MONEY home prices

This Is America’s Biggest, Priciest New Home

Construction continues at a home being built by Nile Niami, a film producer and speculative residential developer, in this aerial photograph taken in Bel Air, California, U.S., on Monday, May 18, 2015. Niami, who hopes to sell the house for a record $500 million, is pouring concrete in L.A.s Bel Air neighborhood for a compound with a 74,000-square-foot (6,900-square-meter) main residence and three smaller homes, according to city records.
David Paul Morris—Bloomberg via Getty Images Construction continues at a home being built by Nile Niami, a film producer and speculative residential developer, in this aerial photograph taken in Bel Air, California.

An insane mansion is rising in Bel Air.

When the Los Angeles Business Journal reported last summer that work had gotten under way on a megamansion construction project in Bel Air, Calif., the property was expected to measure around 85,000 square feet, including a 70,000-square-foot main house. The New York Times wrote about the NIMBY issues being raised by property last December, when the expected listing price was estimated at $150 million.

These numbers are enormous, astronomical, absurd—hard for the average person to fathom, let alone afford. Yet apparently, these figures were on the low side.

The latest on the property, as reported by Bloomberg News, has it that the compound will exceed 100,000 square footage of living space, including a 74,000-square-foot main residence and three smaller houses on the four-acre property. If this turns out to be true, the Bel Air property would trump the notorious 90,000-square-foot estate in Orlando featured in the documentary The Queen of Versailles for the title of America’s largest recently built home. (The White House, by the way, is a mere 55,000 square feet.)

What’s more, the developer, film producer and speculative real estate investor Nile Niami, says that $150 million is chump change. He plans on putting the property on the market for the more fitting sum of $500 million. Bear in mind that the most expensive price ever paid for a home was $221 million for a London penthouse in 2011, and that no home in the U.S. is currently listed for more than $200 million.

In any event, what does one get in a Bel Air megamansion that measures potentially 100,000 square feet and costs potentially $500 million? Here are some of the key figures:

• 30-car garage
• 5,000-square-foot master bedroom
• 4 swimming pools, including a 180-foot infinity pool
• 1 “jellyfish room” with glass fish tanks on three sides
• 45-seat IMAX-style home theater
• 360-degree views of the Pacific Ocean, Beverly Hills, downtown L.A.
• 74,000-square-foot main mansion
• 100,000+ total square feet on property’s four homes
• 8,500-square-foot private nightclub inside the mansion
• 40,000 cubic yards of earth to be removed for construction
• $500 million expected listing price

TIME World

Indonesian Woman Who Offered to Wed Whoever Bought Her Home Finds Groom Is Already Married

For sale: House (and wife) in Indonesia
Anadolu Agency—Getty Images Wina Lia, 40, poses at her home in Sleman, in Indonesia's Yogyakarta province, on March 12, 2015

A publicity stunt that could eventually turn into a soap opera

Perhaps it was always too good to be true. Indonesian homeowner Wina Lia, who offered to marry whoever agreed to purchase her house, has now discovered that the man of her dreams is in fact already married.

Redi Eko agreed to wed Wina as well as buy her home, and had admitted that he was once married, but another woman has since stepped forward, claiming she is still his legitimate wife, Indonesian media reports.

Wina, a 40-year-old single mother, is ostensibly surprised. “He never told me,” she said, as quoted by Kompas daily. “Yes, I am shocked when I read from mass media that he already has a wife. I am disappointed.”

Redi’s alleged wife, Endang Titin Wapriyustia, who, like Wina, who earns a living by running a beauty salon, also said that she was “surprised” when she heard her husband wanted to marry another woman.

Endang said she and Redi were married on March 8, 2014. They had known each other since they were teenagers and they reconnected after Redi’s first marriage ended and Titin’s husband passed away, leaving her with three children. The couple don’t see each other often because he lives in Lampung, in Sumatra, while she resides in the central Javanese town of Solo — not far from Yogyakarta, where Wina lives.

Endang said she wouldn’t stop her husband from marrying Wina, as long as they get divorced first.

But she hopes Wina would reconsider her plan to marry Redi. “He gave me many promises before, from buying me a luxurious house, a car for my child and taking me for an umrah [minor pilgrimage to Mecca], but until now, nothing,” Endang said. “Since we married [in March 2014], he didn’t give me money apart from 300,00 rupiah [$23] for Eid al-Fitr and 10 million rupiah [$760] for the wedding.”

