Who Bought Hugh Hefner and Playboy Wife Kim’s House for $18 Million?

Last Updated Aug 3, 2009 2:28 PM EDT Who says super high-end homes aren't selling? In last week's Los Angeles Times' Hot Property column, real estate editor Lauren Beale revealed that Hugh Hefner and his Playboy Bunny Wife Kim sold their house next door to the Playboy Mansion for a cool $18 million. That sounds like a lot of cash, but Hugh and Kim Hefner took more than a bit of a hit from the March 2009 $27,995,000 list price - a 35 percent decline in the sales price. According to Beale, the house is a 7,300 Tudor-style home built in 1929, with 5 bedrooms, 7 bathrooms on 2.3 acres backing up to the Los Angeles Country Club. Celebrity site TMZ offered up this photo which shows that perhaps Mr. and Mrs. Hefner took the whole "next door neighbor's thing" to a whole new level. Like many empty-nester families, the Hefners are supposedly selling because their sons are heading to college. Will they downsize into one house (presumably the Playboy mansion) instead of two? Meanwhile, there are a whole bunch of high-end properties that aren't selling as quickly (it took the Hefners just four months to sell) - but some real estate observers say that's because sellers aren't quite ready to admit that their homes are only worth what they were in, say, 2002. (When the Hefner's bought the house in 1996, it was listed at a little less than $18 million, although the purchase price was undisclosed.) In today's Wall Street Journal, Nick Timiraos and James Haggerty report that in Kenilworth, Ill., routinely ranked as one of the most expensive zip codes in the nation, just 13 homes have sold while 65 languish on the market. At the super high end of the real estate spectrum, a world where mortgages are financial tools allowing you to invest cash elsewhere rather than the only way you'll be able to buy a home, it doesn't matter that jumbo loans cost more and are less available than mortgages for $417,000 or less. Whoever bought Hugh and Kim Hefner's house for $18 million probably didn't Continue Reading

$15,000 Home Buyer Tax Credit Rejected For Cash For Clunkers Bill

Last Updated Oct 14, 2009 12:31 PM EDT It's Cash for Clunkers - but for home buyers. That's how Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) described his $15,000 home buyer tax credit proposal. The proposed legislation would have given a $15,000 tax credit to any home buyer who bought a home, regardless of income. Sen. Isakson's proposal would have also extended the date of the proposal for a full year from the date of enactment, making home buyers eligible for the tax credit well into 2010. The proposed $15,000 home buyer tax credit was supported by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the Mortgage Bankers Association of America (MBA) - three of the strongest lobbying organization in Washingon, D.C. (FYI: The Realtors are said to be the top lobbyists.) At one point, even Shaun Donovan, Secretary of the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was considering it. But last week, the Senate voted 47 to 50 against lumping Sen. Isakson's proposed tax credit in with the $2 billion infusion destined for Cash for Clunkers. Isakson then voted against spending an extra $2 billion on Cash for Clunkers. Tit for tat: It's the Washington way. Here's what Isakson had to say on his website about the defeat of his tax credit legislation:"I'm disappointed in this vote on the homebuyer tax credit, because every American is suffering in this economy. Every American deserves for Congress to look for positive incentives to bring the housing market back, restore their equity, improve their values and return us back to a vibrant economy. The 'cash for clunkers' program demonstrates what I've known all my life, which is positive incentives cause positive results. The problem we have, though, is it was not the automobile market that disappeared first in America. It was the collapse of housing market." Proponents of the bill said it could mean an extra 500,000 homes sold over the year the tax credit is available, or about 9 percent of the Continue Reading

