Green Goes Mainstream for New Homes

By: CECILIE ROHWEDDER David and Martha Gurzick bought their new home for its historic neighborhood and closeness to the cafes and antique stores of downtown Frederick, Md. The Gurzicks live in a so-called net-zero energy house—a home so energy-efficient that over the course of a year, its electricity consumption is expected to be zero. The

After the Remodel, It’s Payback Time

‘Sexy’ renovations like gourmet kitchens rarely recoup the construction costs when it comes time to sell the home, a report finds By SANETTE TANAKA A home renovation typically comes with clouds of plaster dust and piles of construction debris. Is it all worth it? Returns: An upscale kitchen remodel typically recoups less than 60% of its

Are Two Home Loans Cheaper Than One?

By ANYA MARTIN To buy a house, some people are going through double the trouble—getting two conventional loans instead of one jumbo mortgage. Called “piggybacking,” the practice helps buyers avoid the higher interest rates and larger down payments that typically come with jumbo loans, defined as above $417,000 in most parts of the country and $625,000

When First-Timers Look Risky to Lenders

By ANYA MARTIN  Getting a home loan is hard enough, but first-time buyers who want a jumbo mortgage have even higher hurdles to clear. In the San Francisco Bay area, where real-estate prices are sky high, it’s not uncommon for first-time buyers to need jumbo loans, which start there at $625,501 (above $417,000 in lower-cost areas

Before Becoming a Landlord, Add Up Costs

ANYA MARTIN One of life’s luxuries is being able to afford a vacation home. But don’t underestimate its true cost—especially if you plan to rent it out… Doug Lebda, chief executive of Lending Tree, made a bigger down payment and pays higher interest rates because he plans to rent out the $960,000 beach condo he

Londoners Who Live at the Office

By RUTH BLOOMFIELD The pressure to create new housing in London has become so intense that office buildings across the city are being transformed into apartments… Despite concerns about the loss of office space, the British government has announced plans to make it faster and easier for developers and homeowners to carry out this kind of

Homeowners name your price

By SANETTE TANAKA If someone offered you $1 million for your home, would you sell? Real-estate listings company Zillow wanted to find out. In 2006, the company created a feature called “Make Me Move,” which lets homeowners name their “dream price” that would compel them to move… Make Me Move is a way for people to

U.S. Cracks Down on ‘Forced’ Insurance

By ALAN ZIBEL And LESLIE SCISM WASHINGTON—A U.S. housing regulator is cracking down on a little-known practice that has hit millions of struggling borrowers with high-price homeowners’ insurance policies arranged by banks that benefit from the costly coverage. The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates mortgage giants Fannie MaeFNMA -6.99% and Freddie Mac, FMCC -6.09%  plans

Using smell to make a sale

By SANETTE TANAKA   …”They always tell you to take a bunch of cookie dough and shove it in the oven, so long as it doesn’t burn,” says Adorna Occhialini Carroll, a real-estate agent in Berlin, Conn. Ms. Carroll, who is also president of real-estate training and consulting firm Dynamic Directions Inc., is a big believer

Pare Down the House Payments

Borrowers are turning to interest-only mortgages so they can invest the cash elsewhere By ANNAMARIA ANDRIOTIS Affluent borrowers are signing up for the same type of mortgage that pushed many homeowners into foreclosure just a few years ago. Interest-only mortgages, in which borrowers pay interest but no principal during the first few years of the loan,