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$14.7M Georgia 'safe house' with bat cave, waterfall headed to auction block

It took six years to build, but the Rice House Atlanta, a luxury home in North Fulton County, Georgia, was more than 60 years in the making. 

The $14.7 million36,000-square-foot compound in the Country Club of the South was created by a self-made, octogenarian entrepreneur who wanted to build a home that embodied all of his boyhood dreams. 

Now, it’s going to be sold at auction

>> On AJC.com: Usher sells Alpharetta mansion with climate-controlled treehouse, yoga studio for $1.5M

According to a Concierge Auctions news release, bidding will begin Tuesday and close Thursday. The starting bid is $3.9 million. So, what do you get for that price?

A bat cave? Yes. Waterfall? Sure. Secret entrances and exits? You bet. Upper and lower motor courts? Um-hum. And the art museum, infinity pool, bowling alley, gun range, game room, solarium, spa, theater and play area that resembles something from Disneyland. 

>> See more photos here

“He is an intellectual thinker and he is a super fun guy,” listing broker Paul Wegener, of Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty, said about the homeowner. “He dreamed as a child of building something like this. All these things you think about when you are a kid,” Wegener said. 

The homeowner had planned to fill the eight bedrooms, 14 bathrooms, six partial bathrooms and three kitchens with family and friends. He had hoped the home would become a gathering place and a legacy for his family to pass from one generation to the next. 

>> Previously on MyAJC.com: Atlanta’s safest house still up for sale at $14.7 million

He was holding onto the home but ultimately, other priorities won out. His son wasn’t much interested in living there, and with much of his family on the West Coast, the homeowner decided to sell his $30 million project. 

In building a home that would last forever and survive any foreseeable catastrophe, he sought out and worked with a team of the best architects, landscapers and security experts in the country. 

The process began with a full-scale model, and as construction continued, the homeowner added different features that seemed cool. “He would say, ‘We’ve got more room. I want to add a gun range and a bowling alley.’ The scope of the project continued to grow,” Wegener said. 

Atlanta architect Charles Heydt brought to life the homeowner’s vision of the Greek acropolis. Whatever standards were set by building code, the home was made to meet at least triple those requirements. The foundation was dug to the rock bed, anchored with rebar and poured with concrete that can withstand 5,000 pounds of load per square inch. The exterior walls have the same level of strength. 

>> See the listing here

Al Corbi, a renowned security expert, came in to make sure the security features of the home were part of the construction process. Reinforced walls, bulletproof windows and doors, concealed entrances and exits and an underground bunker are just a few of the features that make Rice House one of the safest homes in the country. 

The home is also self-contained, and projections indicate that inhabitants could survive for three years on the property without outside assistance, Wegener said. 

There are three water sources : municipal, three 1,000-foot-deep artesian wells and a reserve tank of purified water that would normally be used for irrigation on the property and for topping off the pool and fountain. 

Wegener was initially skeptical about the need for a house with such high-level security features, but then he thought about events such as 9/11. 

>> On AJC.com: Here's what an ‘average’ house looks like in Georgia

“You almost don’t like to say survival, but suddenly it doesn’t become that far-fetched. He was forward-thinking,” Wegener said. 

It takes about 2 1/2 hours for Wegener to walk prospective buyers through the property. And yes, there have been prospective buyers. 

But who, other than an owner with a vision, would want a property such as this one? Maybe it could be a safe house for board members or executives of a major international corporation or a family haven for another successful entrepreneur in a high-risk industry. 

So far, inquiries have been coming from outside and within the country. The security of the home has proved to be the biggest draw, along with the level of detail that went into designing the home, Wegener said. 

There have also been some curiosity seekers who are clearly not serious buyers. 

“The serious interest comes from the same crowd,” Wegener said. “This particular project is the cream of the crop for the amount of money spent and the degree of security.” 

>> Read more trending news 

While the home is complete, the finishing touches have been left to the whims of the new owner. Wegener says it is the most unique home he has ever dealt with and it is important to him to find just the right buyer. 

“There are homes (in Atlanta) that are beautiful but were never constructed to this level of complexity,” Wegener said. “It was not just meant to be a massive compound. It was important to him to construct this property that would be enjoyable. It was ultimately for family and these other things were layered in. I am trying to find someone that will appreciate all of that.”

For more information on the property ahead of the auction, visit conciergeauctions.com/upcoming-auctions.

Photos: Inside Oprah’s new $8.2M home on Orcas Island

Oprah Winfrey purchased a 43-acre estate on Orcas Island in Washington for $8.275 million.