Whether any of this has influenced Wina is unclear, though she has put her marriage plans on hold, saying: “I am postponing it, until this matter is taken care of.”

MONEY buying a home

Why You Still Can’t Afford to Buy a House

DreamPictures—Getty Images

Homeownership is at a 25-year low

Last month did not bring good news for those looking for evidence of a housing recovery. According to the Commerce Department, the seasonally adjusted home ownership rate for Q1 2015 sank to 63.8% — a number not seen since 1989. That represents a 1.2% decrease from Q1 of 2014, a 0.2% drop from Q4 2014, and the continuation of a general ten-year decline from a peak of over 69%. A few more months of this trend would put home ownership in historically low territory.

At the same time, household formation (those striking out on their own) increased by 1.7 million in Q4 of 2014 and another 1.5 million in 2015. Home prices are continuing to rise according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index, and the inventory level of unsold housing has dropped below five months according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Six months is a typical supply for a healthy housing market.

So, the number of households is increasing, the housing supply is low, and prices are rising — yet the number of homeowners keeps decreasing. How does this add up?

It appears that too many of these new households still cannot afford to buy a house, at least not the ones that are available to them. They are forced to rent instead, and as a result, that market is also out of balance. Diana Olick of CNBC reports that rental vacancies are hitting historic lows. The current market could be considered a “pre-recovery” stage, if you will — millennials and those knocked down by the housing crisis have recovered to the point where they can enter the rental market, but not to the point where they can afford to buy a home even with the currently low fixed interest rates.

There is a cascade effect going on in the housing market that will take some time to remedy. Those who want to upgrade their homes are having difficulty gathering down payments and qualifying for loans, thanks to wages that are still stagnant and credit that is still relatively tight. Thus, the supply of starter homes is low, making first-time ownership difficult for those who have recovered enough to qualify. Some signs of wage pressures and loosening credit are present, but not enough to fuel a true recovery.

In terms of numbers, the calculation methods may make the situation look worse than it really is. Since the overall number of households is increasing and the majority of these are renting, the number of homeowners relative to the total is shrinking. It is not as though large numbers of people are losing their homes, as was the case during the housing crisis.

Many economists expect the decline in home ownership to begin stabilizing finally and to stay stagnant until the true recovery phase can kick in. A combination of rising wages, job increases, government approaches to make credit more affordable to first-time homebuyers, and the general decline of underwater homes through home appreciation should lead to a housing upturn. Of course, the question on everyone’s mind is: how long will it take to reach full recovery and convert renters into first-time homebuyers?

Nobody has that answer, and the housing market has defied most predictions of recovery over the last few years with frustratingly mixed progress. However, we can predict one thing with certainty. If the housing outlook is still struggling at this time next year, politicians and policymakers up for re-election will panic and start to take action, most of which will probably be misguided. Let’s hope the market intervenes before the politicians can act.

More From MoneyTips:

MONEY home improvement

The Best Garden Tools for Mom

gardening tools
Andrew Unangst—Getty Images

Q: My wife and I started a gardening seriously a couple of years ago, and I want to get her some solid, high-quality tools for Mother’s Day to replace the standard “homeowner-grade” junk we’ve been using. Can you recommend a good basic set?

A: Gardening tools are one of those purchases where you really do get what you pay for. Affordable, light-duty products will inevitably snap, bend, or fall apart if you put them through anything more strenuous than, say, planting annuals each spring. And you’ll find that top-of-the-line tools also make laborious tasks easier. Here’s a roundup of high-quality yet reasonably affordable basic gardening gear.

Hand pruner: For everything from clipping overgrown bushes to removing spent flowers so a plant can produce more blooms, you’ll want a good set of bypass pruners, such as those made by Felco ($53 at homedepot.com).

Hand tool set: Look for heavy-duty metal hand tools, such as Lee Valley’s 3-piece set ($62 at leevalley.com), plus Fiskar’s tool apron, ($13 at amazon.com), which is designed to wrap around a standard 5-gallon bucket (about $3 at any home center) so you can carry all your tools and supplies in one hand.

Cart/seat: Gardening means getting down into the dirt, either by kneeling or sitting on a comfortable seat. A Tractor Scoot ($90 from gardeners.com) is a seat plus a storage bin set on chunky wheels.

