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America’s Biggest Landowners, 2011

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Daniel Fisher,

The media business must be nerve-wracking, what with its up-and-down fortunes and constant threat of being outflanked by the next iPad-delivered Internet service. Maybe that explains why Liberty Media’s John Malone pours so much of his extra cash into land.

Earlier this year Malone passed fellow media mogul Ted Turner to become America’s Biggest Landowner with 2.2 million acres, thanks to a giant investment in New England timberland. It capped a quick ascent for the cable-television magnate, who joined the list of the nation’s land barons last year, shoving aside ranchers and timber magnates, some of whom have owned their acreage for generations. He entered the list at No. 5 after buying New Mexico’s 453-square-mile Bell Ranch in 2010, then passed Turner earlier this year after buying 1 million acres in New Hampshire and Maine from private equity firm GMO Renewable Resources.

Malone blamed heritage, not nerves, for his love of the asset whose supply will never increase. As he told Forbes writer Monte Burke in March: “My wife says it’s the Irish gene. A certain land hunger comes from being denied property ownership for so many generations.” Turner, contacted by The Land Report magazine for its annual list of the nation’s largest landowners, said he was happy to hand over the title. “I consider John a good friend and have great respect for him,” Turner said.

This list of powerful landowners is compiled by Land Report researchers with the assistance of Fay Ranches, a Western land brokerage, the list includes the usual family timber dynasties as well as the owners of the King Ranch in Texas , once considered unimaginably huge but now, at 911,000 acres dwarfed by the holdings of Turner and Malone.

No. 2, of course, is Turner, the CNN founder who began buying ranches in the 1970s and now controls 2 million acres in New Mexico, Colorado , Montana , Florida and several other states. If $1 billion separates the men from the boys in terms of raw wealth, the new land barons can judge themselves by the number of Rhode Islands they own. Turner has almost three, including the spectacular Vermejo Park Ranch straddling the border of New Mexico and Colorado which is nearly as large as the Ocean State all by itself. Malone credits his fellow media magnate for giving him “this land-buying disease.”

At his customary spot in the Top 5 at No. 3 is Archie “Red” Emmerson, whose Sierra Pacific Industries boosted its holdings to almost 1.9 million acres this year. The forest products company , now entering its third generation of Emmerson management, is the second largest U.S. timber producer and works closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to preserve species on its land. Emmerson and his father, Curly, began their march into the ranks of big time landowners in 1949 when they leased a California sawmill. Emmerson later borrowed $460 million to buy 522,000 acres in northern California, holdings that have since spread into Washington .

At No. 4 is recent entrant Brad Kelley, a Tennessee cigarette magnate who poured the profit from the $1 billion sale of his company into 1.7 million acres of land in Florida, Texas and New Mexico. Below him by half a million acres is the Irving family of Canada, who own a little less than 1/20th of the state of Maine (plus a bunch more in Canada). The descendants of thrifty Scottish immigrants, the Irving’s are in lumber for the long haul; they’ll plant some 28 million seedlings in their forests this year.

Here are America’s five largest landowners:

#5 Irving family Owns: 1.2 million acres in Maine.

These Canadian descendants of a Scottish sawmill operator are secretive and all business. They’ve amassed roughly a 20th of the state of Maine and will plant 28 million seedlings this year to keep the timber coming.

#4 Brad Kelley Owns: 1.7 million acres in Texas, New Mexico and Florida

This Nashville, Tenn., farmer’s son sold his Commonwealth Brands cigarette company for $1 billion in 2001 and began investing in land. Big time. The Land Report estimates the tightlipped Kelley owns 1.7 million acres. Most recently he’s reported to have bulked up his holdings with ranchland in the Big Bend region of Texas.

#3 Archie "Red" Emmerson Owns: 1.87 million acres in California and Washington

In 1949 Emmerson and his father, Curly, leased a sawmill and built the business into Sierra Pacific Industries. Red borrowed $460 million to buy 522,000 acres in California, a position since increased to almost 2 million acres. When he was briefly the nation’s largest private landowner, Red joked that Ted Turner "will probably go out and buy more land." He was right, but Emmerson is close behind.

