‘Quiet wealth’ takes on new meaning with super-private deals for mansions, art and classic cars

A version of this article first appeared in CNBC’s Inside Wealth newsletter with Robert Frank, a weekly guide to the high-net-worth investor and consumer. Sign up to receive future editions, straight to your inbox.

The rich have taken “quiet wealth” to a new level, turning to private purchases of mansions, art and classic cars designed to avoid attention, according to experts.

Auction companies and luxury real estate brokers say wealthy buyers and sellers are increasingly turning to private sales and off-market listings to avoid social media and prying eyes. While public auction sales are declining in the art world, private sales — done behind closed doors between discreet buyers and sellers — are growing.

Last year, while combined public auction sales for Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips fell by 19%, private sales increased by 4% at Sotheby’s and 5% at Christie’s, totaling $2.4 billion across the two auction houses. CNBC reported in February that Christie’s had sold a Mark Rothko painting for over $100 million to hedge-fund billionaire Ken Griffin, even as public auctions continued to decline.

Classic cars are also seeing a shift to private sales, especially with the most expensive and rare models. RM Sotheby’s, the classic-car auction company, has sold trophy Ferraris, Porsches and other trophy cars by public auction for more than 30 years. But its newly formed RM Sotheby’s private sales division has seen its sales more than quadruple over the past four years, according to Shelby Myers, global head of private sales for RM Sotheby’s.

Private sales, where cars are discreetly brokered between buyer and seller without an auction or public price, now account for nearly a third of revenue, he said.

“We’ve definitely seen a trend where people want to transact privately,” Myers said. “Discretion today is key. People can buy without the whole world staring at them.”

The rise in private sales for classic cars, art, real estate and other markets is being driven by social media, technology and cooling prices for collectibles. When a work of art or classic car comes up for auction, the results, and sometimes the seller, are highly public, spread over social media and blogs.

Collectibles experts say sellers don’t want to risk putting a treasured item up for auction only to have it stumble publicly on the auction block.

“It’s very public now when someone loses money on a sale, and no one wants that,” Myers said. “Up until a few years ago, you could buy a car at auction and the prices wouldn’t be splattered all over social media.”

Collectors who like to show their cars at events and award shows are also shying away from auctions since viewers are more likely to be able to figure out how much the owner paid.

“The car enthusiasts used to be a relatively small, tight-knit group,” Myers said. “Now when a major collector shows their car, it spreads like wildfire over blogs and the internet. And everyone can see who the owner is and what they paid.”

In real estate, many of the biggest deals in Manhattan, Malibu, Aspen, the Hamptons and Palm Beach are now in private or “off-market” sales. Also known as “whisper” or “pocket” listings, off-market properties are not listed on multiple listing services or public websites but are shopped around quietly among a select group of brokers and buyers.

A townhouse in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village sold this year in an off-market deal for $72.5 million, making it the most expensive townhouse ever sold downtown. A 13,000-square-foot mansion in Palm Beach sold off-market for $60 million, making it one the most expensive non-waterfront homes ever sold on the island. And Aspen’s first sale of over $100 million — Patrick Dovigi’s mansion on Red Mountain to billionaires Steve Wynn and Thomas Peterffy — was off-market, with the broker representing both the buyer and seller.  

Los Angeles is considered the birthplace of off-market deals, starting in the 1980s and 1990s when celebrities and movie stars wanted to avoid overzealous fans visiting their listed homes.

Over time, according to Douglas Elliman real estate agent Ernie Carswell in Los Angeles, wealthy, not but famous, sellers have joined in on the off-market craze.

“Even the average multi-millionaire or billionaire likes the idea of selling without the media and privacy invasion,” Carswell said.

Carswell said he currently has a billionaire client in New York who wants a special property in Los Angeles, so Carswell is looking at a mega-mansion owned by a Middle Eastern billionaire who is offering it only to select buyers. He’s also working on a deal in Palm Springs with a celebrity selling a home he didn’t want to be publicly shown to a billionaire buyer who doesn’t want any photos of his new home on the web.

“They don’t want burglars to know how to get to the bedroom, or how much land there is or how to get through the hedges,” Carswell said. “I blame technology.”

Carswell said off-market listings don’t make sense for properties under $5 million since they have a larger possible buying pool and benefit from broader marketing. But for special mega-homes in Malibu, Bel Air or Beverly Hills priced over $20 million, the list of potential buyers is smaller, and most are already known to the brokers, which makes an off-market agreement more appealing. 

That makes broker relationships even more important — especially to the wealthy, Carswell said.

“Never before has the need for a skilled, connected real estate professional been more valuable, especially at the high end,” he said.

Still, some brokers say even for pricey properties, sellers who go private don’t get the highest price since they’re limiting their pool of potential buyers.

“They’re leaving money on the table,” said real estate broker Noble Black of Douglas Elliman. “There is a valid reason for not listing, you want privacy and discretion. But you’re paying a premium for that.”

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Homeownership isn’t for everyone, money coach says: Don’t fall for artificial ‘pressure to buy’

Jannese Torres is the founder of the blog Delish D’Lites and the podcast “Yo Quiero Dinero.”

Photo Jannese Torres

In her upcoming book, “Financially Lit!: The Modern Latina’s Guide to Level Up Your Dinero & Become Financially Poderosa,” author Jannese Torres discusses how she became the first woman in her family to graduate from college, build a career and achieve what she believed were marks of success.

Yet in her pursuit of the American dream, she realized that she didn’t know what to do with her financial success. She also realized certain milestones, such as homeownership, often aren’t so much achievements as a new set of challenges.

“It’s just important for people not to just feel this pressure to buy a home because you’re a certain age or you’ve reached a certain life milestone,” said Torres, a Latina money expert who hosts the podcast “Yo Quiero Dinero” and an entrepreneurship coach who helps clients pursue financial independence.

As part of its National Financial Literacy Month efforts, CNBC will be featuring stories throughout the month dedicated to helping people manage, grow and protect their money so they can truly live ambitiously.

CNBC spoke with Torres in early April about what drove her to write her new book, how she has worked through “financial survivor’s guilt,” and why pursuing the American dream can become a nightmare for some.

(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity).

‘Nobody talks about the grief that comes with growth’

“I wanted to write the book that I needed when I was graduating from high school and that could have saved me from making a lot of financial mistakes because I didn’t learn anything about money,” said Jannese Torres, author of “Financially Lit!: The Modern Latina’s Guide to Level Up Your Dinero & Become Financially Poderosa.”

Courtesy: Jannese Torres

Ana Teresa Solá: What drove you to write this book? 

Jannese Torres: When I was doing the market research for the book, one of the things that I did was look and see what the competitive market looked like out there, or if there is a reason that this book needs to exist. 

I couldn’t find a single book that was specifically marketed to the Latina community or Latinos in general being the majority minority in this country. 

Our families have told us to go and pursue the American dream, but we haven’t been given instructions for how to manage the emotions that come with it.

