Category Archives: Real Estate

Real Estate Outperforms Amid Broader Selloff

Summary

  • Amid rising trade and political tensions, US equities dipped nearly 6% this week, the worst weekly performance in two years. REITs fell 5% while home builders declined 3%.
  • A flurry of headlines reignited volatility this week including a Fed rate hike, retaliatory tariffs from China, a major data breach at Facebook, and a $1.3 trillion spending bill.
  • Investors are increasingly anxious that protectionism threatens to upend the best period of global economic growth in a decade. Real estate sectors are relatively immune from these negative effects.
  • Yield-sensitive equity sectors, including REITs and home builders, have outperformed during the past month as interest rates and inflation expectations have retreated.
  • The effects of tax reform and rising mortgage rates are beginning to impact housing markets. Existing home sales are higher by just 1% as first-time buyers remain on the sidelines.

Real Estate Weekly Review

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2017 was a year of remarkable tranquility in financial markets, but 2018 has been quite the opposite. After going an entire year without a 2% weekly move, the S&P 500 (SPY) has recorded eight such weekly moves through the first twelve weeks of 2018. This week, volatility was reignited by a flurry of headlines centering around US trade policy, a political “data breach” at Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), a “hawkish hike” by the Federal Reserve, and a $1.3 trillion spending bill.

This week, the S&P 500 (SPY) dipped nearly 6%, which was the worst week for US stocks in more than two years. Investors are increasingly anxious that rising protectionism threatens to upend the best period of global economic growth in a decade. Others, however, remain confident that the Trump administration’s hard-line stance on trade is a negotiating tactic that will inevitably result in lower overall trade barriers. Real estate sectors are relatively immune from these effects. REITs (VNQ and IYR) and home builders (XHB and ITB) outperformed this week, dropping 5% and 3%, respectively. Yield-sensitive equity sectors, including REITs and home builders, have outperformed over the past month as interest rates and inflation expectations retreated.

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(Hoya Capital Real Estate, Performance as of 4pm Friday)

The 10-Year Yield ended the week 2bps lower at 2.83% after climbing to 2.90% following the Federal Reserve’s “hawkish hike.” The Fed hiked short-term rates by 25bps, as expected, but compared to the last meeting, more Fed officials now expect four rate hikes in 2018. Since inflation remains relatively subdued, investors fear that a rate-hike plan this aggressive may be unnecessarily restrictive and slow the US economy, indicated by the flattening yield curve.

Across other areas of the real estate sector, mortgage REITs (REM) declined by nearly 4% while international real estate (VNQI) fell roughly 3%. Within the Equity Income categories, we note the performance and current income yield of the Utilities, Telecom, Consumer Staples, Financials, and Energy. Within the Fixed Income categories, we look at Short-, Medium-, and Long-Term Treasuries, as well as Investment Grade and High Yield Corporates, Municipal Bonds, and Global Bonds.

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Cell towers, manufactured housing, malls, self-storage were the best performing sectors of the week. Winners this week included Washington Prime (WPG), Crown Castle (CCI), SBA Communications (SBAC), Tanger (SKT), American Homes (AMH), and Taubman (TCO). Growth REIT sectors including hotels, office, and industrials were among the weakest-performing. DiamondRock (DRH), Brandywine (BDN), Pebblebrook (PEB), and QTS (QTS) each dropped more than 9% this week.

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REITs are now lower by nearly 12% YTD, under performing the 4% rise in the S&P 500. Home builders are off by 11%. REITs remain more than 20% off their all-time highs in 2016. The 10-Year Yield has climbed 43 basis points since the start of the year.

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REITs ended 2017 with a total return of roughly 5%, lower than the 20-year average annual return of 12%. Going forward, absent continued cap-rate compression, it is reasonable to expect REITs to return an average of 6-8% per year with an annual standard deviation averaging 5-15%. This risk/return profile is roughly in line with large-cap US equities.

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Real Estate Economic Data

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(Hoya Capital Real Estate, HousingWire)

New and Existing Home Sales Continue to Be Soft

Last week, we analyzed February housing starts data, which indicated that housing construction activity has slowed in recent quarters, dragged down by a sustained pullback in multifamily building. Single-family construction remains relatively solid, but rising mortgage rates and changes to the tax code threaten to stall the plodding housing recovery. Total housing starts have grown just 2.0% over the past twelve months, the slowest rate of growth since 2011.

