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Inside Real Estate (Apr 19th, 2017)

Housing starts dropped 6.8 percent from February and are up 9.2 percent from last year’s 1.11 million. The joint report released by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development showed that permit applications rose 3.6 percent over February and were 17 percent higher than last March. Single-family homes under construction hit the highest rate since September 2008, as concerns over inventory shortages continue. – CNBC

New York City is studying privately owned streets throughout the five boroughs to determine if they should be publicly administered. The study, which is due to be completed by June 30, 2018, will take into account issues of maintenance and repairs. The survey will provide the first-ever official map of private streets and provide guidance on any potential acquisitions by the city. The problem of private streets often impacts outer boroughs where development happened so rapidly that owners never sold the land for public use. – AMNY

"Survivor" contestant and North Carolina Realtor Jeff Varner was fired by his brokerage after being seen on the reality show outing a fellow contestant as transgender. Varner had been hired just 17 days prior by Allen Tate Real Estate. While the reality star called the firing “an ugly, knee jerk reaction," the firm’s CEO stated it was unaware of Varner's actions on the episode before hiring him and that the decision was made with careful consideration. – ET

Craigslist has been awarded a $60.5 million final judgment in a suit filed against RadPad, a rentals startup. RadPad was found liable for scraping apartment listings from Craigslist and for violating the CAN-SPAM Act by sending 400,000 emails to Craigslist users. It’s unclear how much of the judgment Craigslist will receive. Last year, RadPad nearly shut down before being sold to LandlordStation for an undisclosed amount. RadPad founder Jonathan Eppers has accused Craigslist of using the lawsuit as a way to eliminate competition. – LA BUSINESS JOURNAL

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices will now syndicate its listings to China via Juwai.com. Berkshire Hathaway is a known name in China and the new arrangement will make it easier for the 2 million monthly users of Juwai.com and Juwai.com/luxe to browse franchisees' residential listings. The agreement will make Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices a dominant brand on Juwai.com. China is the largest source of foreign buyers for US real estate. – BUSINESS INSIDER

As of May 1, Airbnb will be collecting a six percent hotel occupancy tax in Texas. There are over 26,000 hosts in Texas and a typical host earns as much as $4.800 per year through short-term rentals. Houston hosted more than 8,200 out-of-town guests at Airbnb listings over the Super Bowl weekend, generating roughly $4 million in host income. Airbnb collects hotel taxes from over 275 jurisdictions around the world. – HOUSTON BUSINESS JOURNAL

Jonathan Smoke, who was chosen three years ago as Realtor.com’s first chief economist, is leaving the housing industry after 21 years. Smoke, who previously also worked for Beazer Homes and as chief economist for Hanley Wood, has been named chief economist for Cox Automotive, the company behind Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, and other automotive brands. Realtor.com is currently looking for a new chief economist. – HOUSING WIRE

HOT PROPERTIES OF THE WEEK

Former NBA player Allan Houston is set to list his estate in Conyers Farm, a gated community on the New York and Connecticut border. The property is expected to list for just under $20 million and includes a cherry-wood basketball court. The nearly 20,000-square-foot French revival home has 26 rooms with seven bedrooms, 10 marble bathrooms, music room, a home theater, and a trophy room on 10 acres on Converse Lake. Houston is the assistant general manager for the New York Knicks and is searching for a home in Manhattan. – NY POST

Katy Perry is buying a home in the Beverly Hills Post Office area of Los Angeles in an off-market transaction. No deal has been officially recorded yet but multiple sources report she’s paying just under $19 million for the home in Coldwater Canyon. The seller is Cody Leibel who purchased the home in 2007 for $9.2 million. Perry also owns two homes in the Hollywood Hills which she bought in 2013 for $11.2 million. Recently, she was victorious in a legal case regarding her right to buy a former convent in the Los Feliz area. – VARIETY

Fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger has taken his apartment at New York’s Plaza hotel off the market. The penthouse was last listed for $58.9 million. Mansion Global reports that Hilfiger has decided that he will keep the four-bedroom duplex for personal use. Hilfiger bought the apartment in 2008 for $25.5 million and conducted extensive renovations. The property was listed for as high as $80 million in 2013. Hilfiger’s home in Golden Beach, Florida remains on the market for $27.5 million. – MANSION GLOBAL

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