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Inside Real Estate (Apr 3rd, 2019)

1. Bank of America has announced a sweeping program that will help over 20,000 individuals and families own homes. The company says it will invest $5 billion toward the initiative to raise homeownership among low- to moderate-income households. The program includes up to $10,000 for down payments or closing costs if they use a Freddie Mac Home Possible mortgage. Approximately 30 percent of BofA's branches are in the communities that will benefit most from the program. In an interview with CNBC, BofA CEO Brian Moynihan described the economy as stable but slowing. — CNBC
 

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2. Perch — a startup that helps homeowners sell their homes and buy new ones — has raised a total of $220 million in a combination of equity and debt. The $200 million will be used to buy homes, and $20 million will be allocated to help the company expand its platform. Perch has also indicated an interest in getting into mortgages, following the model of other companies including Zillow, and Redfin, which seek to streamline the sale from offer to close. At this point, homes sold through online offer services represent a very small percentage of total sales, but both startups and established brokerages seem to see this model as the future of real estate. — TECHCRUNCH

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3. Jargon Watch: Whisper Listings

This week we are trying something new, a look at popular jargon in real estate. Have a term you want to share? Email deidre@inside.com to join the exploration of our industry's often confusing lexicon.

Whisper listings, also known as pocket listings or "ours alone" listings, are properties that are not listed in the Multiple Listing Service. There are a variety of reasons that an owner will choose to keep a property off the public market. Some don't want their home's interiors displayed on public portals like Zillow because they feel it may expose them to risk of theft. Others simply don't want their neighbors to know they are moving or have a sign outside of the home. In Los Angeles and New York City, these listings proliferate because celebrities and wealthy people don't want their sale publicized.

The ways in which these listings are shared vary. Some are discussed at office meetings. Agents share them with their networks via email, phone, and sometimes social media. In Los Angeles, title reps are also part of this ecoystem. Because they move from office to office, title reps have a wide network to distribute information. Agents control access to photos via private Dropbox links or password-protected websites. The PLS, a pocket listing service only for licensed agents, was founded by the Agency in Los Angeles. 

MLS organizations aren't fans of this practice, which tends to proliferate when a market is at its frothiest. Some states require an addendum to the listing contract to make sure that the owner knows that the practice limits the property's exposure and could negatively impact price. 

Some but not all whisper listings, especially at the high end, eventually make their way to the open market once an agent has tapped the power of their network. In a world where data is easily shared, a good secret never stays hidden for long.

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4. The plans for Miami's Magic City Innovation District in Little Haiti have passed the first round of approval from city commissioners. This was the fourth time that the project had been put before the group but the first time it has received approval. Robert Zangrillo, CEO of Dragon Global, one of the partners in the development, recently left the project after being indicted in the college admissions scandal. A final vote is scheduled for June 27 but before then two town hall meetings will give residents another chance to weigh in on the controversial proposal. The development spans 37 parcels of land and many feel it will accelerate gentrification and change the character of the neighborhood. The developers are contributing $31 million to a trust to provide affordable housing and job training in Little Haiti. — MIAMI TODAY

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5. An excellent piece on rural housing issues by Patrick Sisson draws attention to problems facing Section 515, a USDA program that helps subsidize rural rental homes. The program provides support for the buildings until their mortgages are paid off, generally within 30 years. The program started in 1963 and so more and more homes are now leaving the program. The Housing Assistance Council reports that thousands of units will be lost from the program over the next few years which will exacerbate existing housing concerns. The program covers 330 counties in 39 states. HAC CEO David Lipsetz testified in Congress on Tuesday to raise support for the program and draw attention to the crisis of housing in rural America. — CURBED

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6. BB&T and SunTrust are each donating $15 million to Charlotte's affordable housing campaign, pushing the amount raised to over $200 million in the past year. Charlotte needs as many as 34,000 units of housing to meet current needs. The Local Initiatives Support Corporation will help make decisions on developer proposals for new housing developments. —CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL

7. California's controversial bill to allow high-density construction around transit centers is moving forward in the State Legislature. The bill, SB50,  is sponsored by State Senator Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) and could override existing zoning rules in these areas and clear the way for apartment buildings as high as five stories. Those in favor of the bill say it's a necessary step in alleviating the state's housing crisis. The bill contains protections for existing rentals and at-risk communities. Opponents say it would destroy single-family neighborhoods and cause gentrification. — KQED

8. A lawsuit has been filed over 1 Seaport, a 58-story apartment building currently under construction in New York City's Financial District. Pizzarotti, the project's current contractor says it cannot continue building because the foundation is unstable. The suit alleges that developer Fortis Property Group chose a cheaper foundation method, causing the building to lean. — COMMERCIAL OBSERVER

9. The entire town of Story, Indiana is for sale for $3.8 million. The 17.4-acre site includes a general store which is now a restaurant, an old grain mill, sawmill, several homes, and barns. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The land is zoned for business but its status as a historic district may put some limits on development. — BROWN COUNTY DEMOCRAT

10. The Foster + Partners design for the second tallest tower in Western Europe has been approved by the City of London. Norman Foster has stated that the 1001-foot-tall Tulip will become an architectural landmark for the city. The slender structure is topped with glass observation areas. It is expected to attract 1.2 million visitors and could be complete as early as 2025. — DEZEEN

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Written and curated by Deidre Woollard. Deidre has a background in real estate public relations and runs the largest Facebook group for real estate press opportunities. Get in touch at deidre@inside.com.

Editing team: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside); Susmita Baral (senior editor at Inside, who runs the biggest mac and cheese account on Instagram); and David Stegon (senior editor at Inside, whose reporting experience includes cryptocurrency and technology).

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