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An Artist’s Manhattan Apartment of ‘Wonders’

April 1st, 2015 admin

  • Location:

    New York, United States

  • Price: $6,250,000

The duplex apartment and former artist’s studio features a two-story living room, inspiring inscriptions throughout and plenty of light.–Erin McCarthy

A Golfer’s Dream Home in Australia

March 31st, 2015 admin

  • Location:

    Cape Schanck, Australia

  • Price: $3,100,000

This contemporary residence sits on the grounds of a Greg Norman-designed golf course near Melbourne. —Andre Cooray

A Golfer’s Dream Home in Australia

March 31st, 2015 admin

  • Location:

    Cape Schanck, Australia

  • Price: $3,100,000

This contemporary residence sits on the grounds of a Greg Norman-designed golf course near Melbourne. —Andre Cooray

A Golfer’s Dream Home in Australia

March 31st, 2015 admin

  • Location:

    Cape Schanck, Australia

  • Price: $3,100,000

This contemporary residence sits on the grounds of a Greg Norman-designed golf course near Melbourne. —Andre Cooray

A Golfer’s Dream Home in Australia

March 31st, 2015 admin

  • Location:

    Cape Schanck, Australia

  • Price: $3,100,000

This contemporary residence sits on the grounds of a Greg Norman-designed golf course near Melbourne. —Andre Cooray

Seaside Luxury in New Zealand

March 30th, 2015 admin

  • Location:

    Bay of Islands, New Zealand

  • Price: $1,900,000

This contemporary home with Pacific Ocean views is nestled in an area known for its dolphin-watching, fishing and yachting. —Andre Cooray

A Home Where the Manatees Swim

March 27th, 2015 admin

  • Location:

    Stuart, FL

  • Price: $4,400,000

This waterfront home includes an art studio, a saltwater pool and a quirky sauna

Architect Homes: Streamlined Yet Sophisticated

March 27th, 2015 admin

Doug Larson’s weekend house looks like it’s straight out of a glossy magazine: Set on a lush lawn, it has fat white columns, a covered porch and a light-filled, contemporary interior. Yet the materials are basic: IKEA kitchen cabinets, inexpensive wood flooring, a prefab metal roof and a fireplace with a factory-built stove pipe instead of a brick chimney with a fancy surround.

Doug Larson’s weekend house in Stanfordville, N.Y., looks like it’s straight out of a glossy magazine. But the design and materials are relatively basic.
ENLARGE

Mr. Larson, a Manhattan architect, purchased the dilapidated house in Stanfordville, N.Y., for $170,000 in 2005 and spent $300,000 on his renovation—or $250 a square foot. Projects he designs for clients cost two to four times that amount.

“A lot of people wouldn’t accept these things. There’s no gilding the lily in my house,” he says.

AN ARCHITECTURAL APPROACH TO HOME CONSTRUCTION

Pick your spots.

“People talk to their friends and look online and try to put in too many things,” says John Stewart of Stewart Associates Architects in San Carlos, Calif. “You end up doing gymnastics to get everything in there.” Media rooms, cathedral ceilings, separate rooms for laundry—these requests add up

Manageable mechanicals.

Design a home in which plumbing and wiring, utility hookups and electrical boxes are grouped together, when possible, and easily accessible.

Be pre-pared.

Pre-finished, pre-fabricated and pre-painted materials are typically cheaper to buy and install than custom materials.

Shop the clearance rack.

Many building-supply companies offer discounts on lower-grade materials or items with flaws. Allowing small imperfections lets architects splurge elsewhere.

Use the right crew.

Labor accounts for 50% of home construction, according to CoreLogic, a company that tracks consumer, financial and property data. And the more skilled the labor, the more it costs. Since his home lacked ornate millwork and other high-end finishes, architect Marc Manack was able to hire rough-in carpenters instead of more expensive finish carpenters.

Take it easy.

