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MLBAM, baseball’s internet and technology arm, is one of the greatest entrepreneurial success stories of the digital era and a little over a decade has become worth at least $6 billion, or $200 million per team. MLBAM operates the most successful streaming business in sports and its At Bat 12 application, made in-house, became the highest grossing sports application for AppleAAPL +0.67%’s iPhone, iPad, and GoogleGOOG -1.1%’s Android within hours of its introduction last year.
Now baseball has just delivered Chatting Cage–a series of online video chats allowing fans to chat live on the website with baseball players, managers, team executives and experts. Think sports talk radio meets a more open version of Skype.
This platform was created by Silicon Valley based TokBox, which is part of Telefónica Digital, and BAM. TokBox’s OpenTok video platform lets any organization or developer add live video chat into any website or app (some other big brands who have OpenTok include American Idol, Universal Music Group, Doritos, Diet Coke, BridgestoneBridgestone). For the past year it has been working with BAM to trial face-to-face communications on MLB.com.
Greenwich, Conn. has long been known for its pricey ZIP codes, enviable proximity to New York City, and of course, a diaspora of wealthy Wall Street residents that has earned it a nickname as the hedge fund capital of the country. Now the tony town will be known for something else: as the location of America’s most expensive home for sale.
With an astounding asking price of $190 million, Copper Beech Farm has come to market as one of Greenwich’s last ‘Great Estates,’ a designation assigned by the Junior League of Greenwich in a 1986 coffee table book highlighting the town’s 46 most architecturally significant historic abodes. At that nine-figure price tag, Copper Beech Farm trumps every other U.S. residence publicly listed for sale, asking nearly 30% more than the country’s second most expensive home, the $135 million Crespi-Hicks estate in Dallas, Texas.
“There’s nothing like this and the second-to-last one that existed, on about the same acreage, sold in 1952,” says David Ogilvy of David Ogilvy & Associates, a luxury Greenwich realty firm affiliated with Christie’s InternationalReal Estate, and the exclusive listing agent for the property.
Named for the copper beech trees populating the property, Copper Beech Farm was first constructed in 1896. In 1904 Harriet Lauder Greenway (whose father, George Lauder, helped Andrew Carnegie create U.S. Steel) purchased the property, residing there for more than 75 years as a staple of Greenwich high society. When the current owner, timber tycoon John Rudey, quietly acquired the home 31 years ago, he did so in an off-market deal. The estate hasn’t been publicly listed for sale in more than a century.
Copper Beech Farm spans 50 prized acres that boast roughly a mile of water frontage on the Long Island Sound, thanks in part to two offshore islands included in the offering. The main house, a French-renaissance mansion, boasts 13,519 square feet of living space including 12 bedrooms, seven full baths and two half baths, a wood-paneled library, an ornate dining room with a tracery ceiling and oak columns, a solarium, a wine cellar, a third-floor staff wing, and a three-story, wood-paneled entry foyer. The original kitchen, equipped with a dumb waiter, sits in the basement, originally part of the staff quarters. Fireplaces adorn most rooms in the Victorian manse and sleeping porches, once used during summer months before the advent of air conditioning, extend off of bedrooms.
Every homeowner must pay for routine home maintenance, such as replacing worn-out plumbing components or staining the deck, but some choose to make improvements with the intention of increasing the home’s value. Certain projects, such as adding a well thought-out family room – or other functional space – can be a wise investment, as they do add to the value of the home. Other projects, however, allow little opportunity to recover the costs when it’s time to sell.
Even though the current homeowner may greatly appreciate the improvement, a buyer could be unimpressed and unwilling to factor the upgrade into the purchase price. Homeowners, therefore, need to be careful with how they choose to spend their money if they are expecting the investment to pay off. Here are six things you think add value to your home, but really don’t.
1. Swimming Pools
Swimming pools are one of those things that may be nice to enjoy at your friend’s or neighbor’s house, but that can be a hassle to have at your own home. Many potential homebuyers view swimming pools as dangerous, expensive to maintain and a lawsuit waiting to happen. Families with young children in particular may turn down an otherwise perfect house because of the pool (and the fear of a child going in the pool unsupervised). In fact, a would-be buyer’s offer may be contingent on the home seller dismantling an above-ground pool or filling in an in-ground pool.
An in-ground pool costs anywhere from $10,000 to more than $100,000, and additional yearly maintenance expenses need to be considered. That’s a significant amount of money that might never be recouped if and when the house is sold.
2. Overbuilding for the Neighborhood
Homeowners may, in an attempt to increase the value of a home, make improvements to the property that unintentionally make the home fall outside of the norm for the neighborhood. While a large, expensive remodel, such as adding a second story with two bedrooms and a full bath, might make the home more appealing, it will not add significantly to the resale value if the house is in the midst of a neighborhood of small, one-story homes.
In general, homebuyers do not want to pay $250,000 for a house that sits in a neighborhood with an average sales price of $150,000; the house will seem overpriced even if it is more desirable than the surrounding properties. The buyer will instead look to spend the $250,000 in a $250,000 neighborhood. The house might be beautiful, but any money spent on overbuilding might be difficult to recover unless the other homes in the neighborhood follow suit.
3. Extensive Landscaping
Homebuyers may appreciate well-maintained or mature landscaping, but don’t expect the home’s value to increase because of it. A beautiful yard may encourage potential buyers to take a closer look at the property, but will probably not add to the selling price. If a buyer is unable or unwilling to put in the effort to maintain a garden, it will quickly become an eyesore, or the new homeowner might need to pay a qualified gardener to take charge. Either way, many buyers view elaborate landscaping as a burden (even though it might be attractive) and, as a result, are not likely to consider it when placing value on the home.
