Craziest homes that hit the market in 2018

In many ways, 2018 was a wild year — and trends across the real estate market proved to be no exception. From coast to coast, real-life homes listings made headlines for their sky-high price tags, beauty, unbelievable amenities or spooky histories. Read on to learn more about the six of the most eclectic listings of … Continue reading “Craziest homes that hit the market in 2018”

In many ways, 2018 was a wild year — and trends across the real estate market proved to be no exception. From coast to coast, real-life homes listings made headlines for their sky-high price tags, beauty, unbelievable amenities or spooky histories.

Read on to learn more about the six of the most eclectic listings of the year – some of which are still up for grabs.

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1. Millionaire raffles off $3 million mansion with three-hole golf green for $14.50 per ticket

The homeowners reportedly think this is a more "fun" way to sell their home and raise money for charity at the same time. (Millionaire Mansion/SWNS)

In January, an English millionaire held a competition to give away his $3 million mansion for just $14.50 a ticket — complete with unbelievable perks.

The couple who owns the home says they plan to donate a portion the money from each ticket to charity. (Millionaire Mansion/SWNS)

The competition's wild prize package included the mansion, a Rolls Royce, leisure complex with swimming pool, gym and changing facilities, extensive grounds of 10 acres with beautiful landscaped gardens, three-hole golfing greens, self-contained apartment with garden, garage for four cars, housekeeper and gardener (paid for a year), all gardening implements, a tractor, quad bike, fully-stocked wine cellar, kennel for dogs, and all furniture and fittings. The stunning home also came with its taxes pre-paid, plus an additional $63,000, too.

2. Statue-filled ‘once in a lifetime’ house in Michigan comes with vintage cars, custom features

The $550,000 3 bedroom, 4 bath comes with some unusual additions. (Realtor.com)

Michigan home buyers eager to score a "one of a kind" home filled with unusual knickknacks surely delighted in a three-bed Detroit home that looked like it had been frozen in time in the 1950s. The eccentric property came filled with countless statues of all shapes and sizes, a Kohler Campbell baby grand player piano, and two vintage cars.

The home comes "as is," which includes a Kohler Campbell baby grand player piano. (Realtor.com)

3. Condemned California home with holes in roof, mildew, sells for $1.23 million

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Though the Golden State is famed for its occasionally astronomical real estate prices, one condemned Northern California home made headlines in April for its $1.23 million asking price — despite the desperate shape it was in.

Even though the house’s roof had holes and its interiors were filled with mildew, the Fremont property ultimately closed at $230,000 over its initial asking price — a stunning example of the Bay Area's tight housing market.

4. $85 million apartment comes with Rolls-Royces, a trip to space

With an asking price of $85 million, the 15,000-square-foot duplex penthouse at the Atelier in New York City costs $5,666 per square foot. (Daniel Neiditch President of River 2 River Realty)

Wondering what $85 million can buy you in Manhattan? One of the most expensive apartment listings that hit New York City in May also came with some of the strangest bonus perks.

The luxury apartment(s) boasts Hudson River views but no outdoor space. (Daniel Neiditch President of River 2 River Realty)

Interested buyers for the 15,000-square-foot duplex at 635 W. 42nd St were offered two Rolls-Royce Phantoms, a $1 million 75-foot yacht with five years of docking fees, a year’s worth of weekly dinners for two at Daniel Boulud’s 65th Street restaurant, a pair of courtside season tickets to the Brooklyn Nets (valued around a cool $225,000), and a year of services from a live-in butler and a private chef to sweeten the deal, too.

Crazier yet, the package also included two $250,000 seats on a Virgin Galactic space flight – though it's not entirely clear why one would even want to leave such luxurious digs in the first place.

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5. Arkansas Ozarks home inside a cave listed at $2.75 million

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Though big homes are often described as “cavernous,” an August listing for a Parthenon, Ark. property in the Ozarks truly meant it.

The Beckham Creek Cave House, a 5,572-square-foot dwelling constructed inside a natural cavern, went up for sale for $2.75 million – an arguably good deal for such a one-of-a-kind home. The four-bedroom, four-bathroom property includes a striking indoor waterfall sourced from a spring that originates deep within the cave.

6. America’s most expensive house listed for $245M

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In October, America's most expensive home hit the market for an unbelievable $245 million.

Tucked away in the the Bel Air enclave of Los Angeles, the 10-plus-acre estate previously belonged to late billionaire A. Jerrold Perenchio, the former chairman and CEO of Spanish-language network Univision. The unreal 25,000-square-foot, Sumner Spaulding-designed mansion dates to the 1930s, and has since been renovated and restored. The French neoclassical-style property features a paneled dining room, a 12,000-bottle wine cellar, many formal rooms, and much, much more.

Fox News’ Alexandra Deabler and Travis Fedschun, as well as wire services from SWNS and the New York Post, contributed to this report.

Janine Puhak is an editor for Fox News Lifestyle. Follow her on Twitter at @JaninePuhak

Harvey Weinstein’s $25.6 million NYC townhouse gutted by new owners

Harvey Weinstein’s former West Village home has been gutted — with no trace of the disgraced movie man left, Page Six can reveal.

