MONEY home buying

7 Amazing Celebrity Homes You Can Buy Right Now

Open house on homes owned by J. Lo, Michael Jordan, and Paula Deen.

What’s your fancy: Berry Gordy’s historic “Motown Mansion” or Ted Turner’s private island off the South Carolina coast? Or perhaps the epic estates formerly owned by Jennifer Lopez, Michael Jordan, and Michael Jackson are more your speed? For the right price—a few million to upwards of $100 million—these homes, and the bragging rights that come along with them, can be yours.

Spring and summer is prime time for sales of all manner of homes, including those owned by the rich and famous. And celebrity homes on the market aren’t limited to southern California, but extend to areas such as Long Island, Chicago, Savannah, and even Detroit. Here are 10 of the hottest celebrity properties on the market right now.

  • Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony

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    Evan Joseph Images The Long Island home where Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony used to live is for sale for $9.495 million.

    No fewer than two mansions formerly owned by Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony are currently for sale. In addition to $17 million, nine-bedroom estate in the gated California community of Hidden Hills, the former couple’s home on Long Island’s Gold Coast is also on the market. Listed by Dolly Lenz Real Estate, the asking price is $9.495 million. That’s the price after a recent cut—not long ago, it was listed at $12 million.

  • Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony

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    Evan Joseph Images

    Lopez and Anthony lived in the home until announcing their separation in 2011. The compound, which consists of two homes and a total of 10 bedrooms on eight acres, is now listed under the ownership of Anthony, or rather his birth name, Marco Muniz. The main house is a 16-room red-brick mansion built in 1941. The guest cottage is a five-bedroom, 4,000-square-foot Colonial.

  • Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony

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    Evan Joseph Images Home of Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, 3 Country Lane, Brookville, NY. Dolly Lenz Real Estate LLC

    Both Anthony and Lopez are world-famous entertainers, and yes, this place is great for entertaining—and performing. There is an oversized pool and pool pavilion, as well as a tennis court and vast manicured grounds. Inside the main house, there’s a movie theater and a professional-quality recording studio.

  • Michael Jordan

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    Michael Jordan's Illinois home is currently on the market for $14.855 million.

    Appropriately, basketball legend Michael Jordan named his estate Legend Point. His Airness’s attempts to sell the 56,000-square-foot property in Highland Park, a wealthy suburb north of Chicago, are approaching legendary status as well. It was first listed for sale in 2012 for $29 million, which was reduced to $21 million about a year later. In late 2013, the plan called to put the 7.39-acre compound up for auction with a minimum bid of $13 million, but again it failed to sell. In the most recent listing, the estate’s asking price is $14.855 million, or about half of its initial price.

  • Michael Jordan

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    Michael Jordan's compound was designed with all manner of players in mind.

    In the main residence, the living room and family room are both double height—fitting given that Jordan and many of his pals are oversized athletes. For that matter, many of the home’s features were designed with all manner of players in mind. The original doors from the Chicago Playboy Mansion mark the entrance to the “Gentleman’s Retreat” area, where there are card tables, a cigar room, and a wet bar. The home also boasts a wine cellar with space for 500+ bottles, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a movie theater, an indoor tennis court, and a golf putting green. Meanwhile, for the ladies, the estate includes a “full-service beauty salon.”

  • Michael Jordan

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    What Jordan estate would be complete without a basketball court? The compound comes with an NBA-quality indoor basketball court with a custom sound system. The backboards are motorized, the flooring is cushioned hardwood, and the Jordan “Jumpman” logo is painted in the center of the court.

  • Paula Deen

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    Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn Known as "Riverbend," the Georgia home of Paula Deen has an asking price of $12.5 million.

    Poised on the Wilmington River with 300 feet of water frontage, the estate known as Riverbend has been described by listing agent Seabolt Brokers as “the most significant offering in Savannah, Ga.” and “truly its own private resort.” Owned by Paula Deen, the TV chef and restaurateur who came under fire for racist comments in 2013, the 5.5-acre property features a 14,500-square-foot main home, two guest cottages, and a 10,000-square-foot barn with three bedrooms and an eight-car garage. Asking price: $12.5 million.

