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An English Country Home in Connecticut

January 22nd, 2015 admin

  • Location:

    Greenwich, CT

  • Price: $31,500,000

This enormous Greenwich, Conn., estate offers a taste of the English Renaissance with modern updates and comfort. The 16,000-square-foot Tudor manor is nestled in an English park landscape.

The 2015 House of the Year

January 22nd, 2015 admin

George and Nancy Corbett purchased this home for $1—but spent about $250,000 moving it to this waterfront lot in Ruskin, Fla.

A sitting area next to the main staircase. Renovations included adding windows from an 1800s church cupola for more natural light and using European cabinetry with linenfold wood panels that evoke the parchment pages of Bible scripture.

The Corbetts made additions to the now 25-room house and filled the space with period-relevant antiques, as well as modern amenities. The current owners have since filled the home with new decor.

A bedroom in the home, when the Corbetts owned the home.

In total, the property has five kitchens, which is perfect for hosting guests. That turned out to be a key selling feature for the home’s new owners. The kitchen, as it appeared this month.

The living room fireplace in the home. Listed for just under $5 million in February, the house sold for $1.15 million in November, 2014, a 77% reduction, according to public records. But the Corbetts say they found the perfect buyers: Rick and Aly Yohn, like the Corbetts, run an evangelical Christian retreat.

When Mr. Yohn decided to move the family to Florida for his franchise operations job, the search began for a new home that would also be able to host ministers and missionaries passing through the area. Mr. Yohn wasn’t sure they could afford the property, but Mr. Corbett says he was willing to lower the price because he appreciated their goals.

The Yohns have kept the ‘jungle-themed’ room, which has a thatched roof, a toy monkey that hangs from the ceiling and a sound system that pipes in jungle noises. The room is shown from when the Corbetts owned the home.

The home theater.

Palm trees line the private lagoon on the property.

Rick and Aly Yohn with their daughter Anna and family dogs Tanner and Tai Gui Le (which means ‘too expensive’ in Mandarin). ‘We feel like a team,’ with the new owners, says Mrs. Corbett. ‘It’s mind boggling that they’re just like us,’ says Mrs. Yohn.

After buying it for $1, George and

Nancy Corbett

ferried a circa 1910 Queen Anne-style home 25 miles across Tampa Bay, by barge, in one piece, to save it from demolition.

They expanded the home to 7,000 square feet, created a ¾-acre man-made lagoon on the new 5.2-acre site, and, despite the changes, successfully petitioned to add the home to the National Register of Historic Places.

The home was ferried by barge, in one piece, to its current location
ENLARGE

Years later, as sometimes happens when owners invest heavily in a home in a relatively low-price market, the Corbetts wound up selling their house for far less than they were originally seeking. Listed for just under $5 million in February, it sold for $1.15 million in November, 2014, a 77% reduction, according to public records.

The couple say they have no regrets. In fact, they say they found the perfect buyers:

Rick and Aly Yohn

who, like the Corbetts, run an evangelical Christian retreat.

The home’s unusual back story and design won over WSJ.com readers. In WSJ.com’s annual House of the Year contest, readers voted for their favorites among 52 homes for sale that were profiled over the course of 2014 in the online House of the Day feature. The Corbetts’ home, profiled in March, when it was still for sale, received 63,916 votes, out of a total 632,489 votes cast.

The home was originally located in Palmetto, Fla. In 2006, the four-bedroom, 3½-bathroom home was being eyed for demolition by developers, who instead sold it to the Corbetts for $1. The catch: The Corbetts would need to move it to a new location. They paid about $250,000 to ferry the house to a waterfront plot on the Little Manatee River in Ruskin. They had paid $230,000 for the land in 2003, according to public records.

The Corbetts, both 67, a retired couple who made their living restoring historic homes, spent the next seven years restoring and expanding the home and making it amenable for guests. They made additions to the mansion, now 25 rooms, and filled the space with antiques relevant to the period. They also added modern amenities such as an elevator, a home theater with a tin ceiling and gaslight sconces that they converted to electricity. Outside, they created a 110-foot-long, 5-foot-deep lagoon with palm trees and a waterfall.

For almost 30 years, they have run a Christian retreat in Lake Toxaway, N.C., called Canaan Land, which hosts up to 100 people. In Ruskin, they hosted another five or six people at a time. In late February, they decided to sell because running two retreats became too time-consuming, they say.

All told they spent about $2.4 million on renovations, including adding windows from an 1800s church cupola for more natural light and using European cabinetry with linenfold wood panels that evoke the pages of Bible scripture.

Katherine Sakkis,

a listing agent with Premier Sotheby’s International Realty based in Tampa, says pricing luxury homes in Ruskin, especially very customized ones, can be difficult. “How are you going to comp something like that,” she says, referring to the process of comparing similar homes for sale.