Architect Thomas Gluck’s vacation home took two years to build. His flexible schedule allowed contractors to take on bigger jobs while handling smaller projects at the vacation home.

In the luxury market, many buyers want homes that have it all—complicated floor plans, high-end finishes and the latest technology. But when the same architects design homes for themselves, the results are usually simple, sophisticated structures that merely look expensive.

These architects argue that streamlined designs take less time to build and are easier to maintain—yet are still more aesthetically appealing.

“It was knowing where to spend money and knowing where it didn’t matter,” says Tim Eddy, a principal with Hennebery Eddy Architects in Portland, Ore.

Mr. Eddy recently moved into a sleek new white-stucco contemporary house he designed specifically for his family. Details include massive triple-glazed windows, a rainwater-recovery system, cantilevered walnut stairs and a solar-heated swimming pool.

The same house would cost about $450 to $600 a square foot to build for his clients, but Mr. Eddy says he spent “quite a bit” less, in part because being in the business gives him an edge. Like other architects, Mr. Eddy saved thousands of dollars in architectural design fees. And there are the trade discounts, in which architects get about 30% off big items like light fixtures and paving materials and about 10% off lumber.

When building his hip, new T-shaped contemporary home in downtown Fayetteville, Ark., architect Marc Manack of Silo AR+D minimized elaborate design details, chose pre-finished flooring and exterior siding, and put IKEA cabinetry in the kitchen.

Mr. Manack spent about $95 a square foot on his own house—less than half the cost of a bespoke home he is designing for a client nearby. “You’re willing to take chances and risks in your own project that you wouldn’t with clients unless you had their complete buy-in,” he says. “With clients, a lot of things can get in the way of a simple design. The forms tend to get more extravagant. My house is a simple design.”

David Wagner of Minneapolis-based Sala Architects designs homes that tend to cost about $300 a square foot. But he just did a 1,000-square-foot addition to his own house for $220 a square foot. Mr. Wagner estimates he saved about $4,000 on wood siding because he knew from experience how to cut out the middlemen when purchasing materials. He also knew to get his white-oak flooring a few grades lower than what’s called “clear,” which is what most clients demand, because he understood the flaws were just some “character knots” in the wood. The lower-quality wood comes in longer lengths (12 feet instead of 8 feet), another plus because that accentuates a feeling of space.

Mr. Wagner also bartered his architectural skills to keep prices down: He enlisted the help of a friend to put in radiant-heat flooring in exchange for an offer to design his kitchen renovation—a move that saved about $6,000.

Doug Larson’s weekend house in Stanfordville, N.Y., looks like it’s straight out of a glossy magazine: Set on a lush lawn, it has fat white columns a covered porch and a light-filled, contemporary interior.

Yet the materials in Mr. Larson’s house are basic: Here he used a fireplace with a factory-built stove pipe instead of a brick chimney with a fancy surround and a mantle.

Mr. Larson kept costs down by using inexpensive wood flooring and painting it white.

The kitchen cabinets are from IKEA. The metal roof comes from a kit, making it easier and less expensive to install than one that needs to be hand-rolled.

Mr. Larson, a Manhattan architect, shown here with his family, purchased the dilapidated house for $170,000 in 2005 and spent $300,000 on his renovation—or $250 a square foot. Projects he designs for clients cost two to four times that amount. ‘A lot of people wouldn’t accept these things. There’s no gilding the lily for my own house,’ he says.

Tim Eddy, a principal with Hennebery Eddy Architects in Portland, Ore., recently moved into a new contemporary house he designed specifically for his family.

‘Getting to simple is often very complicated,’ says Mr. Eddy, who says his goal was to make the design as simple as possible.

The house is also very green. Details include massive triple-glazed windows, a rainwater-recovery system, cantilevered walnut stairs and a solar-heated swimming pool.

Mr. Eddy, shown here with his wife Joyce Bell, says the most important way to keep costs down is by keeping the mission clear and prioritizing.