  • Paula Deen

    Deen/Groover Residence
    Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

    In total, the property has 28,000 square feet of living space, including—of course—a gourmet kitchen with commercial grade appliances in the main home. There is also an outdoor kitchen with a trio of grills, a smoker, and four outdoor refrigerators, plus a pool with an outdoor “dive-in theater” for watching movies under the stars.

  • Berry Gordy

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    Deborah Smith—Keller Williams Realty The "Motown Mansion" in Detroit where Motown Records founder Berry Gordy lived for 35 years.

    Billed as the “Motown Mansion” by realtor Keller Williams, this 2.2-acre estate in Detroit features a 10-bedroom, 10,500-square-foot Italian Renaissance main residence, plus an adjoining 4,400-square-foot pool house. Motown Records founder Berry Gordy owned the property from 1967 until 2002, and the likes of Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, and the Jackson 5 have been guests. It is listed at $1.295 million.

  • Berry Gordy

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    G. Greg Wells Photography—Keller Williams Realty

    The property is said to have undergone a significant restoration over the past decade, with much of the original architecture and design preserved intact. The current owner, Detroit lawyer Cynthia Reaves, said that she acquired the property after writing a letter to Gordy pleading with him to sell her the home. “I told him about my love of the city of Detroit, my love of old homes, the fact that I had grown up in this neighborhood. And that I really felt that a home like this deserved to be part of the community,” Reaves told a local news program earlier this year. “I remember growing up across the street as a kid and saw all the wonderful parties that he would host here. The red carpet would go around the block. The stars would come out and walk around on the red carpet to the parties. And I remember seeing the Jackson 5 here trying to play golf in his backyard.”

  • Denise Richards

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    courtesy Douglas Elliman and Re/Max Olson & Associates Denise Richards' home in Hidden Hills, Calif., is listed at $7.749 million.

    Let’s cut right to the chase: This place has its own doggie hotel! Owned by Denise Richards, the actress and ex-wife of Charlie Sheen, this six-bedroom, 1.1-acre property in the Hidden Hills gated community in southern California features an onyx fireplace, cathedral ceilings, and two pools, including a grotto, waterfall, and “beach” entryway. But anyone who looks at the home will be talking about the pet hotel—a private kennel custom-made for allowing dogs to feel right at home. It’s being listed by The Altman Brothers for $7.749 million.

  • Denise Richards

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    courtesy Douglas Elliman and Re/Max Olson & Associates

    This home is made for dog lovers and foodies alike. In addition to the pet hotel, there is a wine tasting room with temperature-controlled walls for keeping bottles chilled at just the right degree. The kitchen is gourmet and fully state of the art, complete with a pizza oven and large windows overlooking lush manicured lawns and greenery.

  • Michael Jackson

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    Jim Bartsch The estate once known as Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch is on the market for $100 million.

    Currently dubbed the “Sycamore Valley Ranch,” this epic 2,700-acre estate in Los Olivos, Calif., 40 miles outside Santa Barbara, is world famous as the “Neverland Ranch” long owned by Michael Jackson. The asking price is a cool $100 million, according to Hilton & Hyland and Sotheby’s, which share a joint listing of the property. The main residence is a 12,500-square-foot building in French-Normandy style, and there are a total of 22 buildings on the grounds, including three guest homes and a 5,500-square-foot movie theater with a stage.

  • Michael Jackson

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    Jim Bartsch

    Jackson sold the property in 2008, when he was in dire financial circumstances. When he lived there, Neverland boasted amusement park rides and a zoo’s worth of animals, including giraffes, orangutans, baboons, and an elephant. The animals and rides are gone now, though the private railroad tracks and train station that Jackson used to entertain guests remain.

  • Michael Jackson

    150629_REA_CelebHomes_Jackson2
    Jim Bartsch

    Jackson purchased the estate in 1987, and over the years it was used for a wide range of events, including Elizabeth Taylor’s 1991 wedding (her seventh), the World’s Children Congress, and numerous fundraising gatherings. And yes, this is where Jackson allegedly abused children: When he was facing child molestation charges in the mid-’00s, prosecutors said Jackson used Neverland as a lure for children.