#2 Ted Turner Owns: 2 million acres in New Mexico, Colorado, Montana , Florida and several other states.

An ardent conservationist, Turner began buying ranches in the 1970s and revived the nation’s bison herd to 55,000 head on his ranches across the upper Great Plains. No regrets about losing the title as the nation’s No. 1 land baron to John Malone: "I consider John a good friend and have great respect for him," Turner said.

#1 John Malone Owns: 2.2 million acres in Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Maine and New Hampshire.

The cable-television billionaire was outed as one of the nation’s largest property owners by The Land Report two years ago and dramatically increased his holdings last year with the purchase of New Mexico’s 453-square-mile Bell Ranch. Now he passes longtime No. 1 Ted Turner with the purchase of 1 million acres of timberland in New Hampshire and Maine from an investment firm.


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October 24, 2011 at 7:49 pm

20 Ways to Add Curb Appeal

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Better Homes and Gardens

If your home’s curb appeal makes a great first impression, everyone — including potential homebuyers — will want to see what’s inside. Check out these simple, low-cost improvements that you can do in a day, a week, or a month.

In a Day

    Create perfect symmetry

    Symmetry is not only pleasing to the eye, it’s also the simplest to arrange. Symmetrical compositions of light fixtures and front-door accents create welcoming entryways. This door is flanked by two sidelights. The black lantern-style sconces not only safely guide visitors to the door, but also coordinate with the black door and urns.

    Replace old hardware

    House numbers, the entry door lockset, a wall-mounted mailbox, and an overhead light fixture are all elements that can add style and interest to your home’s exterior. If they’re out of date or dingy, your home may not be conveying the aesthetic you think it is. These elements add the most appeal when they function collectively, rather than as mix-and-match pieces. Oiled-bronze finishes suit traditional homes, while brushed nickel suits more contemporary ones.

    Dress up the front door

    Your home’s front entry is the focal point of its curb appeal. Make a statement by giving your front door a blast of color with paint or by installing a custom wood door. Clean off any dirty spots around the knob, and use metal polish on the door fixtures. Your entry should also reflect the home’s interior, so choose a swag or a wreath that reflects your personal style.

    Do a mailbox makeover

    Mailboxes should complement the home and express the homeowner’s personality. When choosing a hanging drop box, pick a box that mirrors your home’s trimmings. Dress up posted boxes by staining or painting the wooden post to match the house’s trim and woodwork. Create structures for your box from materials found throughout the hardscaping. Warning: Consult a professional when designing and building structures.

    Install outdoor lighting

    Low-voltage landscape lighting makes a huge impact on your home’s curb appeal while also providing safety and security. Fixtures can add accent lighting to trees or the house or can illuminate a walking path. If you aren’t able to use lights that require wiring, install solar fixtures (but understand that their light levels are not as bright or as reliable).

    Create an instant garden

    Container gardens add a welcoming feel and colorful appeal to any home exterior — quickly and affordably. You can buy ready-made containers from garden centers or create your own with your favorite plants. For most landscapes, a staggered, asymmetrical arrangement works best to create a dynamic setting.

      Install window boxes

      Window boxes offer a fast, easy way to bring color and charm to your home exterior. Choose boxes made from copper or iron for a traditional look, or painted wood for a cottage feel. Mix and match flowers and plants to suit your lighting conditions and color scheme.

      In A Weekend

      Make a grand entry

      Even with a small budget, there are ways to draw attention to your front door. Molding acts like an architectural eyeliner when applied to the sides and top of the doorway. Notice how the white door casing makes this door pop.

      Add outdoor art

      Give your yard a little spunk by adding weather-resistant artwork. Choose pieces that complement your home’s natural palette and exterior elements. Birdbaths, metal cutouts, sculptures, and wind chimes are good choices for outdoor art. Water sculptures not only function as yard art, but the burbling sounds soothe and make hot days feel cooler. Place fountains on level ground in optimum hearing and sight vantage points. Avoid spots in leaf-dropping range.

