Leona Helmsley’s Greenwich Home Listed for $65 Million

The Greenwich, CT summer home where hotelier Leona Helmsley died has been completely renovated and is back on the market for $65 million.

The mansion was at the center of the tax evasion scheme that landed Helmsley in jail in the 1990s. The case took Helmsley and her husband, Harry, from glamorous to notorious as the case played out in the press. Helmsley was dubbed the “Queen of Mean” and famously was quoted as saying that “only the little people pay taxes.”

The billionaire couple were indicted for claiming as business expenses things they purchased for the 17,493-square-foot brick estate, which sits on 40 acres on Round Road, one of the most famous parts of Greenwich. Among the luxuries they added to the home: a marble dance floor above the swimming pool, a $45,000 silver clock and $500,000 worth of jade art objects, according to The New York Times.

After Helmsley’s death, her Greenwich estate was originally listed for $123 million, but several price cuts led to its eventual sale to the current owners, for $35 million.

They listed it soon after buying it, for $42.9 million, then took it off the market and set to work renovating the 1918 estate from top to bottom. They tore some of it down (the home is 3,000 square feet smaller than it was when they bought it) and modernized it considerably. They also restored original teak floors and limestone walls and fireplaces, and added new technology, appliances and equipment.

The tile roof was removed, restored and put back on.

The estate has views of the Long Island Sound and luxurious touches such as the freestanding, oversized bathtub in the master bathroom.

The listing is held by Jane Howard Basham of David Ogilvy Associates, part of Christie’s International Real Estate.

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Summertime – and the Liability Is Easy

When it comes to kids and summer vacation, there’s always one house in the neighborhood that becomes the gathering place. If that’s your house, the good news is that you know where your kids are. But there’s some not-so-good news, too. More kids can mean greater opportunity for accidents, and you could be held responsible if someone gets injured on your property — even if you’re not home.

So what’s a homeowner to do? Take a look at why your house is popular, and then take steps to cut the risk. Following are four reasons kids might gather at your house over the summer, the liability risks involved and how you can counter those risks.

They want to use your swimming pool


Have a pool? Add a fence to deter neighborhood kids from taking a splash when you’re not home.

Who wouldn’t want a swimming pool? And what neighborhood kid could resist the allure of one? But swimming pools present great danger: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 people drown every day, and 2 of the 10 are children 14 or younger.

Kids can find themselves in a number of dangerous pool scenarios: swimming unsupervised; running near the pool; diving in shallow water. All can result in serious injuries, and if the injured child is a visitor, you can be held responsible even if you didn’t invite him or her. You can even be liable for injuries suffered by someone who trespasses to use your pool.

What you can do to reduce the risk:

  • Limit access. Install a fence with a self-locking gate around the pool. Anything less is an open invitation for visitors, invited or not.
  • Set clear policies for the pool’s use. Make sure an adult supervises pool use at all times. Don’t install a diving board or slide. Limit how many guests your child can invite. Buy and display safety equipment such as a life hook.

You have a trampoline

No one disputes that it’s fun to jump on a trampoline. But the American Academy of Pediatrics repeatedly has cautioned against home trampoline use. It cites an estimate by the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System that nearly 98,000 trampoline-related injuries occurred in 2009, resulting in 3,100 hospitalizations. Children 5 or younger account for up to 37 percent of all trampoline injuries.

What you can do to reduce the risk:

  • Limit access. Again, you need a fence with a self-locking gate.
  • Get safety equipment. Make sure you have proper netting and padding for the trampoline. This won’t prevent injuries, but it could help reduce their severity. Check both regularly.
  • Set strict rules. Make adult supervision a must. Restrict use to one person at a time; the chance of injury is nearly three times greater when more than one person is jumping, according to the AAP.

There’s a treehouse

What child wouldn’t want to play in a treehouse? And what parent shouldn’t worry. Treehouses are responsible for nearly 2,800 children visiting emergency rooms each year, according to the Center for Injury Research and Policy. Not surprisingly, falls are the most common cause of injuries, and fractures are the most likely result.

What you can do to reduce the risk:

  • Build it low. Anticipate that someone will fall at some point. Don’t build a treehouse higher than 10 feet above the ground.Put down at least 9 inches of wood mulch or some other protective surface underneath the structure. It will reduce the shock of a fall.
  • Restrict access. Again, only allow children in the treehouse when adults are home and preferably watching. Don’t let children climb ropes or chains to get to the treehouse; they present a strangulation hazard.