  • Ted Turner

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    courtesy Plantaion Services Inc. The main residence on St. Phillips Island, Ted Turner's private retreat off the coast of South Carolina.

    For a mere $23.777 million, you can be the owner of an entire private island—specifically, St. Phillips Island, a 4,680-acre retreat outside of historic Beaufort, S.C., reached only by boat. The listing from realty company Plantation Services states that media mogul Ted Turner purchased the island—now a Registered Natural Landmark—in 1979. The property comes with two residences, and an agreement with The Nature Conservancy stipulates that the owner may add up to 10 more residences on the island, which has its own water and power supply.

  • Ted Turner

    150629_REA_CelebHomes_Turner2
    courtesy Plantaion Services Inc.

    “The Turner family and their friends have enjoyed sailing, fishing and entertaining here for thirty-five years,” the listing description notes of the island, which is a short sail away from Hilton Head. Among the 4,680 acres that fall into the domain of St. Phillips Island, more than 1,000 acres are categorized as “Upland,” or firm ground, and 70 acres are sandy beaches.

MONEY buying a home

Why It’s a Good Thing That Cash Buyers Are Exiting the Housing Market

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Nils Hendrik Mueller—Getty Images

Cash buyers skew the market by soaking up inventory that could be purchased by a young family looking for a first-time home purchase.

In many parts of the country, housing prices gave returned to pre-recession levels. That’s good news for sellers, bad news for buyers. But buried within the latest housing data is some good news for everyone — everyone on Main Street, anyway.

All-cash buyers seem to be finally retreating. The percent of homes purchased by all-cash buyers share in May was close to its long-term average going back to January 2000 of 24.8%, and well below its recent peak of 42.2% in February 2011, according to data released Thursday by RealtyTrac. It’s one sign that the housing market is on the road back to a normal, “how do we find a place to live?” market, and away from the “how do I make a quick buck?” market.

What’s an all-cash buyer? Someone — or something — with a lot of money. All-cash buyers don’t need mortgages, they just show up with a check and buy a home. Generally, they are big investors, like hedge funds and foreign entities, who have no intention of living in the homes. They skew the market by soaking up inventory that could be purchased by a young family looking for a first-time home purchase. They also make such buyers look bad. If you were a seller and had two offers — one all-cash, and one that still required financing to be arranged — which would you choose?

“As housing transitions from an investor-driven, cash-is-king market to one more dependent on traditional buyers, sales volume has been increasing over the last few months and is on track in 2015 to hit the highest level we’ve seen since 2006,” said RealtyTrac vice president Daren Blomquist.

The out-of-whack housing market has been suffering from a record level of all-cash buyers for the past several years – well above historical norms, according to mortgage expert Logan Mohtashami. He says the retreat of cash buyers is positive development.

“This is a positive as total sales are rising with less cash buyers as a part of the market place…Less cash means more traditional buyers in the system, which means the supply and demand balance is more correlated to Main Street economics,” Mohtashami said. “(This year) is trending between 24%-27% which is still very high, but this is the first time it’s under 30% in every report.”

Of course, the shrinking number of cash buyers doesn’t mean prices are going down. In Manhattan, for example, the average sales price for an apartment just hit a record high — $1.87 million. And it’s not just New York. Home prices in Dallas, Denver, and San Francisco are positively bubble-icious, rising about 10% last year, soaring past pre-recession levels.

But with more first-time homebuyers and fewer inventory, at least the dynamics of home buying might change a bit.

“The competition in the market place is … different,” said Craig King, COO at Chase International brokerage, covering the Lake Tahoe and Reno, Nevada, markets. “While inventory is tight many investors have dropped out of the market and cash deals are not as prevalent as they were. Even in multi-offer situations much has been equalized. This is great news for first-time buyers.“

If you’re looking to buy a home this year, make sure you know how much home you can afford (here’s a calculator that can help). And be sure to check your credit, since improving your credit scores can save you thousands of dollars in interest over the life of your mortgage.

