North Haven Home for Sale
Model/socialite and real estate investor Christie Brinkley recently listed her New Haven home on the market for $15.75 million. Built in the 19th century, the waterfront home not only has gorgeous views of the beach and the surrounding bay but is surrounded on 4.5 acres of land and 327 feet of beachfront. The 5,500-square-foot columned mansion has five-bedrooms, six bathrooms, four fireplaces and an outdoor pool. Brinkley cited busyness and an inability to maintain the property as the reason for the sale. She has an avid interest in home improvement projects stating “love fixing up old houses, but my life is so busy between with my children, launching several new businesses and my philanthropy, I just don’t have time.”

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Part II: The Devasting Impact of the BP Oil Spill on the Real Estate Industry

BON SECOUR NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE , Ala. - Relocation procedures for sea turtle that are too close to the tideline. (Photo Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo by Bonnie Strawser)

By Serena Norr and Joann Pan

As we discussed in the first part of this series “The Devastating Impact of the BP Oil Spill on Real Estate,” the oil spill off of the Gulf Coast has not only affected our waters, marshes, animals and our health, but the “worst spill in history” has also greatly impacted the real estate industry.  Although we are happy to hear that engineers have been able to stop oil gushing from the well [LA Times Blog], there is the looming question pertaining to the state of real estate in Alabama and Mississippi. Early numbers are estimating that the oil spill will “drive down the Gulf’s property values by 10 percent for at least three years,” according to CoStar Group Inc [Bloomberg]. The International Property Estimate stated that “losses may total $4.3 billion along the 600-mile (966- kilometer) stretch from the Louisiana bayous to Clearwater, Florida.”

Since April 20th, new property developments in Alabama and Mississippi have been put “on hold” and commercial properties such as hotels that are suffering from a decline in tourism and the inability to provide certain supplies such as with restaurants that can no longer offer fresh and local shrimp, oysters, etc.  Some of these real estate issues are not immediate, but will impact these areas long after the spill has been cleaned.  Will people want to relocate to an area that was once covered in oil — whether directly or nearby? Will the water ever be clean enough for fishing? Will tourism pick up? As the pieces are starting to be picked up and clean-up efforts are prevalent in the Gulf, we will be keeping a watch eye, hopeful that we will be able to report on positive news from the Gulf.

GALVESTON, Tx - Cleaning up tar balls off on Galveston beaches. (Photo Credit: U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Prentice Danner)

Alabama’s Businesses Suffer Including Restaurants, Condo Owners, Shops Owners and Fishing Industries

For three months, after the media has continually projected the dismal prospect of coastal communities affected by the BP Oil Spill to the rest of the world, the states lining the Gulf of Mexico are seeing and feeling the onset of low numbers of tourists and homebuyers. When President Obama went to see the effects of the BP oil spill on the state in mid-June, Governor Bob Riley and the communities of Alabama were relieved to have president see the effects for himself. In a speech, the president addressed the jabs that the tourism and fishing industries have suffered. The lives of Alabama’s shop owners, restaurateurs, commercial and sport fishermen and those in real estate have not seen normal business for about three months [Montgomery Advertiser]. As oil continues to wash to shore, it’s not the effects on the beaches that worries community members, but the state’s precious marshes, estuaries and wetlands that will be lost. Tourism is also down, which is evident by the pictures of empty beaches that would normally be flooded with people. There are men bringing booms down to the waters—approximately 10,000 feet of booms a day to keep the oil at bay.

As soon as the oil started leaking—rather gushing relentlessly into the Gulf of Mexico—officials and professionals have been implemented quick clean-up of the space. As personnel continue to tread the waters of the Gulf, people are coming forward with disaster-related illnesses. In Louisiana, their Department of Health is aware of 71 cases and in Alabama, there are 15 reported illnesses—a mix of respiratory problems and skin irritations [CNN Health]. As soon as news like this hits to mainstream, areas where tourism and properties are hot start to see businesses fade.

The NY Times painted a dreary picture for us on July 5 by running a feature about an Alabaman seaside Inn that has seen the scary effects of the oil spill that include a lack of bumper-to-bumper traffic along Perdido Beach, minimal diners at coastal restaurants, missing swimmers in the water and a diminished population of seagulls riding up the coast. And in the place of those summer beach expectations are tar balls and lines of oil that have layered themselves in the daily repetitions of low tide and high tide that brings new sand and oil on shore. The building’s owner is Jerry Gilbreath, 61, who bought the structure in 1980 and turned it into a successful bed-and-breakfast. Now, Gilbreath, like other resort, hotel and property owners in Alabama are struggling to meet ends meet. To give you an idea the inn made $21,000 last June, but only made $6,000 this June, a month after the drum of oil starting leaking [the NY Times].

NEW ORLEANS - Debris and oil in the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon drilling.

Mississippi’s Job Loss, Real Estate Outlook and Tourism Industry

Since the oil spill, 4,500 unemployed workers in Alabama, Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi have been hired to clean the beaches– raking and shoveling debris, taking out trash and using power loaders to wash away oil-covered rocks [CNN Money]. Although finding work is always a positive sign (especially since Mississippi has an 11.5 percent unemployment rate), the conditions in which these workers were hired is not something residents of these Gulf States were expecting.

The immediate impact of the spill is not the only matter at hand, but one that Mississippi will be dealing with years after the spill; especially when pertaining to real estate. Recently, several real estate agents and brokers have requested $20 billion dollars as compensation for the loss of sales due to the oil spill. Kenneth Feinberg, a Washington attorney who is working on organizing money for the victims, stated “The Realtors and real estate brokers are a major political force. I’m hearing from them constantly. I’m not sure whether they have a valid legal claim.” As of now, these claims fall into the category of  “tough eligibility decisions,” whose issue will be further explored through an independent committee held next month [SunHearald.com].

There is also the issue of the loss of jobs and tourism in Mississippi. A University of Mississippi study found that the oil spill could cost Jackson, Harrison and Hancock counties nearly $120 million in the tourism and service sectors; while the Mississippi Development Authority estimated that tourism was down statewide and about “seven percent in fiscal 2010 to $5.2 billion” [Insurance Journal]. Hit the hardest right now are non-casino hotels, which are down by $50 million and services related to tourism such as restaurants, beverages and food and area beaches (even though no oil has been washed onto Mississippi’s beaches). According to David Bulter, a professor who conducted the survey, these figures are related to the “negative images portrayed by the national news.” There has also been a decline in charter boats and recreational and commercial fishing.

Now that the leaking has been stopped by a temporary cap—until further measures can be made, that is—we wait and hope for positive news in the upcoming months.

Sources and Additional Reading:

All photos are from Deepwater Horizon’s flickr page- http://www.flickr.com/photos/deepwaterhorizonresponse/