Weinstein was forced to sell the Bank Street home he shared with ex-wife Georgina Chapman after being accused of sexual misconduct.

The property — originally purchased by Weinstein in 2006 for $14.95 million — sold for $25.6 million in March to an anonymous buyer.

CRAZIEST HOMES THAT HIT THE MARKET IN 2018  

The home was bought by an LLC called Cheget — and a $20 million mortgage agreement for the property was signed by Oaktree Capital Management co-founder Bruce Karsh.

Now, the stunning home has been torn apart by builders who are preparing it for the new owner.

Our photos show that it has been taken down to the studs during its renovation, while the outside is completely boarded up, with windows sealed.

An onlooker said: “I walked by and just thought that all traces of Harvey are being wiped away. It’s as if he was never there.”

The house is opposite celeb eatery the Waverly Inn and hosted a Hillary Clinton 2016 fundraiser for guests including Leo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lopez and Sarah Jessica Parker.

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Weinstein sold his Hamptons home for $10 million in January 2018, despite originally asking for millions more. (Realtor.com)

Amid scandal, Weinstein’s unloaded what’s believed to be nearly $53 million worth of property.

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Meanwhile, Chapman’s living upstate and doing “really well,” according to pals.

A rep for Oaktree did not immediately return the New York Post’s request for comment.

This story originally appeared in the New York Post. Read the full story here.

Real-estate listing features Grinch-costumed agent posing on bed, raiding fridge

It’s nowhere near Whoville, but a Baltimore row house features its very own Grinch.

Even those with a distinct lack of holiday cheer would find it hard to avoid cracking a smile when perusing the listing photos of this $374,900 house. The beautifully rehabbed home from the 1920s features the famed character striking cheeky poses in a variety of rooms.

There's the green-hued guy sneaking off with the Christmas tree in the front of the house. Inside, he’s raiding the refrigerator, swiping a Christmas stocking, lounging on the bed of one of the three bedrooms, and exploring all three baths.

(Realtor.com)

The Dr. Seuss character also enjoys the finished, full-height basement, where he keeps in shape on the rowing machine, holds a yoga pose, and plays video games.

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  • The use of a costumed character is a canny marketing move.

    “It definitely helps with exposure,” says listing agent Christina Dudley of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed Realty. “Obviously nobody’s going to buy a house based on funny characters. It definitely gets people talking and gets people sharing the home.”

    There's plenty to showcase. The 2,000-square-foot home features an open living, dining, and kitchen space. While it's been updated over the decades, original details remain, including exposed brick walls.

    Other amenities include stainless-steel appliances, ample storage space, and two porches. It's located in the Hampden neighborhood, which has become a quirky hot spot in the past few years, according to Dudley. That quirk level made this buzzy green grump a perfect marketing device.

    (Realtor.com)

    The idea of dressing up a volunteer (in this case a buyer’s agent on the team, Christopher Wade) in a silly costume isn’t new. The web also went wild for a T. rex that had invaded a Texas home this summer.

    Dudley notes silly costumes have led to serious sales after appearances in other homes she's sold. She has deployed a unicorn costume in one home (it sold in a day for asking price) and a Spider-Man outfit in another (the home went into contract in a week).

    Obviously, Dudley and co-listing agent Michael Frank are hoping for another win with the Grinch.

    “We’re having a lot of fun, and so far we've had a lot of success,"  Frank says. "This is a different approach.”

    The homeowners came to them after they saw another listing using this approach, and wanted to give it a try.

    "At the end of the day, you can’t market every home the same," Frank says. "It’s not for every single house. We’re trying to do what works for that specific home. It gives you more liberty."

    And in case you were wondering, the listing states, "Grinch not included."

    The post, "Ho, Ho, Home! The Grinch Steals the Show in Fun and Festive Photos of Baltimore Listing," appeared first on Realtor.com®.

    ‘Fixer Upper’ home nicknamed ‘The Prickly Pear House’ hits market at $499G

    The last time we saw the Severn family on "Fixer Upper," they were "blown away" by the work Chip and Joanna Gaines did to transform a tired '80s home into a dreamy, modern residence. At the end of the episode, Chip hoped the Severns "would live happily ever after" in the house remodeled on Season 4 of the popular HGTV series.

    The episode aired in February 2017. A year and a half later, the "ever after" fairy tale has come to an end. The Severns have put the Gaines-redesigned home in Woodway, Texas, on the market for $499,000.

    Don't be deceived by the goofy nickname Chip gave the residence. He and Joanna teamed up to turn the 3,444-square-foot "Prickly Pear House" into a sparkling retreat, one of the many wonders they work in the Waco area.

    (Realtor.com)

    The nickname was inspired by the giant, overgrown cactus in front of the four-bedroom, 3.5-bath home. Ripping out the enormous plant was among the first things the couple did to the property. They replaced the big Opuntia with a bed of mulch and sweet lavender, making the front of the home more inviting.