Gloves: Make sure to get her a pair of good leather gauntlet gloves, which protect wrists as well as hands. While you’re at it, get yourself a pair too ($30 at duluthtrading.com).

Long-handled tools: Perhaps nowhere is quality more important than with tools designed to quite literally do the heavy lifting. For starters, consider the forged round-point shovel, PROHOE 6-inch scuffle hoe, and Union half-moon turf edger ($46, $35, and $40, respectively, at amleo.com).

Read next: 4 (Mostly) Cheap and Easy Ways to Green Up Your Grass

MONEY Marriage

5 Ways to Protect Your Money Without a Prenup

"His" and "Hers" towels
Ethan Myerson—Getty Images

If a prenuptial agreement is not in the cards, you can still keep your cash secure.

Prenuptial agreements can be a great tool for protecting assets for married couples who ultimately end up divorcing. But what happens when you don’t have a prenup? Or if you wanted one but your spouse refused to sign and you decided it wasn’t worth the aggravation? Can you still protect your assets? The answer, as is so often the case in law, is that it depends. Certain assets can absolutely be protected. Others not so much. Here is the list of ways you can protect (at least some of) your money and assets without a prenup.

1. Keep your own funds separate.

The word “commingling” is often synonymous with “lottery winnings” to one spouse; and “gambling losses” to the other. If you have an account that has funds in it that you either 1) owned prior to the marriage; or 2) received during the marriage as inheritance or a non-marital gift; and then mixed in your earnings from your pay, or joint funds from another bank account – then poof! The entire account becomes marital. Why? Because the courts consider money to be “fungible” meaning that once that marital dollar goes in, you can’t tell which dollar is coming back out. So Rule #1 – Keep your separate funds separate!

2. Keep your own real estate separate.

Many people own a home prior to getting married. Oftentimes, especially if that home becomes the home for the married couple, the homeowner decides to throw the other person’s name onto the deed. What harm could that be? Right? I mean what happens if the owner died – wouldn’t you want your spouse to have it? The answer is that once the non-owning spouse’s name is on that deed, even if it is removed again down the road, the result is that the court will presume that you have given half the value to that spouse as a gift. And yes, you can sit on the stand and testify that it was only done for “estate planning” purposes, but most times that kind of testimony just comes off as self-serving and falls flat. So, you can always create a will or trust that leaves your property to your spouse. Rule #2 – do not put your spouse’s name on the deed unless you are prepared to hand over half the value of it in a divorce.

3. Use nonmarital funds to maintain non-marital property.

Here’s where the waters get murkier. It is easy enough to decide to keep your own property in your own name. The rub comes when it comes to maintaining that property. This is where the couple is using their paychecks to pay the mortgage on that property, or to make renovations or improvements to that property. Now the court is going to be faced with trying to carve out which part of the value of the property might be marital and which part of the value has remained non-marital – a tedious and tortuous task. To keep it all clean, just use your funds from your premarital or inherited account to maintain your non-marital property, too.

4. Keep bank statements for retirement accounts issued at the date of marriage.

Unlike other accounts that are commingled, if you have retirement account assets at the date of marriage, and at the time of divorce, you can produce a statement that shows what you had in that account, then the court may let you carve off that amount and divide the rest. The challenge is finding those statements sometimes. Make sure you keep statements that show if the custodian changes.

5. Get a valuation of your business around the date of the marriage.

Also unlike bank accounts that are commingled, the court has the ability to potentially carve off the appreciated value of a non-marital business. So for example, if your business was worth $1 million on the date of your marriage and worth $2 million on the date of your divorce, your spouse would be entitled to the one half of the difference or $500,000. (Or you could have just had the spouse sign a prenuptial agreement that waived any and all appreciation — but assuming you didn’t, this is the next best option).

While a prenuptial agreement is the ideal way for specifying how assets are to be divided should there be a dissolution of marriage, all is not lost if there isn’t one. By following these five steps, you can still protect some, if not all, of your premarital or non-marital assets.

The financial effects of divorce can also have an impact on your credit. So both during and after your divorce, it’s important to keep an eye on your credit reports and credit scores to watch for inaccuracies or any other problems that need your attention. You’re entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies through AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also get your credit scores for free from many sources, including Credit.com.

