When you’re shopping for homes you’ll be introduced to an entirely new vocabulary and I’ll be the first to agree with you that some of it seems downright boring. Take encroachments and easements, for instance.

Though they sound ho-hum, they are both important concepts so today I thought I’d try to put them in plain English for you.

What’s an encroachment?

Encroachment describes the violation of a homeowner’s property rights. Imagine your next-door neighbor, Frank, decides he is tired of having only a carport and builds a garage. When complete, the structure extends onto your property. This is encroachment.

Encroachment can be intentional or unintentional

And, typically, it’s the latter. Unless you are absolutely sure where your property lines are — down to the inch — you’ll have no way of knowing if you’re encroaching on your neighbor’s property when you decide to plant that gorgeous oleander hedge between the two homes.

And, an easement?

In Hawaii, all beaches are publicly-owned and the public is ensured access to all “land below the high-water mark on any coastal shoreline.”

In other words, should you purchase a home on a beach in our 50th state, you cannot block the public from using that beach. In Kahala (on Oahu) for instance, you’ll find pathways that cut between multi-million- dollar homes, from Kahala Avenue to the water.

These paths are public rights-of-ways, or easements — allowing others to travel or pass through their land. And the homeowners on either side have no say in the matter.

The primary distinction, then, between encroachments and easements, is one of permission.

How to deal with encroachment — and why you must

When an encroachment comes to light, both parties have options. Remember Frank – the neighbor who built his garage partially on your property? Suppose this happened decades before you figured out that he had encroached on your property.

You approach Frank, voicing your displeasure. Your most common options include ignoring the trespass, forcing the removal of the garage, offer Frank an easement or have him sign an encroachment agreement.

All of these remedies require the advice and assistance of an attorney

What if Frank doesn’t like any of these options? He may have one of his own (and you won’t like it): adverse possession.

Yes, another ho-hum real estate/legal term, but one that has a huge impact, if invoked. Through the adverse possession process, Frank may be able to gain ownership your portion of the land on which the garage sits.

In fact, adverse possession can be used to gain ownership of “just a few feet of property or hundreds of acres,” according to Emily Doskow, attorney and author of “Neighbor Law: Fences, Trees Boundaries & Noise.”

Although state laws vary, Doskow says that courts generally apply a “four-factor test” when looking at adverse possession claims. The occupation of the land must be:

  • hostile
  • actual
  • open and notorious
  • exclusive and continuous for a certain period of time

Courts don’t define “hostile” the way we do. In an adverse possession case, it describes that Frank’s possession of your land is hostile to your interests.

Then, the courts will want to see that Frank actually used your land as if he were the owner.

He can prove this, according to Doskow, if he can produce records showing he maintained or improved the property or paid taxes on it.

The third factor of the test is that Frank’s use of your property must be obvious “to anyone – including a property owner.”

Finally, Frank must prove that he controlled the land exclusively (meaning he didn’t share it with you) and that he did so for certain amount of time (which varies by state).

How to avoid adverse possession

When determining how to deal with encroachment, it’s important to keep Frank’s option in mind.

Your best option, in any type of encroachment, may be to either offer to rent the offender that piece of your property or grant him an easement.

But, it’s critical that you contact a real estate attorney who will help you consider all possible options. And do it quickly because there is a statute of limitations.

Fall fell on us on September 22 and if you haven’t yet begun your fall home maintenance tasks, it’s time to get started. And, to help, we’ve gathered some tips.

Smoke alarms save lives

Fall and winter see an increase in home fires, according to the American Red Cross, and faulty smoke alarms were to blame for more than 20 percent of home fire deaths. Sadly, nearly 40 percent of the deaths occurred in homes that didn’t have smoke alarms, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

If you have smoke alarms in the home, now is the time to check that they’re working properly. Change the batteries if you can’t remember when they were last changed.

Also, ensure that you have enough smoke alarms in the home. They should be installed outside of each bedroom and on all levels of the home.

“If you and your family sleep with the doors closed, install smoke alarms inside sleeping areas, too,” suggests the NFPA.

NFPA also suggests the following:

  • Consider connecting your smoke alarms so that when one sounds, they all do.
  • Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old
  • Use both ionization and photoelectric alarms throughout the home. The former detects flaming fires and the latter will warn you about smoldering fires.