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This week, new and existing home sales data was released. Both new and existing home sales were strong in early 2017 but faded into year-end, likely due to rising mortgage rates, unaffordability issues, and continued tight supply levels. Existing homes were sold at a 5.54m seasonally adjusted annualized rate in February, slightly missing expectations. Existing sales have risen just 1% over the past year, the weakest rate of growth since early 2015.

New homes were sold at a 618k rate, which was roughly in line with expectations after upward revisions to past months. New home sales, which are primarily comprised of single-family homes, have been the relative bright spot, growing 7.5% on a TTM basis. This rate of growth, however, is also the second slowest since early 2015.

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At roughly 600k per year, the rate of new home sales remains well below pre-recession levels and remains low by historical standards. The period between 1970 and 2000 saw an average of 650k home sales per year while the average population during that time was 30-40% below current levels. The rate of existing home sales, however, remains relatively healthy. At around 7% per year, the turnover rate of existing homes is roughly in line with pre-2000 levels. A number of factors have contributed to the “wide bottom” in new single-family housing construction: the lingering effects of overbuilding in the run-up to the housing bubble, a generational shift to renting, restrictive zoning restrictions, and lower investment returns from home building.

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Existing home inventory remains near historically low levels, primarily a result of this “wide bottom” in new single-family housing construction. Existing housing supply was just 3.4 months in February, down from 3.8 months in February 2017. Other effects are at play, too, including the increased institutional presence in the single-family rental markets and the rising rate of home ownership among the older demographics. First-time home buyers made up 29% of total existing home sales, down from the 32% in February 2017. The rate of first-time home buyers remains stubbornly below the pre-bubble level of 40-45% and the bubble-peak of 52%. We have yet to see the younger demographics enter the home ownership markets in any significant numbers.

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Real Estate Earnings Update

Last week, we published our Real Estate Earnings Review for 4Q17. Earnings season concluded last week in the real estate sector. Overall, 4Q17 results were slightly better than expected (80% beat or met estimates), but REITs raised caution heading into 2018. As supply growth has intensified, fundamentals continue to moderate across the real estate sector as rental markets approach supply/demand equilibrium after nearly a decade of above-trend rent growth. Same-store NOI grew 2.6% in 2017, the slowest rate of growth since 2011. Occupancy levels remain near record highs, however, as real estate demand growth continues to be robust.

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Bottom Line

Amid rising trade and political tensions, US equities dipped nearly 6% this week, the worst weekly performance in two years. REITs fell 5% while home builders declined 3%. A flurry of headlines reignited volatility this week including a Fed rate hike, retaliatory tariffs from China, a major data breach at Facebook, and a $1.3 trillion spending bill. Investors are increasingly anxious that protectionism threatens to upend the best period of global economic growth in a decade. Real estate sectors are relatively immune from these negative effects.

Yield-sensitive equity sectors, including REITs and home builders, have outperformed during the past month as interest rates and inflation expectations have retreated. The effects of tax reform and rising mortgage rates are beginning to impact housing markets. Existing home sales are higher by just 1% as first-time buyers remain on the sidelines.

Last week, we published our quarterly update on the cell tower sector: Cell Tower REITs Shrug Off SpaceX Launch. Cell towers were the best performing REIT sector in 2017. After strong 4Q17 earnings results, cell towers remain the lone REIT sector in positive territory so far in 2018. The enormous spectacle of the SpaceX launch and the grand ambitions of Elon Musk to launch a competing satellite-based internet service temporarily jolted investor confidence in the sector. Despite potential competition from small-cells and satellite, macro towers continue to be the most economical way to provide comprehensive coverage. The risk of technological obsolescence is often overstated. Positive catalysts are on the horizon for 2018.

We also published our quarterly update on the industrial sector: Industrial REITs: Only A Trade War Can Spoil The Good Times. Over the past five years, industrial REITs have emerged as the hottest real estate sector. Booming global trade and the growth of e-commerce have boosted demand for warehouse distribution space. While supply growth has picked up in recent years, markets remain tight. Occupancy is near record highs, rent growth is relentless, and demand indicators suggest that there’s further room to run. Fears of a “trade war” have escalated after the US enacted tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Uncertainty over trade policy could disrupt supply chains and weaken industrial REIT fundamentals.

 

So far, we have updated up REIT Rankings on the Industrial, Single Family Rental, Cell Tower, Apartment, Net Lease, Data Center, Mall, Manufactured Housing, Student Housing, and Storage sectors. We will continue our updates over the coming weeks.