More from Credit.com

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

MONEY Ask the Expert

Should I Use Home Equity to Invest for Retirement?

Ask the Expert Retirement illustration
Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

Q: We recently retired. We have a small mortgage on our home and lots of equity. Should we refinance our mortgage to free up additional money to invest for our retirement? —Bea Granniss, Amityville, N.Y.

A: Even at today’s low mortgage rates, it’s risky to borrow against your home at this stage of your life, says Tim McGrath, a certified financial planner and founding partner of Riverpoint Wealth Management in Chicago.

It’s true that more older Americans are retiring with heavy debt loads. But taking on additional debt when you are no longer bringing in income puts you in a precarious financial position. In retirement, your income is fixed—you probably have Social Security, your retirement savings, and possibly a pension. If an unexpected expense comes up, your chief recourse is to adjust your spending on discretionary costs, such as eating out and taking vacations. If you pile on more debt, you may not have enough leeway to avoid cutting your fixed expenses, says McGrath.

No question, refinancing looks attractive now. At today’s low interest rates, freeing up cash for a potentially higher return is a tempting notion—after all, stocks have done pretty well in recent years.

But it’s a mistake to compare today’s low mortgage rates to an expected return on investment, especially for retirees. Moreover, the basic math of refinancing may not make sense given your financial situation.

Let’s start with the refinancing rules. Unless you have a mortgage rate that’s significantly higher – at least a half percentage point above the current rate—you won’t free up much income with a refi. And now that you’re not working, it will be harder to get the best terms from a bank.

Borrowing against your home will reset the loan, which means you’ll be paying more in interest over time instead of paying down principal. “Instead of building more equity, you’ll be racking up more debt,” says McGrath.

Refinancing also costs thousands of dollars in fees. So you’ll need to stay in your home for a long time in order to recoup those expenses. But when you’re older, you’re more likely to reach a point where you want to downsize or move.

As for those enticing investment returns, there’s no guarantee the money you invest will produce the gains you’re seeking—or any gain at all. Lately, many investment pros have been warning that the returns on stocks and bonds are likely to be lower in the years ahead. Most retirees, in fact, are better off with a more conservative portfolio, since you have less time and financial flexibility to ride out market downturns.

Of course, every retiree’s financial situation is different. Refinancing might be a good solution if you want to pay off other high-rate debt. Or if you’re struggling to afford the mortgage payment, and you want to stay in your home, then refinancing could give you more of a cushion for your regular expenses.

But that doesn’t sound like the case for you. As McGrath says, “Taking money from your home equity and gambling on what could happen by investing it is too much risk in your retirement.”

Read next: How to Squeeze the Most Value from Your Home

MONEY Warren Buffett

This Is How Much It Costs to Live Next Door to Warren Buffett

Getting to call the Berkshire Hathaway CEO your neighbor won't come cheap.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett famously still lives in the Omaha, Nebraska, home he bought in 1958 for $31,500.

But the five-bedroom, 5 1/2-bath house that just went on sale right across the street is going for a bit more.

Although it was recently appraised for just under a million dollars, according to current owner Phil Huston, the home’s list price is 10 “A shares” of Berkshire Hathaway stock, equal to about $2.15 million today.

Given that many are willing to pay up for Buffett’s time and former possessions—including one man who paid more than $2 million to lunch with the Berkshire CEO and one who splurged for his old Cadillac—it seems reasonable to think that a buyer might pay a premium to become neighbors with the Oracle of Omaha, says Huston.

“Call it the Buffett factor,” he says.

Huston, who has lived at 225 S. 55th street with his antique-dealer wife Anne since 1994, says the residence—built in 1922—has an interesting history of its own. During the 1950s it was the home of the late Donald Keough, who was not only a long-time friend of Buffett, but also went on to become a top Coca Cola executive. (Buffett, an avid consumer of the soft drink, led Berkshire Hathaway to become a top shareholder of Coke stock.)

The Hustons don’t have any offers on their home yet, but they hope to pique the interest of those visiting Omaha this weekend for Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting. Click through the gallery above for more images of the residence.

MONEY home prices

15 Insanely Expensive Homes on the Market This Spring

It's finally beginning to feel like spring, and that marks the start of home shopping season. We've teamed up with real estate website Zillow for a peek into the most expensive listings in 15 U.S. cities.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com