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I'm John Askins of Royce Realty in Houston, or text me directly at (832) on my blog I'll keep you updated on the latest trends and info about our local and state real estate market. Member - HAR Technology Advisory Group

We like to be creeped out, don’t we? 

To kick off Halloween, has chosen 10 homes in the U.S. notorious for their haunted history and spirits who like to visit. Some are privately owned homes, some are now bed-and-breakfasts, some have historic designations, and one is even the seat of our government.

Take a deep breath, trick and treat yourself to some of the most notable haunted homes in the U.S. by clicking here, you ghouls!



Research from Redfin concludes that houses located near graveyards may have to wait longer for a buyer but generally command higher prices when they do sell.

The property brokerage studied 90 U.S. metropolitan areas to identify the top cities with the greatest number of homes for sale near cemeteries as of Oct. 15.

With 172 dwellings such properties, at a median list price of $101,950, Baltimore led the rankings. Rounding out the top five were Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, and Atlanta.

"It doesn't surprise me that Baltimore tops the list, because it was founded back in the early 1700s," says locally based Redfin agent Lynn Ikle. "Our neighborhoods here are very well established, and cemeteries were part of the landscape during their development."

source:  Baltimore Business Journal

Based on a poll, nearly a third of prospective home buyers would not rule out buying a "haunted house" or a property where some sort of paranormal activity is said to have to occurred. However, 29 percent of those house-hunters said they would expect a discount of at least 20 percent for stigmatized property.

Warm or cold spots in a house, possibly from a supernatural source, are deal-breakers for 62 percent of those polled. Strange noises and/or voices, flickering lights or appliances, eerie sensations, ghost sightings, and levitating objects are other occurrences that are likely to put a buyer off from going through with a deal.

About 35 percent of those surveyed, meanwhile, signaled that they would not even consider buying a haunted house in the first place. At the other end of the spectrum, meanwhile, 2 percent of poll participants said they would pay a premium for a haunted property.

source:  Housing Wire

31 features a list of the top 10 haunted houses that have sold -- which was compiled with help from paranormal experts, ghost tour guides, and real estate agents. 

These haunted homes included a bed and breakfast in New Orleans, a horse farm in Kentucky, a farm house in New York, a haunted Halloween house in Mobile, a $15 million mansion in Los Angeles, and the "Psycho" murder victim's house in Beverly Hills. 

Also on the list are the Edina, Minn., home purportedly haunted by the ghost of Dean Martin; the John Brown hanging site in Charlestown, W.Va.; a mansion in Southington, Ohio, that once belonged to Mike Tyson (a true nightmare himself); and Ozzie and Harriet's house in Hollywood.

With the Nelson's home having a longtime clean-cut image, it is a real irony that in recent years it has gained a rather unusual reputation as one of Hollywood’s most haunted houses. Ozzie Nelson died of cancer of the liver at age 69 in 1975 and a few years later, Harriet sold the house, where the family had lived since purchasing it back in 1941. Sometime thereafter, a subsequent owner began reporting mysterious happenings at the residence, including doors opening and closing, lights turning off and on and phantom footsteps.

source:  NewsNet5 (OH)


Janet Yellen and the Federal Reserve just declared the U.S. economy well enough to leave intensive care, though it is not yet the picture of health.

The Fed has announced that it is ending a two-year stimulus program designed to keep interest rates low and boost the economy. The program -- known as "quantitative easing," or "QE3," for the fact that it was the third round of such stimulus since the financial crisis -- involved buying billions of dollars of bonds each month. The central bank has been cutting back on these purchases with every Fed meeting since December 2013. It said it was making its last such purchase this month.

In pulling away support for the economy, the Fed is taking a chance that recent signs of economic strength are more reliable than recent signs of weakness. On the one hand, unemployment has tumbled to 5.9 percent, the lowest in six years, and employers have added more than 200,000 jobs per month so far this year. GDP growth jumped at a 4.6 percent annualized rate in the second quarter. Gasoline prices are at their lowest in four years.