Check the weather-stripping

Windows and doors are notoriously leaky, allowing our toasty indoor air out and that frosty stuff in. Not only is this tough on your utility bills but uncomfortable for the occupants of your home as well.

Weather-stripping is the way to stop the leaks, but it’s not something that lasts forever and periodically needs to be replaced.

Try rattling your windows. If you’re successful, you probably need to replace the weather-stripping.

If you can see daylight around the door frames you’ll need to strip there as well.

It’s an easy DIY project and Sal Vaglica of This Old House offers a handy walkthroughof how to choose the right product and you can get tips on installing weather stripping from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Yes, it’s a bit of a time-consuming task, but one well worth performing. Replacing worn-out weather-stripping can save 10 to 15 percent on your energy bills this winter, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Get a tune up

HVAC systems (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) last from 15 to 20 years, if properly maintained. Components within the system, however, have shorter life spans, according to the experts at ThisOldHouse.com. The heat pump, for instance will die at around 16 years after installation.

Since we’re entering into that time of year when our heating systems will start getting heavy use, call in a professional to inspect yours.

If you have an oil heating system, inspect the entire system – tank, line, pipes, fittings and valves – for leaks. for leaks. The Massachusetts Environmental and Energy Affairs department claims that the cost of cleaning up a heating oil leak averages between $20,000 and $50,000.

Have your oil company service the furnace and replace any damaged parts.

Forced air systems require seasonal maintenance as well. At the very least, stock up on filters and change them monthly during fall and winter.

Don’t forget the home’s exterior

Step outside and inspect the exterior home from top to bottom.

  • Check the gutters and if they’re clogged, clean them out and then check for leaks. Ensure that the downspouts are still directing water away from the home.
  • If you have siding, check to see if it needs caulking.
  • Check the siding and caulk it, if needed. Also check the exterior corners, where two walls meet. Caulk there as well, if needed. For answers to questions about what should and should not be caulked, head to com and read their guide.
  • If you’ve been putting off blowing out the irrigation system, consider doing it soon and then wrap the pipes.
  • Check trees around the house and trim back any branches that might break during heavy winds.

Of course, there’s lots more you can add to your fall honey-do list, but these tasks will get you started and ensure that your home is safe and sealed from the elements.

It’s a toss-up whether the home inspection or the appraisal induces more nail-biting. Homebuyers, sellers and the agents involved await the results of both with a mixture of anticipation and fear. The latter, at least statistically, is unfounded.

“Nationally, [only] 3.9 percent of sales failed in 2016,” according to Forbes staff writer Samantha Sharf.

She doesn’t mention the reason for the failures, although it’s a safe bet that not all of them were due to a nasty home inspection report. So, the chances are in your favor that your deal, regardless of the findings of the inspector, will sail through to closing.

But, it may need your help.

When faced with problems that the home inspector turns up, you, as the buyer, have several options.

First, Choose Your Battles

Understand that there are some repairs, such as electrical, roof, the HVAC system and plumbing, that you can reasonably expect the seller to make.

In fact, anything that presents a health and safety concern or that negatively impacts your use of the home is not only something that the lender may require, but that, should you walk away from the purchase, the next buyer will expect as well.

It’s the little things, though, that bog down transactions, sometimes bringing them to a halt. If you really want the home, ignore the small stuff and fight for what actually matters.

Items to ignore include anything of a cosmetic nature and problems that are inexpensive to remedy. Save your big guns for the major repairs.

For instance,

Demand repairs to anything that presents a danger to health and safety, such as faulty wiring or mold.

You Have Options When Faced With An Ugly Home Inspection Report

Ask the seller to make the repairs

When faced with major repair or replacement costs, many homebuyers ask the seller to make the repairs before the close of escrow. Often, sellers balk at the request, but once they’re reminded that the next potential buyer will most likely make the same request, they relent.

Ask the seller for a credit

Rather than ask the seller to make the repairs, ask that he or she credit you with the cost of the repairs at the close of escrow. This way, the seller avoids the hassle of having to hire a contractor and the inconvenience of home repair work happening while he’s trying to pack up for the move.

Note that FHA will only allow the seller to credit the buyer 6 percent of the sales price.