I felt like I wanted to write the book that I needed when I was graduating from high school and that could have saved me from making a lot of financial mistakes because I didn’t learn anything about money. The more that I’ve talked to folks through the podcast and through my social media platforms, that’s been a very common sentiment. We’re told to go to school, get a job and make money, but then that’s the end of the conversation. What do we actually do with it? 

ATS: Like many younger generations of Latinos in the U.S., you overcame many hurdles and achieved major goals. But you describe in the book that these milestones also come with a sense of guilt. Why is guilt tied to success? 

JT: I call it “financial survivor’s guilt” because this is one of those things that we have not been prepared for. Our families have told us to go and pursue the American dream, but we haven’t been given instructions for how to manage the emotions that come with it. Nobody talks about the grief that comes with growth. Nobody talks about what it feels like to be on the other side of the struggle when so many people that you love are still there and you feel powerless to help them all. 

Looking back at it now, it’s like I was making all these decisions because of what other people valued versus asking myself what I actually value.

It’s going to require folks to give themselves some compassion, and to be okay to feel those feelings. But don’t let them sabotage you. It’s going to require some boundaries that you learn to exercise and also being okay with feeling like you’re on this island by yourself. When you’re the first to do something, it’s always going to feel uncomfortable. But if we don’t have examples of people who can make it out, I think it’s going to be much harder for folks to believe that they can do it, too. 

‘I was over my head very quickly’

ATS: Walk me through the chapter or that point in time when you bought a house, but it wasn’t all you thought it would be. 

JT: Looking back at it now, I was falling victim to the American dream. As a first-generation kid, my parents didn’t invest. The only thing that we saw as examples of “making it” was when family members would buy homes: The sacrifices were worth it and this is the thing that you have to show for your success.

When you’re the first to do something, it’s always going to feel uncomfortable. But if we don’t have examples of people who can make it out, I think it’s going to be much harder for folks to believe that they can do it, too. 

Jannese Torres

Latina money expert and entrepreneurship coach

I definitely felt the pressure to keep up with the Joneses in that respect. I was turning 30 years old and I saw friends buying homes, getting married, doing all those things that are on the successful adult checklist of life. When I decided to purchase the home, it was coming from a place of, “Well, I need to do this too, because this is just what everybody does.”

I quickly realized that I bought a home in a place that I didn’t even want to live in. 

Looking back at it now, it’s like I was making all these decisions because of what other people valued versus asking myself what I actually value. The freedom to have that flexibility that comes with renting is something that I valued much more.

But I felt like I was falling victim to that narrative that says, “You’re wasting money if you rent, and successful adults purchase homes.” It took a lot of unlearning of those narratives and realizing that just because something works for one person doesn’t mean that it’s universally applicable. 

Homeownership is one of those things where more people need to question if they have the personality, lifestyle, or the value system for this, or are you just wanting to do it because that’s what everybody else is telling you to do. 

Jannese Torres

Courtesy: Jannese Torres

ATS: What would you tell someone who’s financially comfortable or has reached certain benchmarks where they could potentially invest in a property but are still wary about it? 

JT: One of the things that made me realize I was over my head very quickly was the fact that two weeks into moving into the home, I discovered that the basement would flood. The sewer line was blocked, and that was not something that we checked during inspection. I ended up having to spend $4,000 on replacing the pipe in the basement two weeks after moving in. That pretty much depleted the little money that I had left over after closing costs. 

I ended up having to take a 401(k) loan to pay for repairs and putting things on credit cards. It’s important to realize that closing costs, the fees and the down payment are just the beginning.

There’s this narrative where if you get a mortgage, then you’re going to be paying the same amount of money forever and that’s why you should buy a home instead of renting. And I’m like, “Absolutely not.” Your property taxes and insurance will increase. You’re not going to be able to predict when things go wrong in the home and when you need to fix something. 

You have to make sure you can afford the maintenance costs and the things that will inevitably come with homeownership. And from a value perspective, you have to really be honest with yourself: “Does this suit my lifestyle? Do I want to stay in this place for like a decade or more? … Or do I want the flexibility to give my landlord 30 days’ notice and be able to move somewhere else? Are you in a job that feels like it’s something you want to do long term? Or do you want to make a career pivot?”

‘The American dream is more of an illusion’

ATS: Do you think the American dream has changed? 

JT: I definitely do think that the American dream is in the process of being redefined because it has become so inaccessible, especially to the newer generations. I think there was this path to “success” where you could go to school, you could buy a home with a regular job, and previous generations were not saddled with the level of student loan debt and the cost of living was not as high. There’s factors in play that are making the American dream obsolete or at least inaccessible to people. 

We are seeing sort of this questioning of it and this shift. I think that the Great Recession was a big impetus for people starting to wonder. It feels very much like the American dream is more of an illusion for a lot of folks, and I am curious to see where it goes.

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What a $418 million settlement on home-sale commissions may mean for you

A landmark class-action lawsuit may change the way Americans buy and sell homes.

The National Association of Realtors agreed to a $418 million settlement last week in an antitrust lawsuit where a federal jury found the organization and several large real-estate brokerages had conspired to artificially inflate agent commissions on the sale and purchase of real estate. 

The NAR’s multiple listing service, or MLS, used at a local level across areas in the U.S., facilitated the compensation rates for both a buyer’s and seller’s agents.

At the time of listing a property, the home seller negotiated with the listing agent what the compensation would be for a buyer’s agent, which appeared on the MLS. However, if a seller was unaware they could negotiate, they were typically locked into paying the listed brokerage fee.

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The proposed settlement would have the commission offer completely removed from the NAR’s system and home sellers will no longer be responsible for paying or offering commission for both the buyer and seller agents, said real estate attorney Claudia Cobreiro, the founder of Cobreiro Law in Coral Gables, Florida.

“The rule that has been the subject of litigation requires only that listing brokers communicate an offer of compensation,” the NAR wrote in a press release.

“Commissions remain negotiable, as they have been,” the organization wrote.

However, some of these changes may take time to materialize, experts say.

Settlement process ‘can take some time’

If a settlement agreement is accepted within a lawsuit between two people, the court generally won’t look at the settlement. Yet, in a federal class-action lawsuit, one that affects a large number of people, there will be a period for the court and interested parties to review the settlement and offer commentary and feedback on the agreement, Cobreiro said.

“That’s the process that we’re about to enter, and that process can take some time,” she said.

As proposed, the settlement would have the NAR completely remove commissions from its MLS system by July. That may be optimistic, Cobriero said.

“It would be more realistic to see this being implemented later this year,” she said.

Redfin CEO on NAR settlement: People should have a voice in how much a real estate agent gets paid

In the meantime, it’s “business as usual” for buyers and sellers, Cobreiro said. “There is nothing that agents should be doing differently currently in their ongoing transactions.”

A buyer or seller already in the market is probably not going to be affected by the settlement unless their property happens to be on the market a little longer than what’s customary, she said.

