Two Minute Tips

A spring real estate story for every business beat

March 17, 2014

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Bob Villa tours a home being built out of steel shipping containers.

The spring that seemed like it would never arrive – and in many places across the U.S., still doesn’t – actually rolls around this week.

And aside from basketball madness, tulips and school breaks, it’s a big season for residential real estate.  With many bullish forecasts out there boding well for sellers and real estate agents, you might want to get a few stories plotted out.

As I often say, there are angles here for a variety of beats; if you don’t strictly cover real estate and development, perhaps there’s a tech angle, or a personal finance primer to be written. There’s the green beat, for example: As the Columbus Post-Dispatch reports, two recent surveys indicate the market for eco-friendly homes is growing (according to McGraw Hill Construction research) and that buyers of “green” homes are very satisified and likely to recommend the same to other purchasers, according to GuildQuality, which does customer satisfaction research for small and medium-sized home building firms.  You might talk with local builders and designers about the latest in water- and energy-efficiency products, which seem to be the main components of “green” living, but also about trends in sustainable or ethically sourced building materials; BCC Research says demand is rising and in particular the market for green interior components is expected to hit $5.8 billion in 2014 compared to just $2.5 billion pre-recession.

Even health care writers can find a home selling angle by focusing on demand for biotelemetry systems, in-home spas or walk-in tubs, mother-in-law suites or healthcare pods, assisted living complexes and other facets of the housing market that facilitate medical care and well-being.  If you cover finance, it’s time to review mortgage lending standards, products and the various federal homebuyer assistance programs.  Writers on the marketing beat can look at trends in that realm — the Wall Street

Construction counts: Real Estate Business Basics
Construction work helps drive the jobs side of real estate. Photo by S and T Design

Journal reported last fall about builders boosting incentives like free garage door openers and other upgrades to entice buyers.  And here’s a Bankrate.com tipsheet for individuals using social media to sell a house.

Here’s a recent Washington Post story, for example, headlined “Aging-in-place features for the home gain higher profile as baby boomers get older.”  New homes and older ones are being fitted with taller toilets, non-skid flooring, door handles easier on arthritic hands and other accommodations for older living.   

Home size is always an interesting metric. Here’s the U.S. Census Bureau’s table on median and average square feet of single-family houses going back to 1973; back then the average size was 1,660 square feet and in 2008 it was 2,519.  Some analysts say that after a brief post-recession dip in demand for outsize dwellings; the National Association of Home Builders said in a recent post that the size is trending upward though the average dipped a bit at the end of 2013.

On the other hand, the upscale shed, studio and tiny house markets seems to be growing; that’s another appealing feature with plenty of personal finance twists, from the pros and cons of down-scaling to the property value boost (if any) from a backyard office, studio or lavish garden shack.  Here’s a NorthJersey.com consumer piece about designer sheds and a Grist feature, “Cabin fever: Are tiny houses the new American dream?”  I also liked this feature in the New York Times about

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