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By Spencer Hayes | Agent in 36117
  • Builders Expand Home Size to Capture Multigenerational Trend

    Posted Under: Market Conditions, Home Ownership  |  August 18, 2014 4:39 PM  |  22 views  |  No comments

    As more generations pile under one roof, the median size of homes has risen by nearly 1,000 square feet in the last 40 years—from 1,525 square feet in 1973 to 2,491 square feet in 2013.

    The resurgence of multigenerational living is in full swing as young professionals face greater “generational dependency” on their parents, Bloomberg/Businessweek reports. Also, aging adults are moving back in with their older children, which has caused the number of people squeezing under one roof to grow.

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    Builders Tweak Floorplans for Growing Segment of Buyers

    Multigenerational Households Reach Record High

    A record 57 million Americans—or 18.1 percent of the population—lived in a multigenerational household in 2012, according to Pew Research data. That is up from 28 million – or 12.1 percent of the population – in 1980.

    Builders are responding by launching home designs targeted at multigenerational home owners. For example, Toll Brothers is offering guest suites with a kitchen to better accommodate the trend. Lennar has launched a NextGen brand of floorplansgeared to multigenerational living. The floorplans include separate main entrances and options such as a 500-square-foot attached suite for a private residence.

    Lennar’s CEO Stuart Miller said earlier this summer in a conference call that “sales continue to benefit from the execution of our NextGen product strategy.” Sales of its multigenerational brand soared 58 percent in the second quarter. The builder offers NextGen plans in 201 communities nationwide, and the average sales price for NextGen homes is reportedly 39 percent above the company’s average.

    Source: “The Sensible Resurgence of the Multigenerational Home,” Bloomberg/Businessweek (Aug. 13, 2014)

  • Is the End of the Dead Battery Near?

    Posted Under: Tech Tips, Remodel & Renovate, Home Ownership  |  August 18, 2014 4:38 PM  |  56 views  |  No comments

    Hunting for a wall-socket to charge your phone may one day be a thing of the past. Nokia is working with researchers from Queen Mary University of London to develop new technology that one day may be able to charge your smartphone with sound.

    It’s the latest in a string of technologies aimed at creating faster, more efficient ways to charge tech devices, and also keep them charged longer. Numerous consumer polls have shown that a better battery life is the most important feature to smartphone users. As such, researchers have been in a race to develop longer-lasting, faster charging batteries.

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    Developers from Nokia and QMUL are finding that zinc oxide may be key to producing more efficient batteries.  It’s a material that can be used to turn mechanical energy—energy created by motion—into electrical energy. They’re testing how to use energy to generate a high voltage that responds to vibration and movement, which can be generated by an everyday sound, like the sound of your voice. So far, the team has tested and been able to charge a Nokia Lumia 925 using sound.

    Researchers are also experimenting with bigger batteries in some devices like the Sony Xperia Z2 and Samsung Galaxy S5, which have allowed users to get 24 hours of battery life, if used “correctly.” Some extreme power save modes allow users to operate devices for as long as a week without charging, Forbes.com reports.

    Scientists at Stanford University have developed a pure lithium anode that they say has the potential to increase the capacity of existing battery technology by 400 percent. Other researchers are focusing on cases that can extend battery life, such as FLIR One’s thermal imaging case and Vysk communication’s QS1 encryption case, both for iPhones.

    Other companies are focusing on how to get a charge at super-fast speeds. For example, earlier this year StoreDot offered a peek at its new ultra-fast battery charging device, which the company says is capable of charging a Samsung Galaxy S3 in 30 seconds. The company plans to begin mass production of the device in 2015.

    Source: “New Technology Charges Smartphones with Sound,” Forbes.com (July 15, 2014)

  • Brokerage to Open Inside Rolls-Royce Dealership

    Posted Under: Agent2Agent  |  August 18, 2014 4:36 PM  |  30 views  |  No comments

    Would you like a Rolls-Royce with that house? A luxury real estate brokerage is opening its office next month inside a Rolls-Royce showroom in Jericho, N.Y.

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    Shawn Elliott, owner of Shawn Elliott Luxury Homes and Estates in Woodbury, N.Y., says he believes he will be the first residential real estate office inside a car dealership. He’s opening up his brokerage inside Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Long Island’s 9,200-square-foot showroom, which also displays Bentleys and Lamborghinis.

    From inside the dealership’s showroom, he will have a 75-inch flat screen TV in his glass-enclosed office that projects images of his $5 million-plus listings. He’s hoping car shoppers will also be lured into shopping for a new home. And, of course, they’ll be able to tour homes inside a Rolls-Royce.

