A Colonial-style mansion on Long Island Sound that some say was the inspiration for parts of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby," a novel of Jay Gatsby's boom-and-bust 1920s, is set to be torn down and the land divided into several multi-million dollar home sites, according to stories in the New York Post and Newsday. After a rich social and literary history, Lands End - a once-grand 25-room mansion - is now dilapidated and empty. The property is along a stretch of shoreline called "The Gold Coast" where many once-grand gilded-age manses have fallen victim to tough economic times and have met the same fate as Lands End.
The owner of the house bought it in 2004 for $17.5 million and disputes claims that it was the inspiration for the novel, but says that it costs upwards of $4,000 a day to maintain the property.
Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, where he lived for several years at various times. The stage version of "Gatsby" got its world premiere in Minneapolis in 2006 to commemorate the opening of the new Guthrie Theater building along the Mississippi River.
CoreLogic said today that the number of homeowners across the country who have a mortgage that's more than the value of their house rose slightly from 22.5 percent during the 3rd quarter 2010 to 23.1 percent by the end of the year.
In the Twin Cities metro area 16.8 percent, or 80,705, residential mortgages were in a negative equity position during the fourth quarter. Another 5.3 percent were in near negative equity in the Twin Cities, meaning that they were very close to owing more than their house was worth.
These negative equity reports, which are produced by several entities, have been somewhat controversial because it's a measure that only applies to homeowners who HAVE a mortgage, and it's only important if that person is planning to sell. At any given time, only about 5 percent of all homes are on the market.
Earlier this year Zillow sent a shudder through the local housing market when it said that 42 percent of all Twin Cities homeowners were underwater on their mortgages at the end of the year, significantly more than the 27 percent figure for the nation.
Though contractors are HUNGRY for work and you'll probably save on labor costs, several reports suggest that prices on construction materials of all sorts are rising. This afternoon the Associated General Contractors of America said that during January a broad index of construction materials rose 0.9 percent on top of a 4.9 percent increase over the previous 12 months. Prices are particularly high for diesel fuel and anything made with steel. A story in the Los Angeles Times details some of the issues. Was also a recent story by my colleague, Susan Feyder, about the issue in the Star Tribune.
A new quarterly survey says that while new home construction is still struggling, the remodeling market has hit bottom and is poised to improve during the coming year. Remodeling Magazine's Residential Remodeling Index, which ranks the top 100 hottest remodeling markets nationwide, says that the Twin Cities metro area was No. 3 overall in terms of remodeling activity during the third quarter 2010. Cincinatti and Houston topped the list.
The survey, which is based on building permit data and other information, suggests that remodeling activity has picked up significantly and is expected to grow during the coming year. That's not a surprise given the stagnant housing market. With sales falling many homeowners are optiong for fix-up projects instead of selling. Here's a link to the full report, which includes details on the 2011 forecast.
While home sellers are cursing, landlords are clapping; the stagnant housing market has been a boon for landlords. Last year was a record year for rental absorption rates, which means that more apartments were rented in 2010 than ever before, according to a year-end report from GVA Marquette Advisors. The report said that during 2010 6,400 market rate units were rented; that compares with a loss of 3,450 renters in 2009.
GVA also credits improvments in the economy for boosting the number of new renters, who spent the last couple years doubling up in apartments, moving home or choosing not to move at all.
Rents have remained stable this year, but with not enough construction to equal new demand, expect rents to rise during 2011.
January is such a good time to take a good hard look at your financial life, and if you're hoping to reduce your mortgage expenses without refinancing, Lynnley Browning of the New York Times offers a smart look at how to do it. She says that you can lower your monthly mortgage payment and save interest may without overwhelming fees that come with refinancing “recasting,” or “re-amortizating” your mortgage. Not all lenders and servicers, will do it, but it pays to check out the possibility.
Here's a link to her story: www.nytimes.com/2011/01/02/realestate/mortgages/02Mort.html