More From Credit.com:

MONEY buying a home

Should You Ever Pay Cash for a Home?

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Laboko—Shutterstock

Consider what paying in cash will do to your savings — emergency, retirement and otherwise — in the short term.

While some of us may be struggling just to afford a down payment, there are people out there who are paying for their homes in full in cash. Finding a great property and forgoing all the bank paperwork and loan repayments may seem like a dream, but it can, in fact, be a mixed blessing. So, if you are looking to buy a home and could afford to pay all cash for it, should you?

Running the Numbers

A great place to start in this process is figuring out how much money you would save buying a home in an all-cash payout versus with time-based loan payments. Compare the sticker price to the eventual price tag of your home if paid for with a 15- or 30-year fixed mortgage with a down payment of around 20%. You will save money on interest, but it’s a good idea to factor in the loss of the mortgage interest deduction when it comes to tax time. Also, consider what paying in cash will do to your savings — emergency, retirement and otherwise — in the short term.

Pros

If you truly have the money available immediately and it won’t put you in jeopardy of going into debt if an emergency were to come up, you will most likely save money by not paying interest on a loan. You will also avoid all of the paperwork that comes with securing a loan, pesky closing costs and the often-frustrating loan process.

Your credit history also will not come into play, which may be beneficial if you have a shaky credit past or have run into trouble before while still having considerable savings. You will also have available equity in your home that you could likely tap in case you hit tough financial times. Furthermore, you can only lose the amount of money you have put in because you are not leveraged, meaning you do not need to get as concerned about market fluctuations.

Another benefit is mostly psychological — you actually own your house, giving you a sense of security and pride. Probably most importantly, you are a very attractive buyer to motivated sellers, giving you an edge over other buyers. The deal will be simpler and faster for both sides and buying in cash may even put you in a position you to get a better deal. After all, time is money.

Cons

Paying cash for your home likely means most of your savings or at least a lot of your money will be tied in one asset, leaving less money to invest in other, diversified assets. Also, real estate has a historically lower return on investment than stocks or bonds, meaning you could be losing out overall if other investments would have outperformed the interest on a mortgage.

Additionally, you are sacrificing liquidity, so it’s probably only a good idea to buy a house with cash only if you can afford it without emptying your emergency fund. A home can take months to sell, and borrowing against your home’s equity brings fees and borrowing limits into the equation. You further lose the financial leverage a mortgage provides because your payment is locked in and hopefully received a favorable interest rate. Lastly, you will not qualify for the tax deductions mortgage payers receive, which often total over $10,000 when itemized.

How you pay for your home is a very personal decision and paying in all cash will likely work for some people but not for others. This generally makes sense if the home’s price does not subtract a significant portion of your liquid assets and/or the interest rate you would pay on a mortgage is higher than what you could earn on other investments. It’s important to properly assess your financial situation and long-term investment strategies, the drawbacks as well as the benefits.

Read next: How Much Rent Can You Afford?

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MONEY home financing

The Layperson’s List of Mortgage Application Junk Fees

dollar bill sliced vertically into sections
Getty Images

You should challenge fees that make no sense.

From time to time we bring you posts from our partners that may not be new but contain advice that bears repeating. Look for these classics on the weekends.

Thanks to two home purchases and refinancing my mortgage five times, I’ve become very familiar with that eternal home loan enigma known as the mortgage junk fee. As a result, I always challenge the more questionable junk fees — and you should too.

So what is a junk fee? Well, it refers to dubious lender or broker fees designed purely for increasing their profits. Yes, some fees are legitimate; after all, lenders and brokers have to make their money too, but in many cases junk fees are 100% profit.

So how can the layman know whether or not the fees listed on the itemization statement are legitimate? Well, here are three tips — and a junk fee glossary — that should keep you from overpaying at closing time:

1. Comparison Shop

The best way to fight excessive junk fees is to comparison shop your loan and make sure that you try to negotiate each one down to, at the very least, the lowest price you receive.