Location, location, location

But what if your house is the meeting place for neighborhood children because it’s centrally located (or your children are just plain popular)? Consider these potential problems:

  • Skateboarding. Maybe your driveway has the perfect slope for skateboarding. And maybe some young engineer among the neighborhood group decides to build a ramp. You can see what’s coming. Make it clear to your children that no skateboarding is allowed on your driveway.
  • Dogs. Your dogs love you and your children. But they might not love all children. Warn your children about this. And make sure any visitors don’t bring dogs. Even a docile dog can get riled up by a rival. Dog bite claims averaged nearly $28,000 in 2013, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).

Personal liability insurance

No doubt you’re probably ready now to send the kids to military school or at least summer camp to lessen your liability. But you do have help. Standard home insurance policies typically include two types of liability coverage that can help in case someone is injured on your property.

If the child’s parents don’t want to sue, your Medical Payments coverage can help with the cost of treating his or her injuries. If an injured child’s parents take you to court, the Personal Liability protection in your policy can help with legal costs and any damages awarded in the case. Check your policy to make sure you’ve got adequate coverage.

You can never make summer completely carefree the way it was when you were a child. But you should do what you can to keep your kids — and your neighbors’ kids — safe while they’re home from school this summer.


Arthur Murray writes for HomeInsurance.com, an online insurance resource for homeowners and drivers across the country. Offering comparative homeowners and automobile insurance rates, consumers rely on HomeInsurance.com for the most competitive rates from the top-rated insurance carriers in the country. The HomeInsurance.com blog provides fresh tips and advice on a range of financial topics to help homeowners and homebuyers make educated decisions about their insurance purchases.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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Diggin’ In: Rain Barrels Fill Many Needs for Home, Garden

Rain barrel(MCT)–Gardens are typically blessed with spring rains that bring summer flowers—and then the hot, dry months of July and August take their toll.

Often, thoughts turn to, “How do I water without running my water bill sky high?”

A rain barrel could be part of the solution.

It’s hard to justify rain barrels for major landscapes, but they are quite practical for small vegetable and flower gardens, especially plants grown in containers, according to gardeners.

More importantly, rain barrels benefit the environment.

“Installing a rain barrel is one of the easiest things a homeowner can do to protect water resources,” says Julia Hillegrass, team leader with askHRgreen.org, an environmental public awareness program for the 16 counties and cities in Hampton Roads, Va..

“Rain barrels pull double duty by providing a free source of water for outdoor uses while preventing water pollution. When you catch rainwater instead of sending it down the storm drain, it prevents pollutants like fertilizer, pet waste and roadway grime from dumping into local waterways.

“Plus with your free source of water, you’ll be conserving water and the energy used to treat and deliver tap water to your home. It’s an all-around great addition to any home.

“Watering plants, washing your car, even giving your dog a bath—all great ways to use the rainwater you collect.”

While you can purchase a pricey rain barrel from a retail source, you can make your own for about $50, proof “going green” doesn’t have to be expensive, adds Hillegrass.

If you are a do-it-yourselfer, Williamsburg, Va., master gardener Dennis Wool says YouTube has the best how-to videos that show a variety of ways to make a barrel. He recommends using food-grade plastic barrels because some barrels can contain hazardous materials that should not be recycled.

“From very simple designs to elaborate combinations that link multiple barrels together, all can be found under the search ‘rain barrels,’” says Wool, who leads rain barrel-making workshops for his master gardener unit: www.jccwmbg.org.

Many water conservationists also go a step further—decorating their rain barrels in fanciful or practical ways.

“One of our members painted her rain barrel to blend into the brickwork and siding of her home—pretty clever,” says Wool.

If you want to paint your rain barrel, first prime it, use acrylic paint. Once your design is done and painting is finished, clear coat it to preserve its beauty.

“Paint first before installing hardware, so you don’t have to paint around it,” says Wendy Iles, founder of Hampton Grows, www.Hamptongrows.org , a nonprofit organization that helps establish community gardens in southeastern Virginia. The group recently sponsored a fund-raising, rain barrel-decorating contest.

“Incorporate the faucet in your design—and have fun with your painting!”