Please add your comments if you have additional insight or opinions. We encourage readers to follow our Seeking Alpha page (click “Follow” at the top) to continue to stay up to date on our REIT rankings, weekly recaps, and analysis on the real estate and income sectors.

Source: Hoya Capital Real Estate | Seeking Alpha

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First Real Estate Deal Transacted In Ethereum Closes In The United States

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Look how fast things happen!! 

Just about a month or so ago, many agents where laughing about Bitcoin, blockchain, and other cryptocurrencies, talking about how people won’t use it to buy real estate. Hmmm… 

Where did this transaction happen? 

In Burlington, Vermont. 

The first property to be sold this way in the United States. 

It was sold entirely through the blockchain. Completely. 

Ethereum was the token used. This puts Vermont on the map. 

Propy is a company in San Francisco. Propy handled the entire transaction including recording of the documents and contracts instead of using the city system. 

Vermont is the first state to allow this kind of transaction and soon coming up are Colorado and Arizona. 

The encryption technology in blockchain is the best available at this time. 

This transaction used cryptocurrency for the purchase and it was then turned into the fiat money on the other end. 

The first Bitcoin to Bitcoin transaction in the United States was when Michael Komaransky sold his Miami mansion for 455 Bitcoin which was the most expensive Bitcoin real estate transaction to date. 

While most people will still not do a cryptocurrency real estate transaction, it is here, and it will be here to stay. 

The different tokens will fail and others will rise. Ethereum is very stable. Blockchain is here to stay and evolve. 

Source: By Katerina Gasset | Active Rain

Fire Sale Begins: Chinese Conglomerate HNA Starts Liquidating Billions In US Real Estate


Yesterday ZeroHedge
explained that one of the reasons why Deutsche Bank stock had tumbled to the lowest level since 2016, is because its top shareholder, China’s largest and most distressed conglomerate, HNA Group, had reportedly defaulted on a wealth management product sold on Phoenix Finance according to the local press reports. While HNA’s critical liquidity troubles have been duly noted here and have been widely known, the fact that the company was on the verge (or beyond) of default, and would be forced to liquidate its assets imminently, is what sparked the selling cascade in Deutsche Bank shares, as investors scrambled to frontrun the selling of the German lender which is one of HNA’s biggest investments.

Now, one day later, we find that while Deutsche Bank may be spared for now – if not for long – billions in US real estate will not be, and in a scene right out of the Wall Street movie Margin Call, HNA has decided to be if not smartest, nor cheat, it will be the first, and has begun its firesale of US properties.

According to Bloomberg, HNA is marketing commercial properties in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Minneapolis valued at a total of $4 billion as the indebted Chinese conglomerate seeks to stave off a liquidity crunch. The marketing document lists six office properties that are 94.1% leased, and one New York hotel, the 165-room Cassa, with a total value of $4 billion.

One of the flagship properties on the block is the landmark office building at 245 Park Ave., according to a marketing document seen by Bloomberg.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/245%20park.jpg?itok=o04ldvfo245 Park Avenue, New York

HNA bought that skyscraper less than a year ago for $2.21 billion, one of the highest prices ever paid for a New York office building. The company also is looking to sell 850 Third Ave. in Manhattan and 123 Mission St. in San Francisco, according to the document. The properties are being marketed by an affiliate of brokerage HFF.

This is just the beginning as HNA’s massive debt load – which if recent Chinese reports are accurate the company has started defaulting on – is driving the company to sell assets worldwide.

According to Real Capital Analytics estimates, HNA owns more than $14 billion in real estate properties globally. The problem is that the company has a lot more more debt. As of the end of June, HNA had 185.2 billion yuan ($29.3 billion) of short-term debt — more than its cash and earnings can cover. The company’s total debt is nearly 600 billion yuan or just under US$100 billion. Which means that the HNA fire sale is just beginning, and once the company sells the liquid real estate, it will move on to everything else, including its stake in all these companies, whose shares it has already pledged as collateral.

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So keep a close eye on Deutsche Bank stock: while HNA may have promised John Cryan it won’t sell any time soon but companies tend to quickly change their mind when bankruptcy court beckons.

Finally, the far bigger question is whether the launch of HNA’s firesale will present a tipping point in the US commercial (or residential) real estate market. After all, when what until recently was one of the biggest marginal buyers becomes a seller, it’s usually time to get out and wait for the bottom.