But, if the problem has to do with the roof and the required repairs are extensive, FHA may require that the work be done before the close of escrow.

Renegotiate the price

A third option is to ask your agent to amend the purchase agreement with a reduced price, reflecting the deduction for the cost of the repairs. You’ll need to get bids from contractors to determine the cost of fixing or replacing whatever is at issue.

This option depends on your current cash flow. While it lowers the cost of the home, it does nothing to put money in your pocket. So, before exercising this option, determine if you have the funds to do the work.

Switch your financing

If you’re using a FHA-backed loan, contact your lender to find out if you can switch to their 203k program. Because this loan rolls the cost of the repairs into the mortgage, you’ll, in essence, be financing the repairs but only make one payment every month.

The 203k program is a bit complicated and the loan takes time. It will significantly slow down the purchase process so you’ll also need to ask the buyer for a later closing date.

One problem you may run up against with this option is that the seller is under no obligation to cooperate with your efforts to obtain financing that differs from that stated in the purchase agreement. There is a risk that the seller may cancel the sale.

But, since whatever problems the inspection turned up are now disclosure items (the seller will have to inform any subsequent buyer about them), many sellers will be amenable to the change.

It’s important to work closely with your real estate agent on inspection problems, requests and remedies.

Whether it’s your first time buying or selling a home, one of the most confusing aspects of either process is learning the lingo. Fixtures, encumbrances, contingencies – real estate jargon starts flying fast and furiously.

The various players in the process, their roles and responsibilities, seem to confuse consumers the most and the title company sits at numero uno.

In property law, Black’s Law Dictionary defines title as “. . . the means whereby the owner of lands has the just possession of his property.” So, how does one determine who has “just possession” of a particular piece of property and, thus, the right to sell it?

The title company – but that’s not all it does. Let’s take a look at a title company’s three primary roles.

Researching The Home’s Title

Shortly after the ink dries on a contract to purchase a home, it’s delivered to the chosen title company where it will be assigned to a closing agent. Since the contract is also considered escrow instructions, this agent is tasked with following it to the letter.

Then, the research begins and the first step is a thorough examination of any public records pertaining to the property. These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Mortgage records
  • Probate court records
  • Divorce records
  • Liens
  • Wills
  • Sewer assessments
  • Levies
  • Tax records

For instance, Jeff was trying to sell his deceased mother’s home which was sitting on foreclosure’s doorstep. He received a reprieve from the bank – he had 90 days to sell the home or they would begin foreclosure proceedings.

During the escrow period, the bank’s lien, placed while Jeff’s mother was still living, came up and the transaction came to a halt until the bank submitted a release of the lien.

Some of the issues that a title search turns up are trivial but larger issues need to be cleared before the transaction can proceed.

Issues A Preliminary Title Report

The title company then issues a preliminary title report. Because it lists information about the home that no other document does, it’s one of the most important documents a buyer will receive.

For instance, the preliminary report (known as the “prelim” in the industry) lists the home’s legal description:

“Southwest quarter of Southwest quarter (SW ¼ of SW ¼) and West Half of Southeast quarter of Southwest quarter (W½ SE¼ SW¼) of Section Eleven (11), Township Four (4) North of Range Eight (8) West, containing sixty (60) acres of land, more or less, together with the residence, garage, barns and garden,” and so on and so forth, courtesy of The Louisiana Office of the Lieutenant Governor.

Yet another example of real-estate-as-a-second-language, but it’s important information so hang on to that report after the transaction is complete.

The report also lists everything it turned up in its research, including liens, encumbrances and other title defects. These are typically listed as items that will be excluded from the title insurance coverage unless they are corrected.

Consider the preliminary title report as an offer to insure, not a complete history of the property.

Issues The Title Insurance Policy

Title research may not turn up all issues with the property’s title, so title insurance policies protect against any future claims against the property for events that happened in the past.

Bratley, holds title to his grandmother Mable’s home as tenants in common. In 2005, Mable was admitted to a long-term care facility. The following year, Bratley sold gramma’s house, forging Mable’s signature on a full-authority power of attorney. He even had it notarized.

When the home sold, Bratley not only signed the closing documents on behalf of himself and Mable, but authorized that the proceeds from the sale be wired to his personal account.