    The alliance with the Rolls-Royce dealer grew from invitation-only soirees and showings where the Rolls Royce Motor Cars Long Island dealer would help stage Elliott’s listings by parking luxury cars outside as curb appeal.

    “It adds dimension,” Elliott told The New York Times. “You put a Rolls-Royce in front of a home and it creates more excitement for a home. The perception is the home is worth more.”

    By being inside a car dealership's showroom, Elliott says that he hopes while shoppers peruse cars they’ll also be tempted to “find a home for their new car.” He says the markets for $250,000 cars and $5 million houses share overlap. “The audience that is here is targeted for us. You don’t buy a $250,000 car if you don’t make a million dollars a year.”

    Source: “A Rolls-Royce With Your House?” The New York Times (Aug. 15, 2014)

  • Builder Confidence Rises Across the U.S.

    Posted Under: Market Conditions  |  August 18, 2014 4:35 PM  |  22 views  |  No comments

    Builder confidence in the market for new, single-family homes rose two points in August, bringing the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index to its highest score since the beginning of 2014.

    Check out last month's builder outlook.

    NAHB surveys builders across the country and asks them to rate their sales expectations for the next six months, their confidence in current single-family home sales, and their perceptions of prospective buyer traffic.

    “Each of the three components of the HMI registered consecutive gains for the past three months, which is a positive sign that builder confidence appears to be firming,” NAHB chief economist David Crowe said in a statement.

    Builder confidence in current sales conditions rose to a score of 58, while expectations for future sales rose to 65. The third index, which gauges expectations for prospective buyer traffic, hit 42.

    Scores rose regionally, as well, with the Midwest experiencing the biggest point increase from 48 to 55. The Northeast’s score, which is the lowest in the country, rose from 36 to 38. The HMI score in the South rose by just one point to 52, while the West’s score went up to 56.

    The overall increase in the HMI index can be attributed to factors including sustained job growth, historically low mortgage rates, and affordable home prices, Crowe said.

    Source: NAHB

  • Down Payments for Lower-Priced Homes Double

    Posted Under: Market Conditions, Home Buying, Financing  |  August 18, 2014 4:34 PM  |  19 views  |  No comments

    Buyers looking at lower-priced homes are not only facing major inventory hurdles, they’re also finding that they have to bring more money to the closing table.

    The median down payment for the cheapest 25 percent of homes was 7.5 percent of the sales price last year, up from a low of 3.1 percent in 2006. That also compares to an average of 4.2 percent from 2001 through 2007, according to research by the real estate brokerage Redfin Corp., which analyzed the 25 largest metros.

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    Many younger home buyers, who often seek to break into the housing market by purchasing lower-priced homes, are among those affected by the higher down payments. The median down payment for the cheapest 25 percent of properties sold in 2013 was $9,480, according to Redfin’s analysis.

    “The numbers tell the story of why we have millions of potential home owners who are renters or living with their parents,” Susan Wachter, a professor of real estate and finance at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in Philadelphia, told Bloomberg. “What has changed is the ability to become an owner. And that’s changed through a down payment that’s more than doubled.”

    Part of the reason for the increase in down payments among lower-priced properties could be due to the smaller number of first-time home buyers applying for loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, which requires small down payments of usually 3.5 percent. FHA increased its mortgage-insurance premiums this year, which has raised FHA borrowing costs and tightened underwriting standards. It's part of FHA's effort to boost cash reserves lost in the aftermath of the housing crisis.

    As such, some borrowers who may have applied for an FHA loan are instead using private lenders, who may be demanding higher down payments. In 2013, 39 percent of first-time buyers used FHA loans compared with 56 percent in 2010, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

    “If higher down payments persist, we will have a millennial generation that’s missing in action in home ownership,” says Wachter.

    Source: “More Money Down Adds to U.S. First-Time Buyer Blues: Economy,” Bloomberg News (Aug. 14, 2014)

  • Twin Cities Key to National Housing Market

    Posted Under: Market Conditions  |  August 18, 2014 4:31 PM  |  19 views  |  No comments

    Minneapolis-St. Paul serves as the best local market predictor of where nationwide housing prices will be heading over the next year. On the other hand, you don't want to try to apply Texas price trends to your local market, a new study suggests.