4. High-End Upgrades
Putting stainless steel appliances in your kitchen or imported tiles in your entryway may do little to increase the value of your home if the bathrooms are still vinyl-floored and the shag carpeting in the bedrooms is leftover from the ’60s. Upgrades should be consistent to maintain a similar style and quality throughout the home. A home that has a beautifully remodeled and modern kitchen can be viewed as a work in project if the bathrooms remain functionally obsolete. The remodel, therefore, might not fetch as high a return as if the rest of the home were brought up to the same level. High-quality upgrades generally increase the value of high-end homes, but not necessarily mid-range houses where the upgrade may be inconsistent with the rest of the home.
In addition, specific high-end features such as media rooms with specialized audio, visual or gaming equipment may be appealing to a few prospective buyers, but many potential homebuyers would not consider paying more for the home simply because of this additional feature. Chances are that the room would be re-tasked to a more generic living space.
5. Wall-to-Wall Carpeting
While real estate listings may still boast “new carpeting throughout” as a selling point, potential homebuyers today may cringe at the idea of having wall-to-wall carpeting. Carpeting is expensive to purchase and install. In addition, there is growing concern over the healthfulness of carpeting due to the amount of chemicals used in its processing and the potential for allergens (a serious concern for families with children). Add to that the probability that the carpet style and color that you thought was absolutely perfect might not be what someone else had in mind.
Because of these hurdles, wall-to-wall carpet is something on which it’s difficult to recoup the costs. Removing carpeting and restoring wood floors is usually a more profitable investment.
6. Invisible Improvements
Invisible improvements are those costly projects that you know make your house a better place to live in, but that nobody else would notice – or likely care about. A new plumbing system or HVAC unit (heating, venting and air conditioning) might be necessary, but don’t expect it to recover these costs when it comes time to sell. Many homebuyers simply expect these systems to be in good working order and will not pay extra just because you recently installed a new heater. It may be better to think of these improvements in terms of regular maintenance, and not an investment in your home’s value.
The Bottom Line
It is difficult to imagine spending thousands of dollars on a home-improvement project that will not be reflected in the home’s value when it comes time to sell. There is no simple equation for determining which projects will garner the highest return, or the most bang for your buck. Some of this depends on the local market and even the age and style of the house. Homeowners frequently must choose between an improvement that they would really love to have (the in-ground swimming pool) and one that would prove to be a better investment. A bit of research, or the advice of a qualified real estate professional, can help homeowners avoid costly projects that don’t really add value to a home.
According to America's Worst-Selling Housing Markets featured on Forbes.com the nation's top ten most sedentary housing markets were complied to a list as a result of dropping housing prices and sluggish sales rates. Price growth and sales rates in the country's 40 largest metropolitan statistical areas also helped to determine this list. Furthermore, according to the article, "By using sales rate, instead of the months remaining of inventory, we wind up with a figure that shows how quickly homes have been leaving the market from its most saturated point, the most straightforward indicator for measuring sedentary vs. active sales."
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According to the real estate feature Best Places To Get Ahead on Forbes.com, the best areas for income and housing growth are not located in the areas most would think, like New York City, San Fransciso or even Los Angelos. Not to say that these areas don't offer the potential to succeed, however, these areas are the most competitive throughout the country and don't boast the best employment opportunities for the average American. Furthermore, Forbes has comprised a list of the areas where the median income data had risen since 2000 and local economies have boomed. For example, "The places that experienced prolonged income and job booms since 2000 are often satellite economies of larger cities. Within a metropolitan area, the central city is typically the driving force of the economy. But as suburban counties develop, they often turn into secondary economic centers with their own industry and jobs. "
According to the real estate article Best Cities For Bargain House-Hunters featured on Forbes.com those looking to advantage of the housing slump the nation has endured for the past couple of years are researching the market for prices to bottom out and buy. According to the article, the best market for these buyers is a market in which job growth is strong, housing foreclosures are low and housing inventory is high. These factors allow for buyers to predominately negotiate and dictate housing prices while not exposing themselves to economic and lending risk that has plummeted most of the real estate market.
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According to the article America's Free-Falling Housing Markets featured on Forbes.com homeowners near foreclosure stand to benefit from the Bush administration's initiative. According to Project Lifeline, assembeled by six of the nation's largest financial institutions, the program allows qualified homeowners to delay proceedings for 30 days while providing them with rewriting and refinancing assistance. The nation's six largest financial institutions are JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Countrywide Financial, Citigrop and Washington Mutual. All of these lenders have agreed to contact homeowners whom are 90 days or more overdue on their mortgage payments and work with them on making their mortgage more affordable.
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America's Richest Counties features on Forbes.com discusses the most expensive and richest counties throughout the nation. According to the article it's easy to assume that most of the richest counties are located within the tri-state area: New York, New Jersey and Conneticut. While most affluent areas such as Nassau County on Long Island, New York house many well-off residents, apparently the wealthiest throughout the nation live among D.C. suburbs. Surprisingly, D.C. is not often regarded as a center of wealth, however with billions handed out in bonuses on Wall Street, residents of the area are more than wealthy.
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According to the real estate features America's Most Lucrative Neighborhoods on Forbes.com neighborhoods throughout the nation like Charlestown, Massachusetts rarely caught buyers interest and were appropriately priced relatively low. Charlestown was a neighborhood overshadowed by the interstate 93 which cut through most of the area. However, the Big Dig project changed that by rerouting their entire highway. Since the changes have come into effect the area has "new condos or townhouses, as well as older, renovated, colonial-style homes, are now available to buyers seeking luxury housing." The example of Charlestown dramatically exhibits how effective rezoning in public infrastructure can help bolster an area's home prices.