Three years later, Mable passed away, leaving the executor of her will to settle her estate. In so doing, the homeowners who bought Mable’s home were served with a lawsuit, laying claim to Mabel’s heirs’ interest in the property.

Thankfully, they had purchased an owner’s title insurance policy, even though it’s not mandatory to do so.

If you’ll be getting a loan to buy a home, lender’s title insurance, on the other hand, is mandatory. Since the home is the loan’s security, lenders use all avenues available to protect their interest in the property.

Both policies require only one payment, at closing, and the policies are in force for the life of the loan (for the lender’s policy) and for as long as you own the home, in the case of the owner’s policy.

The National Association of Realtors pegs the average cost of a title insurance policy at $1,000, but cautions that the price will vary, depending on region and the price of the home.

You don’t have to be an impeccable housekeeper when selling a home – you just need to look like one. That’s the beauty of staging a home for sale – it gives buyers the perception of “impeccable,” and perceptions sell.

In fact, staging has been shown to increase a home’s perceived value. “A consumer’s perceived value of a good or service affects the price he is willing to pay,” claim the experts at Investopedia.

Since the kitchen is the most popular room in a home, at least according to homebuyers, paying special attention to how it’s staged should be your first step when thinking about getting your home ready for the market.

Declutter

Your kitchen is now a product, and like any product, you’ll need to ensure that it’s sale-ready. Just as you wouldn’t dream of selling a car that’s cluttered with kids’ stuff, fast food wrappers and paperwork, neither should you tolerate everyday living-type clutter in the kitchen.

  • Clear off the top of the refrigerator, leaving only one decorative item, then remove all the fridge magnets and the photos, report cards and child artwork they hold.
  • Clear off the countertops completely, putting small appliances out of sight and displaying just a few decorative items.
  • If there’s a pot rack in the kitchen, consider removing it. Buyers want storage space and they’ll feel your kitchen lacks it if you need a pot rack.
  • If your kitchen trash receptacle isn’t hidden away, consider buying one that will fit in the pantry or a cupboard. An exposed trash container broadcasts to potential buyers that there isn’t enough cupboard space in the kitchen.
  • Most of us tend to collect clutter near the kitchen sink – bottles of dish soap, sponges, rags, scrub brushes and more. Remove all of it to the cupboard under the sink.
  • Organize the contents of the refrigerator. Yes, buyers will look, especially if appliances are included in the sale.
  • Rearrange the contents of cupboards and drawers, removing large items that make the spaces appear cramped.

Paint

Over time, kitchen walls become grease-stained and splattered. A fresh coat of paint will cure that problem and give you a refreshed backdrop on which to work your decorating magic.

While grey was the go-to kitchen color in 2017, Elle Décor took a look ahead to 2018 and predicts that midnight blue will be the “it” kitchen color.

A 2017 Zillow study also found that blue appeals most to homebuyers.

But, since we’re talking staging, you may want to choose a lighter, softer shade. In fact, the study revealed that blue kitchens earn homeowners an average $1,809 boost of their sale price.

Make Investments

If your budget allows, and you decide to make investments in the kitchen, start with the appliances, because those are the hot buttons common among homebuyers. In fact,

“Studies show that sellers recoup every penny they spend on appliances,” according to HGTV.

The next item to splurge on is lighting. Kitchens can never have too much light, both overhead and task lighting. Consider installing LED lights under the cabinets and switching out the overhead fixture if it’s dated.

Additional items you may want to consider include:

  • A new kitchen faucet
  • New hardware for the cabinets and drawers
  • Rugs and curtains (in small kitchens, avoid busy patterns)
  • Artwork
  • If you have an eat-in kitchen, consider a striking centerpiece for the table

Clean

Freshly-painted walls and organized and decluttered cupboards are the first steps. Cleaning the kitchen – impeccably – is critical.

Yes, you’ll need to keep it that way while the home is on the market, but remember: It’s only temporary.

Across the country, leaves turn crimson, the air gets crisper and thoughts turn to the end-of-the-year holidays. It can be downright distracting which is why, perhaps, that fall is when the country experiences the largest number of pedestrian fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTSA).