“The big gray area here is how will buyer [agent] commissions be handled moving forward,” said Cobreiro, as there is no finalized agreement yet that clearly indicates how that will be handled.

What the settlement could mean for homebuyers

The settlement agreement doesn’t say that the buyer’s agent will not be paid nor that the buyer’s agent cannot charge fees.

“The big question here is who is going to pay for those services moving forward. Will it ultimately be a buyer that will have to get the buyer’s agent’s commission together, on top of closing costs and on top of down payment?” Cobreiro said.

While commission fees are negotiable between involved parties, knowing what cards you have on the table as a homebuyer will be more important now than before. Using an agent will still be a smart way to achieve that, experts say.

“A great local agent can give you a competitive advantage,” said Amanda Pendleton, a home trends expert at Zillow Group. That’s especially true as low-priced starter homes are expected to remain in demand, she said.

Here are two things to know about how the settlement could change the process of buying a home:

1. Buyers could be responsible for their agent fees: Historically, real estate commissions typically come out of the seller’s pocket, and are split between the buyer’s and seller’s agents.

As a result of the settlement, the seller will no longer be responsible for commission fees for a buyer’s agent. So this is a new potential charge buyers need to consider in their budget. Historically, if a buyer’s agent got half of a 5% or 6% commission, that equaled thousands of dollars.

For example: The median home sale price by the end of 2023 was $417,700, according to the Federal Reserve. That would mean commissions at a 5.37% rate — the 2023 average rate, according to Lending Tree — amount to roughly $22,430, about $11,215 of which might go to the buyer’s agent.

But bypassing an agent’s services may not lead to direct savings, especially for first-time buyers, experts say. You could put yourself at risk by leaving the homebuying process entirely to the seller and their agent, said Cobreiro.

Sometimes things show up in your home inspection report that merit a credit from the seller, but if you don’t have an agent, the seller’s agent may not volunteer that, said Cobreiro.

Doing so would be a breach of their fiduciary duty to the seller, and it affects their commission if the price of the property declines, she said.

“Signing the contract is the least of it; there’s so many things that happen throughout the transaction that really require the expertise and the navigation by someone who understands the process,” she said.

2. Buyers may be required to sign a contract early on: If buyers become responsible for their agent’s commission, you’re likely to see more agents asking buyers to sign a buyer-broker agreement upfront, before the agent starts helping them find a property.

Most brokerages have a buyer agency agreement, but it’s common for real estate agents to wait to present the contract.

“They want to win the person’s business, they don’t want to scare them with having to sign any contracts,” said Steven Nicastro, a former real estate agent who writes for Clever Real Estate.

Moving the contract talks to earlier in the process is a precaution to protect buyer’s agents in the market.

“That could lead to negotiations actually taking place at the first meeting between a buyer and the buyer’s agent,” Nicastro said.

Know you can negotiate the commission rate as well as the duration of the contract, which can span from three months to a year, Cobreiro said.

Don’t miss these stories from CNBC PRO:

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Tour this $24 million mansion in Delray Beach, Florida, where home prices have doubled

The owners of this Florida mansion are asking for $24 million for their almost 11,500 square-foot residence inside one of the most expensive gated communities in Delray Beach, Florida.

The price tag puts the home, known as Villa Ananda, at a price per square foot of almost $2,100, which is well beyond record-breaking territory for a non-oceanfront home in the town.

Aerial view of Villa Ananda and the man-made lake that wraps around the estate rear garden.

Daniel Petroni Photography

“As long as affluent clientele regard Florida as a haven for lifestyle and tax benefits, the ultra luxury real estate market will flourish,” listing broker Senada Adzem told CNBC.

Over the past five years, the Delray Beach market has more than flourished — it has skyrocketed. Since 2018, the average price per square foot of a luxury home — representing the top 10% of sales — in Delray Beach has more than doubled from $416 to almost $840, according to the Elliman Report.

The 102% rise in Delray Beach is even more impressive when you consider it outperformed both the Miami coastal mainland, which saw an 86% increase in luxury price per square foot, and the Manhattan, New York, market where the average price per square foot of a luxury home declined 2%.

Villa Ananda’s living area is flanked by a sleek gray and white kitchen on one side and a wall of wine on the other.

Daniel Petroni Photography

The average luxury home sale in Delray Beach has also seen a dramatic rise, increasing 90% from $2 million in 2018 to $3.8 million in the last quarter of 2023.

“People tend to think of Miami and Palm Beach when the subject turns to high-end South Florida real estate,” Adzem told CNBC. “But Delray Beach is, without question, one of the region’s premier luxury residential markets.”

Many of the town’s high-net-worth residents have been drawn to an exclusive enclave called Stone Creek Ranch. The gated community is home to billionaire hedge fund manager Steve Cohen; National Football League star Khalil Mack; Gerry Smith, CEO of ODP, the parent company of Office Depot; and singer-songwriter Romeo Santos, to name a few.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Antonio Neri purchased a home here back in 2019 for $7.5 million. He sold it in 2022 for $14 million, an almost 87% increase in under three years. Both deals were brokered by Adzem.

16141 Quiet Vista in Stone Creek Ranch was purchased by HP Enterprise CEO Antonio Neri for $7.5M who sold it three years later for a hefty profit.

Daniel Petroni

“I purchased the home because I loved it and the neighborhood. It also turned out to be an extraordinary investment,” Neri told CNBC.

Just last year, the 37-residence community saw its priciest sale to date when a 17,800 square-foot mansion at 9200 Rockybrook traded for $26 million, or about $1,460 per square foot, in a deal that was also brokered by Adzem.

Villa Ananda’s entrance is flanked by mature Italian Cypress trees.

Daniel Petroni Photography

While her latest listing, 9303 Hawk Shadow Lane, isn’t the most expensive home to hit the market here, at almost $2,100 a square foot, it would be the highest price per square foot ever achieved in Stone Creek Ranch, surpassing the previous record by more than 40%.

“Trophy properties have gained momentum in the South Florida market over the past three years — for tax benefits, for safety reasons and because of the pandemic,” Adzem told CNBC.

The real estate agent knows this high-end neighborhood well. Over the past four years, she has sold five properties here, twice each, and brokered more than $136 million in transactions — all of them within just 500 meters of her latest listing.

An aerial view of the Rockybrook Estate in Delray Beach, Florida.

Douglas Elliman

While buyers-turned-sellers, like Neri, have turned hefty profits in a short time, Adzem believes the market is still trending in the right direction. Limited supply helps.

“The high demand for estates within Stone Creek Ranch, with only 37 multimillion-dollar properties available, further underscores this market dynamic,” said Adzem.

Here’s a look inside the 6 bedroom, 10 bathroom Villa Ananda:

Aerial view of 9303 Hawk Shadow Lane in Delray Beach.

Daniel Petroni Photography

The one-story residence sits on 2.5 acres surrounded by a man-made lake.