Source: ZeroHedge

 

‘Extreme’ Rainfall on Thomas Fire Burn Areas Created Deadly Montecito Debris Flows

 

The disaster in Montecito was a rare event, statistically speaking – but it could happen again, geologists say

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A boulder field surrounds a Montecito home after the Jan. 9 storm that triggered deadly flooding and debris flows. (Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

The surging river of mud and boulders that engulfed swaths of Montecito from the mountains to the sea last week, killing 20, was a rare disaster – so rare, geologists say, that it may happen only once in a few hundred to a thousand years at that location.

But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen again this winter, said Ed Keller, a professor of earth science at UC Santa Barbara.

All of the communities below the scorched slopes of the Thomas Fire are at risk, he said.

“These areas are very vulnerable in the next two years to debris flows,” Keller said. “We could get another one right down Montecito Creek this year, if we get another big rainfall, depending on how much debris is left up in the basin. It’s not impossible.”

The catastrophic debris flow of Jan. 9 in Montecito is the deadliest disaster to hit the South Coast since a magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck Santa Barbara on the morning of June 29, 1925, leveling the downtown area and killing 13.

Debris flows launch massive quantities of rocks, boulders, trees and mud downhill. They are typically triggered after wildfires on steep mountainsides, when heavy rains wash away the soil.

“Big debris flows are relatively rare,” said Keller, who is applying for national funding to study the footprint and volume of the Jan. 9 event.

“They don’t occur after every fire in any one stream. The Thomas Fire was huge, and there are only a couple of places with really damaging debris flows. Montecito and San Ysidro creeks were primed for one.”

In catastrophic debris flows such as the one in Montecito, narrow canyons chock full of boulders start to flood and landslides may occur. Rocks and brush form temporary dams, then break through and roar downhill on thick slurries of mud. Car-sized boulders bob along like corks.

In Montecito, the wall of mud and debris was 15 feet high in some locations.

“You may get pulses of flows rushing out of canyons in the mountains,” said Larry Gurrola, a Ventura-based consulting geologist who is on Keller’s research team. “That material reaches the base of the foothills, chokes the streams, flows out over the banks and moves towards the ocean, dragging trees, brush, cars, utility poles and parts of homes along with it.”

Through the millennia, debris flows have shaped the terrain of the South Coast.

Almost all of Montecito and most of Santa Barbara is built on top of flows that occurred here over the past 125,000 years, Keller said: just look at the boulder field at Rocky Nook Park. That’s evidence of a catastrophic flow out of Rattlesnake Canyon in prehistoric times, he said.

During the past 50 years, the South Coast has seen a few destructive but not catastrophic debris flows.

Last February, during heavy rain in the burn area of the 2016 Sherpa Fire, a debris flow washed 20 cars and five cabins down El Capitan Creek and sent boulders into the surf. Emergency crews rescued two dozen campers from El Capitan Canyon resort. 

On Jan. 3 this year, county emergency preparedness officials showed the Board of Supervisors photos of damage from the debris flows that followed the Coyote and Romero fires of 1964 and 1971, respectively. Both years, San Ysidro, Olive Mill and Coast Village roads in Montecito were choked with mud.

This year, the stage was set for catastrophe after the Thomas Fire burned 440 square miles in December, largely in the backcountry of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, becoming the largest fire in California history.

It scorched the chaparral that anchors the soil to the bedrock and created a “hydrophobic” layer in the ground – a kind of crust that repels water like glass.

In an era of year-round fire seasons, the Thomas Fire had not been fully contained when the rainy season got underway in earnest.

“It was just kind of the perfect storm, when all the bad factors line up together,” said Jon Frye, Santa Barbara County engineering manager. “There was no time whatsoever between the fire and the winter.”

The trigger for the catastrophic debris flow in Montecito, geologists say, was several bursts of extreme rainfall, beginning at 3:34 a.m. One of these was a 200-year event – more than half an inch of rain falling in 5 minutes. That’s a quarter of the total amount of rain, 2.1 inches, that was recorded in Montecito during the nine-hour storm.

A U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) debris flow hazard map that was widely circulated before the Jan. 9 storm showed the high probability of debris flows originating in the mountains above Mountain Drive in Montecito on the heels of the Thomas Fire.

The slopes there are on a “hair trigger,” said Dennis Staley, a USGS research geologist who helped prepare the map. The harder the rainfall, the bigger the flow, he said.