2. Challenge Questionable Fees As Early As Possible

It’s important to understand that the time to challenge these fees is not when you’re at the settlement table signing papers. Instead, do it after you’ve got several estimates in hand from which you can compare fees.

3. Understand What You’re Being Charged For

It’s a cliche, but it’s true nevertheless: knowledge is power. So here’s a junk fee glossary that will shine a light on some of the more common charges:

Where applicable, at the end of each description I’ve included the percentage of institutions charging each of these junk fees based upon a survey conducted by Bankrate.com; the lower the number, the more negotiating leverage you should have to get the fee removed or lowered.

Administration. A pure junk fee that’s supposedly used to cover the cost of managing the loan during the closing process; it’s outrageous and ripe for negotiation. (14%)

Application Fee. This fee is shameful. No lender that wants your business should ever charge this fee. Imagine paying money to simply fill out the application to buy a service. This is equivalent to a hamburger stand charging you money to place your order for a cheeseburger. (18%)

Appraisal Fee. Lenders need to know the value of your home. But in times of rising home prices this is usually unnecessary if you refinanced or bought your home within the previous year. (83%)

Closing Costs / Settlement Fees. These fees cover services that must be performed to process and close your loan application such as title fees, recording fees, appraisal fees, credit report fees, pest inspection, attorney’s fees, taxes, and surveying fees. Watch for double-dipping with other junk fees. (93%)

Commitment Fee. This odd fee is supposedly the cost of processing the loan terms-and-conditions paperwork. Completely bogus. (2%)

Credit Report. This is exactly what it says. Credit reports are extremely cheap; they’re generally free to individuals at least once per year. While they aren’t necessarily free to the lenders, it is highly doubtful they are paying even $100 for it. This is usually a big profit maker for the lender. (81%)

Document Prep. This is a classic junk fee that nobody should ever pay. The process of preparing paperwork is an inherent part of the lender’s job. This is tantamount to a burger joint tacking on an additional Burger Preparation fee on top of their advertised menu price. (34%)

Discount Points. This fee is used to buy down the interest rate. (47%)

Express Mail Fee. Again, another junk fee that should be inherent to the lender’s job. This is also sometimes listed as a Postage or Courier Fee. Despite the high number shown in the bank rate survey, I’ve successfully got this charge removed all but one time. Don’t feel bad for the lender — they aren’t losing any money here. (81%)

Fee. That’s right. “Fee.” If you see this garbage charge, immediately call your lender to get a detailed explanation of this. As she stammers and stutters, be ready to pounce on any instances of double dipping that crop up.

Flood Check/Certification Fee. In order to comply with federal regulations and secondary mortgage requirements, lenders are required to obtain a certification from a surveyor indicating whether the property is within a flood hazard area. (95%)

Funding Fee. This is similar to a wire transfer fee, so watch for double-dipping. (14%)

Lender Fee. These fees are borne by the lender during the closing process and may include attorney fees, application fees, recording fees, courier fees, etc. If this number appears excessive to you, ask for a detailed breakdown of all costs involved with this fee. Then after you get the breakdown, make sure the lender is not double-dipping by charging you a Lender Fee and a Courier Fee. Due diligence on your part usually makes this one of the more negotiable fees. (46%)

Origination Fee. This is a payment associated with the establishment of an account with the lender.

Processing Fee. This fee is fairly common and covers the cost of processing the loan. (45%)

Reconveyance Verification Fee. A fee — if not an outright scam — charged to have someone verify that the bank holding the seller’s loan actually reconveys the title, or clears the loan. Pure poppycock.