      Add shutters or accent trim

      Shutters and trim add a welcoming layer of beauty to your home’s exterior. Shutters also control light and ventilation, and provide additional security. Exterior shutters can be made of wood, aluminum, vinyl, composite, or fiberglass. New composite materials, such as PVC resins or polyurethane, make trim details durable and low maintenance.

      Add arbors or fence panels

      Arbors, garden gates, and short sections of decorative fence panels will enhance your garden and the value of your home. These amenities can be found in easy-to-build kits or prefab sections you simply connect together. For best results, paint or stain these items with colors already on your house.

      Create a new planting bed

      Add contrast and color to your home exterior with a new planting bed. Prime spots are at the front corners of the yard, along driveways or walkways, and immediately in front of the house. When creating a new bed, choose features that will frame your home rather than obscure it. Opt for stone or precast-concrete blocks to edge the bed. Include a mix of plant size, color, and texture for optimal results.

      Replace gutters and downspouts

      If your home has an older gutter system, odds are it’s also suffering from peeling paint, rust spots, or other problems that can convey a sense of neglect. Replace old systems with newer, snap-fit vinyl gutter systems that go together with few tools and require no painting. Copper systems, while pricier, convey an unmistakable look of quality.

      In A Month

      Tile your doorstep

      Create a permanent welcome mat by tiling or painting a design that contrasts with the porch floor or front stoop. Not only will you not have to worry about replacing the mat when it gets ratty, but you can impress your visitors with your creativity.

      Dress up the driveway

      If your driveway is cracked or stained or has vegetation sprouting from it, you can upgrade it without doing a complete redo. First repair the cracks and stains (and kill the weeds), then dress it up by staining the concrete or affixing flagstones. If you need more room to move your car or park, add stone, brick, or pavers to the sides of the drive to widen it with flair.

      Build a walkway

      Well-designed walkways make your home feel warm and inviting. For a dramatic improvement to a straight concrete path, replace it with a contoured one made of stone or brick. For a less radical upgrade, apply a colored concrete resurfacer to the old walkway, then edge with brick or stone borders. Brick pavers offer traditional, classic beauty to the landscape of any home.

      Upgrade railings

      Porch and stoop railings can deteriorate quickly if not treated properly. If your railings are past their prime, look for quality wood or metal components to replace the existing material. As with other improvements attached directly to the house, make sure the color, scale, design, details, and material are compatible with the home’s main features.

      Renew paint, siding, and trim

      An exterior facelift (new paint, siding, or trim details) automatically transforms the look of a home. Periodic maintenance of that exterior surface is the surest way to keep your house looking its best. Any obvious defects, such as cracked or rotting material, can downgrade the aesthetic and quickly turn away potential homebuyers. Once defects are repaired, look for ways to add personality with color, trim, or shingles.

      Apply stone veneer

      Nothing carries pedigree and permanence like stone. It’s a great option for dressing up exterior features such as concrete foundations, column footings, and other masonry details. Natural and manufactured stone can be costly options for large expanses, but both are affordable and well suited for use as accent material..

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    Written by appraisalmanagementnews

    September 12, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    The top 5 home sales in the D.C. area so far this year

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    Yahoo! News

    Now that summer is winding to a close, the real estate market is starting to slow down. The mad rush of the spring selling season has faded into memory, and real estate agents can start to see their families on Sundays again. It seems as good a time as any to take a look at the most expensive transactions that have taken place this year. So here we present our best stab at the five priciest home sales in the area, with separate lists for Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. transactions below. This list shouldn’t be considered final, because we only used publicly available data (largely provided to us by MRIS), and in cases where there was a discrepancy about the price we jumped to the next sale.


    1) The District wins the prize for the biggest sale of the year, and there’s no way it is going to lose its title any time soon. Evermay, the $22 million winner, sold last month after coming down from $49 million. The house is at 1623 28th St. NW.


    2) Next is Ted Leonsis’s early-year purchase of the Marwood Estate in Potomac, Md., for $20 million. He bought it from his friend and Nextel founder Chris Rogers, who in turn bought the McLean home Leonsis had been living in.