High-end New York City architect Steven Harris and his husband, interior designer Lucien Rees Roberts, took their time when constructing their vacation home on 50 acres in upstate New York.

First they spent $150,000 to build a very simple, 500-square-foot house with one big living room and a small bedroom in the basement. Three years ago they finished a second house and connected them with an underground tunnel.

Conservative and modest was their mantra. ‘We didn’t want something that was the coolest thing this week,’ says Mr. Harris.

A number of extras—a full kitchen, two separate bedrooms, huge sliding-glass pocket doors and two bathrooms—made the second house more expensive, but to them worth it.

It was their willingness to be flexible about space that made the biggest difference. ‘Most people wouldn’t agree to have the dining room and living room in two different buildings,’ says Mr. Harris.

Mr. Harris sits on the stairs leading to the bedrooms in the second part of the house.

For his home, Jeff Stern of Portland, Ore., firm In Situ Architecture focused on creating two box-shaped structures for $190 a square foot. ‘We worked really hard to get to the essence of what was important to us,’ he says, ‘rather than starting the process wanting it all and having to compromise.

Key was resisting the temptation to make the house bigger: He kept it to 1,960 square feet.

Mr. Stern’s big splurge was on wood-framed windows, so he found savings in less-expensive materials—concrete floors, fir cabinetry and brightly colored plastic laminate countertops.

The dining area in Mr. Stern’s home.

A wood-paneled breezeway separates the two box-like shapes, with one side the living space and the other a studio and office.

Mr. Stern, shown here with his wife, artist Karen Thurman, made the house highly energy efficient, with triple-glazed windows, extra insulation and a heat-exchange ventilator.

When building his vacation home, Thomas Gluck of Gluck + Architecture in New York City put the living room on the top floor in order to get the best views and reflect the experience of escaping the city for the trees.

Mr. Gluck used a tinted-glass treatment—typically reserved for commercial projects—on the home’s exteriors. He minimized the finishes and kept the design simple. ‘There’s not the fetish for detailing and architectural tinkering which some people obsess over,’ he says.

David Wagner of Minneapolis-based Sala Architects just finished a 1,000-square-foot addition to his own house for $220 a square foot. Mr. Wagner estimates he saved about $4,000 on wood siding because he knew from experience how to cut out the middlemen when purchasing materials.

Architect March Manack saved on foundation costs by shaping his hip new home in downtown Fayetteville, Ark., like a T. He also made the infrastructure as easy as possible for contractors, putting utility hookups and connections in an accessible spot, for example, to save on labor.

For his home, Jeff Stern of Portland, Ore., firm In Situ Architecture focused on creating two box-shaped structures for $190 a square foot. “We worked really hard to get to the essence of what was important to us,” he says, “rather than starting the process wanting it all and having to compromise.”

Key was resisting the temptation to make the house bigger: He kept it to 1,960 square feet. Mr. Stern’s big splurge was on windows, so he found savings in less-expensive materials—concrete floors, fir cabinetry and brightly colored plastic laminate countertops.


Designing their own homes also allows architects to take more risks. When building his vacation home in New York’s Catskills, Thomas Gluck of Gluck + Architecture in New York City used a tinted-glass treatment—typically reserved for commercial projects—on the home’s exteriors. The dark surface reflects the trees and sky, allowing the structure to blend into the landscape. Even though the glass itself is inexpensive, the technique of applying the tint can be costly. But using workers trained by his firm in that material helped lower the costs. In the end, Mr. Gluck spent $250 a square foot to build his three-bedroom, 2½-bath home.

“We are willing to believe in design in a way that sometimes clients would not go for—things that would be a hard sell,” Mr. Gluck says.

When building his vacation home, Thomas Gluck put the living room on the top floor in order to get the best views.
ENLARGE

High-end New York City architect Steven Harris and his husband, interior designer Lucien Rees Roberts took their time when constructing their vacation home on 50 acres in upstate New York. First they spent $150,000 to build a very simple, 500-square-foot house with one big living room and a small bedroom in the basement. Three years ago they finished a second house and connected them with an underground tunnel.