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  • Also on the exterior, they covered the old red brick with their famous "German schmear," a rough application of white plaster. They also added a front porch and pergola with access to beautiful French doors.

    The duo expanded the kitchen, adding a custom island with bar seating, marble countertops, and a matching backsplash. The custom wood vent hood they installed is stunning. They also created a comfy living room and reading nook for the family with two kids.

    (Realtor.com)

    The home office is spacious and offers plenty of built-ins, something any telecommuter would desire. And while not all the bathrooms were completely redone, the master bath and a half-bath were freshened up.

    The Severns purchased the house for $230,000 and had a budget of $145,000 for Chip and Joanna to work their magic. If the couple manages to snag their half-million-dollar asking price, they'll walk away with a sweet profit to complement their Season 4 appearance.

    The median price per square foot in the Woodway area is about $114, and this home is priced at $145 — a clear indication that the "Fixer Upper" treatment can increase the ROI.

    "Chip and I loved designing this home for the Severn family and dreaming up little places for them to retreat and enjoy," Joanna wrote on her blog. "This may be the first home we’ve done where the focus was specifically on creating these little hiding spaces for the family to sneak away and read a good book."

    Now it's simply time for a new owner to write the next chapter in this ready-made, Gaines-approved residence.

    This post, "'Prickly Pear House' From 'Fixer Upper' Season 4 Is Listed for $499K," appeared first on Realtor.com®.

    Frank Sinatra’s Malibu home up for sale: report

    Frank Sinatra and his wife’s Malibu residence has reportedly hit the real estate market with an asking price of just under $13 million.

    The home on Broad Beach Road was constructed in the early 1990s and was a space where Sinatra played host to a number of famous pals, including Robert Wagner and Dick Van Dyke, friend and listing agent Leonard Rabinowitz told The Los Angeles Times.

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    “As spectacular as the ocean view is, I was just as struck by those seated in the living room,” Rabinowitz told the outlet.

    The residence, which is reportedly going for $12.9 million, features seven bedrooms and nine bathrooms. The sale is being handled by Hilton & Hyland, as well as Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, according to The Times.

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    The house was described in the online listing from Hilton & Hyland as a “dream beach home.”

    It also has a master suite that was outfitted with amenities such as a hair salon and sauna, The Times reported.

    The listing also touts “a stunning indoor-outdoor bar, and patio overlooking a grassy lawn out to the ocean.”

    7 home improvement projects you should tackle in the winter

    For those of us who live in cold-weather climates, the winter months are synonymous with hibernation mode. Who wants to go outside when you have to shovel two feet of snow just to see the sidewalk?

    But don’t let the next blizzard or polar vortex take the wind out of your home renovation sails. A frigid winter weekend is the perfect time to tackle an indoor project (as long as you can coax yourself away from your blanket and your Netflix queue).

    Not sure where to start? Read on to find inspiration for your next weekend project, whether you only have an hour to spare or can dedicate a full weekend to home improvement.

    1. Update your kitchen backsplash

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  • Time: Half a day to two days

    Tools: Score tool, tile cutter or wet saw, power drill, grout, joint compound, joint knife

    Maybe you don’t have a backsplash in your kitchen, or maybe you’ve been putting off replacing your existing one. Either way, updating your backsplash is a project you can easily accomplish in a weekend.

    “This is an area of only 30 square feet in most homes,” says Yuka Kato, content manager at Fixr, a marketplace for contractors and homeowners. The relatively small scope makes this an ideal project for tile novices. But before you jump in, read our detailed guide on how to install tile like a professional.

    If you’re a renter and you can’t install permanent decor, pick up some peel-and-stick tile to add temporary (and totally removable) pizazz to your backsplash.

    2. Install a smart thermostat

    Time: One to two hours

    Tools: Screwdriver

    (iStock)

    A smart thermostat can help you save money during the winter months, when you’re most likely to rack up expensive energy bills. And the best part? You can easily knock out the installation in a couple of hours over a weekend.

    Do your homework before you head to the store, so that you know which thermostat will best fit your needs. And make sure to review the instructions ahead of time, to be sure you’re comfortable with the installation — nobody wants to get stuck with a dysfunctional thermostat in the dead of winter.

    3. Create an accent wall with removable wallpaper

    Time: An hour

    Tools: Scissors, utility knife

    Wallpaper has made a serious comeback, but today’s bold hues and prints are a departure from the granny-esque designs of yore. If you’re curious about this trend but not quite ready to go all-in, start by wallpapering an accent wall rather than an entire room.

    Opt for a peel-and-stick removable wallpaper that you can easily take down once you tire of it. Unlike traditional wallpaper, the removal process is painless (for both you and your walls), which means this weekend project is feasible for renters and homeowners alike.

    4. Create extra storage

    Time: A few hours to half a day

    Tools: Power drill, screwdriver

    Entryway storage is crucial — especially in the winter, when puffer jackets, snow boots, and scarves demand extra space. Marty Basher of Modular Closets suggests visiting the local craft store to purchase bookcases or shelving, so you can keep odds and ends organized in the entryway.