“We knew that if it rained very hard, there could be very significant debris flows,” Staley said. “If you plug in the intensities that were received, our prediction aligns with what we saw.”

In any given year, there is only a half-percent chance that half an inch of rain will fall on Montecito in five minutes, said Jayme Laber, a senior hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

“It was a typical winter storm, but five-minute rainfall was extreme, something that you don’t see very often,” he said.

The 5-minute, half-inch downpour began at 3:38 a.m. near Casa Dorinda, at Olive Mill and Hot Spring roads, county records show.

Between 3:34 a.m. and 3:51 a.m., three additional bursts of extreme rainfall – 50-year events with a 2 percent chance of occurring in any given year – were recorded on gauges near Gibraltar Peak and in downtown Carpinteria.

These were the heaviest short-term, high-intensity rainfalls recorded during the entire storm from Redding to San Diego, Laber said.

“It was horrible that it was right on top of the Thomas Fire burn area,” he said.

The first reports of the debris flow came in to the National Weather Service shortly before 4 a.m.

Meanwhile, there was no major damage in Ventura County during the Jan. 9 storm. Ventura County took the brunt of the Thomas Fire, but was not pounded on Jan. 9 with the short-term, high-intensity deluge that overwhelmed Montecito, Laber said.

The historical record shows that previous debris flows on the South Coast closed Highway 101 and caused a lot of damage to property but did not kill anyone.

In 1964, a few months after the Coyote Fire burned 100 square miles above Santa Barbara, Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria, records show, a debris flow destroyed 12 homes and six bridges on Mission Creek in Santa Barbara.

Eye-witness accounts told of “20-foot walls of water, mud, boulders, and trees moving down the channels at approximately 15 miles per hour.”

During heavy rains following the 1971 Romero Fire, which burned 20 square miles in the mountains behind Santa Barbara, Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria, Highway 101 was blocked for eight hours near Carpinteria. A wall of mud and water three feet high pushed across the freeway toward the ocean.

“Looking back, there is clear evidence that this type of thing happens in Santa Barbara with some regularity,” Staley, the USGS geologist, said.

Keller and Gurrola will be participating in a free panel discussion on wildfire and debris flows at the Santa Barbara Public Library Faulkner Gallery, 40 E. Anapamu St., in Santa Barbara at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 25. 

By Melinda Burns | Newshawk

 

Real Estate Community In Shock After Montecito Mudslides

Disaster strikes again in Southern California before it can recover from devastating wildfires

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The real estate community of Montecito, California, is in the heart of catastrophic mudslides burying Southern Santa Barbara County with an onslaught of flooding and debris — another crisis on the heels of the devastating Thomas Fire that scorched the area just weeks before.

“We had time to prepare with the fires,” said Realtor Cynthia (Cindy) York Shadian, head of Coldwell Banker’s Montecito and Santa Barbara operations. “We saw them coming. With landslides, you don’t have the luxury of even 15 minutes — it’s massive.”

Following heavy rainfall, the deadly mudslides began pouring into the area early Tuesday morning, so far claiming 15 lives, trapping around 300 people in their homes, and destroying 100 homes, according to the New York Times. “A number of homes were ripped from their foundations,” the LA Times reported, “with some pulled more than a half-mile by water and mud before they broke apart.”

Coast Village Road, where a number of Montecito real estate offices are based, was one of the hardest hit. The road has been closed off, though intrepid brokers were still making their way to check on the premises today.

Shadian’s office at 1290 Coast Village Road, across from the Montecito Inn, was at the “epicenter” of the mudslide but was miraculously saved from flooding thanks to being on slightly higher ground, Shadian said. “We are completely impacted,” she told Inman. “It’s scary, you put your toe in the mud and you don’t know how deep it is to get out of.”

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The Montecito Inn on Coast Village Road (Photo courtesy of Gary Goldberg)

Working from Coldwell Banker’s Santa Barbara office today, Shadian was keeping close tabs on her 128 agents in Montecito and Santa Barbara, who so far were all OK. But yesterday she had spoken to one of her Montecito agents whose own house flooded. He had saved several lives, she said, and was recovering from the trauma of enduring a living nightmare.

Another real estate pro with an office on Coast Village Road is Gary Goldberg, broker-owner of Coastal Properties, who spoke to Inman while he was en route to the office from a borrowed guest home. This was the second time he had evacuated in recent months, first from the fires, now the mudslides.