    Marwood has an illustrious history of one famous name after another, according to this 2006 article from Washington Life: "The Italian villastyle mansion was built in 1930 by New York millionaire Samuel Martin. In 1936, Franklin D. Roosevelt rented Marwood for use as the summer White House. The following year, John F. Kennedy’s parents, Joseph P. and Rose Kennedy leased the estate and resided there until 1939 when Joe Kennedy became ambassador to Great Britain. In 1942, H. Grady Gore, a cousin of Vice-President Al Gore bought Marwood from a member of the Pulitzer publishing family. More than fifty years later, in 1995, the Gore heirs sold to neurosurgeon Dr. Yonas Zegeye and his wife H. Seleshi Zegeye for $2 million despite having listed the property for twice as much."

    3) Chris Rogers and his wife, Nalini, get another mention on the list because it appears they also bought the house at 5215 Edgemoor Lane in Bethesda. We couldn’t find a picture of it, but it must be very nice because it cost $10 million.

    6827 Sorrel St.

    4) Now comes the McLean sale between Ted Leonsis and Chris Rogers. The three-floor, eight-bedroom, 12-bathroom home at 6827 Sorrel St. sold for $9 million. It was built in 1999. The photo is from the Redfin listing, which lists the 2010 property tax at $80,307.

    9500 Ferry Landing Court

    5) Alexandria makes the list with a $8.26 million sale that was originally listed for $9 million at 9500 Ferry Landing Court.

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    Written by appraisalmanagementnews

    August 16, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Should You Buy a Fixer-Upper?

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    Credit Sesame

    Home prices may be down to where they were in 2002 and interest rates at their lowest in 2011, at an average 4.39% for a 30-year fixed mortgage. But for many who make the jump into home ownership for the first time, properties in triple-mint condition with pruned yards and top-of-the-line appliances are still too pricey.

    So many first-time home buyers look to so-called fixer-uppers. A home that costs less than one in move-in condition and would require extensive renovations or repair to become livable. While shaving thousands of dollars off the cost of a property sounds appealing, though, a fixer-upper isn’t for just anybody. Many buyers underestimate the amount of time, money and labor that need to be put into transforming it into something fit for an HGTV dream home showcase.

    There are many factors that go into determining whether or not a fixer-upper is right for you — and while the flowchart below may seem like a lighthearted way of tackling this serious question, it’s a good way to get started thinking about this important decision. Read on for the details.


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    Written by appraisalmanagementnews

    August 5, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Fannie, Freddie investors likely steady, even in default

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    The U.S. debt compromise deadline is days away with the prospect of a national downgrade looming in lieu of a solution.

    In such an instance, it is likely that bonds issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will experience an implied downgrade as well, considering the implied government backing.

    Indeed, in a commentary in The Washington Post, Neel Kashkari, managing director of the investment management firm PIMCO, suggested a U.S. downgrade has the potential to be as bad or perhaps worse than the Lehman Bros.’ shock.

    "The more strongly held a belief, and the larger the asset class it supports, the greater the potential damage to the economy when the belief is turned upside down," he writes. "We may not be certain what will happen if U.S. credit is downgraded, but there is no upside to finding out."

    However, analysts at Barclays Capital are not as worried when it comes to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They say among the largest investors of these bonds, there is little chance of a widescale withdrawal from the market. Banks have been a major source of demand for mortgage-backed securities this year, alongside real estate investment trusts, adding in excess of $100 billion in the past three quarters.

    They admit that an investor concern is that a downgrade could sap bank demand by potentially raising the level of regulatory capital that must be held against the asset.

    "But we do not think this will be the case," they say.

    "We see the likelihood of regulatory capital increases based on a rating downgrade as extremely low," the Barclays Capital analysts write. "As such, in the event of a downgrade, there should not be much change in bank demand for this sector."

    See the investor breakdown for Fannie, Freddie below.

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    Written by appraisalmanagementnews

    August 1, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    FHFA house prices down 6.3% from one year ago

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    House prices on the Federal Housing Finance Agency index dropped 6.3% in May from one year ago.