While adults older than 64 account for the largest number of pedestrian fatalities, children under the age of 16 make up the second largest group. Let’s take a look at three fall events that contribute to the high number of child pedestrian fatalities.

Getting To And From School

Slower speeds in school zones and regulations about passing school busses help keep kids safe when they’re near their schools. However,

One-third of child pedestrian fatalities happen after school

And, they happen between 3 and 7 p.m., according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). Kids are easily distracted, so it’s up to the adult motorist to be mindful and pay attention while driving through neighborhoods, near parks and other places where children tend to congregate.

In fact, slowdown in these areas. “A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster,” suggests the experts at AAA.

They also caution us to pay attention when vehicles in front of us stop – and don’t shoot past them. They may be stopping to allow pedestrians to cross.

Parents of young children should remind them, consistently, of pedestrian safety rules:

  • Always use a crosswalk.
  • Look both ways, TWICE, before crossing the street.
  • Make eye contact with a driver who stops to allow you to cross. Make sure the driver actually sees you.
  • Never chase a ball, pet or anything else into the street.
  • Never play in, under or around parked vehicles.

Saving Daylight

There’s more to Daylight Savings than setting your clock back an hour in the fall. Carnegie Mellon University scientists claim that pedestrians are three times more likely to be killed by a vehicle when we “fall behind” in autumn (this year we’ll do that before going to bed on Saturday, November 4).

“The change that’s going to occur [when we set our clocks back] is going to have some pronounced effects on your risks of walking between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.,” Carnegie Mellon’s Dr. David Gerard said. “Basically, these are the hours when it’s just getting dark. But people walking and people driving won’t have adjusted. The baseline risk for getting killed is almost tripled.”

He goes on to say that

pedestrians are at the highest risk on the evening after we make the switch and remains high for the following two weeks until drivers have adjusted to the reduction in daylight during their evening commute.

Halloween Nightmares

Halloween is a blast for kids but not so much for their parents. Checking the goody bag for tainted candy is just one concern, however.

“Kids have a greater chance of being fatally injured by a car on Halloween than any other day of the year, including the Fourth of July and New Year’s Day,” according to State Farm® Insurance and Sperling’s BestPlaces.

The study reveals that most of the fatalities happened in the middle of a block and to kids age 12 to 15 and they were perpetrated by drivers between the ages of 15 and 25.

The deadliest hours on Halloween? Between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Halloween is the ideal time to remind younger children of safety rules and for cautioning young drivers to be extra alert. No cellphones, no playing with the radio and keep the passengers in their seats and quiet.

Parents can provide additional protection to their trick-or-treaters by using reflective tape on costumes, shoes and goody bags. Purchase small flashlights or glow sticks for them to carry, providing additional visibility for drivers.

Stay safe out there!

When shopping for a mortgage, have you noticed how much lower the rates are for a variable mortgage than a fixed?

For example, as of this writing, the average 30-year fixed-mortgage rate is 3.69 percent, while the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage, or ARM, is 3.09 percent, according to BankRate.com.

Despite this, many borrowers shy away from ARMs, based on the horror stories they read in the media or hear from friends and family.

Now, we aren’t mortgage experts, but we know plenty of them. Here are some things to consider about the adjustable rate mortgage that they want you to know about.

What Is An Adjustable Rate Mortgage?

The ARM is a mortgage loan program with a fixed rate for a pre-determined amount of time. After that, the rate may vary, either up or down, depending on which major mortgage index it is tied to (MTA, COFI or LIBOR).

A popular ARM is the 5/1, where the 5 means that the loan carries a fixed rate for the first five years and the 1 is the number of annual adjustments you may expect.

The second number, by the way, doesn’t always indicate this. “ … there is no set formula defining what the second number indicates,” cautions the staff at Investopedia.com.

ARMs Aren’t Scary, If You Understand Them

The Great Recession: that was one rough period we went through from December 2007 to June 2009. In fact, it’s considered our economy’s “largest downturn since the Great Depression,” according to the experts at Investopedia.com.

The housing crisis hit Americans hard, zapping their home equity. Those who bought their homes with little- or no-documentation “liar loans,” with ARM products, were particularly hard-hit.