    A wall-mounted shelf above the table will add space for hats and gloves, and you can install hooks for hanging keys or the dog’s leash as well.

    “An antique, wooden small table with drawers can easily store small items like note pads, pens, a stapler, and other accessories,” Basher adds.

    5. Give hardware and fixtures a fresh look

    Time: An hour or two

    Tools: A screwdriver

    The weather may be dreary, but your home fixtures can still be cheery. A simple swap of cabinet hardware in the kitchen, the bathroom vanity, or an old dresser will breathe new life into your home’s appearance without breaking the bank.

    If you have room in your budget for a more dramatic facelift, install a new dining room chandelier or updated lighting in the foyer, or take the plunge on a statement fixture for above the kitchen island.

    6. Swap out your showerhead

    Time: An hour

    Tools: Wrench, pliers

    Over time, showerheads become grungy and gross. If yours is overdue for an upgrade, spend some time this weekend swapping out your old showerhead for a new, low-flow model. Not only will you take the ick factor out of your shower, but you’ll also save on your water bill.

    “New showerheads spin the water droplets so that you actually feel like you’re getting more volume, not less, while you save,” Kato says.

    7. Apply a fresh coat of paint

    Time: One to two days

    Tools: Paint, brushes, drop cloth, painter’s tape (optional)

    (iStock)

    Painting is a perennial favorite project for DIYers, and for good reason: It doesn’t cost a lot of money, it doesn’t require any special skills, and it can be accomplished in as little as a day, depending on the size of your room.

    If you’re considering selling your house in the spring, opt for neutral white, gray, or tan. If you’re planning to stick around for a while, why not go big and pick up a gallon of your favorite statement color?

    “Painting a room is an easy way to change the mood of the space and add some color,” Basher says.

    So go ahead — buy a can of that moody aubergine for your master bedroom or the turquoise you’ve been mulling over for the powder room. When you’re ready for a new color, you can paint again — a good project for next winter, perhaps.

    The post, "Take It Inside: 7 Weekend Improvement Projects You Can Do in Your Pajamas," appeared first on Realtor.com®.

    Lena Dunham lists Brooklyn apartment for $3 million

    Lena Dunham is bidding Brooklyn farewell; the actress, writer and producer has officially listed her airy three bedroom Williamsburg condo for a cool $3 million.

    Earlier this week, the "Girls" creator told The Cut that though her "whole identity was, like, Brooklyn" she's embracing the start of a new chapter, with digs in Manhattan's West Village.

    “Now I’m like, Thank you, Lord. I’m back amongst my tribe, which is like old people puttering around the health-food store. If I never see another f—— person in a cool sack dress with their baby again …,” Dunham told the outlet. “I just wanna live around old people who are not reminding me every day of my infertility and loneliness.”

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    In October, the star revealed that she underwent surgery to remove her left ovary, months after Dunham underwent a total hysterectomy in February. She has since remained open about her health.

    According to the unit’s official listing, Dunham’s pre-war, loft-style, pet-friendly condominium boasts three bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths, and stunning views of Manhattan, Brooklyn and the East River.

    “The ceilings are tall (13 feet), the windows are oversized, there is a fireplace, a true chef's kitchen (with SubZero refrigerator, Wolf stove and white Carrara marble countertops) and tons of thoughtful built-in storage spaces and hidden workspaces. The master bedroom is outfitted with a raised platform for the bed so you can wake up to views of the water,” the details read. “The leather pulls on custom cabinets and well laid out closet space that take advantage of the double height ceilings are a dream.”

    “The master bedroom is separated from the two other bedrooms allowing more privacy. The washer and dryer are adjacent to the secondary bedrooms where laundry is made. The coat closet is right next to the front door and large enough to fit forty coats and jackets.”

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    Other building amenities include a full-time doorman, a resident manager, handyman, a library lounge, bike storage and a roof terrace, as per the listing.

    The property is listed with Terry Naini of Brown Harris Stevens.

    Janine Puhak is an editor for Fox News Lifestyle. Follow her on Twitter at @JaninePuhak

    7 cleaning tips that every germaphobe needs to know

    It's that time of year when truly scary stuff is happening outside our doors. Flu season is in full swing, a mystery polio-like illness has affected people in more than two dozen states, and we're under attack by romaine lettuce — again.

    It's enough to make you want to curl up inside and never venture out again. But germs, bacteria, and viruses don't stop at your door — they're lurking in every corner inside your home, too.

    Did a shiver just go down your spine? Take a deep breath and put down the disinfecting spray (for now — you’ll need it again soon). You need a game plan. And that means knowing the biggest problem areas for germs — and how to kill the stuff that makes us cringe.

    Luckily, we've got you covered. Read on for the pros' best cleaning tips to keep you healthy and sleeping soundly at night.

    1. Do the dishes (and don’t forget the sink)

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  • Sorry, procrastinators — if you really want to keep germs out, you can’t let your dirty dishes pile up in the kitchen sink.