Formerly homeless Kansas City man buys house, car after online fund-raiser

Kansas City's honest beggar is moving on up after returning the engagement ring a woman accidentally left in his cup. Billy Ray Harris was able to buy house and car after donors rewarded his act with more than $190,000 in online gifts. "When I think of the past, I think, 'Thank God it's over,'" he told the "Today" show. "I mean, I feel human now." Harris was living on the streets of Kansas City, Mo., in February when Sarah Darling dropped a few coins and her diamond and platinum ring in his cup. Neither noticed until later. Harris said a jeweler offered him $4,000 for the ring, but he decided he couldn't sell it. He instead returned the jewelry the next day. "I'm no saint, but I'm no devil either," Harris said. Darling gave Harris all the cash she had on her, and she and her husband, Bill Krejci, set up a donation drive online. When the campaign ended in April, more than 8,300 people had donated a total of $191,745. A lawyer helped Harris set up a trust to manage the money. The former beggar bought a Volkswagen Beetle and put a down payment on a fixer-upper of a house. He's doing the repairs himself. Harris has also reunited with long-lost family members who saw his story on television. They had lost contact in the 1990s and thought he might be dead. Darling and Krejci have kept in touch with Harris, checking in and taking him to see Kansas City Royals baseball games. The couple now has a baby girl and Darling said Harris has given her a lesson to pass on to her daughter. "I've talked to other mothers about this," Darling said. "It gives (other moms) a real tangible story of really teaching the kind of the difference between what's wrong and what's right." Harris said he's thankful for all the changes. "This is what they call the American Dream," he said. "I want to thank all the people that helped me out. I want them to see where all their efforts, blessings and Continue Reading

Storm-struck Brighton Ballet Theater hunting for cash to replace ruined costumes

Brighton Ballet Theater needs a Christmas miracle. Superstorm Sandy destroyed custom-designed costumes that made pupils feel like dance pros — and the school founder is scrambling for cash to replace them. “Our children have always had the opportunity to perform in professional ballet costumes, not things bought from catalogs,” said Irina Roizin. “They are a very important part of our ballet education.” The 26-year old Russian ballet school needs at least $40,000 to replace flood-drenched costumes and thousands more for wrecked scenery — and the clock is ticking. In June 300 kids will need outfits for a two-day dance festival at Kingborough Community College in Manhattan Beach where the ballet school is housed. Another 40 need costumes for a Tchaikovsky ballet they will perform at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. “All the ballet moms and dads are really worried — June is coming soon,” said Alexandra Ostrov, whose 8-year-old daughter Clarice is a long-time student. “It’s really important for the kids to dress up,” said the Sheepshead Bay mom. “It makes them feel like they accomplished something.” A Kickstarter online fundraising campaign has drawn sparse pledges — and Roizin doesn’t know what the school will get from its insurer. It didn’t have flood coverage. The parents don’t want to get stuck buying pricey costumes for their kids as some other dance schools require. A fancy tutu costs up to $600; an elaborate headpiece studded with Swarovski stones is $400. Many of their kids have scholarships for ballet classes. Forty percent of the school’s massive costume collection needs to be replaced because of flood waters that hit its basement storage facility on Brighton Beach Ave. But Brighton Ballet did manage to stage one performance of “The Nutcracker” this month. Half the needed costumes had Continue Reading

Program helps renters buy homes in some Arizona cities

As a real estate agent, Brittany Brown spends her days helping others find houses. But she really wanted a home of her own. She and her three sons rented a house in the West Valley.Then a mortgage broker told her about a new program aimed at helping certain renters buy houses.The program provides as much as $20,000 in down-payment and closing-cost assistance for buyers in certain Arizona cities.Brown wanted to buy in Goodyear to keep her boys in the same school district, and luckily the West Valley city is one of 17 on the list for the Arizona Department of Housing’s new Pathway to Purchase program.Eligible borrowers include first-time buyers and those who lost houses to foreclosure during the crash. Homebuyers can get a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage with a second-mortgage equal to 10 percent of the purchase price for the down payment. No payments are required on the second mortgage that goes away after five years.The state agency created the program with federal money from the Hardest Hit Housing fund to help renters buy in areas hardest hit by foreclosures. Besides Goodyear, the program is available for buyers in the Valley suburbs of Avondale, Buckeye, Casa Grande, El Mirage and Laveen and the city of Maricopa.“With the escalating increase in rents, many creditworthy renters are finding it more and more difficult to save for a down payment,” said Reginald Givens of the Arizona Department of Housing. RELATED:  Affordable metro Phoenix areas are beginning to recover MORE:  All types of homebuyers are boosting metro Phoenix's marketHe said the program was created to eliminate the down payment obstacle for qualified homebuyers.Saving enough cash for a down payment is the biggest obstacle for many first-time buyers.Also, if the buyer doesn’t use the entire $20,000 maximum assistance from the Arizona program on a down payment, the rest of the funds can go Continue Reading

