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Real Estate Trends Surprise

Bikers and dogs suddenly rule real estate — while golf courses are so yesteryear: Six surprising new trends

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Companies know they need bike racks — and quality ones — to compete for young workers these days. Photo by Christophe Guiard
West Alabama Ice House, dog, Pabst Blue Ribbon, beer
Dogs seem to fit into everyone's lives these days. They better fight into your apartment complex's amenities. Photo by Sidney B./Foursquare
home sales up, balloons, floating house
It's not so easy to catch that first starter house these days. The home buying rush is being blown away by worry.
News_iron man_bicycles_triathalon
West Alabama Ice House, dog, Pabst Blue Ribbon, beer
home sales up, balloons, floating house

Real estate reflects the way people want to live, work, shop and play. If there’s a new trend afoot, you’ll see it being played out in the real estate market.

At the National Association of Real Estate Editors 48th Annual conference in Houston scads of new trends came to light as dozens of experts spoke. Six of the most interesting were:

1. Bicycles

Companies are in fierce recruiting wars to get the best employees and that means having the best work places with great amenities, says Chip Clarke of the Transwestern commercial realty firm. Therefore, more and more office buildings owners are installing bicycle racks to appeal to the millennial generation.

Houston-based Avera Cos. is even putting in employee bicycle racks in the warehouses it develops, says Avera’s Trey Odom.

2. Dogs

Offering dog walking services is a way to make a office building a better work place, and Hines, the huge office building developers is offering pet services in some of the buildings it is managing, says Hasty Johnson, vice chair of Hines. In apartments, dog facilities — dog parks, grooming services and dog sitting — may be the most-wanted amenity in multifamily so many new apartment projects have them, says Houston apartment developer Martin Fein.

3. Health 

One in three Americans is obese today, compared to one in eight in 1970, says Rachel MacCleery of the Urban Land Institute. Developments need to be designed with intentional access to fitness facilities, trails and even encouraging people to use stairs instead of elevators. Indoor air quality in vital.

 Houston home builder Will Holder says consumers now want trails in their communities, instead of golf courses. 

Houston’s Bayou Greenways initiative to develop trails and linear parks on the bayous dovetails into the healthy places movement, says James Vick of the SWA Group. Houston home builder Will Holder of Trendmaker Homes says consumers now want trails in their communities, instead of golf courses.

4. Separation Anxiety

Mortgage rates reached record lows in 2012 and 2013 of around 3.3 percent for 30-year home loans. Homeowners don’t want to let go of those once-in-a-lifetime bargain mortgages, says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. So homeowners avoid putting their homes on the market in order to keep those low mortgage rates and that has resulted in super low inventories of home for sale.

Although rates are still low (less than 5 percent) many people are opting to rent out their houses so they can hang onto great mortgages, Yun says.

5. House Porn Texas-Style

A lot of people like to shop for houses online — or at least browse. The Houston Association of Realtors website, with more than 18 million visitor sessions in May, is the most popular real estate website in Houston. Can’t get enough of a good thing?

 If you don’t have a FICO credit score of 750, it may be tough to get your first mortgage. The excitement, joy and fun of buying your first home has been replaced by dread. 

Well, HAR is getting ready to go statewide, carrying listings from all Texas cities, and it will have a lot of info about schools and property taxes, says Taqi Rizvi, chief technology officer for HAR. Only problem? The name “Houston” doesn’t play too well in Plano.

So as the site shows listings in other cities the will stand for “Homes and Realtors”, instead of “Houston Association of Realtors.” Click here to see the beta version of the Texas-wide

6. First-time Buyer Blues

The market for starter homes, which are houses generally purchased by younger people, are soft. Lenders have tightened their standard for giving people mortgages, says Anthony Hsieh, CEO of Loan Depot.

If you don’t have a FICO credit score of 750, it may be tough to get your first mortgage. The excitement, joy and fun of buying your first home has been replaced by dread for first-time buyers, Hsieh says. Lenders have been too restrictive and the recession was hard on the younger generation, says Jed Kolko, chief economist for Trulia.

A lot of young people have given up trying to buy a house and they are renting instead.

Ralph Bivins, editor of Realty News Report, is a past president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

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