    “Wash the dishes as soon as you put them in the sink. Don’t let germs accumulate,” says Jennifer Rodriguez, chief hygiene officer at Pro Housekeepers.

    Plus, remember that dirty dishes also attract bugs — the non-microscopic variety. So unless you want some extra protein with your spaghetti bolognese, get those plates out of the sink.

    Then, once you’re done with the dishes, spend a few minutes cleaning the sink itself.

    “You’d be surprised how nasty the place can be,” Rodriguez says.

    It’s easy to keep your sink sparkling with a little elbow grease and some baking soda, water, and dish soap. And don’t forget to replace sponges regularly; you can also keep them clean by washing them in the top rack of your dishwasher.

    2. Focus on your fixtures

    “The dirtiest places in your home are not what you expect,” says Leslie Reichert, a cleaning coach. “It’s not your toilet seat; it’s faucets and drains.”

    You don't have to be a cleaning savant to disinfect them, though — you just have to keep up with it regularly. Use a store-bought disinfectant (Rodriguez recommends Lysol) or make your own with a combination of water and vinegar. Disinfectant wipes also make it easy to clean doorknobs and light switches and prevent the spread of germs.

    Another pro tip: Use paper towels instead of a shared hand towel, and if you're squeamish, liquid soap for hand washing. (Bacteria does live on bar soap, studies have shown.)

    3. Expand your laundry list

    If you aren’t already washing sheets and towels on a weekly basis, you should start now — it’s a surefire way to help keep germs from accumulating. But don’t stop at the sheets and towels. The blanket that lives on your couch is probably overdue for a bath, along with any other fabric that made contact with a sick family member, like a duvet cover or pillowcase.

    Plush toys and stuffed animals can also be tossed into the washing machine or cleaned with a steamer, says Leanne Stapf, vice president of operations at The Cleaning Authority.

    4. Clean out your closet

    Closets are often overlooked in weekly cleaning, but Reichert suggests making this space a priority.

    “Body odor, stinky shoes, and dust are all stuffed into a small, airtight room,” Reichert says. “It’s a breeding ground for bacteria and allergies.”

    Don’t let dirty workout gear co-mingle with your work attire; use a hamper or basket to keep dirty clothes separate, and don’t wait until you’re completely out of socks to finally do the laundry.

    5. ‘Bake’ away the germs

    “The sun can be the best defense against the spread of germs in the home,” Stapf says.

    Take advantage of natural light to disinfect rugs, bedding, and pillows — simply leave them in the sun for a few hours to freshen up. Then, if you can handle a little chill for a few minutes, throw open your windows.

    “Let the fresh air take any germs right out with the breeze,” Stapf says.

    6. Kick off your shoes

    We're a nation divided by shoes — specifically, whether it's OK to wear them in the house. If you're a germaphobe — or even the slightest bit squeamish about what you're tracking through your home — wearing shoes in your house is one habit you'll want to kick.

    “Remember when you come home, the shoes you're wearing bear the germs from every surface you walked that day,” Stapf says.

    Just think about all the gross things you step on every day. Not to mention your own gross feet have been inside them!

    Leave shoes at the door, and clean your shoes — including the laces — regularly: “You’d be surprised where those laces have been dragged!” Stapf says.

    7. Wash your darn hands already

    It sounds simple, but regularly washing your hands really is the best defense against germs, Reichert says.

    Follow the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines: Scrub for at least 20 seconds, and then air dry or use a clean towel to dry off. When you’re out and about, keep a bottle of hand sanitizer nearby so you can sanitize in a pinch.

    The post, "Our (Easy!) 7-Step House Cleaning Plan for the Germaphobe Inside Us All," appeared first on Realtor.com®.

    Homeowners share the best mortgage advice they’ve ever heard

    When it comes to mortgages, there's an avalanche of advice out there — some good, some bad, and some that's flat-out great. You know, the type of wisdom that makes you so grateful you heard it, it sticks with you and gets passed along to all who care to hear it.

    With the hopes of delivering only these golden nuggets of wisdom, we asked homeowners to tell us the very best mortgage advice they've been lucky enough to learn. You won't be sorry you read this:

    Keep your monthly mortgage payment under one paycheck

    "This might seem pretty simple, but I was once told not to freak out so much about the total cost of the mortgage, but to make sure that when all is said and done, I could handle most if not all of the monthly payment in one paycheck. That has worked out really well for me and my husband, especially because we work in media, which is unstable. But with a low mortgage payment, we know that whatever happens, we can handle it." – Starrene Rocque, Brooklyn, N.Y.

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  • Shop around for the best interest rate

    "My brother told me to shop for the best interest rate, even if it means that I had to get quotes from more than five lenders or brokers. At first I resisted, not only due to the hassle, but because I didn't want those companies individually pulling my credit report, since I'd heard this type of 'hard' credit inquiry would drag down my score. He told me that a credit pull for mortgage purposes within a set period of time only counted as one hard credit inquiry. His suggestion helped me get the interest I needed and will save me a lot of money in the long run." – Allan Liwanag, Lexington Park, Md.