Goldberg spent Monday filling and putting down sandbags for clients. He helped one family — formerly buyer clients — who had just welcomed a new baby before the mudslides hit, along with one of his elderly clients.

On Tuesday, Goldberg was inundated with Facebook messages from concerned friends and colleagues.

“Being a local Realtor, clients call. My CPA called; you don’t talk to your CPA the first week of January!” Goldberg said. But his house and office emerged unscathed.

“My office is on the western half of Coast Village Road but the eastern half is lower lying and has tons of damage,” Goldberg said. He described the mudslide like “an avalanche of mud and water.”

Keller Williams’ top producer in Montecito, Louise McKaig, meanwhile, was staying put in her part of town and away from her office on Coast Village Road, fortunately located on the second floor.

“They [TV news outlets] keep showing the building we are in, but we are upstairs. Everything around us — over by the Montecito Inn — looks bad, there is mud in the lobby,” she said.

Some of McKaig’s clients had been affected by the mudslide. “Everything is at a standstill, people are just stunned,” she said. “You know people, you know they are missing — we see clients on TV — it’s sad … everybody has a connection here.”

Interactive Damage Map

 

By Lee Ann Canaday | Source: Active Rain

Seller Of Luxury Miami Condo Demands To Be Paid Exclusively In Bitcoin

And they said bitcoin would never work as a currency ツ

While that might be true for small transactions – for now – real-estate markets across the US are increasingly demonstrating that bitcoin is a viable medium of exchange. Case in point: the seller of a luxury Miami condo will only accept payment in bitcoin. The asking price – according to real-estate listings site Redfin -33 bitcoins, or about $550,000 at bitcoin’s present valuation.

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According to Redfin, this is the first time a seller is exclusively accepting payment in bitcoin. The seller’s identity wasn’t immediately clear.

But while this might be the first time that Redfin has noticed the phenomenon, home sellers have been asking to be paid in bitcoin since at least 2013, when an anonymous seller of a luxury condo in the Trump Soho of all places listed the price as 24,700 bitcoin, according to the Daily News. While this sale was the first that was documented in the media, it’s also notable that it occurred before the first bitcoin bubble burst.

Also over the summer, a realtor in Texas revealed that one of her clients had accepted payment for their home in bitcoin. The number of coins – and the identity of the seller and buyer – weren’t disclosed.

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And as we recently reported, more realtors in hot markets like New York City and Miami are demanding to be paid in cryptocurrency, sometimes exclusively.

This trend in broader crypto acceptance – contrary to mainstream media reports – is undoubtedly a factor behind the unprecedented price appreciation which has seen bitcoin soar from $1,000 to $19,000 in 2017.

Meanwhile, any buyer who has accepted bitcoin as payment and kept it, has so far managed to generate a staggering profit, given the digital currency’s aggressive appreciation. The real test will come after the digital currency inevitably tanks again.

Source: ZeroHedge

What’s Hot: Home Trends in the Pipeline for 2018

Every industry tracks innovations in its field, and housing is no different. As a real estate pro, here are the need-to-know products and services promising to transform homes and your clients’ lifestyles over the next year or so.

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The big-picture view on housing trends in 2018 center around integrating technology and creating healthy and connected living environments. That’s why building materials, systems, and products that speak to these concerns are expected to generate greater buzz in the coming year. And with more generations living under the same roof, home-related features that provide an extra pair of hands or calming—even spiritual—influence are also being enthusiastically embraced. Here’s a sampling of coming trends that are important to understand and share with clients.

The Rise of the Tech Guru

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Why now: Smart homes are getting smarter, with homeowners increasingly purchasing devices and apps that perform tasks such as opening blinds, operating sprinkler systems, and telling Alexa what food to order. But not all these helpers speak the same language, nor do they always work together harmoniously. “Even plugs and chargers aren’t necessarily universal for different appliances and phones,” says Lisa Cini, senior living designer and author of The Future is Here: Senior Living Reimagined (iUniverse, 2016). Also, with more devices competing for airtime, Wi-Fi systems may not be strong enough to operate throughout a home, which results in dead spots, she says. “What many homeowners need is a skilled tech provider who makes house calls, assesses what’s needed, and makes all the tech devices hum effortlessly at the same time.”

What you should do: More buyers want to see listings updated to take advantage of all technological possibilities from the moment they move in. Add a home technology source to your list of trusted experts. You might even be able to offer a free first visit as a closing gift.