Tax Service Fee. This is a fee to cover a third party the lender hires to monitor and/or pay the property tax bills. (82%)

Title Fees. These fees may include escrow fees, document prep fees, messenger service fees and recording fees for recording the title onto the deed. Watch for double-dipping here. (29%)

Title Insurance. This fee covers the costs of assuring the lender that you own the home and the lender’s mortgage is a valid lien. It also protects the owner in the event someone challenges ownership of the home. (83%)

Underwriting Fee. A lender charges mortgage underwriting fees to cover the cost of evaluating your total loan application package, including your ability to pay the loan back. This should include your credit report, employment history, financial documents and appraisal. Again, watch for double-dipping; there should be no credit report fee if there is also an underwriting fee. If you’re working with a broker, he shouldn’t be charging you for a separate underwriting fee, as this is handled solely by the lender. (40%)

VA Funding Fee. This is required by law and is intended to enable veterans who obtains a VA home loan to contribute toward the cost of this benefit, thereby reducing the cost to taxpayers. It is usually in the vicinity of 2% – 3% of the loan. If you aren’t getting a VA loan, then you shouldn’t be charged this fee.

Warehouse Fee. A lender will tell you this is his cost of temporarily holding the loan before it’s sold on the secondary mortgage market. Utter garbage.

Wire Transfer Fee. This fee covers the cost of transmitting cash via the inter-bank wire transfer system to you, your prior lender or the company closing the loan. Similar to the Funding Fee, so watch for double dipping. (50%)

Remember, federal law prohibits lenders from charging fees for nonexistent goods or services, as well as markups of settlement expenses when no additional services are rendered. But the good faith estimates that the lenders hand out have very minimal legal backing, so in the end it is up to you to make sure that you are not being taken for a ride at closing time. Knowing the make-up of your junk fees is a great place to start.

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MONEY Housing Market

New Home Sales Hit 7-Year High

A worker walks on the roof of a new home under construction in Carlsbad
Mike Blake—Reuters A worker walks on the roof of a new home under construction in Carlsbad, California September 22, 2014.

In May, sales of new homes surged 87.5% in the Northeast alone.

New U.S. single-family home sales increased in May to a more than seven-year high, further brightening the outlook for the housing market and the broader economy.

The Commerce Department said on Tuesday sales rose 2.2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 546,000 units, the highest level since February 2008. April’s sales pace was revised up to 534,000 units from the previously reported 517,000 units.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast new home sales, which account for 9.3% of the market, rising to a 525,000-unit pace last month.

The report came on the heels of a report on Monday showing home resales in May surged to a 5-1/2-year high. Data last week also showed building permits at near an eight-year peak in May and homebuilders were the most optimistic in nine months in June.

The new home sales report added to strong retail sales, consumer sentiment and employment data in suggesting the economy was gaining speed in the second quarter after output slumped at the start of the year.

Housing is being buoyed by a strengthening jobs market and steps by the government to ease lending conditions for first-time buyers through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage finance companies it controls. Young adults who are setting up their own households also are lending support.

New homes sales surged 87.5% in the Northeast, the largest increase since July 2012. Sales increased 13.1 percent in the West, the biggest gain in nine months. Sales fell 4.3% in the South and were down 5.7% in the Midwest.

The stock of new houses for sale was unchanged at 206,000 last month. Supply remains less than half of what it was at the height of the housing boom, good news for home builders who will need to ramp up construction.

At May’s sales pace it would take 4.5 months to clear the supply of houses on the market, down from 4.6 months in April.

MONEY moving

7 Ways to Reduce Stress During a Move

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Getty Images/Hero Images

Moving can be challenging — but it doesn’t have to be a stress fest.

Whether you’ve decided to accept a new job offer in another city, found the perfect apartment on Trulia, or finally closed on the home of your dreams, a fresh start is always exciting. Packing all your belongings into boxes and lugging it all to a new home? Not so much.

We get it. Moving can be crazy and stressful — but there are ways to survive the process without aging yourself prematurely.

Here are seven ways to manage your stress before, during, and after you’ve boxed up your life.

1. Purge

Clutter creates stress. Minimize the junk clogging your closets and you’ll automatically breathe a sigh of relief. Clear the clutter from your home by organizing things you no longer need into three piles: Sell, Donate, and Toss.

Put big-ticket or valuable items in the “sell” pile. Then snap some photos and list them on eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook. (Or go old school if the weather’s nice and hold a massive yard sale.)

Score a tax deduction by donating items to Goodwill or a local thrift store. Throw away or recycle any items that have little or no use left in them.