College students create app making it easier to track diabetes

When it comes to diabetes, the numbers are staggering -- 30 million Americans are estimated to be living with the disease, 1.4 million new cases are diagnosed annually in the United States and about 25 percent of those patients don’t know they have the disease.

Those numbers caught the attention of some Harvard students who came up with an easy way for people to track their blood sugar levels.

>> Read more trending news 

It’s an app called Checkmate Diabetes.

Harvard graduate student Michael Heisterkamp is part of the team developing the app and is also a diabetes patient. 

“You need to check 4-5 times a day, up to eight times a day, depending on what your doctor recommends, and that can be a bit of a grind," Heisterkamp said.

All those tests are essential for a person with diabetes because they need to make sure they’re in a safe range.

Dr. Jason Sloane, an endocrinologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, said ‘the biggest problem is, once complications hit, it’s very hard to reverse them.”

Harvard senior Emi Gonzales got the idea for the app when there was a guest speaker in a class.

“He had lost his leg and was about to lose his other leg," Gonzales said. "And I talked to some more people with diabetes and this just seemed like a situation that needed fixing.”

The app makes a game out of tracking blood sugar levels, creating competitions within a person’s network. 

“If you have a scoring system and someone is doing better than you, pushing you, you know you want to get to first right," Gonzales said.

Checkmate Diabetes also offers the ability to connect with other patients.

Soon, they’ll start adding prizes.

Sloan, who has consulted with the budding entrepreneurs, said gamification has been shown to work for health care.

He believes this approach can get people to pay attention to diabetes earlier. 

“It has the potential to change things dramatically,” Sloan said. “Convincing young people, from my experience, has been very difficult. Even from a personal perspective, one of the last things I wanted to pay attention to was my blood sugar.”

Dr. Sloan said earlier interventions can reduce serious complications like kidney failure, amputations, and heart disease later in life.

Checkmate Diabetes is free to download.

Lance Armstrong's former Austin home on the market for $7.5 million

Want to live in Lance Armstrong’s old house?

>> See a video slideshow of the home here

The cyclist’s former home in west Austin, Texas, is on the market for $7.5 million. According to CultureMap, it was originally listed two years ago for $8.25 million.

>> On Austin360.com: See a photo gallery of the home

The six-bedroom, 7.5-bathroom home across the street from Pease Park was built in 1924 and has since been remodeled. The 8,158-square-foot home has a pool with a fountain, a pool house with a full bathroom and kitchenette and a covered outdoor living area.

>> Read more trending news 

Read more here.

Photos: Inside $550K Lion Gate Estate, whimsical home with carpeted ceilings, vintage cars

In the market for a whimsical $550,000 home with carpeted ceilings, vintage cars and statues lurking around every corner? No? You'll still want to check out the now-viral listing for Detroit's Lion Gate Estate. Trust us.

Lion Gate Estate: Bizarre $550K home with carpeted ceilings, vintage cars takes internet by storm

In the market for a whimsical $550,000 home with carpeted ceilings, vintage cars and statues lurking around every corner?

No?

You'll still want to check out the now-viral listing for Detroit's Lion Gate Estate. Trust us.

>> PHOTO GALLERY: Inside $550K Lion Gate Estate

>> See the listing here

"Unique barely begins to describe this one of a kind Grixdale Farms estate," reads the listing by Real Estate One's Alex Lauer. "Every aspect of 'Lion Gate Estate' has been articulated with painstaking attention to detail and mind blowing decorative flair. Too many custom features to list!"

And he's not kidding. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom home, owned by a former automotive designer, is the definition of "extra," with a "Liberace-inspired living room" and "museum-like" interior, Curbed reports

>> Read more trending news 

The listing continues: "Highlights include heated swimming pool with outdoor shower and cabana. Custom two car garage with hand painted automotive murals. Finished basement with billiard room and entertainment area. Fenced in yard with fountains and statuary. Sale includes full contents of the house, including Kohler Campbell baby grand player piano, mint condition Frigidaire kitchen appliances c. 1950. One of a kind custom built 1966 Cadillac Fleetwood Sedan, One of a kind custom built 1974 Lincoln Mark IV Coupe, Custom pool table, countless automotive relics and artifacts. Once in a lifetime offering."

But if you want to take a tour, you'd better check the weather forecast first. "Only shown on sunny days," the listing warns.

>> Click here or scroll down to check out some photos of the home

5 tips for keeping a snake-free yard

Forget about "Snakes on a Plane”; we're more concerned with snakes in the yard. Even though snakes are nowhere near as prevalent as our irrational fears would have us think (assuming you don't live smack dab in the middle of rattlesnake territory), if you're a homeowner with a bit of landscape or yard under your direction, you may encounter snakes on occasion.

