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Inside Real Estate (Jan 16th, 2020)

1. Microsoft just pledged an additional $250 million to help combat homelessness in the Seattle area. This donation will open a line of credit to a financial institution that can help create 3,000 affordable-housing units, Jane Broom — the company’s senior director of philanthropies — said in a blog post Wednesday. The announcement comes a year after Microsoft announced a $500 million contribution. Data shows the Puget Sound region faces a shortage of 316,000 middle- and low-income homes, an increase of 305,000 from 2018. This has pushed up the price of homes in the area and left people homeless due to a lack of affordable living options. - ASSOCIATED PRESS

2. Sweat equity is helping some low-income families become homeowners. Organizations like Habitat for Humanity, USDA direct loan program and Fannie Mae’s HomeReady mortgage — among others — allow people to help renovate or build the houses they will live in with some financial assistance. The best-case scenario for some is that their physical work on the property can sometimes mean no down payment or at least thousands of dollars in savings. The drawback, however, is that these programs are difficult to qualify for and they require a lot of hours that some financially strapped people might not be able to commit to. - WASHINGTON POST

3. Throwback Thursday: Remember the quirky "Flintstone House" which the town of Hillsborough, California, declared a "nuisance?" As of late 2019, its owner, Florence Fang, was still embroiled in ongoing litigation. The lawsuit was filed in March 2019 and by September, Fang was granted the right to take her countersuit for discrimination to trial. Fang purchased the unique structure in 2017 and began adding offbeat modifications, like large dinosaurs and colorful signage. The city said she never obtained the prior permitting for those additions. The unusual dwelling was originally designed by architect William Nelson in 1976 as a study on domed buildings. - NEW YORK TIMES

4. A London property is slated to break a sales-price record and become the most expensive home in the UK. Hong Kong real estate tycoon Cheung Chung Kiu is reportedly paying $274 million — or 210 million pounds — for what will be his private office on the south side of Hyde Park. The current global home-price record was set by hedge fund manager Ken Griffin’s purchase of a $238 million Manhattan penthouse. As for Kiu’s property, it’s not yet been announced whether he will use the estate as a single-family home or convert it into multifamily housing. - FORBES

5. A "Shelter Crisis" is being declared for Sacramento, which indicates that there's a serious, disruptive homelessness problem that poses a “threat to health and safety” in that city, according to a local TV station. This allows the city to allocate some public buildings for housing use. This announcement was made just as the city’s tiny-home community for homeless people — known as Compassion Village — began evicting some people. The privately funded settlement blamed the city’s lack of code and building issues for tiny homes on wheels as the reason for the residents’ ouster. However, thanks to the Shelter-Crisis declaration, evicted parties will be able to return to their homes in Compassion Village at least temporarily. - KXTV

6. When a person with a reverse mortgage on their home passes away, their surviving relatives can have a tough time keeping the property in the family. That was among the findings of a recent investigation into the sudden spike in reverse mortgage foreclosures. A combination of obstacles, from “messy titles” to “paperwork errors,” have stopped some heirs from paying off home loans and taking ownership of the deceased person’s property. Other problems include “faulty loan servicing with an often-revolving cast of loan companies.” Experts advise adult children to ask their parents if they have a reverse mortgage and to make firm decisions on dates and a point-person to list the estate. - USA TODAY

7. Some former felons in Phoenix, Arizona, say they've found it easier to buy a home than to rent one. That's because most rental agreements ask applicants if they have a felony on their records and then proceed to exclude them from housing on that basis. A senior loan officer in Phoenix, Ron Kuhn, is now helping released inmates apply for home loans instead of leasing. Kuhn explained that the biggest obstacle to these prospective homeowners is establishing a credit score, but that can take as little as six months to accomplish. As for down payments, Arizona offers first-time buyers assistance in exchange for higher interest rates. - KTAR

8. Home sales in Girona, Spain, soared by 15 percent year-over-year thanks to a sudden influx of cyclists, new data shows. A pair of biking enthusiasts have created a short-term rental market in that metro that attracts fellow athletes who want to train at Spanish camps. That's resulted in other cyclists moving to and buying properties in that area. They’ve even gone on to open cycling-centric businesses: cafes, shops, tour companies and more training facilities. Girona has been dubbed a "cycling mecca" for its easy access to European Grand Tours and year-round temperate climate. - WALL STREET JOURNAL

9. An HGTV-famous residence in Laurel, Mississippi, is now on the market. The dwelling was featured on "Home Town," a hit show in which homeowners Ben and Erin Napier completely renovated the quaint bungalow. The 2,018-square-foot house, built in 1924, is listed at just $185,000. Of course, it features a stylish interior with living-space upgrades, like an open-air porch, trendy kitchen and open-layout floor plan. - ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST

10. Actor Colin Farrell is unloading his Hollywood Hills home for $1.3 million, less than its original $1.495 million asking price. Built in 1927, the English country-style home spans 2,736 square feet and has five bedrooms. Its Tudor-esque architectural creates a charming contrast with the exterior’s lush California landscape, which includes a number of palms and unruly hedges. - REALTOR

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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