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The Plan Collection Announces Home Design 2020 Predictions and Top 5 Current Trends 

(SCARSDALE, NY) – With Americans’ technology-dominated lives, it’s no surprise that today’s home design is following suit. The Plan Collection, the pioneer of online home and design plans, divulges that 2020 home architectural design is trending to accommodate Americans’ busy, technology-driven culture with more space and conveniences in the kitchen – the heart of the home – with “Prep Pantries” and “Command Centers.” The top five current trends are environmentally conscious with a simplistic and modern design of “Zen-Dens,” flex rooms, high ceilings and open floor plans.

2020 PREDICTIONS – Here are The Plan Collection’s 2020 top predictions for new home design concepts:

These new spaces are not just for pouring drinks or storing glasses. Depending on the size, these new kitchen spaces are designed to accommodate countertop appliances (microwaves, coffee makers, etc.), sinks, warming ovens and meal prep areas.
This allows for the kitchen itself to continue as an attractive hub for entertaining. Reminiscent of the butler’s pantry, the beauty of the Prep Pantry is that the mess can be hidden from guests for clean-up later simply by closing the door.
Since large computers are a thing of the past, say goodbye to the computer center or kitchen desk. Command Centers include a plethora of charging stations, convenient ways to hide unsightly charging cords, dedicated space for Amazon Dots, Google Minis and package deliveries, and easy access to iPads or tablets for looking up a recipe or the kids’ school schedule. Until we all have keyless home entry and auto ignitions, there will still be a place in the command center for keys.
“The command center should be centrally located in the home like the kitchen’s ‘household bills desk’ from years past. These days, the mudroom or the “Drop-Zone” is the ideal location to allow everyone in the family easy access to chargers, iPads and keys. As technology has evolved, home plans have followed to address the changing lifestyle needs of homeowners,” said The Plan Collection’s Publishing Director Tim Bakke.

The top five current home design trends include:

ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS DESIGNS – Eco-houses or eco-homes are an environmentally low-impact home designed and built using materials and technology that reduces its carbon footprint and lowers its energy needs. Once the home plans are determined, environmentally conscious homeowners typically look for the following when building a new home:
Window-to-wall ratio of less than 30%
Maximum wall, roof and foundation insulation
Tight building envelopes so all openings are sealed
Energy-efficient ventilation, heating and cooling capabilities
Water-efficient faucets, toilets, appliances and other fixtures
HIGH CEILINGS – Creating an optical illusion, high-ceilings deliver openness and freedom throughout the home, adding a sense of space and depth.
FLEX SPACES – These versatile rooms can be transformed into different types of space depending on the wants and needs of homeowners. For instance, the space can be used to accommodate young children as a playroom or as a home gym or office.
OPEN FLOOR PLANS – An open floor plan enforces togetherness within a home and creates more free space and fewer obstacles. They typically include a family room, kitchen and dining space that blend into a large open hub.
“ZEN DENS” – A designated area in a home devoted to expanding one’s self-awareness to experience maximum relaxation, Zen Dens are used as a meditation room or a space to practice yoga and – in an open floor plan – a nearby place to “get away” from too

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2018 will be one of the Triangle’s busiest years for builders

Get used to the construction — it’s not going away anytime soon. And the new skyscraper you were just getting used to is going to be followed up by several more.

There are 2.6 million square feet of office space currently under development in the Triangle, setting 2018 up to be one of its busiest years for construction, according to real estate services firm JLL. That comes on the back of the 1.7 million square feet of office space delivered last year.

The Triangle is a “huge, growing market,” said Ashley Rogers, JLL’s senior research analyst in Raleigh. “What is driving that is tenants attracted to talent in the area where 47 percent of the millennials have a bachelor degree or higher. As tech and life science (companies) are looking at the markets with affordability — not everyone can afford the Silicon Valleys of the world — Raleigh-Durham is a good entry point.”


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Some Lowe’s employees are wearing exoskeletons to work

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“Lowe’s is committed to exploring opportunities that improve the workplace experience. As a way to support our employees, we found a unique opportunity to collaborate with Virginia Tech to develop one of the first retail applications for robotic exosuits,” Lowe’s Innovation Labs Executive Director Kyle Nel told VTNews.VT.edu.