>> Daredevil squirrel makes Olympic dash onto ski slope, snowboarder misses it by inches

That should be no biggie, according to experts at the North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension.

"As a general rule, snakes are just as frightened of you as possibly you are of them and often they move as quickly as possible in the other direction," the extension noted. Venomous snake bites are rare and you can readily take steps to treat them. If you're an avid gardener, you may even want snakes in your slice of the great outdoors, since they dine on rodents and insects and can actually help protect you from garden pests.

Not buying it? You can try to keep snakes out of your home life. Just understand that even the best measures are not 100 percent foolproof, according to America's Wetland Resources, which is based in the South.

"There are no magic or absolute solutions," AWR asserted. "There are no poisons or repellents that work, though some new 'breakthrough' is occasionally advertised. Horsehair ropes and trails of mothballs have consistently tested negative, and pest control operators have no answers."

But there are still plenty of valid ways to limit, or possibly eliminate, a slithery presence in your yard, garden or home. Here are five tips from the pros on how to keep snakes out of your yard:

1. Seal crevices. Closer to your home, seal the openings where snakes like to set up house. "Check the clearance of door bottoms, weep holes, openings where pipes enter, cracks and spaces under eaves," AWR recommended. "Don't neglect storerooms and sheds."

AWR added that sealing enough openings to make a difference is much more difficult if you own a raised wooden home.

2. Tidy up the yard. Snakes might choose to live on your property or simply travel through, according to AWR. You want to make your property as inhospitable as possible, so concentrate on ridding it of any places snakes would consider good spots to hide. Remove debris, from piles of boards, tin, sticks and leaves to flat boats on the ground and piles of bricks or stone, AWR advised, and keep vegetation cut back.

3. Stop serving the snake's preferred menu. It's a win-win. When you take away potential hiding places for snakes, the spots where rat and mice families like to congregate are also eliminated. But take this one step further, AWR advised, and take further steps to get rid of the rodents that snakes like to snack on. You may want to involve a pest control agent, but you definitely want to practice anti-rodent hygiene, including not leaving pet food out for more than an hour or so, closing trash cans tightly and securing compost in a sealed container.

4. Combat the climbers. If limbs from a neighbor's yard hang over your fence, snakes may use them as an entry to your place. Consider working with your neighbor to get them trimmed.

5. Consider the snake-proof fence. If you live in an area where one or more venomous snakes are common, you may want to invest in a snake-proof fence, according to NCSU. "Small areas where children play can be protected from all poisonous and most harmless snakes with a snake-proof fence," it noted. "However, the cost of the fence may make it impractical to protect an entire yard."

Make a fence by burying 1/4-inch mesh wire screening 6 inches underground and building it up 30 inches, instructed NCSU.

"It should slant outward at a 30-degree angle from bottom to top. The supporting stakes must be inside the fence and any gates must fit tightly. Tall vegetation must be removed along the fence, both inside and outside."

It's costly, but you can snake-proof the entire yard with a concrete chain wall that extends six inches or so below the surface, noted AWR.

"If you already have a wooden fence and the boards are very close together, a good solution is to snake-proof the bottom."

>> Drinking this type of tea could ruin your teeth, study says

One fairly cheap way is to use 1/4-inch hardware cloth cut in strips wide enough to overlap the bottom of the fence so it can be tacked securely and extend down into a narrow trench six inches deep.

AWR added another word of caution for either snake-proof fence design. (Spoiler alert: It's nightmare inducing.) "Many snakes climb by looping over objects and the above described design may virtually eliminate their entry," it noted. "Others, however, can crawl up vertical surfaces if they are rough, such as the trunk of a tree or a brick wall (including the side of a house)."

To overcome this creepy climbing capability, you can place a foot-wide ledge made of wood or metal flashing along the outer side at the top. "This structure makes the snakes lean out away from the wall and it will lose its grip and fall."

>> Read more trending news 

After all this snake talk, AWR does have one bit of great news. "Snakes are rarely abundant in any one location."

And if all your efforts fail and snakes do make their way into your yard, AWR recommended the ultimate fail-safe.

"The best thing you can do for yourself and family is to teach everyone to respect snakes and to be on the lookout for them," according to the AWR website. "Remember, don't touch it with your hands. Use a shovel to place the snake in a deep bucket with a cover. The chances of your encountering a venomous species is remote, but possible enough to always by careful!"

Photos: Kate Middleton through the years

Stink bugs are back; here's how to keep the pests out of your home

The dreaded stink bugs soon will be making an all-out assault to get into our homes.

>> Watch the news report here

The cooler weather and the stink bugs go hand in hand.