Then, the Yohns saw the Corbetts’ listing online. The Yohns ran their own Christian retreat at their compound outside of Denver.

When Mr. Yohn, 50, decided to move their family to Florida for his franchise operations job, they began searching for a home that would also be able to host ministers and missionaries passing through the area. Mr. Yohn wasn’t sure they could afford the Corbetts’ property, but Mr. Corbett, who was also the listing agent for the home, says he was willing to lower the price because he appreciated their goals. The sale closed in November.

Rick and Aly Yohn with George and Nancy Corbett
ENLARGE

“We were thrilled to make that sacrifice,” says Ms. Corbett. “We’re still kind of pinching ourselves and thanking God that he sent them to us.” The couple now lives in a historic home in Lakeland, Fla., to be closer to family.

As unusual as the home is, the Yohns thought it was a great fit for their plans. The property has five kitchens, which is perfect for hosting guests and their families, they say. They renamed the guesthouse “the Corbett house” in the former owners’ honor, says Mrs. Yohn, who lives in the main home with her husband, their daughter Anna and their two golden retrievers, Trapper and Tai Gui Le (which means “too expensive” in Mandarin).

The Yohns also kept the “jungle-themed” room, which has a thatched roof, a toy monkey that hangs from the ceiling and a sound system that pipes in jungle noises.

“We feel like a team,” with the new owners, says Mrs. Corbett. She says they appreciate how the Yohns have kept alive the spirit of the house.

“It was really close to a miracle,” Mrs. Corbett says.

The House of the Year winner: a circa 1910 Queen Anne-style home located 25 miles across Tampa Bay. It was ferried to this location by barge.

A view from the water.

A Cloverdale, Ore., home was listed for $7.998 million and then put up for auction.

It is located on the central Oregon coast and includes more than 25 acres and a 7,200-square-foot main house and guest quarters.

This approximately 600-square-foot log home sits on 3,785 acres in Clyde, Idaho, and was listed for $27.5 million.

The cabin includes a sleeping loft with a mountain view.

The open kitchen and dining room look out at Summit Creek.

A 1 1/2-acre estate in Kailua, Hawaii, was listed for $24.95 million.

Ourdoor chess and checkers boards at an estate on Jumby Bay island, about 2 miles north of Antigua. It was listed for $30 million.

A 12,000-square-foot home on 40 acres was listed for $27.5 million in St. Helena, Calif.

The home has an overlook on Pritchard Hill with views of Napa Valley.

A ‘Magnum P.I.’ inspired home on 9.4 acres in Ninole, Hawaii, was listed for $26.5 million and then put up for auction.

A modern home in Golden Beach, Fla., is located along the Intercoastal waterway, was listed for just under $13 million.

The dining room of the Florida home, owned by a fund manager and real-estate agent.

The outdoor entertaining area.

A property in Amagansett, N.Y., on the south fork of Long Island. It was listed for $24.5 million. Los Angeles-based architect Scott Mitchell and Sandy Gallin collaborated on the project.

The 6,500-square-foot main house has four bedrooms and six bathrooms, according to Mr. Gallin, as well as a lower level screening room. Mr. Gallin declined to disclose how much it cost to build the home but said it was ‘a lot more than triple what I paid for it.’

The master bedroom is shown. ‘In our selection of furniture and accessories, while we draw from an eclectic range, the commonality between the pieces is their simplicity,’ Mr. Mitchell said. He added that his designs with Mr. Gallin tend to be more modern, ‘an architecture that is very honest in its expression, in the materials used...that’s emotionally and physically very comforting,’ he said.

The screening room, shown, can seat up to 20 people, Mr. Gallin said.

A stone-and-timber ski lodge in Park City, Utah, was put up for auction. The home measures 15,000 square feet and sits on 1.1 acres.

METHODOLOGY

Monday through Thursday each week, WSJ editors choose a distinctive property to feature as the House of the Day at WSJ.com/HouseoftheDay. On Fridays, readers vote for their favorite. From Dec. 23 to Jan. 15, readers were invited to vote among the winners. There were 632,489 votes in all, reflecting total clicks. Some homeowners and brokers promoted the contest online.

Builders’ New Power Play: Net-Zero Homes

January 22nd, 2015 admin

The National Association of Home Builders’ 2015 New American Home generates its own electricity through a rooftop solar-power system. That system, combined with energy-efficient doors, windows, appliances and other features, allows the home to generate more electricity than it uses in a given year.

The home is designed so that its windows don’t get much direct sun exposure, which keeps it from heating up too much in the day. Most of its windows have overhangs that block direct sunlight.

