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Inside Real Estate (Aug 16th, 2019)

1. Housing starts fell in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,191,000. While the rate of starts was four percent below June's numbers, they were 0.6 percent above July 2018's rate. A 17.2 percent drop in multifamily construction — traditionally more volatile than single-family home building —was the reason for the lower numbers. Building permits were up 1.5 percent from one year ago and 8.4 percent above June's rate. Housing completions came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,250,000, up 6.3 percent from July 2018. Housing starts were lower at the beginning of the year but have mostly bounced back. Yesterday's builder confidence numbers from the National Association of Homebuilders showed that while builders feel that buyer demand is active, economic concerns such as trade issues are slowing the pace of building. — CNBC

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2. Peak rental season traditionally ends in August and this year 95 percent of the 260 cities analyzed by RENTCafé using Yardi Matrix data showed higher rents in July than one year ago. The national average rent is currently $1,469. Apartments in Boston, Manhattan, and San Francisco are now on average $100 per month more expensive than one year ago. In Oakland, California, rents rose by $143. Houston by contrast only saw an increase of $7. In the Los Angeles suburb of Burbank, rents grew by $191 from the previous year to $2,399.  Wichita is the most affordable city in the country, with an average apartment rent of just $660. — CURBED SF
 

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3. Follow Friday: Lois Weiss. Few people understand the intricacies of New York commercial real estate like Lois Weiss. A former music journalist, Weiss fell into real estate writing as a career and never looked back. She's the commercial real estate doyenne at the NY Post and has written for a variety of other outlets. She's often the first to know which companies are about to take a big lease or which buildings are about to hit the market. 

She's also active on Instagram (mostly with landscape photos) but Twitter is where she opines the most about current issues. She's not afraid of controversy including the recent drama surrounding Related's Stephen Ross or expressing her concerns about the current state of the city (she's no fan of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio). You may or may not agree with her politics but you can't fault her knowledge of the beat she's covered for decades. 

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4. July's home sales in Canada were up 12.6 percent from last year. The monthly increase continued to be led by the Greater Vancouver Area and the Greater Toronto Area even though sales are off highs reached several years ago. Both Vancouver and Toronto are still recovering from the introduction of the mortgage stress test in 2018. While the Canadian market is stabilized overall, the Prairies are still seeing sluggish sales due to low oil prices and too much inventory.  Like the U.S., Canada has seen low mortgage rates lead to increased interest in home buying. — BNN BLOOMBERG

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5. San Francisco's most recognizable building, the Transamerica Pyramid may be headed for sale. The SF Business Times grabbed the scoop on this and noted that while Transamerica is ready to sell the building, it wants to keep its name on it. The 853-foot-tall skyscraper was completed in 1972 and was briefly the tallest building on the West Coast of the United States. It is topped with a glass beacon above the 48th floor. Transamerica relocated its headquarters from San Francisco in 1989 but maintains a small presence in the building and uses its distinctive profile as its logo. The building is mostly leased to a variety of businesses although marketing materials show that the 17th and 18th floors were recently available. — SF BUSINESS TIMES (paywall)

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6. Dollar stores are rapidly expanding in neighborhoods where there are no grocery stores. Because these stores sell some types of food, they have become popular in food deserts but now some evidence shows that they may actually be pushing smaller grocery stores out. Tulsa, Oklahoma, has taken action limiting the spread of dollar stores in the north Tulsa area. The city has also added incentives for grocery stores to move into the area such as reducing the parking requirement. Several other areas including Mesquite, Texas, City Council have passed ordinances to limit the proliferation of dollar stores through conditional use permits and zoning restrictions. Oklahoma City enacted a six-month moratorium on the building of dollar stores and convenience stores. — BISNOW

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7. A $350 million redevelopment is coming to the former site of the Mall at West End in Atlanta, Georgia. The $350-million development on 12.5-acres includes retail, housing, offices and a hotel. As many as 20 percent of the 450 apartments could be affordable housing. Invest Atlanta — the city's economic development agency — has approved a $2 million loan for predevelopment. Construction could start in late 2020. The West End become one of the hottest areas in the city for new projects and the proposed development is in an Opportunity Zone.

Leading the project is Ryan Gravel, the architect of Atlanta's Beltline development. West End Atlanta is the first project of Elevator City Partners, a company formed by Gravel and Donray Von. On the Elevator City Partners website, the partners say that proposal will build on the site's legacy as the start of Atlanta's  African-American middle class and will honor that history through "inclusive re-urbanization."— ATLANTA BUSINESS CHRONICLE

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8. Some good news in California real estate: Sales were finally up year over year in July. The California Association of Realtors reported that existing single-family sales were up by 1.1 percent from one year ago to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 411,630. Sales were up by 10 percent in San Francisco County from one year ago as price growth slowed. The median price fell back from June’s $610,720 to $607,990, up 2.8 percent from last year. Unsold inventory was down for the first time in 15 months. While the numbers are positive, affordability remains a major concern for the state. — CALCULATED RISK

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9. The much-anticipated auction for the Mountain of Beverly Hills was called off at the last minute thanks to some fancy footwork by the now-former owner. In order to delay the auction, Secured Capital Partners transferred ownership of the 157-acre property to a limited liability company called Tower Park Properties. The new owner, which is another company owned by Victor Franco Noval of Security Capital, has an existing bankruptcy plan requiring three weeks on a notice of default. The auction was rescheduled to August 20 but this still wouldn't satisfy the requirement. Few properties have faced more legal tangles than this one and it is not clear is there are any buyers willing to spend at least $200 million if an auction does take place. — LA TIMES
 

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10. Aston Martin has launched a service to build custom garages and display facilities for Aston Martin owners. The Automotive Galleries and Lairs service will work with owners and architecture firms to build display garages or entire homes where the car collection is showcased. The idea behind the project is that for collectors, the garage is as important as the rest of the house. Aston Martin is also currently at work on Aston Martin Residences, a 66-story luxury condo tower in Miami.  — MAXIM

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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. Tips welcome at deidre@inside.com.

Editor: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside).

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