    Multiple quotes can help with more than just interest rates

    "When I first started shopping for homes, my real estate agent advised me to start the application process with more than one lender by filling out online financial forms for my top three. Though I was initially hesitant because of the extra time it would take to fill out the paperwork, doing so set me up for multiple interest rate quote estimates. Plus, the lenders knew I was serious and [were] in competition for my business, so they were especially prompt and attentive in answering my questions and returning my calls. The interest rates I qualified for were all comparable, so I ended up going with the lender that was the best communicator, which is worth its weight in gold when getting a mortgage." – Rebecca Graham, Provo, Utah.

    Lock in your interest rate for as long as possible

    "I bought my first home in 2016, a bankruptcy sale. Even though the listing agent and the attorney both told me that the escrow would last no more than 60 days, my agent recommended that I lock in my mortgage interest rate for the longest time possible, 90 days. It is a good thing I did, because my escrow ended up taking five months! Since I locked in the rate for the longest time allowed, the bank accommodated my situation and I didn't lose my great rate." – Goldie Winge, Los Angeles, Calif.

    An ARM is a risk — even if you think you’ll move soon

    "In 2007, when purchasing my first property, I anticipated owning the house for three to five years max. This led many mortgage brokers to say I should get an adjustable-rate mortgage or, ARM, since they had lower interest rates than fixed-rate loans, and besides, I'd be long gone before the interest rate on my ARM ballooned. I'm so glad I stuck to my guns about not wanting an ARM, no matter how enticing the low interest rate. Although I'd planned to move, the economy and life caused me to adjust my original plan and stay put in the house much longer than I thought." – Nerissa Marbury, Katy, Texas

    Make extra mortgage payments whenever possible

    "Although you only have to pay a certain amount for your mortgage each month, pay extra when you can. You would be shocked at what even one or two extra payments per year can do over the length of a loan." – Dave August, Point of Rocks, Md.

    Might as well. Right now, you barely even own the keys. (iStock)

    Get a mortgage that allows you to save for retirement, too

    "The best advice I've gotten was to get a 30-year fixed-rate loan, even though I could have afforded the higher payments of a 15-year loan. Why? My lower payments bought me a ton of flexibility. I've been investing the difference, and it's been quite rewarding. I figure that if I invested that extra $1,000 each month in stocks that earned 7 percentage points over the 3.5% interest on my loan — I'd be about $100,000 ahead over the seven-year period that I've held the loan." – Kathy Kristof, Los Angeles. Calif.

    This post originally appeared as 'The Best Mortgage Advice I've Heard, Ever' on Realtor.com.

    10 surprising cities where a $60G income can buy you a nice home

    Can America's stressed-out, fought-over, cash-strapped middle class still afford to buy homes?

    That's the megamillion-dollar question these days. Because while the economy is strong and wages are rising, these gains are being left in the dust by runaway home prices. Combined with creeping mortgage rates, it's enough to make any average-income worker wonder: Will my paycheck ever catch up?

    Before you throw up your hands and despair that your so-so salary has placed a fragile glass ceiling on your hopes of buying a home, take heart! The thrifty Realtor.com data team crunched the numbers to figure out just how much home regular Joes can actually afford to buy—and where they can find a plethora of sweet, comfortably priced abodes.

    So where did we locate the greatest share of these real estate unicorns? Hint: It wasn't Manhattan or the San Francisco Bay Area.

    "Generally, these aren't found in high-growth areas of the country … [places] where we haven’t seen commensurate wage and salary growth," says Sean Snaith, an economics professor at the University of Central Florida. "You won’t find cities in California on this list."

    Instead, for middle-class affordability, "you need to look toward areas where housing prices have not seen the same appreciation," he says.

    More From Realtor.com

  • Great Gigs and Cheap Cribs: 10 Dream Locales Where You Can Have It All
  • Sky-High Prices Got You Down? Here Are the Top Middle-Class Housing Meccas
  • The New Boomtowns: 10 Surprising U.S. Cities Where Home Prices Are Soaring
  • But buckle up: We found a few surprise markets along the way.

    To zero in on these hidden mainstream meccas, we started with the definition of a "middle-income" family from the latest U.S. Census Bureau data: a median household gross income of $61,372 per year. (For simplicity, we rounded that down to $60,000).

    Then we did the math: We calculated that homeowners should spend no more than 28 percent of annual income on housing—which on $60,000 amounts to annual housing costs of $16,800. We assumed that these homeowners could get a 30-year mortgage with a five percent down payment and a five percent fixed-interest rate, plus 0.5% in private mortgage insurance (required on down payments below 20 percent). So we determined that a family earning $60,000 a year could comfortably buy a home priced up to $257,400, max.

    Finally, we looked at Realtor.com listings for September to find the greatest share of available housing there is at or below $257,400 in the nation's 50 largest metropolitan areas (limiting the rankings to two metros per state).*

    We found tons of great homes, in nice neighborhoods, that middle-class earners can afford to buy—without becoming "house poor." No inheritance, lottery payouts, Ponzi schemes or fantasy-level raises required.

