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Inside Real Estate (Nov 29th, 2017)

New home sales in October were up by 6.2 percent month over month and 18.7 percent year over year to the highest rate since October 2007. The Commerce Department reported that sales hit a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 685,000 units in October beating economists’ predictions of a rate of 625,000 units. The median sales price fell slightly to $312,800 but the share of luxury homes sold has increased to represent seven percent of the market. The news comes after two months of subdued activity due to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Despite struggling with land prices, rising materials prices, and labor shortages, homebuilders remain optimistic. Nearly 77 percent the new homes sold last month were either under construction or not started yet. The current inventory level of new homes is the highest it has been since May 2009. Sales rose by 30.2 percent in the Northeast to their highest level since 2007. – BLOOMBERG

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The UK’s second tallest skyscraper will be One Landsdowne Road in the Croydon area of London. The 68-story tower and its smaller twin have been given final approval by London mayor Sadiq Khan. The two mixed-use buildings will include 794 apartments, office space, bars, and restaurants. Both towers will be adorned with large bronze ribbons. The design also features balconies and winter gardens. Construction is set to begin in early 2018. – THE INDEPENDENT

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Following on the news that the Trump SoHo hotel will be rebranded, the owners of the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Panama are seeking to escape their licensing agreement with the Trump Organization. The tower rises 70 stories above Panama Bay on the Punta Pacifica peninsula. The hotel owners once paid $32 million to be associated with the Trump brand. A recent report linked the development to organized crime stating that owners used their purchases in the building to launder illicit funds. The Trump Organization has stated that efforts to change management and branding are a contract violation. – CBS NEWS

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Hong Kong, one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world, is looking into caverns as a way to maximize real estate space. The caverns, carved out of rock underneath the city, will be used to house data centers, reservoirs, and storage in order to maximize space for new above-ground structures. The city is constructing 48 caverns which will take 11 years and billions of dollars to complete. The news comes as Bloomberg reports that residential prices in Hong Kong could go up by another 5-10 percent next year after rising 11 percent in 2017. – WIRED

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The Case-Shiller National Home Price Index rose by 6.2 percent in September, the fastest annual rate since June 2014. The 20-city index also rose 6.2 percent in September, up from 5.9 percent in August. Eight cities have surpassed the peak prices reached before the Great Recession. For the thirteenth month in a row, Seattle led as the city with the biggest increase in price. A quarterly report from HSH.com showed that to afford a home at the median price in Seattle a household would need an average income of $93,400 with a 20 percent down payment.  – CNBC

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Billionaire Carl Icahn has received initial approval from the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to invest $5.6 million in tax credits toward tearing down the former Trump Plaza casino in Atlantic City. The entire demolition will cost $13.2 million. New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney has urged the agency to deny Icahn the money pointing out that he has a track record of not being a good friend to Atlantic City. Icahn acquired the Trump Plaza and Trump Taj Mahal when he bought the parent company out of bankruptcy. He closed the Trump Taj Mahal after a prolonged strike and labor dispute in October 2016. The Trump Taj Majal sold earlier this year for just $50 million, a small fraction of its original value. The Trump Plaza casino has been closed since 2014 and Icahn hasn’t shared details on how he plans to redevelop the site once the casino is torn down. – FORTUNE

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The Federal Housing Finance Agency is raising the conforming loan limit for single-family residential homes for the second year in a row to keep pace with rising home prices. The new baseline for mortgages eligible to be acquired by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2018 will be $453,100, up from $424,100 in 2017. A maximum of $679,650 has been established in 71 counties and areas where the local median home price greatly exceeds the conforming limit. The FHFA's Home Price Index for the third quarter showed a year-over-year increase of 6.8 percent and so the baseline maximum conforming loan limit in 2018 was increased by the same amount. – HOUSING WIRE

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HOT PROPERTIES OF THE WEEK

Music mogul Bryan “Birdman” Williams has dropped the price on his Miami estate from $20 million to $16.9 million. Birdman bought the home for $14.5 million in 2012 and has made significant upgrades including turning three bedrooms into one massive 2,000-square-foot master suite. Other lavish details include an onyx kitchen island, two wine cellars, a movie theater, six-car garage, and more. The mansion on Palm Island was previously owned by record producer Scott Storch who lost the home to foreclosure. It was later purchased by Rockstar energy drink founder Russ Weiner for $7 million. – CURBED MIAMI

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Singer Keith Urban may have purchased a New York City townhouse for his wife, Nicole Kidman. Reports say that Urban is set to close on 4 East 74th Street, a Beaux-Arts townhouse which was listed for $39 million. Built in 1898, the townhouse has a storied history and was once home to artist Marc Chagall as well as singer Michael Jackson. The current owner is Marc Lasry, a co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks. The six-story home has a garden-level patio, roof deck, and 10 fireplaces. The real estate agent for the property has not confirmed that a deal has been made. – NY POST

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Adam Levine is selling two Los Angeles homes for a total of nearly $35 million in available real estate. He and his wife model Benati Prinsloo have listed the Bel-Air home they bought just four months ago for $18 million at $18.9 million. The French Regency-style estate was built in 1966 and has views over the Los Angeles Country Club golf course. The couple was planning an extensive remodel but are instead selling it as a renovation opportunity. Levine has also listed a five-bedroom Beverly Hills estate on 3.5 acres for $15.9 million. He bought the home in 2012 for $4.83 million. – MANSION GLOBAL

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