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Senate Democrats call for federal investigation into money laundering in luxury real estate

The Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has been looking into whether foreign buyers are using shell companies to buy luxury U.S. real estate in order to launder money for almost three years, but two Democratic senators want the government to do more to figure out how much criminal activity is prevalent in these deals.

The initial FinCEN investigation delved into unknown buyers using shell companies to buy high-end real estate in Manhattan and Miami-Dade County, because the government was “concerned about illicit money” being used in the deals.

The results of that initial investigation showed more than 25% of transactions covered in the initial inquiry involved a “beneficial owner” who is also the subject of a “suspicious activity report,” which is an indication of possible criminal activity.

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Luxury international real estate franchise expands to Katy

Houston Business Journal

Luxury international real estate franchise expands to Katy
Houston Business Journal
This will be the second Houston-area franchise for Germany-based Engel and Völkers, a luxury real estate group that specializes in residential and commercial real estate as well as resort, yacht and private jet sales.

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Defining The Luxury Real Estate Market From The Inside

Welcome to Beverly Hills (Credit: Getty Royalty Free)

Defining the luxury real estate market isn't simple. From Boston to Miami to Los Angeles, the word "luxury" has a different definition. In some areas, luxury is defined as anything over $1 million. In pricey parts of Los Angeles, single-family homes often are listed at $5 million and above.

The numbers of sales in 2017 and 2018 YTD in the $5 million and $10 million and above range in Los Angeles County are interesting. Erin Kennelly, executive director of research at The Agency, the Beverly Hills-based luxury real estate brokerage firm with 20 offices in the U.S. and Mexico, crunched the numbers from the MLS and public records.

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Alain Pinel acquires Hill & Co. in merger of two luxury real estate firms - San Francisco Chronicle

Another week, another real estate merger. But this time it’s two Bay Area brokerage firms — both serving the luxury market — getting hitched.

Alain Pinel Realtors, based in Saratoga, has acquired Hill & Co., a boutique brokerage with three offices and 81 agents in San Francisco.

Pinel, which has almost 1,300 agents in 30 offices, was the nation’s seventh largest residential real estate brokerage in terms of sales volume last year, handling about $12.2 billion worth of deals. But it ranked only 73rd in terms of transactions, according to Real Trends, a real estate data and consulting firm.

Its average sales price was $1.6 million, highest in the nation. That’s because it caters to the high end of a wealthy market, said Scott Wright, director of mergers and acquisitions with Real Trends.

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Luxury Real Estate Transactions Soar in Scotland

Deep-pocketed buyers are emerging in droves in Scotland, as luxury home transactions in the country grew 41% in the year to June, according to a report Wednesday from U.K. real estate agency Savills.

The number of transactions valued above £1 million (US$1.3 million) reached 201 during the year ending in June, up from the 143 during the year ending June 2017, the report said.

More: Nearly 600-Year-Old Home on 250 Acres Lists in England

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Toll Brothers' record shows the housing boom has no end in sight

Unemployment keeps falling and home prices keep going up. It's a great recipe for a strong housing market.

Nothing has been able to stop the housing boom -- not even higher interest rates.

Luxury home builder Toll Brothers (TOL) said Tuesday that demand for its houses was strong across the country -- the company signed a record number of contracts last quarter.

Toll Brothers reported quarterly financial results that easily topped forecasts and raised its outlook for the year, citing a backlog of new homes for the third quarter.

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Construction Liens 101

August 15, 2018

A construction lien, otherwise known as a mechanic's lien, is a claim that is made against a property by a contractor, subcontractor, or other professional party involved in a construction project. These liens exist to protect construction professionals from non-payment for materials or services rendered.

If you are withholding payment to a contractor for a construction project of any sort for substandard work or another dispute, the contractor has a right to file a construction lien on your property. Unfortunately, the same principle allows a subcontractor to file a construction lien on your property if the contractor did not pay the subcontractor. You, as the property owner, are still potentially on the hook.

Do not ignore a construction lien filed against your property. In the best case, the lien makes it virtually impossible to sell or refinance your property. If it is not properly addressed, the lien could eventually result in legal action that forces a sale of your home to pay off the lien amount. The lien may also severely damage your credit score and remain on your credit report for several years. You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes using Credit Manager by MoneyTips.

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Should I get a fixed- or adjustable-rate mortgage?

You've been dreaming of owning a home for years, and now you're finally ready to make the leap. You've found the perfect place and may have even started deciding where to put the furniture, but you still have one big obstacle standing in your way: getting a mortgage.

If you've never bought a home before, the whole process can seem a little confusing. One of the first things you have to figure out is whether you should get a fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgage. Most people choose the fixed-rate mortgage without even thinking about it, but there are situations where an adjustable-rate mortgage may be a better fit.

Every mortgage charges interest in order to make the deal worth it for lenders. With fixed-rate mortgages, you lock in a single interest rate for the lifetime of your loan. Usually, the payment period is 30 years, but it can be 20 or 15 if you want to pay off your home more quickly.

The reason fixed-rate mortgages are so popular is that they're more predictable. You know exactly how much money to set aside out of your paycheck each month to cover the bill. Plus, if interest rates rise, you don't have to worry about your monthly mortgage payment rising accordingly.

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Zillow buys a mortgage lender and the stock tanks

But the company is not content only serving real estate voyeurs. It wants a bigger piece of the housing market pie.

Investors, however, are not pleased.

Shares of Zillow (Z) plunged nearly 20% Tuesday after it announced a plan to buy Mortgage Lenders of America, a home loan bank based in Kansas. Zillow also reported earnings and disappointed investors with its revenue outlook late Monday.

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All About Real Estate Disclosures

July 25, 2018

You want to know exactly what you are getting when you make any large purchase, especially when you are buying a home – the largest purchase that many Americans will ever make in their life. That's why a real estate disclosure statement is a fundamental part of any real estate transaction.

By law, home sellers must provide a disclosure statement in writing regarding the condition of their home. The contents of disclosure statements vary by state and municipality, but they must disclose known hazards and defects of the home, as well as any important information that may affect the seller's decision.

As a seller, you must make sure that you compile a thorough list of disclosure items. Your agent should be able to help you determine if each item must be disclosed.

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