    That may be good news for sellers, considering that Twin Cities' home prices were up 4.7 percent year-over-year in June, with a median sales price of $219,900, according to the Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS®. A study conducted by Trulia attempted to find housing markets that often serve as the nation’s crystal ball—those markets that regularly run ahead of national pricing trends. The company evaluated home price changes between 1980 and 2014 in the nation’s 100 largest metro markets using the Federal Housing Finance Agency home price index. They created a “crystal ball” score that was derived by the correlation between the year-over-year home price changes in a metro with the year-over-year home price change for the U.S. one year later. The Twin Cities earned the highest “crystal ball” score, followed by California cities San Diego, Ventura County, and Sacramento.

    Here’s the full list of the local markets that may hold the key to the future of the nationwide housing market by next year:

    1. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.-Wis.
    2. San Diego, Calif.
    3. West Palm Beach, Fla.
    4. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla.
    5. Ventura County, Calif.
    6. Washington, D.C.-Va.-Md.-W.Va.
    7. Sacramento, Calif.
    8. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Fla.
    9. North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, Fla.
    10. St. Louis, Mo.-Ill.

    On the other hand, some of the markets ranked as the worst predictors of next year’s home price movements are in Texas. The Forbes.com article where the findings were published notes that “Texas home prices are influenced by the swings in the energy industry, which means real estate in Texas and Gulf Coast tends to beat to a different drummer more than any other market in the country.”

    The study found the following metros are the worst predictors of where the nationwide housing market is heading within the next year:

    1. Baton Rouge, La.
    2. Houston, Texas
    3. San Antonio, Texas
    4. Austin, Texas
    5. Tulsa, Okla.
    6. Oklahoma City, Okla.
    7. Salt Lake City, Utah
    8. El Paso, Texas
    9. Greenville, S.C.
    10. Buffalo, N.Y.

    Source: “Can Any Local Market Predict National Home-Price Trends?” Forbes.com (Aug. 15, 2014)

  • Building for the Future

    Posted Under: Tech Tips, Property Q&A, Home Ownership  |  August 5, 2014 4:09 PM  |  76 views  |  No comments

    It’s easier to adopt new techniques when you’re building from scratch, so the new-home market tends to have more than its fair share of inventive products to offer.

    More in All About the House

    Before these new products come to market, they often come to Michelle Desiderio. As the vice president of innovation services for Home Innovation Research Labs—a wholly owned, independent subsidiary of the National Association of Home Builders—she works with manufacturers to test building products and appliances. At the manufacturer’s request, the lab’s technicians will do everything from open and shut a door 10,000 times to drop cast-iron pans onto sinks to build a model house to test the impact of high winds on a new framing technique. “Our goal is to remove barriers to innovation in the housing industry,” she says.

    So what kinds of advances are buyers looking for? “Builders often are under the assumption that consumers are focused on green products exclusively, but study after study shows that’s not the case,” says Desiderio. “Durability usually ranks very high.”

    Brent Ehrlich, products editor at publishing company BuildingGreen, which examines environmentally friendly construction, says that manufacturers are taking notice of the desire for resilience. He’s also seeing more use of natural materials such as stone and cork, which he says represents the “what’s-old-is-new phenomenon” taking hold. One example of this trend is the use of mineral wool for insulation. Ehrlich says this material is replacing spray foam insulation systems that “contain some fairly nasty chemicals.” Also, the natural alternative is both flame-retardant and difficult for insects to penetrate.

    Another product Ehrlich is excited about is fungal mycelium. A company called Ecovative combines what are basically mushroom roots with agricultural byproducts in controlled lab conditions. The product that emerges is currently being used as an eco-friendly packing material, but the company is working to market it as a strong, lightweight, flame-resistant insulation for homes and commercial buildings.  

    But Ehrlich warns that in the effort to make homes more energy-efficient, home owners need to be careful not to seal the structure’s envelope too tightly. He’s says he’s seen cases where home owners try to retrofit their insulation for energy efficiency and end up having to tear it all out and start over because they hadn’t considered healthy air exchanges and letting a building breathe.

    Innovators in new construction are also looking for ways to protect home owners from catastrophic events. “Many places in the country have experienced one natural disaster after another,” Desiderio says. “So we have this relatively new goal of how to make homes more resilient in a disaster.”

    Ehrlich says that, despite the great work of Home Innovation Research Labs, no amount of testing can fully replicate the pressures of real-world use for some of these brand-new products: “We really don’t know how they’ll last. Longevity is still going to be a question.”

    Because defects in new homes can directly affect the entire system of a house, builders tend to be wary about new products. “As a society, we change phones frequently, but product manufacturers have a much more difficult time getting their clients to switch in the world of home construction,” Desiderio says.

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