Spray-on insulation in the walls and roof cocoon the home, preventing leaks and allowing more efficient temperature control.

The home is equipped with energy-efficient LED lights rather than conventional lighting.

The home is designed with several water features, including an infinity pool, that add to humidity in the house when its doors and windows are open, helping to cool it naturally.

The home has a tankless hot-water system that heats water on-demand rather than continuously keeping big tanks of water hot.

The house can be cooled naturally by opening its many sets of large, sliding doors, allowing breezes to flow through the house and bringing in humidity from water features on its patio and in its courtyard.

LAS VEGAS—Net-zero homes are going mainstream, if the home-building industry has anything to do with it.

The homes, which generate more electricity in a year than they use, have long been viewed as a niche product for the affluent who can afford custom homes. The chief problem is that it is expensive to get a home to net-zero status, and many customers aren’t willing to wait several years for their electricity-bill savings to cover the thousands of dollars they would have to spend on net-zero features such as solar panels and energy-efficient windows, doors and appliances.

But some builders, motivated by what they deem as rising demand from home buyers and state and local regulators, are aiming to change those perceptions by designing such homes for the mass market. Such a model home—the latest in the National Association of Home Builders’ annual New American Home series showcasing new-home designs —is on display this week in a hillside neighborhood 7 miles from the Las Vegas Strip as part of the trade group’s International Builders Show.

The 5,800-square-foot home, designed and built by the trade group and Blue Heron Design/Build LLC, is being shown in a format that will enable other builders to incorporate elements of the design in mass-market homes across the country. The company says it can build similar—but smaller—net-zero electricity homes for about $700,000. Blue Heron anticipates listing the New American Home for $2.5 million.

This year's New American Home at the International Builders Show in Las Vegas aims to show off the viability of creating less-pricey net-zero electricity homes.
ENLARGE

“We wanted to basically prove through this New American Home project that you can offer the absolute highest level of cutting-edge design, energy efficiency and technology on more of a production scale,” said Blue Heron partner

Tyler Jones,

who oversaw the home’s design and construction.

Most net-zero homes generate much of their own electricity through rooftop solar systems, though they are still connected to the public power grid for the times, such as nights, when their system isn’t generating all the electricity needed. At other times, such as intensely sunny periods of the day, those solar systems generate more electricity than a given house needs, so the excess is sent to the public power grid. The homeowner receives credit for the excess electricity, the amount of which varies depending on the state and the utility company, that typically shows up on their monthly or annual bill.

Achieving net-zero status typically requires builders to install spray-on foam insulation to seal the house of leaks and adding energy-efficient doors, windows, appliances and lighting, among numerous other features. Net-zero homes also need high-performance heating and ventilation systems and other equipment to regulate humidity, air quality and air flow.

So far, in part because of price, net-zero homes remain a fraction of the overall market. In the past year, the U.S. Department of Energy has certified 370 homes as being “net-zero energy ready” under updated guidelines. Before that, it deemed an additional 14,500 as being close to zero-energy specifications.

This year's New American Home is expected to be listed for $2.5 million. But the builder, Blue Heron Design/Build, says similar, but smaller, versions can be made for about a $700,000 list price.
ENLARGE

The hurdles to broader demand are higher in the Northeast and Midwest, where the sunshine—specifically, solar radiation—isn’t as intense as in areas like the Southwest. In those less-sunny regions, homeowners have to install more solar panels to generate the same amount of electricity as a home in the Southwest can generate with fewer panels.

Dan Bridleman,

a senior vice president at builder KB Home, which has constructed net-zero homes in several states, estimates that it can cost $6,000 to $12,000 more for a solar-power system in the Northeast than in the Southwest to achieve the same amount of electricity output.

But some builders say that demand is slowly starting to pick up as the cost of energy-efficient materials and renewable-energy equipment falls. The Solar Energy Industries Association says the average price of an installed solar-power system has declined more than 50% since 2010.

Retirees Robert and

Sue Payton

bought a new net-zero home in Coupeville, Wash., in 2011 from builder

Ted Clifton

’s Zero-Energy Plans LLC. They spent an estimated $15,000 extra for the home to achieve net-zero status. They say they now pay no electricity bill. “We knew energy rates were going to go up, and we didn’t want that extra burden of energy bills on us,” Mr. Payton said.

Meritage Homes Corp., which builds in nine states, has constructed 50 net-zero homes since 2011 and intends to build 50 this year alone.

C.R. Herro, vice president of environmental affairs at Meritage, says the company can achieve net-zero status in homes costing as little as $200,000 in certain markets. Thus, the key to more mainstream acceptance, he believes, is not price but informing more home buyers of the benefits of net-zero homes. “Net-zero is technologically and financially solved,” he said. “It’s now a matter of the consumer catching up to that potential. That’s probably another three years.”