    The FHFA calculates its monthly index from the purchase prices of homes backing mortgages sold or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

    Prices did rise 0.4% from the month before. Both the yearly drop and the monthly increase nearly mirrored the Radar Logic index released Thursday as well. The FHFA reported house prices remained 19.6% below the peak in April 2007.

    The steepest monthly drop in prices was 1% in the West South Central Division as mapped by the Census Bureau. This area includes Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

    Prices did increase 2% in the Mountain Division, which includes Colorado, Arizona, and Nevada.

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    Written by appraisalmanagementnews

    July 22, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    Posted in Housing Market

    Mystery Mansion Rises in the Ozarks

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    You’ve probably heard of the 56,000-square foot Spelling Manor that just sold to billionaire heiress Petra Ecclestone or the 43,000 square-foot Fair Field estate belonging to billionaire industrialist Ira Rennert. You may even be familiar with the palatial pads that some real estate developers have built in the hopes of finding wealthy buyers like Alpine, N.J.’s $68 million Stone Mansion or England’s Updown Court (which now faces foreclosure).

    Here’s another huge home to put on your real estate radar: Pensmore. Pensmore, the Ozarks mountain estate being erected in rural Christian County, Missouri, will garner bragging rights as one of America’s largest homes upon its projected 2013 completion. The chateau-style mansion will encompass an estimated 72,000-square feet on its secluded plot of more than 500 acres. It will include 13 bedrooms, 14 baths and an assortment of outrageous amenities.

    The New York Times and others have reported that Pensmore has been fueling a flurry of rumors, leading some locals to speculate it would be used as a military bunker and still others to imagine Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie might claim it as a residence. The impetus behind the construction project, however, is perhaps a little less titillating.

    “We are in the process of building both a home for my family and, more importantly, a living laboratory for energy-efficiency and disaster resistant technology for years to come,” states Steven Huff, chairman of TF Concrete Forming Systems and Pensmore’s owner, via email. Huff, who plans to use the mansion as a secondary home, wants Pensmore to be the first major energy efficient, environmentally sustainable single-family residence of this caliber. It will also be earthquake and tornado resistant — a huge boon given the devastation tornadoes have been wreaking in areas like Joplin, MO. earlier this year.

    How does Huff plan to accomplish this vision? For starters, the mega mansion is composed entirely of concrete. Green Bay, Wis.-based TF Forming Systems is a manufacturer and distributor of insulated concrete forming systems, a building medium used in construction projects throughout the country. The company is also “the chosen forming system and builder of Pensmore,” according to TF Concrete Forming System’s website. This estate is not only an opportunity to experiment with new technologies, it’s an opportunity for Huff to showcase the concrete company’s products.

    Started nearly two years ago, the huge home’s concrete shell is reinforced with “Helix” steel fibers produced by PolyTorx, and Ann Arbor, Mich.-based company that focuses exclusively on developing the Helix products. The twist-shaped fibers, first developed at the University of Michigan, act as an added guard within the building’s structure against natural disasters like major earthquakes and F5 tornadoes, promising to keep occupants safe and the building standing.

    Huff is also incorporating alternative energy sources into Pensmore’s construction, most notably solar power, rainwater collection, and geothermal energy. The home’s heating system will rely primarily on stored solar heat energy, as well as geo-thermal heating and wood-burning using trees grown on the property. Whom Huff hires to employ these technologies has yet to be announced.

    Huff has yet to disclose the purchase price of the land, tucked away between Branson and Springfield, or the cost of construction. Right now he wants curious citizens to be more interested in his vision for the estate, recently creating a website to ensure curious citizens know what that is.

    “Once the rumors die down, we are confident that the ultimate takeaway will be a scalable model for everything from private homes to the schools, hospitals, libraries and office buildings of the future, here in the U.S. and around the world,” asserts Huff. Stay tuned for updates, including a private tour when Pensmore is further along in its building process.

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    Written by appraisalmanagementnews

    July 21, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Posted in Housing Market