    1. Pittsburgh, Pa. 

    Median list price: $179,100
    Share of affordable homes: 64.3%

    These days, Pittsburgh has shaken off its image of a Rust Belt city in decline and reinvented itself as a bustling tech hub. Aided by the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, it has attracted major tech and health care companies to the region. Look no further than Über, which has an office here focused on designing autonomous, self-driving vehicles.

    Despite all the changes, home prices have stayed low here. Many houses built in the early 20th century during the city's heyday were neglected during the city's years of population loss. But now, these places are getting investor attention. Take Brighton Heights, for example. The neighborhood has Craftsman-style homes built in the 1920s and 1930s lining its streets, as well as young buyers and investors flocking here to snag and remodel homes priced under $125,000.

    "Communities that were once the nicer neighborhoods in Pittsburgh in the '60s and '70s are now seeing a resurgence," says Bobby West, a real estate agent at Coldwell Banker in Pittsburgh. "It is a shock to come to Pittsburgh and find that."

    2. Rochester, N.Y. 

    Median list price: $177,500
    Share of affordable homes: 63.1%

    New York City remains one of the most brutally competitive markets on the planet. But not upstate in Rochester, where home buyers encounter a dynamic mix of inventory and affordability. The median down payment in Monroe County (aka Rochester) is just five percent, compared with 27.8 percent in Manhattan.

    The road to those low prices wasn't pretty, though. During the '80s and '90s, the city lost loads of manufacturing jobs, many of them at former photographic film titan Eastman Kodak, long the crown jewel of corporate Rochester.

    But now home buyers can snag beautiful homes only a short walk or bike away from the city's downtown nightlife. This three-story Victorian would be well over $500,000 in many American cities, but in Rochester it's only $275,000—and that's on the high side. There are even a surprising number of four-bedroom homes priced at just $50,000.

    3. Buffalo, N.Y.

    Median list price: $185,100
    Share of affordable homes: 61.8%

    For decades, Buffalo was the poster child for manufacturing decline as plants went under and workers fled for greener pastures. But a flurry of downtown investment by the city and the University of Buffalo has helped line the streets with new restaurants, and corporate parks with startups. Meanwhile, outdoor enthusiasts love that you can now kayak down the Buffalo River, a once-befouled industrial waterway that has recently been restored.

    “If you came to Buffalo 15 years ago, just about everyone hated it. Locals would tell you to get out as soon as you can,” says Vincent Rondinelli, principal broker at Rondinelli Real Estate in Buffalo. "It’s not like that anymore. The people who live here love it."

    And they love the home prices, too, which are still a bargain compared with other markets—but probably not for long.

    "We have investors coming in from out of state as far away as California," Rondinelli says. "They’re buying old, cheaper homes as investment properties. They’re gutting them and reselling them, and that's driving up prices quite a bit."

    4. St. Louis, Mo.

    Median list price: $209,500
    Share of affordable homes: 61.7%

    In the early part of the 20th century, St. Louis was an industrial giant and among the nation's largest cities, but decades of job loss and a dwindling population turned some neighborhoods into veritable ghost towns. But that old narrative doesn't hold as much anymore. Case in point: In September, over-capacity crowds flocked to Anheuser-Busch Brewery's first ever Love Beer Fest to imbibe not just Budweiser, but over 100 beers from brands across the country. Beer snobs are a clear sign that a city is on the up.

    This city is full of beautiful historic homes from an era when one-of-a-kind craftsmanship was the rule rather than the exception. Parts of St. Louis like Lafayette Square and Benton Park are places where buyers can find charming brick bungalows built in the early 1930s.

    Plus, like many Midwestern cities, St. Louis has seen a revitalization in its downtown, with cranes popping up and a flurry of remodeling of the area's gorgeous historic houses. These gigantic brick homes are selling at bargain-basement prices compared with other parts of the country.

    5. Cleveland, Ohio

    Median list price: $179,500
    Share of affordable homes: 61.7%

    Home prices in Cleveland have been suppressed for years, after mass closings of manufacturing plants and an ensuing exodus of longtime residents. But in recent years the city has invested in its downtown, and that revival—paired with still-low prices—is bringing home buyers back.

    “Generally, it’s younger people who are moving back home now because of the affordability,” says CJ Trivisonno, owner of the Trivisonno Real Estate Team in Cleveland. "They’ll graduate from college and move to a big city like New York or Chicago, then boomerang back to the Midwest to start a family. In Cleveland ,they can buy a great house with a yard.”

    Getting all those younger home buyers to come back didn't happen overnight. The city, not long ago dubbed by Ohioans as the "mistake on the lake," needed a stem-to-stern makeover first. IBM's decision to open an office here sure helped, and that was soon followed by a swath of condos, as well as trendy bars along East Fourth Street.