Missing from the property’s lush green landscape are Florida’s ubiquitous palm trees. There’s not a single one on the estate. Instead, the land is peppered with towering Italian Cypress trees, bougainvillea, rose bushes, pines and vegetation chosen for its resemblance to olive trees.

Adzem tells CNBC that landscape architect Krent Wieland and the owners opted for greenery that would make the residence feel less like a Florida mansion and more like a luxurious villa in the Italian countryside.

The view from Villa Ananda’s loggia includes manicured gardens, a saltwater pool and a 20-person hot tub.

Daniel Petroni Photography

“Every detail of their surroundings was meticulously curated, inspired by the awe-inspiring vistas of southern Italy’s countryside,” said Adzem.

The home’s loggia includes a kitchen, bar, lounge, dining area and fireplace.

Daniel Petroni Photography

Villa Ananda’s primary suite spans about 3,500 square feet with two sleeping areas. This is larger of the suite’s two bedrooms.

Daniel Petroni Photography

According to Adzem, Villa Ananda’s primary suite spans more than 3,500 square feet, with two home offices, two walk-in closets, a pair of baths and a wellness area with an infrared sauna and massage table.

One of the two baths in the primary suite.

Daniel Petroni Photography

One of the primary suite’s two home offices.

Daniel Petroni Photography

Interiors are designed by Inson Dubois Wood with bespoke furniture by Studio Liaigre, Adzem tells CNBC, and while the furnishings are not included in the asking price, they are negotiable.

One of the primary suite’s two walk-in closets.

Daniel Petroni Photography

Custom chandeliers in the living room, formal dining room, baths and even closets are crafted from a pearly-white rock called Selenite, a crystal that’s formed when calcium-rich saltwater evaporates.

The dining area off the kitchen.

Daniel Petroni Photography

There’s dining for twelve off the kitchen, plus a separate formal dining room that can accommodate 10 guests.

The formal dining room.

Daniel Petroni Photography

The kitchen’s waterfall countertops are crafted from a white Calacatta Crema marble, and the wood floors are washed in a soft gray hue that resembles weathered drift wood.

The kitchen.

Daniel Petroni Photography

Outside, there’s a saltwater pool, 20-person hot tub, zen garden, fire features, a fruit tree orchard and rose garden.

A view of the home’s saltwater pool and stone sundeck.

Daniel Petroni Photography

The stone driveway leads to a parking courtyard flanked by air-conditioned garage areas for nine cars.

The home has air-conditioned parking for nine cars.

Daniel Petroni Photography

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‘Things have not been easy for us’: My sister is a hoarder and procrastinator. She is delaying probate of our parents’ estate. What can I do?

I am in my early 50s, divorced and working full time, and have been raising my only child, a teenage daughter, alone for the past 12 years. My daughter is estranged from her father, who pays child support. We live in Connecticut.

My parents are both deceased as of last year. I moved out of the family home 34 years ago. I have one sibling: a slightly older sister who never moved out of the family home, never went to college, never married, never had a driver’s license, and has no children. I don’t believe she has ever had to pay rent.  

My parents, my sister and I are civil servants with pensions. My sister has done quite well with a high-school degree, and is already eligible to retire. Her job gives her a lot of time off, including holidays and the entire summer. 

When our last parent became ill, she became their caretaker. There was plenty of money between pensions and retirement accounts that she was able to use for home healthcare, medical expenses, household expenses and eventually funeral expenses.

‘She never stopped working’

She never stopped working through all of this, and had power of attorney on all their accounts. She was evasive with me about the amount of money she was overseeing, and I never pushed the issue.  

My parents’ house has been paid off for several years now and both parents’ names are on the deed. They had no will, but named us both as equal beneficiaries on all accounts. Those funds have been distributed.

My sister has been avoiding the issue of probate for several months. She continues to be evasive about the continuing costs associated with the house, but assures me everything is being paid. She has a history of procrastination and has been hoarding for decades. As time goes on, there is noticeably less space to stand inside the house. 

Through probate, the house and our parents’ belongings are due to be split between the two of us. Since I can’t envision my sister ever finding the wherewithal to move out or prepare the house for sale, I would want her to buy out my half of the house so that my daughter and I can live a more secure life.

Finished paying off loans

We rent, and things have not been easy for us. I paid my own way through college and finished paying all my loans off three years ago. I plan to send my daughter to college in a few years and have a 529 plan for her that’s only worth about $15,000. I’ve been sacrificing a lot to put aside retirement money for a long time, but I will probably never feel confident that it’s enough. 

My sister has been busying herself with many activities that she claims are the reason we can’t get this probate process started now. People around me are urging me to be more assertive. I’ve called the appropriate town offices, and I have a certified copy of the deed to the house and some of the applications in hand, but I don’t feel qualified to do this correctly on my own.

I know there are mediators and lawyers that can help, but I don’t know the best way to take control of this situation without spending a ton of money. What do you suggest would be the fairest and fastest way to get this going when one person is passively resisting?

Feeling Stuck

Related: My mom had a trust, so why do we still need probate to settle her estate?

“The good news is that all of the lawyer’s fees will likely be paid out of your parents’ estate, so you will have no upfront legal costs.”


MarketWatch illustration

Dear Stuck,

It’s time to call a lawyer. Delaying this process could cost you dearly.

In Connecticut, you have up to 30 days to file for probate; after that, you could incur fines. “Probate fees are established by statute and are uniform throughout the state,” according to the Connecticut probate-court system. “Interest at the rate of 0.5% per month accrues on all unpaid fees on decedents’ estates beginning 30 days after the date of the invoice, or, if a Connecticut estate tax return has not been filed within the time required, beginning 30 days after the return was due.” You can access an online calculator to estimate probate-court fees here

The good news is that all of the lawyer’s fees will likely be paid out of your parents’ estate, so you will have no upfront legal costs. The executor should have been chosen by the person who wrote the will; if your sister is unable to take on these responsibilities, talk to a trust-and-estate attorney about petitioning the court to remove your sister as executor. It may be that you decide to keep your sister as executor but, after explaining to her the financial implications, you proceed with the help of your attorney.

Your sister has proven herself to be a hard worker, by your own account, but she needs help with this process, and she needs help with the other aspects of her life. Removing her as executor would be time consuming and onerous. Possible reasons for removing an executor include egregious behavior like stealing from or wasting the assets of the estate, or lack of cooperation with the administration of the estate. Removal of an executor can be a complicated and costly process, and one that risks squandering even more money from your parents’ estate.

Personal issues

The legal aspect to your story has, perhaps inevitably, become intertwined with your personal histories. You identify your sister in your letter primarily by what she does not have: a husband, children, a driver’s license, etc. But she has also proven herself to be capable and have many other positive qualities: She was a caregiver, and worked hard as a civil servant to build up a pension to enable her to retire. What she lacks now is support, which both you and an attorney can provide. The nature of that support is legal, practical and also emotional. Providing the latter may be the key to the rest. 