The exoskeletons are worn like rock climbing harnesses and backpacks, reported CNN.com. Each lightweight suit is equipped with carbon-fiber shafts that run down the employees’ backs and thighs. The carbon-fiber shafts act similarly to tendons: flexing and storing potential energy when the employee bends down, then straightening and releasing the built-up energy when the employee stands back up.

Asbeck, a specialist in the construction of wearable technology, explained that: “Our technology is different in that it includes soft and flexible elements, and our approach is unique in that we are putting our prototypes in a real-world environment for an extended period of time.”

In addition to the suits, the employees were also given headsets to wear during a few hours of their shifts. These headsets are being used in place of directly asking employees how they feel while in the suits. Each headset detects brain activity in order to determine whether or not the employees are enjoying the use of their exoskeletons.

“We didn’t want to over-engineer it, make it too fancy, or give it too many bells and whistles,” stated Nel.

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Tomorrow’s homes to be built by robots

Just like everyone else, the construction industry is turning to automation. A new report on Bloomberg.com notes that modular factories are saving American developers both time and money while filling in the labor gap. An example the authors of the article give, is Baltimore-based Blueprint Robotics which builds homes on an assembly line, similar to what our grandparents did with cars. While the robots can drill holes and speed up the process, human operators are still needed to place the electrical boxes and pipes in the right places. “This has to be the wave of the future,” a consultant says in the article.

It’s a win-win situation, according to industry analysts. The robots may be more precise than human workers but they still require well-trained electricians and plumbers to consolidate everything. Jerry Smalley, Chief Executive Officer of Blueprint, says that the company’s machines are even creating opportunities for professionals who would not otherwise be a part of the construction industry. In true assembly fashion, the modular factory has various production floors, with workers operating machines that perform specific functions. “Traditional” construction education is not required. In fact, one worker in the Baltimore company, Cyndicy Yarborough — once a Walmart clerk with no background in construction —  finds her place in the company after only taking a free, six-month course on computer numerical control machines, which is available only to unemployed or low-income adults.


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4 Ways to Embrace Disruptive Technologies

Technology has changed everything from information sharing and media to entire economic sectors, spurring enormous efficiencies in such industries as manufacturing, financial services and entertainment. Yet in real estate, builders, developers and brokerages alike have been relatively slow to adopt new disruptive technologies, especially in multifamily housing. 

Why real estate?  It’s a relationship business, and trusted personal networks are key to finding and executing deals. But so is information, and big-ticket transactions depend on the availability and accuracy of data. Because commercial and multifamily real estate development has traditionally been the domain of private companies who develop, own and operate their own properties, data has been siloed rather than shared.

To reach their target audiences effectively through the right channels, multifamily developers need to understand the demands of a market that is evolving with breakneck speed, thanks to the unprecedented and ever-increasing level of technological disruption. The escalating tech revolution in this field goes far beyond advances in data analytics, and those who hope to survive and prosper must choose and use the right tools.

From aerial imagery captured by drones to virtual reality (VR) simulations of projects, innovations that were once the stuff of science fiction are now reality. More significantly, they increase efficiency, productivity and cost control. But only now is the real estate sector becoming more proactive in exploring technology-enabled approaches to improving operations, managing properties and building customer relationships, notes the accounting consultancy Grant Thornton in a recent report.

Multifamily housing builders and developers must acknowledge this new reality and adapt accordingly.  How? Here are four ways multifamily developers should embrace technologies that are disrupting multifamily development.


Multifamily development is ultimately about closing sales, and that means building to meet buyer expectations. At ON Collaborative, we have found that everything from the site and design to building amenities and final finishes will impact how a buyer values a potential multifamily home. Builders and developers need to have a thorough and textured understanding of their targets.

Market research fueled by superior data-driven analytics is key.  Analytics tell us trends and patterns not only across the industry, but also in individual markets and even specific neighborhoods. These are often qualities or elements that can have significant consequences, but are easy to miss without deep and intimate knowledge of an area.

For example, minute insights such as the best types of bathroom fixtures, finishes and building amenities; what kind of layouts will be most desirable; or how much lighting common areas and units will require based on likely inhabitants, can be extrapolated with predictive analytics. They justify and substantiate the big picture—and the small details that make a project desirable. It offers us the ability to determine what will sell to whom, and for how much.

Expensive mistakes can be avoided by consulting the data instead of trusting instinct or personal experience. For that reason, analytics should be used to establish the costs and benefits of every decision in the development process.