    One caveat: If you prefer brand-new construction, know that new condos in Cleveland's downtown can easily exceed $600,000. Yet if you dig old houses, Cleveland has many two-story homes with front porches priced under $100,000 that were built between the 1920s and '50s, during the city’s boom years.

    6. Birmingham, Ala.

    Median list price: $219,200
    Share of affordable homes: 55.7%

    When compared with America's largest cities, home prices in this famous Deep South city seem like a bargain. Like many urban areas, Birmingham has neighborhoods that have decayed after decades of urban flight that started in the '70s. But that just made it ground zero for where the middle class can now easily afford a mortgage.

    Homes in the city built during Birmingham's boom years in the 1950s are where some of the lowest prices can be found. Just $75,000 for a three-bedroom home? Now that's a bargain worth checking out!

    And getting those lower prices doesn't mean you'll sacrifice fun things to do. The city is packed with parks and museums; motorcycle lovers will get a kick out of this city's underground biker scene, including the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, which has hundreds of awesome vintage motorcycles on display.

    Just know that not all areas boast the same deals. Shelby County in metro Birmingham has both the highest median home price ($260,000) and the lowest unemployment rate (3.1 percent) in the state. But even that price point is still affordable for many middle-income families.

    7. Memphis, Tenn.

    Median list price: $214,000
    Share of affordable homes: 53.5%

    Located along the banks of America’s biggest river, the Mississippi, Memphis is seeing a big movement in its real estate market. The reason: A sizable inventory of homes priced under $100,000 are luring investors into the city.

    “Some neighborhoods have been completely taken over by investment properties,” says Joe Spake, a broker at InCity Realty in Memphis. "They’re buying older homes for $60,000 to $70,000 and completely turning them around for profit.”

    Generally, these neighborhoods are located in the Midtown area—the center of the city’s art scene and the host of the annual Cooper-Young Arts Festival, which draws around 100,000 visitors.

    The region is also making great use of abandoned buildings to help spur growth. For example, the Crosstown Concourse is a massive art deco–style building that used to house a Sears warehouse and, in recent years, was turned into apartments, shops, and restaurants.

    8. Oklahoma City, Okla.

    Median list price: $235,100
    Share of affordable homes: 53.4%

    Unlike many of the most affordable housing markets for middle-income earners, the population in OKC has long been growing, up 11 percent since 2010. Rebounding natural gas and oil sectors are fueling this growth—and developers are taking advantage of this by going on building sprees, erecting new subdivisions left and right.

    This is in part possible because Oklahoma City is massive, and all that room to grow and lower building costs are helping to keep home prices within reach for middle-class families.

    Sprawling neighborhoods like Moore feature tons of recently built three-bedroom homes priced around $225,000. Despite being devastated by tornadoes over the past two decades, Moore has watched its population climb from 41,000 in 2000 to over 60,000 in 2016. Why? Some say it's due to its stellar school districts, making this area particularly family-friendly.

    9. Cincinnati, Ohio

    Median list price: $240,000
    Share of affordable homes: 49.2%

    Every morning, scores of besuited Cincinnatians commute to work at Fortune 100 companies headquartered in the city, including Procter & Gamble, Kroger, and Macy's. The blue chip companies that this city is known for keep wages up, but without the runaway prices that often come with newer tech firms or startups. As a result, Cincinnati's modest (but steady) economic growth means modest home price growth in line with people's salaries.

    Once America's sixth-biggest city, Cincinnati is also full of one-of-a-kind neighborhoods like Over-the-Rhine, a historic neighborhood near downtown that has its streets lined with three-story brick buildings that were built 150 years ago by German immigrants. Over-the-Rhine is seeing a resurgence, as investors rehab the century-old multifamily homes into condos. And renovated Washington Park in the neighborhoods is where all the hipsters walk their dogs.

    Just keep in mind that for true real estate deals, you'll need to head to the suburbs just outside the city, like Anderson Township, a go-to for folks looking for three-bedroom homes priced under $225,000.

    10. Detroit, Mich. 

    Median list price: $232,500
    Share of affordable homes: 47.4%

    After years of losing residents, Detroit was finally forced to file for bankruptcy in 2013. But even then, the city was starting to set the groundwork for a grand revival.

    “Detroit is growing. The downtown is on fire," says Thomas Nanes, a real estate agent at Community Choice Realty Detroit. "When you go there, you ask yourself if you’re still in Detroit, because it has changed so much. People are pushing baby carriages, people are riding bikes. A few years back, you wouldn’t have seen this. There just would have been people begging for food."

    Near the city center, condos are being built in converted industrial buildings and selling for around $200,000. Even better deals can be found farther out in neighborhoods where many homes sell for under $75,000. But buyers are still wary of these cheap cribs. Often renovators will get their tools or newly installed furnace stolen while trying to rehab these homes, Nanes says.

    Nonetheless, “things are really beginning to change here," he says. "We have beautiful homes that you have to put some work into."

    * A metropolitan statistical area is a designation that includes the urban core of a city and surrounding smaller towns and cities.

    Allison Underhill contributed to this report.