December 2005 Archives

1985-2005: Buying a House is Less of a Byte

David Leonhardt and Motoko Rich:

Despite a widespread sense that real estate has never been more expensive, families in the vast majority of the country can still buy a house for a smaller share of their income than they could have a generation ago

Housing that has a Profit and Social Motive

Nadine Brozan:

Martin Dunn, 38, for example, is putting up housing aimed at the bottom rungs of the economic ladder: limited-income working families and people with psychiatric disabilities, many of them homeless. And he is doing so through a profit-making venture.

What he builds is called supportive housing, and he has completed two midrise apartment houses with 130 units and has started or is planning 11 more projects, all of them in Brooklyn or the Bronx.

Richard Smith on the State of the Bubble

Vikas Bajaj:

Q. The Justice Department's antitrust division has been looking into the practices of the real estate industry, specifically whether the industry is stifling competition. What do you think will come of the inquiry?

A. The barrier to entry in this industry is, in my view, virtually nonexistent. We think competition is incredibly robust and that's in part driven by the attractiveness of the industry.

Q. Some states are passing laws that require real estate brokers to provide a minimum level of service and that protect Realtors from discount brokers. What is your view?

A. We don't think minimum-service laws are necessary. The marketplace should determine that. A customer should be able to determine what he or she wants.

Agents Aplenty

Sandra Fleishman:

Jamie Finch said goodbye to a high-pressure job in New York and "more money than I ever thought I'd make" to return to Washington 20 months ago and try his hand as a real estate agent.

Peltier: "tremendously inefficient business"

HomeServices CEO Ron Peltier:

"We might be the fat cats now, but there are some big eagles out there flying above us, looking at what we have" Peltier told a startled crowd of about 200 colleagues at a Wisconsin Realtors Association conference. "They're saying, "I'm gonna get a piece of that.' "

The "fat cats" are the nation's 80,000 realty brokerage agencies and 1.3 million realty agents - "a tremendously inefficient business," said Peltier, president and chief executive officer of fast-growing HomeServices of America in Minneapolis. The "big eagles" include banks, title companies, retailers, credit card companies, online entrepreneurs and corporate conglomerates, he said.

The Next Revolution in Interactions

Bradford C. Johnson, James M. Manyika, and Lareina A. Yee:

In today's developed economies, the significant nuances in employment concern interactions: the searching, monitoring, and coordinating required to manage the exchange of goods and services. Since 1997, extensive McKinsey research on jobs in many industries has revealed that globalization, specialization, and new technologies are making interactions far more pervasive in developed economies. Currently, jobs that involve participating in interactions rather than extracting raw materials or making finished goods account for more than 80 percent of all employment in the United States. And jobs involving the most complex type of interactions—those requiring employees to analyze information, grapple with ambiguity, and solve problems—make up the fastest-growing segment.

This shift toward more complex interactions has dramatic implications for how companies organize and operate. In the mid-1990s, McKinsey studied the growing impact of interactions on the way people exchange ideas and information and how businesses cooperate or compete. In 1997, "A revolution in interaction" presented the findings of that research.

Video Helps Open Market for the Deaf

Sandra Fleishman:

When Gail Edwards works with her real estate clients -- lining up appointments, discussing bidding strategy or just checking in -- she's often talking to her TV screen.

She's not speaking out loud. Instead, she's using American Sign Language, fingers flying, pausing to emphatically shake her head or to put her hands up in surprise or disbelief. On the TV screen, she might see a deaf client, watching her on his or her own screen and signing back. Or she might see a video relay interpreter -- a hearing person who calls up the person Edwards wants to communicate with, then translates between that person's spoken words and Edwards's signs.

Paycheck to Paycheck: Housing Affordability

Center for Housing Policy:

In this revised and updated version of its online, interactive database Paycheck to Paycheck, the Center for Housing Policy presents wage information for more than 60 occupations and home prices and rents for nearly 200 metropolitan areas. Paycheck to Paycheck utilizes consistent measures of wages and housing costs so you can:
  • See how workers in your metropolitan area are faring in the housing market;
  • View the big picture for housing affordability for working families in various occupations across the country; and
  • Use these analyses as a template to examine wages and housing costs in neighborhoods in your community.

Government Takes Aim at Kickback Schemes

Washington Post:

It's one of American real estate's seamier practices, and it's almost impossible for consumers to detect: kickbacks and sweetheart payoffs among real estate agents, title and escrow companies, lawyers, and lenders, all for referrals of home buyers' mortgage or closing services.

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