On the other hand, wages have stayed stubbornly flat, and much of the drop in unemployment has been due to workers checking out of the labor market, meaning they're no longer counted as unemployed. Financial markets have been turbulent lately, and economies around the world seem to be teetering on the edge of recession.

One of the Fed's policy makers, Minnesota Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota, dissented from the Fed's decision, arguing the economy was still too weak for the Fed to end QE3. He also argued that the Fed should have shown more alarm about the prospect of low inflation.

Still, in announcing its decision, the Fed sounded fairly optimistic about the economy, noting the job market's recent good news and saying that consumers and businesses have been slowly increasing their spending.

The Fed also chose to look on the bright side of one ominous development in the economy: Inflation is still lower than the Fed would like it. Low inflation might sound great to people dealing with rising food prices, but if prices generally stay too low for too long, that risks "deflation," or falling prices. When deflation happens, people stop spending while they wait for prices to fall further, and the economy suffers. See Japan in the 1990s or the U.S. during the Great Depression.

The Fed kept pumping stimulus into the economy in one way: It kept its target for a key short-term interest rate near zero and promised to keep it there for "a considerable time." This interest rate, the federal funds rate, which influences other borrowing costs throughout the economy, is the Fed's traditional policy tool for slowing down and speeding up the economy.

When zero-percent interest rates weren't enough to help an economy gutted by the financial crisis and Great Recession, the Fed turned to the extraordinary measure of buying up bonds to drive interest rates even lower. That bond-buying has left the Fed with a balance sheet worth $4.48 trillion, up from less than $1 trillion before the crisis.

source:  Huffington Post

A new sign that the foreclosure crisis may largely be in the rearview mirror, new filings in the third quarter of this year were down 16 percent from a year ago — bringing overall foreclosure activity down to its level before the housing crisis, according to RealtyTrac's Foreclosure Market Report. What's more, default notices, scheduled auctions, and bank repossessions in September dropped 9 percent from the previous month and were down 19 percent from a year ago. That's the lowest level since July 2006.

"September foreclosure activity was back to pre-housing-bubble levels nationwide, in large part thanks to a continued slide in bank repossessions," says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. "However, a recent rise in scheduled foreclosure auctions in many markets across the country shows lenders are continuing to clean house of lingering delinquent loans. This rise in scheduled auctions foreshadows a corresponding rise in bank repossessions and auction sales to third-party buyers in the coming months."

While foreclosure filings fell last month, they were up slightly by 0.42 percent in the third quarter from the previous quarter. It's a small percentage, but it does mark the first quarterly increase since the third quarter of 2011, according to RealtyTrac. The uptick was largely attributed to a 2 percent increase in default notices and a 7 percent quarterly increase in scheduled foreclosure auctions.

That proves the foreclosure crisis isn't over in every market quite yet. Default notices in the third quarter rose from a year ago in 10 states, including Indiana (up 59%); Oklahoma (49%); Massachusetts (38%); New Jersey (19%); Iowa (12%); and New York (2%).

Lenders are taking longer to process foreclosures, too. The foreclosure process took an average of 615 days in the third quarter, up 13 percent from a year ago. That's the longest average time to complete a foreclosure since RealtyTrac began tracking such data in 2007. The states with the longest foreclosure wait times are New Jersey (1,064 days); Florida (951 days); Hawaii (937 days); New York (902 days); and Illinois (889 days).

The five states with the highest foreclosure rates in the third quarter were:

  • Florida
  • Maryland
  • New Jersey
  • Nevada
  • Illinois

source:  RealtyTrac


Looking for a unique home? How about investing in one of the most popular horror stories of all time?

Bran Castle is nestled in the heart of the mountains in Romania (formerly Transylvania). 

Carved out of the rock, Bran was home to queens, kings, and knights.