Since the lenders pretty much disregarded whether or not the borrower had the ability to repay the loan, and handed them out like candy, millions of homeowners found themselves with a mortgage payment that skyrocketed just as they were laid off from their jobs.

Unemployment checks can be stretched only so far – so, naturally, with falling home values, when the adjustable period on their mortgages kicked in, many homeowners bailed, walking away from their homes.

Today, proof of the ability to repay a loan is the new norm in the mortgage industry.

But the ARM’s nasty reputation remains. In fact, CNBC‘s real estate correspondent Diana Olick claims that “A wide swath of borrowers today may be paying far too much on their home loans, simply because they are overly cautious.”

It’s a pity, however, because the ARM offers a valid alternative to the fixed rate mortgage for many homebuyers.

An ARM May Be The Ideal Solution When Interest Rates Rise

Funny how myths persist, right? No, the iconic “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign and, indeed, the Las Vegas Strip aren’t located in the City of Las VegasMozart did not compose “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and Abner Doubleday didn’t invent baseball.

Many Americans are under the misconception that when interest rates are on the rise, the adjustable rate mortgage is even riskier. Matt Weaver, with Finance of America Mortgage, however, says otherwise.

“ARMs are more attractive when 30-year interest rates increase,” he tells Olick.

This is because most ARMs carry caps, which limit how much the interest rate can change during the adjustment period. So, even if rates were to skyrocket, your rate can only go so high.

On the flipside, it’s probably not a good move to go with an ARM when mortgage rates are low, according to Matthew Frankel at MotleyFool.com.

“Simply put,” he says, “with interest rates still just above record lows, the probability that rates will be lower once the initial teaser rate expires is not good.”

At current low rates, “30-year fixed-rate mortgages are cheap enough that it’s simply not worth taking the risk of a big increase in the mortgage payment a few years down the road,” he concludes.

ARM Rates, At First Glance, May Not Appear Much Lower Than Fixed Rates 

There is a potential savings from $10,000 to $20,000 with an ARM over a jumbo loan, according to Navy Federal’s Katie Miller.

“That’s enough money for a down-payment on a car, or part of your child’s college tuition.”

One way to learn how much you might save is to use an online fixed vs. adjustable rate mortgage calculator.

Who Should Consider An Adjustable Rate Mortgage

The ARM is an inexpensive way “for borrowers who don’t plan on living in one place for very long to buy a house,” say the experts at BankRate.com. And, according to the National Association of Realtors, the average time a homeowner lives in a home before selling, varies by age group.

Millennials, for instance, will typically sell their homes within five years of the purchase, whereas older Americans tend to stay put, on average, for 13 years.

The ARM may also be a good choice for the borrower who expects his or her income to increase before the adjustment period kicks in. Then, there are those “borrowers who are willing to bet they can invest their mortgage savings for a greater return elsewhere,” according to Jeff Brown at MarketWatch.com.

Weaver warns, however, that education is paramount for borrowers considering an adjustable-rate loan.

Since they understand your current financial situation, your best counsellors include your financial planner, accountant or lender.

Learn more about the adjustable rate mortgage, its risks and rewards, at consumerfinance.gov.

Sure, Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Aniston, and hubby Justin Theroux and Jay-Z and Beyonce own drop-dead gorgeous homes in Los Angeles’ swanky Bel Air community. But, theirs don’t hold a candle to the newly-crowned priciest home in the U.S. right now.

History

Back in the 1960s, there was barely an adolescent girl in the country that didn’t want to be Elly May Clampett, the animal-loving, Ozark-to-Beverly Hills transplant on TV’s “Beverly Hillbillies.”

It’s no wonder then that the front of the family’s TV home became iconic and, if you’ve ever watched old reruns of the show you’ll surely recognize the nation’s most expensive home for sale — “cement pond” and all — 750 Bel Air Rd. in Los Angeles.

Known as “Chartwell,” to some and “Kirkeby Mansion” to others, the 25,000 square-foot estate was built in 1933 by Lynn Atkinson, the engineer who built Boulder Dam, who never moved in.

Instead, he sold the manse to Arnold S. Kirkeby, “a bond dealer, developer, and hotelier with rumored mob ties who had just bought the Beverly Wilshire” Hotel, according to LA Curbed’s Adrian Glick Kudler. Kirkeby, by the way, paid $250,000 for the home that is now on the market for $350 million.