Bristol Palin buys house in Arizona, rumors abound she may attend ASU

It appears Bristol Palin has moved to the lower 48 – and may even be going to college there. The former Alaskan governor's daughter dropped $172,000 in cash for a 5-bedroom house in Maricopa, Arizona, TMZ first reported. "I'm not sure why she wanted to buy that home, but we are real happy for her," Michael Smith, who owned the house with his wife, told The Arizona Republic. "She seems like a nice girl. We're excited for her." The 20-year-old single mom was also telling friends she was thinking about enrolling in college in Arizona, TMZ.com reported. The website speculated that she’s thinking about enrolling at Arizona State – the same school that denied President Obama an honorary degree when he spoke there. The 3,900 sq.-foot estate was built in 2006 and originally sold for $329,560, the AP reported. But after the housing market crashed, the two-bedroom house went into foreclosure and was sold to the Smiths for about a third of that price. Arizona is also notably the home state of John McCain, her mother's running mate in the 2008 election. Palin recently finished competing on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and spends her time traveling around the country encouraging teens to practice abstinence. No one from the Palin camp has publicly commented on the recent real estate buy. On her Facebook page, where both she and her mother usually communicate with fans, she only posted a Christmas wish for her followers. "I hope everyone has an opportunity to reflect on what is truly important and to create a Christmas memory that will last a lifetime," she wrote. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Independence Party in hot water over aide’s use of $1.2M Mayor Bloomberg donation to buy house

The state Independence Party came under withering attack Tuesday from a judge who said it betrayed its members by poorly monitoring a $1.2 million donation from Mayor Bloomberg. The party, the third-largest in the state, got the money to run Bloomberg's Election Day operation in his 2009 campaign, but most of the cash went to mayoral campaign aide John Haggerty - who used it to buy his family home in Queens. "It doesn't smell right," Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Martin Shulman said at a hearing on prosecutors' attempt to reclaim what they say is stolen money. "How does one allow these funds to be used for the interests of the party without anything to show for it?" Haggerty is charged with masterminding a fraud by running a phony Election Day poll-watching campaign that he promised the mayor would cost up to $1.1 million. The Independence Party, a noncriminal defendant in the same case, was promised an extra $100,000 from the mayor as what Shulman called "icing on the cake." Shulman told party lawyer William Wexler his clients should have noticed the cash was spent without any evidence of a vigorous street operation on Election Day. "I'm more interested in knowing why you believe you get a pass in the context of your chairman and your vice chairman not having a clue where the $1.1 million went," the judge said. "Shouldn't someone have been out there saying, 'Where was the operation that day?'" The judge continued to bar the Independence Party from spending any money left in its bank accounts, which the Manhattan district attorney's office claims is Bloomberg's stolen property. The judge originally barred the party from spending the money, but officials blew $50,000 of it, prosecutors said. "We are not at all satisfied that the money is in a safe and secure place," said Assistant District Attorney Tara Miner. "They want to take directly stolen property and apply it to their personal use." Not true, Independence Party Chairman Frank MacKay said Continue Reading

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: Senate will OK more funding for ‘Cash for Clunkers’