According to legend, Bran Castle was also home the notorious monster, Count Dracula. The property supposedly inspired Bram Stoker to write the celebrated novel about the blood-sucking monster in 1897. Truth be told, the actual residence of Vlad Tepes or “Vlad the Impaler” is a couple of miles from Bran, and in ruins. However, over half a million visitors a year come to see this horror home associated with a vicious and vindictive ruler who was said to have put his enemies on sharpened spikes as a message to others.

The current owners have painstakingly restored the castle and are looking to sell the former customs house associated with the vicious ruler to a private buyer who is willing to invest in it as a major tourist attraction. It's on the market now for forty-seven million pounds ($78 million USD).



If the walls of Chris Bencal’s apartment could talk, they might actually scream. That’s because the 1878 building was the longtime home of the Danvers State Hospital — formerly called the State Lunatic Hospital at Danvers — infamous for allegations of abuse and neglect that prompted its closing in 1992.

But that image changed for the good with the arrival of AvalonBay Communities, a developer that since 2005 has been transforming the property into a collection of luxury residences.

Just as the 1970s and 1980s saw an endless number of former factories converted into living spaces, the last decade has seen more improbable buildings — shuttered asylums, hospitals and even prisons — transformed into apartments and condominiums. Concerns that these buildings, with their murky pasts, might scare off potential buyers were quickly put to rest.

Most of the Danvers compound was razed to make way for new buildings. But part of one structure — a brick Gothic masterpiece with soaring sharp angles and spires — has been restored.

The development plan, though, met with loud resistance from preservationists, who had tried, unsuccessfully, to save the original buildings from the wrecking ball. AvalonBay has volunteered to maintain a patient cemetery and will put up plaques explaining the property’s history.

According to Dalton Conley, the chairman of
New York University’s sociology department, whose upcoming book “The Elsewhere Society” touches on redevelopment, residents feeling comfortable in places with intimidating history is not surprising. “Maybe there’s a certain psychological type who thrives on these types of spaces,” he said, “but in general, we all look for some sort of history — even eerie history — in a day when so much around us is new and disposable.”

Gustavo DeLeon lives in what was once a famous handgun factory: the 19th-century Coltsville, in Hartford, CT. “Anything else would’ve just been a regular apartment,” said Mr. DeLeon, a graphic designer, standing below the towering ceiling of his sun-drenched one-bedroom.

The building, which is topped by a bright-blue onion dome, was known for producing firearms in great numbers in the 19th century, including the Colt revolver. Rebekah MacFarlane, a developer with the Homes for America Holdings Company says, “I think it’s because of the building’s historic accents, its uniqueness,” she said.

Finding ways to preserve a property’s legacy without overemphasizing it has been a challenge. In Sugar Land, Tex., the former Central State Farm prison was developed by Newland Communities into a 2,000-acre community called Telfair. Though its single-family homes are all newly constructed, one original building — a 1930 Greek Revival that served as the prison dormitory — has been preserved. It was restored to house a satellite of the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Potential buyers are seemingly unfazed by the prospect of living in an area that once housed a prison population.

The developers of these unusual properties have had to be innovative to make the sites appealing, founding entire communities, rather than just residential clusters. This was the case with the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, a development created from yet another Kirkbride asylum, in Traverse City, Mich.

Susan Kraus, a
Detroit native and retired Manhattan publicist, said that quirkiness, beauty and history all drew her to the development. “There’s nothing cookie-cutter here,” she said.

Ms. Kraus bought a three-bedroom with a loft and skylights in 2006. “I have my own spire,” she said, noting that some residents might not be comfortable with the unusual architecture. “But you can climb out onto it and see for miles and miles. I love it.”

The condos are part of an ambitious development project by the Minervini Group, which transformed the Traverse City State Hospital, originally called the Northern Michigan Asylum, into a community of roomy condos, leafy parks and retail spaces.