The brown marmorated stink bug was first released into the United States in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 1996, according to Penn State University. The bug apparently traveled from northeast Asia in a shipping container that was delivered either to the port of Philadelphia or Elizabeth, New Jersey, and then trucked to Allentown.

This insect has now spread to 44 states and has very large populations in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Delaware, Ohio, and North and South Carolina, according to stopbmsb.org. It has also spread to California and Oregon allegedly via a car driven by a person traveling from Pennsylvania to California in 2005.

According to researchers at Penn State University, this type stink bug emerges in mid- to late spring. As temperatures cool, they begin to swarm near windows, doors and other cracks of buildings seeking refuge from the coming winter. Once inside, the stink bugs enter a physiologically inactive, diapause state or state of suspended development. They emerge from this hibernation over a broad range of time, which explains why we see active adult stink bugs throughout the winter and early spring. A mass emergence from diapause occurs as daily temperatures and length of daylight increase, especially in mid- to late May.

>> Read more trending news

The ability of these stink bugs to survive is quite remarkable. While there is some mortality among the hibernating bugs in the winter, a significant percentage of them make it through to spring and then mate. Colder temperatures in northern states typically reduce the bugs survival rate, but that appears to be changing.

Increasing temperatures linked to climate change are likely a cause for such an increase in stink bug populations, especially in middle and northern latitudes. While excessive heat may drive stink bugs out of hotter, Southern states, the warm but moderate temperatures at higher latitudinal locations have increased the survival of stink bugs with significantly larger spring and summer populations. 

The good news is, other than being incredibly annoying and having a pungent smell, stink bugs are pretty harmless to humans and animals. They cannot bite or sting nor seem to carry any known diseases. To get rid of them, it is recommended to flush them or vacuum them, then throw out the vacuum bag to avoid the bugs' odor.

But using vacuum bags and water to get rid of these bugs could become costly, so it is best to prevent invasions by making sure you seal up your home now. Replace old screens and make sure doors and windows close tightly. Also caulk any gaps, cracks or holes in your homes exterior, especially on the south and west sides. These bugs can squeeze themselves quite a bit, so they can fit through even small cracks.

Unfortunately, these insects are quite destructive to agriculture. This species feeds on over one hundred different types of plants including several of great economic importance to humans. Fruit trees (especially apple and pear), soybeans and peanuts are significantly damaged by these insects. The bugs have also been found feeding on blackberry, sweet and field corn and have been known to cause damage to tomatoes, lima beans and green peppers.

There is no way to kill them by spraying, at least not once they are on the plant, because they must be hit directly. The bugs can fly off the leaves and they aren’t harmed by eating the chemicals on the leaves or on the fruit. However, researches at Penn State did find that while there are very few controlling natural predators, it appears other local predators such as spiders and some birds may be becoming more immune against the bug’s protective secretions and increasingly aware of the growing stink bug feast around them.

– Eric Elwell is WHIO's chief meteorologist. Contact him at eric.elwell@coxinc.com or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

'Fixer Upper' couple criticized over new home decor line at Target

On Tuesday, Chip and Joanna Gaines, of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” announced plans for a new home-decor line to hit Target stores nationwide in November. 

>> Read more trending news

“Just as we’ve never created an exclusive line of product for a retailer before, Target has never done anything like this before either,” Chip Gaines wrote in a blog post. “This stuff is gorgeous. (Joanna and Target’s design team) have all spent so much time thoughtfully creating these beautiful basics. A lot of heart and soul has been poured into every last piece ... and I think people are going to be able to feel that.”

Many excited fans took to social media to express excitement and support for the couple’s new brand, Hearth & Hand.

>> Related: Target lowering prices on thousands of items, including groceries

In his blog post, Chip Gaines explained some of the reasons the couple has enjoyed working with Target:

“Despite our initial insecurities about partnering with a large retailer, Target has exceeded our expectations every step of the way. With our friends, our family and with the people we do business with, we are serious about continually finding common ground ... One of the main reasons we decided to team up with Target is because we have found them to be the gold-standard when it comes to generosity and giving. This really resonates with us. Jo and I believe that to whom much is given, much is required. As our platform has grown, so has our desire to help communities far beyond Waco, Texas. 

“Right now, Joanna is busy designing some pretty incredible updates for the community dining room at Target House, which serves hundreds of families whose kids are being treated at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. Target House is a free home away from home for St. Jude patients and their families during the hardest of life’s circumstances, providing a safe place for these families to be together. In November, we’ll get to reveal the updated dining room to the families of St. Jude, and then share a meal together to kick off the holiday season. We are humbled to be even a small part of their stories and thankful that this collaboration gives us the opportunity to be involved in such meaningful projects, like this one with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.”

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