Hoarding disorder is recognized as a mental-health condition by the medical profession. An outsider may see dust and dirt, in addition to cramped and possibly dangerous living conditions, but they don’t always see what lies beneath: fear, pain and potentially other neuropsychiatric disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder. Your sister would, of course, need to be diagnosed by a medical professional. Procrastination is also positively correlated with anxiety. Again, outsiders may mistake this for being uninterested or lazy.

It may be that being frustrated with your sister is a familiar feeling, and one you are willing to endure. But just as your sister should not be allowed to let her very significant issues interfere with probating your parents’ estate, you also should not let your relationship with your sister stop you from taking action. First, you will have the legal process, which will unfold if you seek help from an attorney. After that, you will have the equally important task of encouraging your sister to seek the support of a therapist who may be able to help her move forward.

Your probate stalemate shows that no one problem exists in isolation. 

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. 

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

Previous columns by Quentin Fottrell:

I have $1.5 million in stocks and bonds. I asked my broker to convert my bonds to cash. He didn’t and my portfolio fell by $100,000. Can I sue?

‘She was very special to me’: My late 98-year-old cousin was targeted by grifters. They stole $800,000. Do I have any recourse?

‘It was a mistake’: My father set up a revocable trust, leaving everything to my stepmother. She’s cutting me out completely. What can I do?

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Post your questions, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

By emailing your questions to the Moneyist or posting your dilemmas on the Moneyist Facebook group, you agree to have them published anonymously on MarketWatch.

By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Co., the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.



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#easy #sister #hoarder #procrastinator #delaying #probate #parents #estate

My estate is worth millions of dollars. How do I stop my daughters’ husbands from getting their hands on it?

My wife and I live in California, as do three of our four grown daughters. We are revisiting our family trust for the first time in many years, as we’re getting older and have gradually built an estate worth a couple of million dollars. We want to make sure that, in case our daughters get divorced, our hard-earned savings go to them and not their ex-husbands. 

We consulted with two estate attorneys and got different answers. The first said there’s nothing we can do to legally enforce that the inheritance stays separate; the most we could do is put in some wording along the lines of “It is our wish that the money stays separate.” The second attorney said that we can make our children sign a prenup as a condition of their inheritance. 

Furthermore, we have one daughter who has already been married for five years and has three children; another daughter who just got engaged; and two other children, who are single. Our married daughter does not have a prenuptial agreement. How do we protect our gift to her? A retroactive prenup? How should we proceed?

Father of Four Girls

Related: They’re threatening to go to a lawyer’: My in-laws gave us $300,000 and are on the deed to our home. Now they insist we give our niece $125,000.

“Don’t allow this money to become a cudgel with which to control your daughters’ lives.”


MarketWatch illustration

Dear Father,

Money should bring freedom and opportunity, not control and coercion. 

Your intentions tread a fine line between expectations and legality. There is only so much you can do to prevent your daughters from sharing their inheritance with their spouses, assuming they all marry and some of those marriages end in divorce. It is a credit to you that you have amassed a couple of million dollars, but don’t allow this money to become a cudgel with which to pull the purse strings in your daughters’ lives. 

One solution to your problem: You could set up a bloodline trust, a revocable trust that sets out how you should leave your assets to your direct beneficiaries — in this case, your daughters — and which becomes irrevocable upon your death. It can only be used for your daughters and their children, and because it becomes irrevocable upon your death, it cannot be accessed by creditors, should you have any. There are downsides. For example, such a trust could, unless otherwise specified, exclude stepchildren and adopted children.

First, the good news: Inheritance in California is considered separate property. Whether you leave your children real estate or brokerage or savings accounts, that money will remain nonmarital property unless your daughters use it to upgrade their family home or in some other way commingle those assets with their community property. So that pre-empts the need for your married daughter to ask her spouse to sign a postnuptial agreement.

On that subject, however, it’s not wise to use this inheritance to tell your daughters what they should do within their marriages. There should be a clear boundary between your relationship with your adult children and their relationships with their respective partners and spouses. It’s not a good idea to interfere in the latter. Doing so may cause discord in their relationships and also cause unnecessary hurt and tension in your own relationships with your daughters.

“California is one of a few states that strictly adheres to community-property laws, which declare that assets acquired during a marriage [are] community, also known as marital, property,” according to Myers Family Law in Roseville, Calif. “However, even California draws a line when it comes to personal inheritances, including inheritances that were received while married. Inheritances are treated as separate property, belonging to the individual who received the inheritance.”

Legal gymnastics

Requesting in your last will and testament that your daughters receive their share of your estate on the condition that they don’t share any of it with their husbands presents a lot of impractical and legal gymnastics. What they do with their inheritance is their business, unless you put those assets in a trust with strict instructions on how those assets should be used — for your grandchildren’s education, for example — or use the trust to provide an annual income.

There are so many variables beyond your control. What if you die before your wife, and she has different ideas about how your joint estate should be settled? What if your daughter’s husband is asked to sign a prenup, and replies, “No way — who does your father think he is?” The best course of action is to make your daughters aware of how to manage separate assets that are inherited, and how they could be accidentally commingled.

Think about the quality time you have left with your family. You don’t want Thanksgiving dinners to turn into a battle royale or, worse, a situation where your daughters and their partners gradually pull away and reevaluate their relationships with you. You have worked hard for your money, and you are attempting to protect your family fortune. But there are times in life when you can do too much, and hold your family too tight, even if that is not your intention. 

Ask yourself some soul-searching questions before you proceed. Do you really want to force your children to sign a prenup in order to receive their inheritance? Prenups can be challenged and changed at a later date. What is more important: the couple of million dollars you will leave behind, or the relationships you have with your daughters while you are still here? Don’t put a price on your daughters’ love for you — or on their love for their spouses.

Sorry for being preachy, but even Shakespeare wrote a play about estate planning. It was called “King Lear.”

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

Previous columns by Quentin Fottrell:

‘I grew up pretty poor’: I got an annual bonus. After I pay off my credit cards, I’ll have $10,000. What should I do with it?

‘I received an insurance-claim check for $22,000’: Why on earth does it take five days for my check to clear?

‘I want to protect my family’: My wealthy father, 49, is marrying his third wife. How do I broach the subject of my inheritance?

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#estate #worth #millions #dollars #stop #daughters #husbands #hands

The most expensive home for sale in the U.S. goes up for $295 million in Naples, Florida

The main house at Gordon Pointe spans 11,500 sq ft.

Dawn McKenna Group / Coldwell Banker Realty

The most expensive home for sale in the U.S. hit the market this week for $295 million.

Gordon Pointe, as it’s called, is a roughly 9-acre compound in Naples, Florida, on the Gulf Coast, in an affluent enclave called Port Royal.

