3 homebuying musts that are often overlooked

Last week, we drew inspiration from the late Stephen R. Covey’s pivotal work, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," drawing parallels about highly effective homebuyers and the habits, traits and perspectives buyers should adopt to find and buy a home that is both functional for their families and sustainable for their finances over the long term.

This week, let’s return to Covey’s framework and explore the last three habits of highly effective homebuyers:

Staid Connecticut mansion hosted wild parties: $10.95M

Given its location in sleepy northwestern Connecticut and the staid architecture, it might be hard to imagine that this columned mansion once hosted wild parties attended by society playboys and Barbizon girls. Completed in 1906 by an heir to the Colgate toothpaste fortune for the modern equivalent of $43 million, the estate known as Filston remained in the Colgate family until, by 1938, it had passed to Romanian expat Edgar Ausnit, who escaped the Nazis and brought his massive fortune (derived from the steel and munitions industries) to this sleepy corner of Connecticut.

Keep your ‘friends’ close

As a consumer, I love Amazon. I do not consider it a callous middleman doing something evil to me. Just the opposite. Amazon delivers for free very quickly what I want — from paper towels to e-books and much more — at a fair price without taxes.

As a digital publisher, I kinda like Amazon (notice not love) because it delivers customers for my e-books. But the e-commerce giant gives me half a customer, meaning I do not get the customer data, and Amazon takes about 50 percent of what the reader buys.

Decorating details that make a difference

When designing a home, the big decisions usually stress us out the most. Should we tear that wall down? Is this the best flooring for the entire house? Will that sofa be the right statement piece for the entryway?

But little things can have a big impact, too. From cabinet pulls to accessories, details can make or break a space. Here are three small touches that deserve to be celebrated.

For Danish homeowners, refinancing is bliss

The first two articles in this series indicated that there was no quick way to replace Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac without seriously disrupting the market. An expansion of portfolio lending by depository lenders cannot fill the void, and revival of the private secondary market that collapsed during the crisis is neither feasible nor desirable.

The best available option is a slow fix where existing mortgage banks and perhaps other firms converted to Danish-style mortgage banks, with temporary assistance from Fannie and Freddie, This would create a robust secondary market in which mortgage banks retain full liability for every security they issue — as opposed to the fair-weather market we had before in which the firms issuing securities took their money from investors and washed their hands of further involvement.

Price your house to sell quickly

A first-quarter survey of homebuyers and sellers done by HomeGain.com, a real estate services website, revealed that 76 percent of homeowners believe their home is worth more than the list price recommended by their real estate agent.

Homebuyers usually have a better grasp of current market value in the area where they’re looking to buy than do sellers who own and live there. Buyers look at a lot of new listings. They make offers, know what sells quickly and for how much, and what doesn’t and why. HomeGain reported that homebuyers still think sellers are overpricing their homes.

Trulia files for $75M IPO

Online real estate search and marketing company Trulia Inc. today publicly filed for an initial public offering of shares in the company worth up to $75 million. Trulia’s move follows in the footsteps of competitor Zillow, which filed for an IPO a year ago, raising $75.7 million, and today has a market capitalization rate of $1.09 billion.

Trulia’s filing of an S-1 registration statement

3 secrets to getting buyers off the fence

John Klemish is the "$2 billion man."

It’s my nickname for Klemish ever since I met him earlier this year while researching my column on golf course communities. I decided to slap that appellation on him when I learned that in the course of his almost 30 years in the business Klemish estimates he has sold more than $2 billion worth of single-family residential properties.

3 hot home-design trends

At San Francisco’s annual Pacific Coast Builders Conference in June, which is always chock full of new products and ideas, a group of architects and other home design experts discussed what’s new and hot in home design trends.

Some of it represents a bit of a departure from past years, and if you’re thinking of building or you’re planning on a remodel — either for yourself or to make things more attractive for a potential buyer — these trends might offer some valuable insights to help with your planning.

Foreclosure-resistance movement launches TV ad campaign

Occupy Our Homes (OOH), an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement, launched a national ad campaign this week aimed at inspiring beleaguered homeowners to battle foreclosure and eviction. The organization has created a foreclosure-resistance template and support network that it hopes borrowers will use to fight off repossession of their homes.

The group has affiliates across the country, and some of them have already helped a number of distressed homeowners stave off foreclosure.

Deducting health expenses will become more difficult in 2013

Have you been thinking about going to the chiropractor or dentist, but been putting it off because it’s not covered by insurance? If so, you should probably incur these and other uninsured health expenses before the end of the year. If you wait until 2013 or later, it will become much harder to deduct them from your income taxes.

For decades all taxpayers who itemize have been entitled to a tax deduction for medical and dental expenses for themselves, their spouses and their dependents. Eligible expenses include both health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses not covered by insurance.

3 must-knows before taking out a reverse mortgage

Approximately one-third of all Americans own their homes free and clear. Nevertheless, many seniors can end up losing their homes because they don’t have the money to pay their property taxes, or they get hit with high medical bills or encounter a situation in which they need the equity from their home but can’t qualify for a loan.

For many, a reverse mortgage may be a great way to avoid losing their home.

3 steps to appeal your property taxes

Q: I bought my house in 2011, in a down market, but I paid too much. Can I get my taxes lowered by pointing out comps in my area to the tax assessor during the period they accept tax grievances? –Jack S.

Q: My taxes were raised by almost $2,000/year last April. Can you tell me how to appeal or reduce that? –Sameh G.