Thanks to rising land costs, higher interest rates and a tight labor supply in the construction industry, multifamily buildings are very expensive to build. These economic realities have squeezed multifamily developers’ margins, as Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2017 notes. At the same time, the growing complexity of multifamily development projects has made effective onsite planning, management and monitoring increasingly difficult and costly. This is especially true of the luxury condo sector, according to KPMG’s Global Construction Survey 2016.

Tapping into the Internet of Things and its next-generation offerings is critical for builders and developers to diminish costs and improve returns. This includes state-of-the-art digital technologies such as jobsite dashboards that present all relevant information in one location on a building site; radio frequency ID (RFID) tags that provide wireless tracking of materials and equipment; advanced wearables, like smart helmets that let workers overlay maps, schematics, thermal images and more to see “through” solid objects like pipes and walls; e-forms to collect and share real-time data among all teams on a project site; building information modeling (BIM) software that tracks progress moment by moment; and more.

To date, the construction industry’s slow pace of technology adoption has stunted productivity growth in construction, even as other industries improved rapidly, The Economist reports. The multifamily developers that succeed in the years ahead will be those that work to identify and build relationships with the contractors that will take the next technological leap with them.


Just as consumers have become accustomed to buying everything online, homebuyers and the sales pros who serve them rely on digital technology. For the former, that means they expect to do their research and see projects online; for the latter, it means that they must be fluent in the language of the various apps they need to use to service clients and make sales.

For real estate pros, one of the most important technologies to embrace is customer relationship management software (CRM), marketleader.comreports. CRM tools allow users to manage their sales leads, automate processes and target new potential clients. Well-executed CRM solutions also allow them to maintain critical relationships, despite diminished face-to-face interaction.

For buyers, interactive 3D photography and VR tours make it possible to see potential homes while map applications such as Google Earth allow the exploration of entire neighborhoods. VR allows potential buyers to take 360-degree “walk-throughs” of locations, sometimes on the other side of the planet, all from their own homes, while augmented reality (AR), which layers computer-generated elements over the real world, lets potential buyers visualize various furniture arrangements, experiment with color palettes, test lighting designs and more. AR also works offsite, allowing developers to produce and display interactive 3D models for buyer perusal.

The writing is on the screen: To sell units, builders and developers must embrace these technologies. A recent survey of 3,350 homebuyers by online realtor Redfin shows that 30 percent of Gen-Xers, 41 percent of Millennials and 12 percent of Baby Boomers made offers on homes sight unseen. Given that Millennials are digital natives and buyers of the future, it’s clear that this trend may rise exponentially in the future.

David Wolf is president of ON Collaborative, a full-service marketing and sales firm launched in 2017 by NRT. 

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How Do I Engage With Customers on Instagram?



Instagram is primarily a visual platform, used to share photos and videos. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use text to connect with customers on Instagram.

One way to engage your followers is to post a photo along with a question, and prompt your customers to respond in the comments. When they do post a comment, make sure to reply back to them. Make it a conversation.

You should also pay attention to what customers are saying about you on Instagram. If they post a photo with your business location or tag you in a post, you should get a notification. Go to that person’s post and add your comment. You can thank them for their business, and follow up with whatever it is they shared about your company.

Like other social media platforms, Instagram works best when you create conversation and build relationships with your current and future customers.





Video: How Do I Engage With Customers on Instagram?

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Pending home sales in March maintained their recent high level, but momentum slackened slightly in most of the country as dearth supply weighed on activity, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Only the South saw an uptick in contract signings last month.

The Pending Home Sales Index,* www.nar.realtor/topics/pending-home-sales, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, declined 0.8 percent to 111.4 in March from 112.3 in February. Despite last month’s decrease, the index is 0.8 percent above a year ago.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says sparse inventory levels caused a pullback in pending sales in March, but activity was still strong enough to be the third best in the past year. “Home shoppers are coming out in droves this spring and competing with each other for the meager amount of listings in the affordable price range,” he said. “In most areas, the lower the price of a home for sale, the more competition there is for it. That’s the reason why first-time buyers have yet to make up a larger share of the market this year, despite there being more sales overall.”