The mega-listing includes a main house that spans about 11,500 square feet, with six bedrooms. Two guest houses, each over 5,000 square feet, bring the estate’s total interior living space to 22,800 square feet. All three homes are on a peninsula that delivers 1,650 feet of waterfront, a private yacht basin and T-shaped dock.

Before you start counting up bedrooms and calculating the price per square foot (which is about $12,900), co-listing agent Leighton Candler of Corcoran told CNBC the value here isn’t so much about the size of the three grand homes on the property, it’s about privacy, beach frontage and a rare opportunity for significant development.

According to a press release that launched the listing, “The property can accommodate more than 200,000 square feet of residential development,” meaning the land has a ton of untapped potential.

“There can be eight waterfront homes on this property,” Candler told CNBC. While the property could be broken apart after purchase, the New York-based broker speculates a potential buyer will more likely maintain it as a private family compound.

Gordon Pointe’s sandy white beach stretches over 700 feet on the Gulf of Mexico.

Dawn McKenna Group / Coldwell Banker Realty

The nine acres are made up of contiguous lots, the first of them purchased in 1985 by John and Rhodora Donahue. John Donahue co-founded a Pittsburgh-based investment management firm, now known as Federated Hermes, with over $758 billion in assets under management, according to the firm’s website.

The waterfront view of the main house and a stretch of beach on Gordon Pointe.

Dawn McKenna Group / Coldwell Banker Realty

After that first purchase in 1985, the Donahues continued to buy up more of the peninsula and didn’t stop until they owned it all. Their buying spree created an exclusive, gated compound almost entirely surrounded by water. A single private drive means no pesky through traffic.

“It gives you all the benefits of being on an island, but on Gordon Pointe your family can be secluded without feeling isolated,” Candler said.

Along with a T-shaped dock that can accommodate six boats, the Donahues also constructed a private yacht basin that’s 231 feet by 50 feet and has a depth of almost 8 feet. Candler told CNBC it’s a rare amenity that had to be approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

A view of Gordon Pointe with the private yacht basin in the lower right corner.

Dawn McKenna Group / Coldwell Banker Realty

Can Gordon Pointe fetch $295 million?

According to Realtor.com the median listing price in Port Royal is $24.1 million.

The highest-priced home, before Gordon Pointe, in the ultra luxe beachfront community hit the market in December at $45 million, or just under $4,300 per square foot. Meanwhile an empty lot of almost 1.5 acres adjacent to Gordon Pointe has been on the market for a year, at an asking price of $63 million.

“We did our best to price [Gordon Pointe] and we can defend that price all day long,” co-listing agent Dawn McKenna of Coldwell Banker Realty told CNBC.

McKenna said the listing is already drawing significant interest since it went live Wednesday and that she’s already booked eight in-person visits with prequalified buyers.

It’s no surprise to hear listing brokers argue an eye-popping price tag is justified, but true comparisons at this level and buyers with enough cash to pay that kind of money are few and far between. And, as is the case with any real estate listing, there can be a big gap between an initial asking price and what a property ultimately sells for.

For some nine-figure context, here’s a closer look at the second- and third-most-expensive listings currently for sale in America.

A view of the Central Park Tower at 217 West 57th St. in New York City.

Source: Cody Boone, SERHANT Studios

The first of the two listings is a penthouse that debuted in New York City in September 2022.

The residence sits high atop 217 West 57th Street, overlooking Central Park, spanning three floors and over 17,500 square feet.

Broker Ryan Serhant made headlines when he listed the mega-apartment at $250 million, which he told CNBC at the time was the appropriate price.

“I know it sounds crazy, but relatively speaking, it’s priced at a great value on a per-square-foot basis,” Serhant said in 2022. “It’s just a very, very big apartment with lots of amenities.”

But naysayers questioned the nosebleed asking price, which amounted to over $14,000 a square foot.

“I consider this a fantasy price,” Manhattan luxury broker Donna Olshan told CNBC in 2022.

The triplex residence sat on the market for 12 months with no takers. After a yearlong run at $250 million, the asking price was slashed by $55 million, or 22%. The pricey pad is still on the market for $195 million.

Inside the $250 million penthouse on ‘Billionaires’ Row’

It was a similar journey in Los Angeles, with the seven-bedroom 20-bath mansion known as Casa Encantada.

The mansion, located at 10644 Bellagio Road in Bel Air, is owned by children’s book author Karen Winnick, the widow of late billionaire and financier Gary Winnick.

The residence hit the market in June for $250 million.

After the sky-high ask failed to lure a buyer, the home was taken off the market only to reappear in November with a $55 million price cut.

Listing agent Kurt Rappaport is still looking for a buyer willing to pay the $195 million.

Nine-figure whisper sales

The reality is nine-figure listings can take months, even years, to sell, and that’s not necessarily a reflection of a broker’s ability.

Real estate consultant Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, looked at 10 U.S. home sales that traded for $150 million or more and found many of them were so-called whisper listings — sales that leveraged hushed word-of-mouth marketing and no public real estate listings or marketing campaigns.

That makes tracking price changes over the life of the listings nearly impossible.

Jeff Bezos gives a thumbs-up as he speaks during an event about Blue Origin’s space exploration plans in Washington, D.C., May 9, 2019.

Clodagh Kilcoyne | Reuters

But perhaps unsurprisingly there are a lot of famous billionaires involved in these sales, including hedge funder Ken Griffin, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison and mega-investor Marc Andreessen, who each picked up nine-figure compounds in quiet off-market deals.

The Chartwell Estate in Los Angeles

Photograph by Jim Bartsch, courtesy of the Estate of Jerry Perenchio

One notable mega-mansion of the 10 transactions compiled by Miller did officially come to market and has an interesting price history.

In 2017 the mansion at 750 Bel Air Road in Los Angeles, known as the Chartwell Estate, had a $350 million price tag. It sat on the market with no bites, and the oversized asking price took several deep cuts, to $195 million.

In 2019 the estate finally sold for $150 million, purchased by Lachlan Murdoch, executive chair and CEO of Fox Corp. and son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

The Chartwell Estate in Los Angeles

Take a look inside of Lachlan Murdoch’s new $150 million LA mansion

And another interesting mega-transaction made the list: A Malibu mansion located at 27712 Pacific Coast Highway. While it never actually had a public listing, The Wall Street Journal reported its whispered price tag was $295 million.

When it sold in 2023 in an off-market deal to music power couple Jay-Z and Beyoncé, it went for $190 million.

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My brothers are co-owners on $1.9 million of our mother’s bank and brokerage accounts. She now has Alzheimer’s. How can I rectify this?

I have three adult siblings living in different states, and we are disputing the circumstances surrounding the joint accounts shared with our 85-year-old mother, who has early stage Alzheimer’s. Our mom has a net worth of around $2 million, which is spread across several different bank and brokerage accounts. Late in life, she added a different sibling as a co-owner on each of her accounts to help manage her money.  