Here’s the most fun part: Eat through the contents of your refrigerator and pantry. Spend the weeks prior to your move creating oddball meals based on whatever happens to be in your cupboards. And don’t forget to drink all your booze!

2. Clear your calendar

Block off a chunk of time to focus exclusively on packing. Request a day off from work, find a baby sitter or family member to watch your children, or clear your schedule for a weekend. You’ll get more done by packing continuously for several hours than you will by packing in short bursts of time.

If possible, bribe some of your friends to help. Promise to buy them dinner and drinks if they’ll donate a few hours of their time to help you pack and move.

3. Accumulate boxes

Start accumulating a stack of newspapers and boxes several weeks prior to your move. Ask friends if they have leftover boxes from previous moves or visit local grocery stores and retail outlets, walk back to where the employees unpack the inventory, and ask if you can walk off with a stack of boxes. Costco and Trader Joe’s both keep a steady supply of boxes in-store.

If you’re willing to splurge, you can buy boxes from shipping and packing stores or your local home improvement store. The benefit to buying boxes is that they’ll all be standard sizes, making them easier to stack and load.

4. Plan

Don’t start packing without a strategy. One of the most efficient ways to pack your belongings is to methodically move from room to room. Clearly label each box based on where in your home it was packed. This way, when you unload boxes in your new house, you’ll know where each box should go.

5. Protect your valuables

The last thing you need is a nagging concern that you can’t find your wedding ring and passport. Those worries will stress you out more than almost any other aspect of moving!

Pack one suitcase as if you’re going on vacation and include the items you’ll need to immediately access, such as clean underwear, socks, and a toothbrush. Add valuables and the most important documents so that you’ll know they haven’t gone missing.

6. Give ample time and deadlines

Nothing is more stressful than knowing that you can’t start moving into your new home until 8 a.m., but you need to be out of your apartment at noon that same day.

If you can, allow for your time in each place to overlap. This may mean paying two rents or two mortgages for up to a month, but it will allow you the benefit of time — and that will work wonders on your stress levels.

Also, create minideadlines for yourself. Promise yourself that you’ll pack up one room per day, or that you’ll unpack for two hours per night after you move into your new home.

7. Delegate

Finally, the best way to reduce stress is by outsourcing and delegating. Use online resources like TaskRabbit and Craigslist to search for people who can help you pack and move. Before they leave, ask them to help assemble furniture and move big boxes and furniture where you want it.

As the saying goes, many hands make light work. And when you’re moving, you need as many hands as you can get.

Read next: How to Be a Dream Tenant and Snag Any Rental You Choose

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MONEY buying a home

When Your Dream House Appraises for Less Than The Accepted Offer

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Astronaut Images—Getty Images/Caiaimage

Never pay more than the appraisal value.

It’s a nightmare situation: You’ve spent months searching for your dream house, finally get an offer accepted, and then … the house doesn’t appraise for the agreed-upon price.

DOOM.

Now what?

Take a deep breath

“It can be heart-wrenching for the buyer and seller if the deal falls apart because of the appraisal,” says Virginia real estate agent Lori Strickland.

But you’re not alone. This situation happens more often than you might think, especially in rising markets.

Sometimes the comparable sales aren’t applicable to the home you want, or maybe distressed sales in the area have skewed the appraisal.

“Traditional lenders will generally only lend funds up to a certain percentage of the appraised value [80% of appraised value as opposed to 80% of the contract price],” says Michael R. Santana, a Florida attorney.

If the appraisal is less than your offer, you might need to come up with more cash — but you do have other options.

Look over the appraisal contingency clause

An appraisal contingency clause built into your contract means you can reevaluate the situation or renegotiate. But even with a contingency clause, you could end up spending more or walking away to look for another house.

Sometimes all parties need to band together to make the deal work: sellers, buyers, and agents. Sellers might come down on price, you might pay closing costs, and agents might take less of a commission — but the deal still goes through.

Get a second opinion

Maybe the appraisal you got was inaccurate. If so? Sam Heskel, CEO of Nadlan Valuation Inc., a New York City appraisal company, recommends a value appeal.

