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Inside Real Estate (Aug 20th, 2019)

1. Residential real estate brokerage Douglas Elliman will open in Houston through a joint venture with Sudhoff Companies. The new office will launch with 50 brokers and the company plans to later expand into Dallas and Austin. Jacob Sudhoff will be the CEO of Douglas Elliman, Texas and the company will represent $500 million in current development projects along with another $1.4 billion expected over the next year. Elliman has 120 offices in New York, California, and Colorado with over 7,000 agents. — THE REAL DEAL

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2. A new lawsuit has been filed against Facebook over discriminatory housing ads. Facebook was sued last year by a group of housing organizations. Facebook settled that suit in March. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development filed a separate lawsuit against Facebook over violations of the Fair Housing Act because the brand allowed advertisers to exclude protected classes. Facebook is creating a universal search that will allow users to see all credit, employment, and housing advertisements regardless of the targeted audience. The new lawsuit is a proposed class-action suit. — MERCURY NEWS

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3. Tiny Home Tuesday: Geoships are coming to Las Vegas. The media has buzzing about Kanye West's dome homes in Calabasas, California but West isn't the only hone looking at tiny domes as a solution. Geoships are geodesic domes made of bioceramic and are designed to be fire and hurricane-resistant. Zappos will be building a small village of the homes near its headquarters in Las Vegas and plans to offer them as free housing. Geoship claims that the homes could last as long as 500 years and can be disassembled and rebuilt. The panels are made in a factory and assembled onsite.  Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has long had an interest in affordable housing solutions. He currently lives in an Airstream community.  — FAST COMPANY
 

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4. Investment firm Harrison Street has closed its seventh real estate fund, raising $1.6 billion in equity. This gives Fund VII a total buying power of around $4 billion, which will be spent across what it terms as demographic-driven, needs-based assets. More than half of the portfolio will be comprised of senior housing, healthcare delivery, and life science investments. Harrison Street plans to work with universities and health systems. Since 2005, the firm has invested in 957 properties across 47 states with a gross cost of $28.1 billion, and it has raised nearly $16 billion in discretionary capital from over 375 investors throughout the world. Colliers International is the majority stakeholder in the company and will invest around $20 million in the new fund alongside institutional investors, including the Teacher Retirement System of Texas and the Texas County & District Retirement System. — SENIOR HOUSING NEWS
 

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5. Carl Chen, owner of a Delaware real estate investment trust has been sentenced to 51 months in prison for wire fraud. Chen operated Chenmax Properties since 1997. Starting in 2013, once his company started losing money, he operated a Ponzi scheme using new investor funds to pay previous investors.  Chen was also a part-owner in  Re/Max Sunvest Realty and solicited those clients to invest. By 2017, he declared bankruptcy and owed $6.738 million to investors. He has also lost his real estate license. — DELAWARE BUSINESS NOW

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6. An alternative revenue stream for hotels can be day passes for access to pools and spas. There are a variety of startups in this space including Daypass and Dayaxe. ResortPass, which is based in Santa Monica, California, offers passes to Southern California hotels starting at $20 for pool access. The company just raised an $8.7 million funding round. ResortPass recently expanded into Arizona. — LA BUSINESS JOURNAL 

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7. Constellation Real Estate Group had acquired SmartZip , a marketing system for residential real estate agents. SmartZip was founded in 2009 and specializes in predictive analytics that determine when someone is most interested in selling their home. Constellation also bought the Offrs.com platform last month as the company continues to develop long-term predictive solutions for real estate agents.  — VENDOR ALLEY
 

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8. U.K.-based property investment platform BrickVest is setting up an employee participation fund with German commercial property specialist Beos. The co-investment fund lets Beos employees invest alongside large investors in a 300 million euro German real estate portfolio. This fund is a way to give employees a chance to participate in deals. This is the second employee fund that Beos has created, the first was launched in 2017. Employee crowdfunding has not been widely adopted in the real estate community thus far. — IPE REAL ESTATE
 

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9. The U.K.'s Chancellor of the exchequer Sajid Javid has announced that the country is investing £600 million (around $727 million) to build new homes across England. The Housing Infrastructure Fund will pay for schools and transportation infrastructure in the five areas where the homes will be built. The funds could help spur the development of as many as 50,000 homes around London and the neighboring counties of Essex and Bedfordshire. — HOUSING TODAY

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10. An Energy Star recommendation that says you should keep your thermostat at 78 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer has sparked debate on what the ideal level of home comfort is. The recommendations state that when you are away, your thermostat should be set at 85 degrees and when you are sleeping, it should be at 82 degrees. The sleeping guidance, in particular, caused many people on Twitter to respond with roasting gifs. The controversy indicates the divide between human perceptions of comfort and what is best for the environment. Some areas and companies have incentivized people for smart energy usage by providing rebates for staying under certain levels. — WTSP

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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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