Some additional barrel-decorating tips from Newport News, Va., master gardeners, www.nnmastergardeners.org , include:

  • Use stencils for decorative designs.
  • Use branches, leaves or any materials or shapes to spray on silhouettes.
  • Paint your barrel the same color as your home.
  • Use it as a fun project for kids.

Installing it:

Rain barrels should be placed immediately adjacent to down spouts, according to Wool.

“Most designs work best when the barrel is raised by stacking several cinderblocks or making a stand/bench for it sit upon,” he says.

Maintaining it:

If you use water in the rain barrel regularly, mosquito breeding is not a problem, according to Wool. Otherwise, cover your opening with window screening material to keep mosquitoes out.

“One creative person put gold fish in their barrel to take care of the bugs, and it was a real eye-catcher,” he says.

©2014 Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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How Much Further Does the Housing Recovery Have to Go?

Roughly three years after the housing recovery began, how far do we still have to go until homes in the majority of local markets have regained all the value lost during the recession? In many areas, the answer is years and years, at least.

The housing recovery is still very much in its middle stages. Nationally, home values remain 11.3 percent below their 2007 peak. Looking ahead, U.S. home values are expected to rise another 4.2 percent through the second quarter of 2015, according to the Zillow Home Value Forecast. It will take 2.7 years for national home values to re-achieve their pre-recession levels, assuming a steady rate of appreciation at the forecasted level.

In other words, national home values won’t get back to their prior peaks until at least the first quarter of 2017, almost a decade after the beginning of the housing recession. And full recovery could take even longer, as the pace of home value appreciation is expected to slow in coming months and years.

Locally, in 50 of the nation’s 100 largest metro markets, it will take three years or more for home values to reach prior peaks. Notable large metros where full recovery in home values will take longer than a decade include Minneapolis (14.5 years), Kansas City (12.5 years) and Chicago (11.7 years).

“In dozens of markets, homeowners who bought at the peak of the market in 2006 or 2007 will have to wait until 2017 or later to get back to the breakeven point on their homes, a lost decade in which they will have built up no home equity. This is reflected in stubbornly high negative equity and effective negative equity rates, with more than a third of Americans with a mortgage lacking enough equity to realistically list their home for sale and buy another,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Stan Humphries. “But there is a silver lining as we navigate these tricky middle innings of the recovery. Because home values remain so far below their peak levels in so many areas, it is still possible for buyers to find bargains. This will be critical to maintaining home affordability over the coming years, especially as mortgage interest rates rise.”

U.S. home values climbed 6.3 percent year-over-year in the second quarter to a Zillow Home Value Index of $174,200, the slowest annual pace of appreciation recorded so far this year and a sign that the market is returning to more normal levels. In a more normal market, home values appreciate at roughly 3 percent per year. Home values nationwide were up 1 percent compared with the first quarter and 0.5 percent from May.

Nationally, rents rose 2.5 percent year-over-year in the second quarter, to a Zillow Rent Index of $1,310 but fell 0.3 percent compared with the first quarter. The quarterly decline was the largest recorded since Zillow first began publishing the Zillow Rent Index in late 2010. U.S. rents were flat month-over-month.

For a deeper analysis and to see what home values and rents are doing in your area, visit Zillow Research.

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Hot Property: Ellen DeGeneres Sells Trophy Home to Tech Billionaire

64th Primetime Emmy Awards - Arrivals(MCT)–Ellen DeGeneres has sold the A. Quincy Jones-designed Brody House on Los Angeles’ Westside to Napster co-founder Sean Parker for $55 million in an off-market deal.

Built in 1950 for real estate developer Sidney Brody and his wife, modernist art collector Frances Brody, the property was sold four years ago for close to $15 million to an investor-owner who spent three years restoring the Midcentury Modern home. Daytime talk show host DeGeneres bought the trophy home last winter for nearly $40 million.

Set on 2.3 acres, the house features the floor-to-ceiling glass walls typical of the Midcentury style and a central atrium/living room. There were nine bedrooms and 7.5 bathrooms in 11,511 square feet of living space when the residence last appeared in the Multiple Listing Service.

A swimming pool, a pool house/guesthouse and a tennis court also are on the grounds.

Parker, 34, is a former Facebook president. The tech billionaire also is the co-founder of Plaxo, an online address book and social service.

©2014 Los Angeles Times
Distributed by MCT Information Services

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