Well, that’s one story. Another says that Atkinson gave it to Kirkeby to pay off a debt. A home that cost $2 million dollars to build ($36,859,847.33 in 2017 dollars), given away to repay a debt.

Chartwell … Or Kirkeby, If You Will

To give you an idea of just how lavish the Chartwell/Kirkeby estate is, “Betsy Bloomingdale supposedly walked into the White House in 1975 and said ‘This looks just like Carlotta Kirkeby’s house in Bel Air,’” according to Kudler.

It was so opulent, in fact, that Atkinson’s wife refused to move into it, considering it too ostentatious.

By 1986, the manse was owned by Jerry Perenchio, former CEO of Univision, and he undertook massive restorations.

Today, the home features 25,000 square feet of living space. Hard to picture? Fenway Park in Boston is about 14,400 square feet. We could squeeze more than two of Jefferson’s Monticello and nine of America’s average sized homes (2,687 square feet) inside of Chartwell.

This massive square footage contains the typical Bel Air-type amenities, with a ballroom, a huge wine cellar, a “formal salon” (do we even know what that is?) and gold-plated doorknobs and fixtures in the bathrooms.

But wait –there’s more (there better be for $350 million, right?). The French neoclassical Beaux Arts-style property also features 10 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms, Baccarat chandeliers, a waterfall and an elevator to whisk residents from the home to the underground tunnels that lead to the 75-foot pool.

Outside, the new owner will have 10.3 acres on which to roam, thanks to the brilliant thinking of Perenchio, who snatched up several homes surrounding Chartwell (including President Reagan’s former home) to provide the estate with additional seclusion.

Impeccably manicured gardens can be seen in the Google satellite view of the home but there’s also parking for 40 cars (covered parking, naturally), a pool house and tennis court.

Finally, it takes three brokerages (and six listing agents), to market the home.

Nature is good for us, according to psychologists. In fact, there’s an entire branch of their profession devoted to studying how nature impacts our happiness and well-being, known as environmental psychology.

When we incorporate natural elements in our home’s décor, we are practicing what is known as “biophilic design.” Adherents subscribe to the belief that “humans are hard-wired to need connection with nature and other forms of life,” according to Timothy Beatley, author and professor at the University of Virginia.

It’s a proven scientific fact that when we’re in nature, our stress levels are reduced, our moods are enhanced and even our academic performance improves.

We’ve also learned that bringing outdoor elements into the home offers the same benefits. Let’s take a look at how you can incorporate nature into your home’s décor to make your home happier and healthier.

1.Get Wet

Living in an aquatic locale gives you a “six-point increase on the 100-point happiness scale compared to urban settings’ according to Zachary Slobig, in Psychology Today. Thankfully, we don’t need to live near a body of water to derive these benefits.

A koi pond or fountain in view of the home’s main living space is an aspect of biophilic design, but since the sound of water also offers benefits, consider installing a water feature inside the home. From wall water features to table-top fountains and even aquariums, you have a lot of options.

2. You’ll Get More Work Done And Be Happier In Natural Light

Most of us are familiar with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that typically occurs when days get shorter. One of the more holistic treatments for SAD is light therapy.

SAD sufferers are instructed to spend 30 minutes each morning next to a light box that emits 10,000 lux – light that’s “about 100 times brighter than usual indoor lighting,” according to Michael Craig Miller, M.D., with Harvard University.

Studies of workplace lighting have shown that productivity is enhanced when indoor lighting mimics daylight. They’ve even learned that this type of lighting in stores produces higher sales and that when used in classrooms, students perform better.

Believe it or not, one study showed a decrease in dental decay in students who attend classes in rooms with lights that mimic daylight.

It all has to do with our levels of serotonin and melatonin and how they affect our moods, weight loss, how we sleep and even health conditions.

If you don’t have giant windows that let lots of sunlight into the home, fake it. Replace lightbulbs with daylight LED bulbs or shop for lighting listed as “full spectrum.”

3. Bring The Outdoors Indoors

The air inside our homes is likely to be more polluted than outdoor air, “even the largest and most industrialized cities,”

according to the EPA. Carpeting and furniture offgass toxins such as benzene and formaldehyde. Then there are the various chemicals we use in our daily lives, such as cleaning products and pesticides, which also emit toxins into the air.