Conservative and modest was their mantra. “We didn’t want something that was the coolest thing this week,” says Mr. Harris. A number of extras—a full kitchen, two separate bedrooms, huge sliding-glass pocket doors and two bathrooms—made the second house more expensive, but to them worth it.

Still, it was their willingness to be flexible about space that made the most difference. “Most people wouldn’t agree to have the dining room and living room in two different buildings,” says Mr. Harris.

Top Spots for Luxury Getaway Homes

March 27th, 2015 admin

A view of the Pebble Beach house
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For surfers and sailors, golfers and hikers—an idyllic vacation-home destination beckons.

Overall, demand for second homes is surging, especially among luxury buyers, according to data from Realtor.com. An analysis of some of the top resort areas in the U.S. shows that prices are rising in many places, partly driven by lower inventory.

Here is a market snapshot of five popular second-home destinations, plus one of the area’s priciest home listings.

PEBBLE BEACH, CALIF.

Hugging the Pacific Ocean, Pebble Beach, Calif., is practically synonymous with golf—namely the Pebble Beach Golf Links, which hosts the annual AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am tournament. Because of its proximity to Silicon Valley, about an hour and a half’s drive, Pebble Beach is attracting tech-industry buyers, says agent Kim DiBenedetto of Coldwell Banker Del Monte Realty. “Our real-estate prices are undervalued when you compare them to other luxury real-estate markets,” such as higher-demand spots like New York’s Hamptons, Miami and Los Angeles, she says. Ms. DiBenedetto has the listing for this 10,100-square-foot Mediterranean-style home on more than 3.4 acres.

The living room
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Asking $23 million, the home has five bedrooms, six full bathrooms and two half bathrooms, plus a one-bedroom guesthouse, Ms. DiBenedetto says. After a nearly three-year renovation at the hands of interior designer Juan Pablo Molyneux, the home is loaded with hand-painted tiles, murals and ceiling beams. Other special touches include a heated outdoor kitchen with a copper hot tub.

MARKET SNAPSHOT:

Jan. avg. high: 51

July avg. high: 59

Median list price, Feb. 2015: $2.35 million

Median list price, Feb. 2014: $2.194 million

Change: 7.11%

No. of listings, Feb. 2015: 68

No. of listings, Feb. 2014: 80

Change: -15%

The house on San Juan Island
ENLARGE

SAN JUAN ISLANDS, WASH.

Nature lovers looking for a peaceful retreat could scout out Washington’s San Juan Islands, an archipelago of 172 named islands with fewer than 16,000 residents. Four islands are served by ferry, and there are also flights from Seattle. Local fun involves hiking, biking, kayaking and whale-watching. In the temperate summer months, the population swells by about 20%, estimates Merri Ann Simonson, a real-estate agent with Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands, who adds that the area is popular with empty nesters and snowbirds. Ms. Simonson has the listing for this 7.6-acre estate on San Juan Island, which includes 753 feet of private waterfront.

The living room in the San Juan Island house
ENLARGE

Listed for $7 million, the property includes a two-bedroom, 2½ -bathroom main house that is almost 4,200 square feet. It features four fireplaces, three outdoor patios, a three-car garage and a “shop garage” with roll-up doors for storing boats. There’s also a roughly 1,100-square-foot guesthouse.