These distinctive properties are also appealing because of their old, ornate architecture. Gilded Age, a real estate development group in St. Louis, took the former St. Louis City Hospital, a foreboding brick structure built in the Georgian Revival style, and transformed it into residences.

The Rev. Dr. Suzanne Webb was drawn by the striking architecture — and, as the daughter of an orthopedist, was almost comforted by the building’s history. “All I know is that I have a view of the Arch,” Dr. Webb said, referring to the St. Louis Gateway Arch. “It’s the best of both worlds — an old building, but with units that are new and refreshing and clean.”

source:  New York Times

Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 5.2 percent last month from 6.3 percent in September 2013. The nation’s rate decreased from 7.2 to 5.9 percent.
According to the Real Estate Center’s latest Monthly Review of the Texas Economy, the Texas economy gained 410,900 nonagricultural jobs from September 2013 to September 2014, an annual growth rate of 3.7 percent compared with 2 percent for the United States.
The state’s nongovernment sector added 372,500 jobs, an annual growth rate of 3.9 percent compared with 2.3 percent for the nation’s private sector.
All Texas industries had more jobs last month than a year ago. The state’s mining and logging industry (which includes oil and gas) ranked first in job creation followed by the transportation, warehousing and utilities industry, construction, professional and business services, and leisure and hospitality industry.
Every Texas metro had more jobs than a year ago as well. Midland ranked first in job creation, followed by Odessa, Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Longview, Victoria, and Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos.
The state’s actual unemployment rate last month was 5 percent. Midland had the lowest unemployment rate, followed by Odessa, Amarillo, Lubbock, San Angelo and College Station-Bryan.

source:  Texas Real Estate Center
Detroit is aiming to further eliminate neighborhood blight and recover lost revenue from home owners who are delinquent on their mortgages. Wayne County is taking on an unprecedented effort to take possession of every property that is three or more years behind in taxes. The county has notified 80,000 property owners that they are on the verge of losing their homes to foreclosure due to delinquent taxes. That equates to one of every five properties in Detroit, the city's Motor City Muckraker reports.

But one bidder has offered up $3.2 million for a bundle of more than 6,000 foreclosures, which equates to about $500 per property. The bidder has remained anonymous. It was the first bid for the bundle of properties since the auction opened earlier this month.

“I can’t imagine that you are going to make money on this,” says David Szymanski, chief deputy treasurer of Wayne County, which is selling the dilapidated properties. The county can seize the properties when owners fall behind on paying their taxes.

What the bidder will get if he or she wins the auction: About 3,000 properties that are flagged to be torn down, about 2,000 empty lots, and about 1,000 homes that may hold some value. The homes are all sold as-is, which means some may come without furnaces or wiring and have mold, squatters, or more. What’s more, the winner of the auction is required to demolish the rundown buildings within six months, which could cost about $24 million.

Nevertheless, Szymanski says a bidder has offered to buy the entire “blight bundle.”

“It could be—and this is all speculation—that the people who are bidding on it are altruistic in nature,” Szymanski says.

The auction is still open.

The city's effort is the biggest foreclosure spree since foreclosures started skyrocketing years ago in the city. In 2013, Wayne County began the foreclosure process on 42,000 properties; this year, it has targeted 56,000 properties.

"We have decided to foreclose on everything," says Chief Deputy Treasurer David Szymanski. "In 2008 and 2009, finances were so tight that people had to decide between eating and paying taxes in Detroit. The economy has improved."

Szymanski hopes that the foreclosure warnings will prompt more home owners to catch up on their bills or get assistance under the Step Forward Program, a statewide assistance program for home owners who are in default. 

"If someone can't pay their taxes, they really shouldn't own a home," Szymanski says. "We have a culture that has grown to expect that taxes are optional."

The county currently has crews knocking on doors and posting foreclosure signs on properties affected by the 80,000-property sweep.

source:  Motor City Muckraker