* * *

Smart Glass Adds Privacy, Energy Savings

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Why now: As more homes feature bigger and more numerous windows, homeowners will naturally look for ways to pare down the energy costs, lack of privacy, and harmful ultraviolet rays that can accompany them. Next year, glass company Kinestral will begin offering a residential option to their line of windows and skylights. Called Halio, the technology allows users to tint glazing electronically up to 99.9 percent opacity. The company claims this can eliminate the need for blinds, shades, and curtains. “You’ll be able to tell Alexa to tint your windows, which will also provide privacy,” says Craig Henricksen, vice president of product and marketing for Halio. He notes that previously, the commercial version only offered the choice between yellow, brown, or blue casts, but that they’ll now add in an appealing gray tint to the mix. Windows come in a variety of sizes, and contractors can install the cable and low voltage system required to change the tinting. Homeowners can control the tint by voice command through an app, manual operation with switch, or with preset controls. Henricksen says Halio can save homeowners up to 40 percent off their energy bill, and that while the initial cost is around five to six times greater than similar low-E glass, the fact that traditional window treatments won’t be needed means the investment gap narrows.

What you should do: This is an important option to keep in mind if buyers are unsure about big, long runs of windows in a listing. It may make sense to price out options for your particular listing to help home shoppers understand how much it might cost to retrofit the space with such technology.

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Spiritual Gardens That Lift the Soul

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Why now: Homeowners have long seen their gardens as a place for quiet reflection, so choosing plants and designs that have a physical tie to spirituality is a natural next move. The trend may have started with Bible gardens, which use any number of the more than 100 plants mentioned in the Christian text to populate a restful repose. “So many are good choices because they are hardy, scented, edible, and can withstand harsh climates and environments,” says F. Nigel Hepper, with the Herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England, and author of Illustrative Encyclopedia of Biblical Plants (Inter-Varsity Press, 1992). But people of all faiths, or even those simply drawn to botanical history, can appreciate such spaces. “Around for generations, they feed the body and the soul,” says landscape designer Michael Glassman, who designed such a garden in the shape of a Jewish star as a meditative spot at one of Touro University’s campuses. He filled it with mint, pomegranate trees, sage, and other plants that are mentioned in ancient religious texts. Hepper says labeling and providing detailed context to plantings can transform a miscellaneous, obscure collection into an instructive experience.

What you should do: Find out if your local area has a peace garden that could provide examples of this trend. Homeowners might also find inspiration on the grounds of hospitals and assistance care facilities, which often create healing gardens for patients and family members.

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Kitchens That Do More Than Just Look Pretty

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Why now: An emphasis on eating fresh, healthy foods may mean more frequent trips to grocery stores and farmers markets, but it could also change the architecture of our kitchens. Portland, Ore.–based designer Robin Rigby Fisher says many of her higher-end clients want a refrigerator-only column to store their fresh foods, installing a freezer or freezer drawer in a separate pantry or auxiliary kitchen. The container-gardening industry is vying for counter space with compact growing kits that often feature self-watering capabilities and grow lights. Fisher is also getting more requests for steam ovens that cook and reheat foods without stripping them of key nutrients, though she notes that these ovens can cost $4,000 and have a steeper learning curve than conventional ones. Homeowners also want to be able to use their kitchen comfortably, which means having different or variable counter heights that work for each member of the family, ample light for safe prepping, easy-to-clean counter tops, and flooring that’s softer underfoot, such as cork.

What you should do: Be able to point out the beneficial elements of appliances and features in your listing, such as the antimicrobial nature of surfaces like quartzite and copper.

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Home Robots to the Rescue

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Why now: With lifestyles that seem busier by the day and many families inviting elders who require assistance to live with them, robots that can perform multiple services are gaining in popularity. IRobot’s Braava robots mop and vacuum floors, while Heykuri’s Kuri robot captures short videos of key life moments, including pets’ antics when owners are away. Some robots offer health benefits that mimic real pets, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, says Cini. She says Hasbro’s Joy for All line of furry robot dogs and cats can provide companionship for the elderly with dementia.

What you should do: Ask buyers about pain points in their current homes that might be mitigated by these new interactive technologies.