Some builders disagree. Luxury builder Toll Brothers Inc. says it’s “not seeing demand” for net-zero homes.

And Lennar Corp., the nation’s second-largest builder by closings behind D.R. Horton Inc., prefers to offer energy-efficient homes outfitted with solar power rather than those fully achieving net-zero status. “Net zero is an interesting concept, but it’s far from commercially available and far from being financially affordable,” said

David Kaiserman,

president of the builder’s Lennar Ventures division.

Write to Kris Hudson at kris.hudson@wsj.com

A ‘Fifty Shades’ Condo

January 22nd, 2015 admin

  • Location:

    Seattle, WA

  • Price: $1,250,000

This apartment has sweeping views of downtown Seattle and is in a building featured in the E.L. James best-sellers. —Monika Anderson

A ‘Fifty Shades’ Condo

January 22nd, 2015 admin

  • Location:

    Seattle, WA

  • Price: $1,250,000

This apartment has sweeping views of downtown Seattle and is in a building featured in the E.L. James best-sellers. —Monika Anderson

A ‘Fifty Shades’ Condo

January 22nd, 2015 admin

  • Location:

    Seattle, WA

  • Price: $1,250,000

This apartment has sweeping views of downtown Seattle and is in a building featured in the E.L. James best-sellers. —Monika Anderson

Loan Firms Boom as Banks Shift Debt in Europe

January 22nd, 2015 admin

LONDON—Mount Street Loan Solutions LLP is doing a roaring business.

The London-based loan-servicing firm has expanded from five to 30 employees in two years. Its assets under management have doubled to £11 billion ($16.66 billion) since last March.

A ‘Fifty Shades’ Condo

January 22nd, 2015 admin

  • Location:

    Seattle, WA

  • Price: $1,250,000

This apartment has sweeping views of downtown Seattle and is in a building featured in the E.L. James best-sellers. —Monika Anderson

Los Angeles Home With Beauty Parlor Sells for $30 Million

January 22nd, 2015 admin

On roughly 1-acre, the six-bedroom, eight-bathroom home was first shopped around for $35 million in August.
ENLARGE

A newly constructed, roughly 14,700-square-foot home in the Holmby Hills section of Los Angeles, Calif., has sold fully furnished—and with beauty salon included—for $30 million, according to the seller,

Stuart Liner.

Mr. Liner, a 52-year-old litigator, and his wife, designer

Stephanie Liner,

bought the roughly 1-acre property in 2012 for about $9.5 million through a limited-liability company, according to public records. The couple tore down an existing 1930s home on the lot and built this six-bedroom, eight-bathroom home with the intent to sell, he said. This is the 19th home that the couple has built and sold in the Los Angeles area since the late ‘90s, he added. The property, which closed as an off-market pocket listing in late December, was first shopped around for $35 million in August. The home was completed in March.

Seller Stuart Liner says he and his wife built the home with the intent to sell. ‘The idea was to be Hollywood glam-slash-traditional,’ Mr. Liner said about the design.
ENLARGE

“The idea was to be Hollywood glam-slash-traditional,” Mr. Liner said about the design, which includes walnut flooring and 11-foot-high ceilings, the beauty salon with spa amenities, a pool, tennis court and a detached guesthouse with a gym and screening room. The home was sold with contemporary furnishings. He declined to comment on construction cost.

The home sold to an international couple, according to listing agency Hilton & Hyland, which was involved in both sides of the transaction.

Drew Fenton

of Hilton & Hyland and

Barbara Boyle

of Sotheby’s International Realty had the listing.

Judy Feder

of Hilton & Hyland and

Barry Peele

of Sotheby’s represented the buyer.

Mr. Liner said they anticipated that an international buyer would purchase the home as a secondary property. “The idea is to give them the accouterments they expect,” he said, and amenities like a built-in beauty salon and turnkey furnishings are part of the draw.

Holmby Hills, located in western Los Angeles, has had some major deals recently, including the $74 million sale of the roughly 35,000-square-foot, former Walt Disney estate in June. Mr. Liner said builders have been emboldened by big-ticket sales, which is driving prices up further. “The water’s warm—everybody’s jumping in,” he said.

Supreme Court Case May Weaken Fair-Housing Act

January 22nd, 2015 admin

DALLAS—Demetria Johnson, a 32-year-old beautician, used to sleep on a couch at her cousin’s apartment in Pleasant Grove, a low-income neighborhood in south Dallas. When she came home from work, she said, she was often greeted by drunks in the parking lot and the occasional sound of gun shots.

On a wait list for her own place at the time, the single mother of four worried about her luck of the draw. “My next house doesn’t have to be…