MARKET SNAPSHOT:

Jan. avg. high: 41

July avg. high: 60

Median list price, Feb. 2015: $714,000

Median list price, Feb. 2014: $588,000

Change: 21.43%

No. of listings, Feb. 2015: 224

No. of listings, Feb. 2014: 265

Change: -15.31%

The Kuhio Highway estate in Hanalei
ENLARGE

HANALEI, HAWAII

Hanalei sits on the coveted north shore of Kauai, Hawaii’s northernmost island, and is home to the Na Pali Coast, a 15-mile stretch of shoreline notched with cliffs, caves, valleys and some of the many local waterfalls. Dotted with one-lane bridges, the artsy community attracts visitors who love surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, stand-up paddling and kitesurfing, says agent Neal Norman of Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers. Hanalei has also taken a turn on the silver screen, notably in “South Pacific” and “The Descendants.” Mr. Norman has the listing for this estate on 3.7 oceanfront acres.

A patio on the grounds of the Hanalei house
ENLARGE

On the market for $17.5 million (down from $25 million in December), this seven-bedroom, eight-bathroom home on Kuhio Highway isn’t the poshest house—but it is located in an area “that’s attractive to celebrities and musicians and writers and creative types” with “world class surfing out your back door,” Mr. Norman says.

MARKET SNAPSHOT:

Jan. avg. high: 70

July avg. high: 77

Median list price, Feb. 2015: $1.45 million

Median list price, Feb. 2014: $1.59 million

Change: -8.81%

No. of listings, Feb. 2015: 42

No. of listings, Feb. 2014: 48

Change: -12.5%

A view of the Martha’s Vineyard home
ENLARGE

MARTHA’S VINEYARD, MASS.

On Martha’s Vineyard, located 7 miles off Cape Cod, the population of 15,500 spikes by almost 100,000 people each summer. According to the local Chamber of Commerce, 63% of the housing stock is vacation homes. Picnickers can enjoy lobster rolls on Menemsha Beach, famed for its sunsets, in Chilmark. The island also has five historic lighthouses, more than 50 art galleries and numerous local boutiques—chain stores are largely banned here. Alyssa Dubin of Wallace & Co. Sotheby’s International Realty, is co-listing this 4,180-square-foot house that overlooks Edgartown Harbor.

The private dock at the Martha’s Vineyard home
ENLARGE

Listed for $12.75 million, the gambrel-roofed house was built in the 1930s and overlooks Edgartown Harbor. It has eight bedrooms, 5½ bathrooms, a 160-foot private dock, a boathouse for storing equipment and a “playhouse” for a post-beach shower. Both structures are grandfathered in closer to the water than current conservation restrictions allow—a boon for those who want to keep their supplies near the shore, according to Ms. Dubin.

MARKET SNAPSHOT:

Jan. avg. high: 30

July avg. high: 69

Median list price, Feb. 2015: $1.474 million

Median list price, Feb. 2014: $1.1 million

Change: 34%

No. of listings, Feb. 2015: 111

No. of listings, Feb. 2014: 78

Change: 43.23%

A view of the home in Scottsdale
ENLARGE

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ.

Along with its enviable weather, Scottsdale residents can enjoy bountiful golf courses, horseback riding, rock climbing, white-water rafting or hiking the 100 miles of trails in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. March brings Spring Training for baseball fans. “We get a lot of comments from people who come in from out of the state who say, ‘Oh, my gosh, Scottsdale is one of the most clean, beautiful places I’ve ever been,’ ” says Lisa Wadey, an agent with Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty. Ms. Wadey is listing this Tuscan-style estate on 17 acres in the planned community of Silverleaf.

The living room of the Scottsdale home
ENLARGE

Listed for $32 million, the 22,200-square-foot main house has eight bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, a living room with 24-foot ceilings, a screening room, and two shooting ranges—one for bow and arrow and another for guns. The grounds also include guest quarters and a building with a pool house, an arcade and a “pub room” stocked with a bar and multiple TVs. Garage space can house up to 12 cars—although two of the spaces are currently configured as a yoga studio.