My brother “Joe” is listed as the sole co-owner on the bulk of our mother’s brokerage accounts, totaling $1.3 million, while my brother “Andy” is the sole co-owner of a $600,000 bank account and I am the sole co-owner of a $100,000 brokerage account. I think our mom simply forgot to add my sister, “Sue,” as a co-owner on any account. Her intention has always been for the four of us to equally inherit her assets.

I suggested to my three siblings that we should change all the accounts to sole ownership under our mother’s name with four equal beneficiaries. I thought this could avoid many possible complications with gift taxes and distribution at the time of our mother’s death, since as it stands, each co-owner would have to divide the money from their co-ownership account and send it to the other siblings.

Sue is named as power of attorney and could manage our mother’s individual accounts as needed. However, Joe is adamant that the current setup of co-ownership of accounts is the best way to help our mother, especially to protect her against financial fraud in case she needs to move to a nursing home. He insists there will be no gift taxes with the eventual distribution and that this setup is straightforward and easy to co-manage.

This situation is causing a lot of stress and distrust among my siblings, which I hate. I suggested we change things in order to make our mother’s financial situation as simple as possible, especially at the time of death, and not because I don’t trust Joe. Right now, no one is touching our mother’s accounts, and I am paying most of her expenses, as she lives with me.

Please advise.

Frustrated Sibling

Also read: My wife and I sold our home to her son at a $100,000 discount. He’s now selling at a $250,000 profit. Do I ask for a cut?

“Sue, as power of attorney, should be able to withdraw money from your mother’s other accounts and/or set up a bank account with those funds in your mom’s name,” the Moneyist writes.


MarketWatch illustration

Dear Frustrated,

Your brothers have every reason to act like white truffle butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths.

Between them, they have sewn up your mother’s largest bank accounts, and you are very likely dependent on the kindness of these brothers to either add you to the accounts as co-owners or distribute the funds between all four siblings after your mother passes away. 

I would not hold my breath for Joe or Andy to do either of these things. They can just as easily resist with politeness and smiles as with anger and resentment. I’m sorry to say that the most damaging actions — for you and your sister— have already been taken. 

We may never know the conversations that took place when your brothers were added as co-owners. But there is a very important difference between a “co-owner” and a “co-signer” on an account. The latter can withdraw money but does not own the money in the account.

If your mother was not of sound mind or her mental capacity was diminished when your brothers were added to these accounts, or if she had intended to add them as co-signers, there may be a case where you can contest your brothers’ ownership of these accounts.

The legal framework around such cases vary depending on the state, but it’s usually up to the estate of the original owner of the account to prove that there was elder abuse and/or undue influence taking place. As always, you should consult an attorney who specializes in elder law.

Limitations to power-of-attorney duties 

Sue, as power of attorney, should be able to withdraw money from your mother’s other accounts and/or set up a bank account with those funds in your mom’s name. She should preserve these funds for additional medical bills and long-term care as her condition progresses.

But the bottom line is that without the cooperation of your two brothers after your mother dies, failing any legal case to reverse matters, you will remain with the sole ownership of the $100,000 brokerage account, and the four of you will inherit whatever else is left in the estate. 

It’s virtually impossible to say without more information, but Sue, as power of attorney, is unlikely to have the ability to change the ownership of these accounts unless that is specified in the terms of her POA contract. That would also depend on the laws of your state.

“The power of attorney permits the agent to access their parent’s bank accounts, make deposits and write checks,” Jupiter, Fla.-based Welch Law says in this POA overview. “However, it doesn’t create any ownership interest in the bank accounts. It allows access and signing authority.”

The law firm continues: “If the person’s parent wants to add them to the account, they become a joint owner of the account. When this happens, the person has the same authority as the parent, accessing the account and making deposits and withdrawals.”

But those with power of attorney cannot self-deal when it comes to their parent’s finances. “As a POA, they are a fiduciary, which means they have a legally enforceable responsibility to put their parent’s benefits above their own,” Welch Law adds.

You should not have to pay for your mother’s care out of your own bank account. Your sister, as power of attorney, should be managing that. Talk to your siblings about your mother’s Alzheimer’s and how the four of you plan to manage her care in the months and years ahead.

Will your brothers fulfill their promise and make you and your sister whole? Only time will tell.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

Previous columns by Quentin Fottrell:

‘I don’t like the idea of dying alone’: I’m 54, twice divorced and have $2.3 million. My girlfriend wants to get married. How do I protect myself?

‘If I say the sky is blue, she’ll tell me it’s green’: My daughter, 19, will inherit $800,000. How can she invest in her future?

‘They have no running water’: Our neighbors constantly hit us up for money. My husband gave them $400. Is it selfish to say no?



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#brothers #coowners #million #mothers #bank #brokerage #accounts #Alzheimers #rectify

Insurers such as State Farm and Allstate are leaving fire- and flood-prone areas. Home values could take a hit

Some insurance companies are pulling back coverage from fire- and flood-prone areas, leaving homeowners with limited affordable options. This trend may even affect the property value of American homes, experts say.

The nation’s largest homeowner’s insurance company, State Farm, stopped accepting new applications for policies on property in California in May. Allstate announced in November 2022 that it would “pause new homeowners, condo and commercial insurance policies in California to protect current customers,” the Associated Press reported in June.

This trend will likely continue across the insurance industry, said Jeremy Porter, head of climate implications research at First Street Foundation, a nonprofit research organization that compiles comprehensive climate risk data.

“They know the risk is just too high to be actuarially sound for their business,” he said.

In its announcement, State Farm said too many buildings are being destroyed by climate catastrophes, inflation is making it too expensive to rebuild, and it can’t protect its investments any longer. 

More from Personal Finance:
Why a ‘death note’ is as important as having a will, advisor says
Economists say the labor market is strong, but job seekers don’t agree
Amid FAFSA delays, what to do if your financial aid letter is late

The problem is not just in California, where wildfires are prevalent. Louisiana and Florida homeowners are also contending with a lack of access to insurance, due to flood risk.  

“Losses are increasingly related to climate risk,” said Sean Kevelighan, president and CEO of the Insurance Information Institute, an insurance industry association. “As that risk increases, so does the cost of insuring those assets that people have on hand.”

Even though there wasn’t an increase in major disasters in 2023, he said, the industry is still expecting to see $50 billion in losses just because of “severe convective issues” such as flash flooding and the implications of heavier everyday storms. 

What happens when a homeowner can’t get insurance

Darlene Tucker and Tom Pinter

Without insurance, many homeowners can find themselves in big financial trouble. 

Darlene Tucker, 66, and Tom Pinter, 68, are longtime homeowners in Sonora, California. The couple bought their “dream home” 18 years ago and have been enjoying their retirement from their respective jobs in manufacturing.

Tucker also cares for her horses and a rescued 100-pound tortoise on the property, and runs a dog day care center to help make ends meet. She said Pinter also works as a delivery driver to help out.

Darlene Tucker and Tom Pinter’s home in Sonora, California.