“The appraiser will review the appeal and respond by reevaluating the property or explaining why he or she did not use the comparable sales the lender sent,” says Heskel.

“In some instances, especially if you are well qualified, sellers are willing to pay for the second appraisal to keep the deal on the table,” says Santana. Another option is to try working with your lender to get a second appraisal. They might be willing to accept the subsequent, higher appraisal.

To help guard against a lower appraisal, make sure you let the appraiser know the reason you made the offer you did.

“The selling agent should meet the appraiser at the property to provide comparable sales and listings,” says Casey Fleming, a former appraiser and author of The Loan Guide: How to Get the Best Possible Mortgage.

Try not to pay more than appraised value

You might have found the only house you’ll ever love, but with that mindset, you’re liable to get hurt. Distance yourself a bit.

Try to remove your emotions from the equation. “The euphoria of offering and counteroffering on a home can quickly become buyer’s remorse,” says Nevada real estate professional Bruce Specter.

“Do not pay more than the appraisal,” says Lori Strickland. If you do, you’ll pay more than the house is worth. If you wouldn’t pay more than the list price for a car (or even for shoes for that matter), you generally shouldn’t do so for a house either.

Forget about whether you’re in a hot market

Although some buyers pay a premium for houses in hot markets, keep in mind that yours isn’t the only stomach churning at the thought of a low appraisal.

“Even in a hot market, the seller panics when the appraisal comes in low,” says Gary Lucido, president of Lucid Realty in Chicago. Unless cash buyers are ready to swoop in, you can use the low appraisal as an opportunity to renegotiate.

As long as you’re not in a hot market, Tamela Ekstrom, owner of Haven Real Estate in Detroit, says, “the seller will typically drop down and sell for the appraisal amount.” Once people are entrenched in a deal, they usually try to work things out.

More from Trulia:

MONEY buying a home

3 Tips for Buying a Vacation Home

Photograph by Gregory Reid; Prop styling by Megumi Emoto

1.1 million vacation homes sold in 2014. Here's how to find a hideaway of your very own.

Second–home sales leaped 57% last year, according to the National Association of Realtors. Why? A strong stock market and an influx of baby boomers buying vacation homes for retirement have helped, as well as still-depressed prices in some second-home markets. That said, Lawrence Yun, the NAR’s chief economist, expects prices–and sales–to rise in 2015.

Are you looking? Consider these buying tips:

Search for bargains. Nearly half of all vacation homes purchased last year were foreclosures or short sales. While that puts the number of distressed properties at an eight-year low, some vacation markets still have a hefty backlog, according to Realty Trac. Among them: Miami, Ocala, and Winter Haven, Fla.

Rent your place. If you hope to generate some cash, think about buying where rental demand is strong. Coastal North Carolina, Telluride, Colo., and around California’s Lake Tahoe and Bass Lake are very hot now, according to HomeAway. Just remember: If you rent for more than 14 days, the income is taxed, though you can deduct mortgage interest and other expenses.

Learn the market. Visit several times—and in different seasons. One vacation doesn’t make you an expert.

MONEY buying a home

The Surprising Thing Home Buyers Care About More than Schools

cell reception important when buying a home
David Papazian—Getty Images

Americans in every age group ranked this as more important.

A new study from RootMetrics has revealed that U.S. adults seem to care more about cell phone reception than the quality of neighborhood schools when buying a home.

The survey of 2,000 Americans found that 60% rank good school districts as important, compared to 76% who called out mobile service—the same proportion that ranked hospitals as essential.

Even more important? Ninety-six percent listed crime rate, 90% local taxes, and 84% amenities like shops, parks and restaurants.

Though respondents in all age groups (even those most likely to include parents of young kids) said cell service was more important than school district, older adults unsurprisingly tended to rank hospitals as increasingly more important.



If you are frustrated with the cell reception in your house or apartment, you aren’t alone: 45% of Americans surveyed complained they have recurring problems with mobile signal or call quality at home.

To check out the mobile service in a prospective neighborhood—or to compare carrier performance in the one where you currently live—try this RootMetrics coverage map.

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