MARKET SNAPSHOT:

Jan. avg. high: 54

July avg. high: 90

Median list price, Feb. 2015: $918,000

Median list price, Feb. 2014: $848,000

Change: 8.25%

No. of listings, Feb. 2015: 1,473

No. of listings, Feb. 2014: 1,471

Change: 0.17%

Sources: Realtor.com, a subsidiary of News Corp, which owns The Wall Street Journal; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Vacation Equation: Financing a Second Home

March 27th, 2015 admin


ENLARGE

Economists looking for further proof of a robust vacation-home market should head to New York’s tony Hamptons.

“In our market, $1 million is low-end, and the high end is $10 million-plus,” says Diane Saatchi, an associate real-estate broker with Bridgehampton, N.Y.-based Saunders & Associates.

In the U.S., vacation-home sales jumped over 50% in 2014, up from 717,000 homes in 2013, according to preliminary data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), a trade group. And second-home sales are expected to continue climbing in 2015, says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.

“The stock market is booming, which means the wealthy top 10% in the country are feeling better off financially and are opening up their wallets for discretionary purchases,” he says.

Another driver pushing second-home sales is that the leading edge of baby boomers is approaching retirement age, Mr. Yun says. Many are expected to buy second homes with the intent to move there upon retirement, he adds.

Cities in Florida and Arizona have the top share of baby boomers moving there, he says, but Albuquerque, N.M., Boise, Idaho, and Denver also rank among the top markets poised to see an influx of baby-boomer home buyers, according to a recent NAR study. Baby boomers represented 30% of all home buyers in 2014, NAR reports.

News Corp, owner of The Wall Street Journal, also owns Move Inc., which operates a website and mobile products for NAR.

Some lenders, including Quicken Loans, anecdotally are reporting a jump in both the number and dollar volume of second-home mortgage applications. “That either suggests people are buying larger homes, or [that] property values are appreciating,” says Bill Banfield, vice president of Quicken Loans.

Even a year ago, many lenders were requiring at least a 30% down payment for a second-home jumbo mortgage. Now, many have reduced the down-payment requirement to 20% to attract new borrowers. And in some cases, interest rates for a second-home are the same as for a primary home on loans up to $1.5 million with Quicken and $2 million with Bank of America, for example.

However, credit-score requirements may be higher when financing a second home. Milford, Conn.-based Total Mortgage Services wants at least a 740 score for a second-home jumbo with a 20% down payment, but will drop to 720 with 25% down. Bank of America will consider a 680 score.


Second-home borrowers face another hurdle, adds Dave Gorman, Bank of America’s regional sales executive for Oregon and Washington. “You have to be able to show that you can carry both payments,” he adds.

One common deal-killer has been high flood-insurance premiums for homes near the ocean, says John Walsh, CEO of Total Mortgage. Rates have skyrocketed in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut area since superstorm Sandy hit in 2012. Since banks don’t finance underinsured homes, “sometimes the only buyer is a cash buyer,” he says.

In ultrarich and competitive areas like the Hamptons, buyers must be willing to pay cash, even if they also have applied for a mortgage, Ms. Saatchi, the real-estate agent, says. She says she advises sellers not to accept an offer dependent on financing. “This is the 1%, so the only reason why a buyer would want a deal to be subject to financing is so they can back out,” Ms. Saatchi says.

Here are a few more considerations when deciding whether to finance a second-home purchase.

• Tax breaks. Interest paid on a second-home mortgage is tax-deductible up to the first $1 million of financing. If interest rates are higher on a second-home mortgage than on the primary home, then borrowers may wish to prioritize those payments on tax returns.

• Add it all up. Second homes need furniture, maintenance, utilities, insurance, property taxes and other expenses, such as association fees, Mr. Gorman says. “From a financial perspective, a [borrower] should understand what they are taking on above and beyond the qualifications of a mortgage,” he adds.

• Landlords pay more. Lenders differ on the number of days a borrower can rent out a vacation home for it to be classified as an “investment property.” Loans for these properties have higher interest rates and stiffer qualification requirements.

Corrections & Amplifications

An earlier version of this article said superstorm Sandy struck in 2013. It was 2012.