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Black Is the New Gray

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Why now: Palettes change all the time, and some feel the interest in black is a welcome contrast after years of off-whites, grays, and beiges. The hue is coming on strong in every category—appliances, plumbing fixtures, lighting, metal finishes, hardware, and soft goods, according to commercial interior designer Mary Cook of Mary Cook Associates. She appreciates black’s classic, neutral, sophisticated touch and notes it can be a universal mixer. “Black is a welcome accent in any palette,” she says. Marvin Windows and Doors launched its Designer Black line this year, incorporating a hip industrial vibe. Designer Kristie Barnett, owner of the Expert Psychological Stager training company in Nashville, loves how black mullions draw the eye out toward exterior views more efficiently than white windows can. Kohler has released its popular Numi line and Iron Works freestanding bath in black. Even MasterBrand cabinets are available in black stains and paints. For homeowners who prefer to step lightly into the trend, Chicago designer Jessica Lagrange suggests painting a door black.

What you should do: Suggest black accents as an option for sellers looking to update their homes to appear more modern.

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Air Locks Preserve Energy, Increase Security

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Why now: Incorporating two airtight doors has become a popular way for homeowners to cut energy costs. The double barrier helps keep outside air from entering the main portion of the house and provides a better envelope seal. “We rarely design a house nowadays without one,” says Orren Pickell, president of Orren Pickell Building Group in Northfield, Ill. It’s not just energy homeowners save, though; Pickell says it also supports the trend of more people shopping online. “It keeps packages safer than being left in full view” because delivery services can leave them inside the first door. Homeowners will need a minimum area of five feet squared in order to make this work. Costs vary by project size but it could run homeowners as much as $10,000 to add a small space beyond a front or back door. This usually costs less in new construction or as part of a larger remodeling project, Pickell says.

What you should do: If homeowners are thinking about making changes to their main entryway, be sure to alert them to this trend so they can decide if it makes sense to incorporate it. It may be expensive, but it’s not likely to go out of fashion anytime soon.

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Maximized Side Yards

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Why now: As a national trend toward smaller lot sizes combines with surging interest in maximizing outdoor space, one area that’s often neglected is the side yard. But designers are beginning to pay attention, transforming these afterthoughts into aesthetically pleasing, functional places that buffer a home from neighbors, says Glassman. He suggests growing plants such as star jasmine, climbing roses, and clematis vertically along the siding or a fence. He has created a pleasant pass-through to a backyard, with meandering walkways flanked by ornamental grasses or honeysuckle. Homeowners who have extra space here might consider adding a small recirculating water feature or a tiny sitting area.

What you should do: Pay special attention to side yards when evaluating a home that’s about to go up on the market. Sellers don’t need to spend much to make this space stand out, and any little thing is better than the feeling that the space has been “thrown away, since real estate is so valuable,” Glassman says.

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Battery Backup Systems Offer Resilience

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Why now: Any home owner who’s experienced a weather-related disaster, such as hurricanes, forest fires, and torrential downpours, understands the peace of mind that comes from having systems in place to help withstand Mother Nature’s worst punches. One example of this is a battery backup that integrates into a home’s electric system and operates during power outages, says architect Nathan Kipnis of Kipnis Architecture + Planning in Chicago. The backup batteries can store either electricity from the grid or renewable energy generated onsite by solar panels or other means. A key advantage is that the system doesn’t create the noise and pollution you get with an old-school generator, because it doesn’t use natural gas or diesel fuel. While they’re generally more expensive than traditional fossil fuel systems, prices do continue to drop.

What you should do: Understand the difference between a battery backup system and a typical generator, even if you’re not working in an area that sees frequent extreme weather events.

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Missing Middle Housing

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Why now: Architect Daniel Parolek, principal at Opticos Design in Berkeley, Calif., sees a solution emerging for the mismatch between demand and the housing that’s actually been delivered over the last 20 to 30 years. “Thirty percent of home buyers are single, and their numbers may swell to 75 to 85 percent by 2040, yet 90 percent of available housing is designed for families and located in single-family home neighborhoods,” he says. Parolek says builders must fill in this demand with smaller housing of 600 to 1,200 square feet, usually constructed in styles such as duplexes and cottages communities, and preferably in walkable areas. He cites Holmes Homes’ small townhouses at Daybreak in South Jordan, Utah, as an affordable transit-oriented development that follows missing middle principles.

What you should do: Know where existing missing middle housing may be hiding in your community, so you can help buyers of all ages seeking smaller homes. Also, look for opportunities to invest, either for yourself or your clients, in a type of housing that will likely see more demand than supply in the coming years. 

By Barbara Ballinger | RealtorMag