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the Senate will vote to replenish the popular "cash-for-clunkers program" before leaving on a monthlong vacation later this week. Reid made his prediction after a meeting at the White House with President Barack Obama. Reid spoke at the same time as Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina told reporters he does not intend to try and block passage of the bill. The popular program is on track to run out of money without action by Congress. The House passed a bill late last week providing $2 billion to renew the program, which gives consumers up to $4,500 to trade in their old gas guzzlers for more fuel-efficient vehicles. The Obama administration expressed more confidence Tuesday that Senate Democrats can win over enough Republicans to pass a $2 billion extension of a popular rebate program that gives consumers up to $4,500 to trade in their old gas guzzlers for more fuel-efficient vehicles. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the popular program has allowed thousands of Americans to buy a new car at time when the economy is still in a recession and needs a boost in consumer spending. "I think the last thing any politician wants to do is cut off the opportunity for somebody who wants to get a rebate to buy a new automobile," said LaHood, a former Republican congressman from Illinois. He predicted the Senate would approve the $2 billion and said the "cash-for-clunkers" program will "continue seamlessly." "The money will be there to be reimbursed by the dealers," LaHood said after conferring with assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Ill. On Monday, the White House had warned that the program could come to an abrupt halt Friday if the Senate didn't act favorably on a bill passed by the House last week transferring $2 billion to the program from an economic stimulus account that had been set aside to subsidize renewable energy. The infusion of new money would carry the program through Continue Reading

City shells out another $31 million to help developer Bruce Ratner buy land for Atlantic Yards

The city has shelled out another $31 million to help developer Bruce Ratner buy land for his controversial Atlantic Yards project, new documents show.That's on top of $100 million the city previously pledged to buy up property for the new Nets arena and 16-tower project, bringing the total to $131 million.An updated funding agreement signed in October and released this week said the $31 million would be used to buy four properties on Dean St.City officials said the subsidy won't cost taxpayers more money - instead, the $31 million will be subtracted from $105 million previously pegged to pay for infrastructure improvements around the 22-acre project site."No additional money has been promised or transferred," said Economic Development Corp. spokesman David Lombino.The funding was moved because the cash-strapped developer needed more money up front - and Ratner will be contractually required to foot the bill for the infrastructure work down the road, officials said.But project opponent Councilwoman Letitia James (D, WFP-Prospect Heights) dismissed that as an accounting gimmick - and said even if the city's bottom line remains the same, it's a slap in the face to use taxpayer money to buy property under the threat of eminent domain."It's a government Ponzi scheme," she said. "I'm offended because they're using public funds to seize homes and businesses."The state is chipping in a separate $100 million for the $4.9 billion project.The real estate documents released this week also lay out the penalties Ratner will face if he doesn't finish the project - including 2,250 units of affordable housing - on time. At the same time, they show that he has plenty of wiggle room.The arena is supposed to open in 2012 and the whole project is supposed to take 10 years to complete. But Ratner has six years to finish the arena - 12 years for the first five buildings and 25 years for the whole project before fines kick in.If Ratner misses those deadlines, he'll owe millions of dollars Continue Reading

The Yankees’ latest request for cash is yanking N.Y.’s chain

Christmas came early for Yankee fans this year. In a period of about a month, the Bombers spent $423 million for arguably the three best players on the free agent market, possibly putting themselves smack back into World Series contention. Unlike those in Beantown, I don't begrudge the Steinbrenner family's attempts to put a winning product in pinstripes. As a fan of baseball, I wish every owner would put their team's profits back onto the field. Unfortunately, it's not the Yankees' money that will be paying for CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira. Rather, it's yours. That's because while the Yankees were preparing their record-breaking spending splurge, they were at the same time holding their hat out and asking for hundreds of millions in additional taxpayer dollars for the soon-to-be-completed Yankee Stadium. And as we speak, the team is asking for another $259 million in tax-exempt bonds (and $111 million in taxable bonds), on top of $940 million in tax-exempt bonds (and $25 million in taxable bonds) already provided for the $1.3 billion project. According to an estimate by the New York City Independent Budget Office, the request for more bond authority will cost city, state and federal governments more than $80 million in lost revenues. This is happening, remember, at a time when the city can ill-afford to waste a single dollar. It's not just the literal dollars being spent that hurts; it's the opportunity cost. New York City will lose $259 million in tax-exempt debt that could be used to fund other important projects - such as building more affordable rental housing or a new Moynihan Station. In 2009, according to the IRS, New York State will receive roughly $1.7 billion in tax-exempt bond authority for joint public and private ventures. If the Yankees' request is approved, it will use about 15% of that allotment. Most economists will tell you public support for stadiums and arenas is not efficient. While that is true as a general Continue Reading