The couple received a nonrenewal notice from Allstate in November. Tucker told CNBC she has been working with her Allstate agent to find another insurer.

“I had one company step up and said they’d do it for $12,000 a year,” she said — that’s roughly six times her previous annual premium under Allstate of about $2,000.

She said there was no way the couple could afford that new policy, and they would likely have to move. 

Dogs play at Darlene Tucker and Tom Pinter’s home in Sonora, California.

But Tucker and Pinter may find that selling their home also comes with a steep cost.

Porter said First Street Foundation’s research in California concluded that “the moment that an individual gets a non-renewal letter from the private insurance market, they essentially lose 12% of their property value.”

Insurance costs ‘should be an alarm’ for homebuyers

Experts say the insurance landscape in California is particularly tricky because, in addition to the wildfire risk, the state has a law that adds extra approval measures, including board approval and review by the insurance commissioner, if an insurance company wants to raise the rate of insurance by more than 7%. That’s been in effect since the 1980s.

Kevelighan, of the Insurance Information Institute, said that law, called Proposition 103, creates a regulatory environment in California that restricts the industry from adequately including climate risk in its forecasting and is one of the reasons the industry is being forced to pull back coverage in the state.

“Risk management does not come into play until it’s entirely too late when it comes to individual personal property purchasing,” Kevelighan said. “It comes into play when the mortgage provider needs you to go get it.”

“And that’s the first time when a consumer even begins to think about where they’re living and what the risks might be,” he said. “The cost reflects that risk. That should be an alarm to tell them that they’re living in a risky place and then ask themselves: How could I reduce that risk? Or do I need to think about living somewhere else?”

‘Give me something to work with’

With just days remaining until Tucker and Pinter’s Allstate policy expires, on Feb. 15, the couple is still looking for more options. Tucker told CNBC that a recent quote they received was three times what they were originally paying, with a $10,000 deductible.

Of the whole situation, she said she feels frustrated.

Darlene Tucker and Tom Pinter

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#Insurers #State #Farm #Allstate #leaving #fire #floodprone #areas #Home #values #hit

My Tinder match asked if I ‘rent or own’ my apartment. Is it gauche to ask financial questions before a first date?

I met a guy on Tinder
MTCH,
+0.75%

and had an introductory telephone conversation, which I always think is a good idea before making the effort to meet in person. During our 15-minute telephone conversation, he told me about his divorce, his job and his hobbies. He described himself as easygoing and outdoorsy, and someone who likes to socialize and play sports. 

He talked a lot about his children, for five minutes or longer. He said he owned a small house. He asked what I did for a living, when my last relationship was, what neighborhood I lived in and — this stuck in my craw — whether I rented or owned my apartment and if it was a studio, one- or two-bedroom apartment. I felt uncomfortable, but I answered.

I live in New York City, and I happen to own my apartment, but I felt like he was sizing me up and trying to get a picture of my finances before he decided to meet me. He also asked how long I’ve been in my apartment, probably to assess how much equity I had in it. I replied, “a while,” as I already felt like he was getting too into my finances for a first conversation.

Once he was satisfied with my answers to these questions, he suggested we meet. I am busy this weekend, so he suggested driving into the city during the week. Based on his job and profession, I can reasonably estimate that I earn about twice his salary, though this does not mean anything to me, and I could care less. But given his money-related questions, I find that ironic.

I asked some friends. Some did a spit take, while others felt such questions were fair game. What do you think?

Irritated Even Before Our First Date

Related: I want my father to quitclaim his home so I can refinance it — and take out a $200,000 annuity for my sister and me. Is this wise?

“Based on his questions, it’s important to him that you have the same level of financial security that he does. If it were not an issue for him, he would not have asked.”


MarketWatch illustration

Dear Irritated,

He is not your real-estate agent or financial adviser, so I agree that it’s strange for a virtual stranger to quiz you on your living arrangements.

Based on his questions, it’s important to him that you have the same level of financial security that he does. If it were not an issue for him, he would not have asked. It’s as simple as that. Similarly, if he were wealthy beyond his wildest dreams, he may care less than someone who has climbed partly up the property ladder. But do I think it’s a bit much to ask in a first conversation? Yes.

Don’t give the Greek chorus too much importance. Whether or not other people are comfortable with such questions in a first call is immaterial; if you are not comfortable, you have your answer. You, after all, are the person who will have to date him, and expect him to show a semblance of emotional intelligence and sensitivity. It’s imperative to be able to read the room.

Let there be no mistake: If he is asking a question about your real-estate holdings or finances, he’s interested in them as a way of assessing (or judging) your suitability as a partner. Maybe he romanticizes his relationship prospects based on first impressions, and wonders whether he could combine assets and live in splendor. But words and questions have meaning.

Social acceptability vs. social mobility 

In America, it may be seen as more acceptable than in some European countries to ask what you do for a living, and even whether you rent or own in a big city like New York. The U.S. is a country of immigrants, and has more immigrants than any other population in the world, according to the Pew Research Center

The idea is to strive, work hard, and do better than the previous generation, although a majority of Americans reportedly doubt the attainability of generation-to-generation upward mobility, and millions of people are reassessing their relationship to work-life balance in the wake of the pandemic.

Wealth and looks play a role in whether someone swipes left or right, but the former appears to become more important when a connection is made with a partner who is deemed attractive. “When long-term interest is considered, the physical attractiveness of the model appeared to serve as an initial hurdle that had to be cleared prior to any other factors being considered by the participants,” according to this 2020 study.

People do swipe right based on economic factors. It would be foolhardy or idealistic to suggest that they don’t. If, however, a man poses in sunglasses with two thumbs up next to a Lamborghini, listing bitcoin
BTCUSD,
+1.57%

trading as one of his pastimes, chances are he doesn’t own that Lamborghini and, in my estimation, may have “Tinder Swindler”-level intentions.

And if a potential partner is both attractive and wealthy? That seems to be an appealing combination. Female online daters are 10 times more likely to click on profiles with men who have higher incomes, at least according to this study published in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, while male online daters are equally likely to click on women’s profiles, regardless of income. 

I don’t put too much stock in studies that say men are looking for attractive partners, while women are more interested in men who look wealthy. You could probably do an analysis of any online dating site and gather a sample that would give you conclusions that say pretty much anything you want them to say. It all depends on the individual: Someone who knows the exact size of their backyard and strives to keep up with the Joneses is more likely to ask whether you rent or own.

In other words, this fellow who grilled you over your own socioeconomic circumstances may still be a perfect match — for someone else.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

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Previous columns by Quentin Fottrell:

I want my son to inherit my $1.2 million house. Should I leave it to my second husband in my will? He promised to pass it on.

My adult sons live rent-free in my house, while I pay for 50% of utilities in my second husband’s condo

My brother lives in our parents’ home, which we’ll inherit 50/50. I want to keep it in the family for my children. How do I protect my interests?



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