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Inside Real Estate (Jan 9th, 2020)

1. Mortgage rates dropped amid this week's Middle Eastern conflict, but they didn’t plummet as far as some experts predicted. On Thursday, Freddie Mac released data showing that 30-year fixed-rate averages hit 3.64 percent. That’s a year-over-year drop of 0.81 percent and a week-over-week decrease of 0.08 percent. Attacks in Iran reportedly "sent markets into turbulence," but because it was short lived, bonds didn't move very much, explained Elizabeth Rose, a mortgage-planning specialist. However, if tensions in that part of the world continue, it could mean prolonged market instability. - WASHINGTON POST

2. The buyer of Los Angeles’ "Billionaire" — the Bel Air megamansion that was briefly the most expensive home listed in the U.S. — took out a $58.2 million, 10-year loan from HSBC Bank USA, Bloomberg reports. The undisclosed buyer — who closed under the name of an LLC — bought Billionaire for $94 million in October, much less than its original $250 million list price. While not commonly known, some the ultra-wealthy will borrow from private bankers to purchase pricey residential real estate. Agent Shawn Elliott of NestSeekers International explains that this sometimes makes more sense than for some buyers to invest their own money: “With interest rates at historic lows, and if you’re Jay Z and Beyonce, you could probably borrow money as low as 2.5%.” - BLOOMBERG

3. TBT: A Houston real estate agent in 2016 embraced his challenging new home listing, dubbed the “filthiest house in Houston,” by highlighting its extremely grimy interior in a viral marketing video. The house was covered in feces and trash, and the swimming pool required an extensive cleanup. The sellers said they thought their potbelly pig was partly to blame for its disgraced state. (The pet allegedly roamed freely throughout the home.) Sadly, their dog ate the potbelly pig — yes, really — at some point in the selling process. According to public records, the house sold for $173,000 in 2018 before being re-listed just five months later. - HOUSTON CHRONICLE

4. Some real estate professionals are arguing against a Zillow practice that they say benefits agents who pay for advertising on the listings platform. Consultants and other agents argue that some home listings on Zillow erroneously broadcast agents who have nothing to do with the property on the page. Matt Hendricks, director of broker relations at Zillow, says that the actual listing agent is always mentioned above those “premier agents,” who pay for leads to home shoppers looking within certain ZIP codes. - MIAMI HERALD

5. A real estate listings website just generated a list of the most commonly used words in home listings. Point2 Homes studied more than a million listings from July. (The summer is typically the busiest time of the year for home buying and selling.) It found that key phrases varied by the price segment: for homes under $250,000, nods to home improvements like “new roof” and “move-in ready” were most popular. For houses between $250,000 and $499,999, upgraded amenities like “covered patio” and “dual sinks” reign supreme. And for the luxury market, the location and extras like a “gourmet kitchen” were most frequently used. - NEW YORK TIMES

6. Selena Gomez's former house is back on the market in Hidden Hills, California. Rapper French Montana purchased the home from the popstar in 2016 for $3.3 million. He's now attempting to sell it for $6.599 million. Montana has remodeled the house and updated it to include a recording studio inside the 7,800-square-foot dwelling's guest house. It also features a gym, theater and wine cellar. - LA TIMES

7. Thirty tiny homes are expected to rise in a Reno, Nevada, neighborhood to help battle homelessness in that city. Northern Nevada Hopes on Wednesday secured $6,000 from the Washoe County Sheriff's Office that will go to aid the construction at Sage and 4th Street. The tiny-home settlement is being planned as a transitional sober community where residents will have private rooms and share some common areas. While they will not be charged rent, inhabitants will be expected to contribute by maintaining the grounds. - KTVN

8. Rocket Mortgage will give up to $50,000 to "a fan in a square every time a team scores, up to 30 times.” The promotion is to announce that the Detroit-based financial service provider will be an official sponsor of the NFL beginning at Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Feb. 2. It’s free to enter at RocketMortgageSquares.com, where you pick a blank space on a 100-space grid. In addition to those winners, the company will also select two people who will receive $500,000, which “could be put toward securing the home of their dreams.” - DETROIT FREE PRESS

9. According to HGTV’s famous Property Brothers twins, foyers are the one room in the house that most people “forget” to renovate. Jonathan Scott explains that the space is a buyer’s “first impression,” so it’s important to spend at least a little time on it. Drew and Jonathan Scott also said a quick, cheap update is to paint the cabinets in the kitchen and to spruce up a fireplace mantle. - REALTOR

10. Tan France, one of the hosts of Netflix’s “Queer Eye,” invites people into his modern home for a look at how his aesthetic translates to decor. He and his husband, artist Rob France, bought the Salt Lake City house in 2017 and went to work updating it. Interestingly, he didn’t ask for help from interior designer co-star Bobby Berk because he wanted to “show him that I could do it.” - ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST (video)

Written and curated by Darla Guillen Gilthorpe. Darla writes for the Houston Chronicle, where she was part of its 2018 Pulitzer Prize finalist staff. She was previously an editor at Vox Media site Eater and has had bylines in Elle Decor, SFGate and various other outlets. Follow her on Twitter here.

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