Pointing to revealing data from the March Realtors® Confidence Index, Yun worries that the painfully low supply levels this spring could heighten price growth — at 6.8 percent last month — even more in the months ahead. Homes in March came off the market at a near-record pace 1, and indicating an increase in the likelihood of listings receiving multiple offers, 42 percent of homes sold at or above list price (the second highest amount since NAR began tracking in December 2012).

“Sellers are in the driver’s seat this spring as the intense competition for the few homes for sale is forcing many buyers to be aggressive in their offers,” said Yun. “Buyers are showing resiliency given the challenging conditions. However, at some point — and the sooner the better — price growth must ease to a healthier rate. Otherwise sales could slow if affordability conditions worsen.”

Yun forecasts for existing-home sales to be around 5.64 million this year, an increase of 3.5 percent from 2016 (5.45 million). The national median existing-home price this year is expected to increase around 5 percent. In 2016, existing sales increased 3.8 percent and prices rose 5.1 percent.

The PHSI in the Northeast decreased 2.9 percent to 99.1 in March, but is still 1.8 percent above a year ago. In the Midwest the index declined 1.2 percent to 109.6 in March, and is now 2.4 percent lower than March 2016.

Pending home sales in the South rose 1.2 percent to an index of 129.4 in March and are now 3.9 percent above last March. The index in the West fell 2.9 percent in March to 94.5, and is now 2.7 percent below a year ago.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.



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Trump’s Tax Proposal Means For The Housing Market

Last week the White House released what it is calling a “first draft” of President Donald Trump’s promised tax-cut plan. The outline, which fits on a single page, largely adheres to pledges Trump made on the campaign trail, as well as to the details that have slipped out in the frenzied days leading up to the announcement.

The release does confirm that the president would like to preserve the home mortgage interest deduction, while doubling the standard deduction—two points of particular interest to homeowners, buyers and the real estate industry at large.

As it stands now homeowners can deduct interest paid on mortgages with values up to $1.1 million. This deduction lowers the amount of income a person needs to pay tax on and, in effect, lowers the cost of owning a home. (It was not immediately clear if Trump intends to change the cap.) In 2014, 32 million people claimed $279 billion in mortgage interest deductions. That’s about $8,718 in deductions each for a savings of $2,173, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The mortgage interest deduction is one of just two the proposal promises to protect. The other is for charitable donations. Both popular deductions can only be taken if a taxpayer itemizes. If not they take the standard deduction, which for an individual was $6,300 in 2016 and is adjusted annually for inflation. Under the proposal the 2016 deduction would have been $12,600.

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Building Trades Warranty Report

Unlike most other industries, in the new home construction business, the builders have lower warranty expense rates than many of their suppliers. But the makers of appliances and heating/cooling systems are now cutting their costs and narrowing the gap between their expense rates and those of the makers of fixtures, furniture, and building materials.

While suppliers generally have lower warranty expense rates than the name brands facing the end user customer, things are a bit different in the building trades, where appliance and heating/cooling system manufacturers have the highest expense rates of all. New home builders are in the middle, with the companies supplying them with building materials, fixtures and furniture lowest of all.

For the homebuilders, warranty expense rates have generally remained below 1.0%, except for those lean years between 2007 and 2012. And while they had their problems with mold, leaks, and smelly drywall during that period, the elevated expense rates had more to do with low sales than high costs. That’s why, in Figure 5, the claims rate rose while the accrual rate didn’t. If there are no sales, there’s no need for accruals. But even when current-year sales fall, claims have to be paid for past-year sales.

Figure 5
New Home Builders
Average Warranty Claims & Accrual Rates
(as a % of product sales, 2003-2016)

Figure 5

In the past year, Hovnanian saw its claims rate fall significantly, while PulteGroup, Taylor Morrison Home, and NVR saw more modest decreases. All saw double-digit sales gains. At the other extreme, Lennar, Toll Brothers, and M/I Homes saw modest increases in their claims rates, while Beazer Homes saw its claims rate rise from a worrisome 3.6% to a painful 4.4%. Still, the company kept its accrual rate at a steady 0.8%.

Among the dozen largest builders, in fact, accrual rates changed hardy at all. The exceptions were Cavco Industries, which raised its accrual rate from 2.7% to 3.0%, and Hovnanian, which cut its accrual rate from 1.6% to 1.3%. But since sales are rising so quickly for most of them, even if the percentage rates remain the same, the total dollars accrued will rise, as was seen in Figure 2.

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