According to NASA studies of the closed environments in our space stations, plants clean the air of these toxins. In fact, flowering plants go after benzene, while popular houseplants such as pothos and philodendron will absorb formaldehyde.

Make your home healthier by incorporating live plants wherever possible. The experts at NASA recommend that you place 15 plants per 1,800 square feet of living space. And they recommend plants in 6- to 8-inch containers. NASA has compiled a list of suggested houseplants and you can find them online, here.

Plants provide other benefits aside from physical health, according to Beatley.

Scientific research, he claims, proves that items in nature make our moods more positive, improve our cognitive functioning, increase academic performance and lower our stress levels.

In Beatley’s book, “Biophilic Cities -Integrating Nature into Urban Design and Planning,” he mentions a study of post-operative hospital patients. Those patients who could view a tree outside their windows remained in the hospital for a shorter period of time than those patients without a tree-view.

So, while bringing various elements of nature indoors will amp up your family’s health and happiness, merely placing these elements within view from the interior of the house has benefits as well.

The EPA estimates that we spend 90 percent of our average day indoors, in polluted air, whether it’s at work or at home. Protect your health and happiness by bringing the outdoors indoors.

Atlantic hurricane season: June 1 through November 30. Wildfire seasons vary, depending on region. Earthquakes have no season – they strike without warning.

Depending on where you live, natural disaster preparedness may be a vital undertaking, but stocking food and water only takes care of one’s immediate needs.

What happens if your roof is blown off, your walls collapse or your home is completely destroyed? Even the most diligent retrofitting can’t foil Mother Nature.

Our hearts go out to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. We know that once their safety is assured and their immediate needs are taken care of, their thoughts will turn to the safety and overall livability of their homes. So, today we thought we’d take a look at some preliminary steps to take.

Head For Safety, First

Don’t remain at or return home if you have any doubts about the soundness of your home. The American Red Cross and Salvation Army typically provide shelters during disasters. You can locate shelters by texting “SHELTER” and your ZIP code, (for instance, “SHELTER 75043”).

The Recovery Process

Now that you’re safe, take these steps to begin the recovery process:

  • Get in touch with your mortgage servicer to request a forbearance on your mortgage payments. Document the home’s damage, how your job may be impacted by the disaster (and, thus, your income) and anything else that may hamper your ability to make your payments.
  • As soon as possible, document the damage to your home and belongings (photographs are ideal) and secure the home if you cannot remain there safely. Your insurance company will want to know the extent of the damage and be assured that you’ve secured the home from further damage by weather, looters and squatters.
  • Keep all receipts for any disaster-related expenses, including hotel rooms, food, clothing and supplies purchased to board up the home’s windows or patch holes in the roof (anything purchased in your efforts to secure the home).
  • Contact your homeowner insurance agent and flood insurer. It’s important to get the ball rolling on this as soon as possible. Ask your insurance agent if you have coverage for alternative living expenses during the time you’ll be unable to return to your home. Then, get the specific steps you’ll need to take before repairs can begin.

Remember, even if you lack flood coverage, you may still be eligible for assistance.

Get the details at disasterassistance.gov.

Whether or not you can obtain federal disaster assistance depends upon if your county is declared an official disaster area. If it is, apply for disaster assistance, even if you have insurance. FEMA’s Disaster Recovery Assistance program offers grants for some home repairs, rent payment assistance and other disaster-related necessities. You can apply online, here.

Don’t wait to apply for assistance – if you do, you run the risk of missing FEMA’s deadline to apply.

Scammers Will Be Out In Full Force

Authorities with FEMA warn that phony contractors, housing inspectors and those hawking offers of government aid will be circling the area like vultures.

Always ask for official identification and never entertain anyone who asks for money.

“There is no fee to apply for or to get help from FEMA, the Small Business Administration or the state,” they warn.

Report suspicious scammers to FEMA at 866-720-5721 or by contacting your state’s attorney general’s office.

While Hurricane Harvey’s floods are top-of-mind right now, disasters of many stripes can occur across the country. Keep this information handy as it applies to earthquake, wildfire and other disaster victims as well.