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Inside Real Estate (Dec 10th, 2019)

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1. A real estate company in Maryland on Monday gave $10 million in bonuses. St. John Properties said each of its employees will receive between $50,000 and $250,000, depending on the number of years they’ve worked at the company. Founder Edward St. John said in a press release that he "wanted to reward our employees in a big way that would make a significant impact on their lives.” The employees’ emotional reaction to the news was captured on video. - USA TODAY

2. Real estate brokerage Redfin and home-shopping platform Zillow are changing how people buy and sell homes and altering the role agents play in transactions. Instead of mere home-search engines, their iBuying technology now sells and purchases residences directly and offers smart features that make the process more efficient. These include virtual-reality home tours, Internet of things (IoT) technology that literally opens doors for shoppers without an agent present, and algorithm-determined valuations that shows people what their homes are worth at any given time. These features are expected to improve as real-estate tech becomes more sophisticated and other transaction processes become automated. - CURBED

3. In the new year, first-time home shoppers will face small inventories, mortgage rates will remain low, sales will decline due to lack of affordability and borrowers will have a host of FHA lenders from which to choose, NerdWallet reports. The personal-finance site offered its predictions for the industry in 2020, which includes the transformation of how properties are bought and sold, as well as the impact of iBuyers. The topic could impact if – and how – the Multiple Listing Services (MLS) system could change. Right now, an investigation is determining if agents are using the MLS to manipulate the sizes of their commissions. Pocket listings — that are never officially listed in the MLS for all shoppers to see — will likely decline next year, as new policies enforce transactional transparency. - NERDWALLET

4. Some real estate agents shared their open-house-showing elevator stories, which ranged from hilarious to stressful and downright scary. James Harris, with The Agency in Los Angeles, recounts touring a $40 million Bel-Air property with a family. Upon entering a glass elevator with the home-shoppers' children, the power went out and Harris was stuck in a glass box with screaming kids. To make matters worse, the broker said he's claustrophobic. - WALL STREET JOURNAL

5. ICYMI: Some Jewish organizations are speaking out against President Trump's Saturday speech at the Israeli American Council National Summit in Florida. The president said: “A lot of you are in the real estate business because I know you very well. You’re brutal killers.” He added that the attendees will “have to vote for me, you have no choice,” saying that people would not be voting for “Pocahontas,” referring to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Jewish liberal advocacy group J Street tweeted that President Trump is “incapable of addressing Jewish audiences without dipping into the deep well of anti-Semitic tropes that shape his worldview.“ - HUFFINGTON POST

6. People expecting to buy homes after retirement will have to demonstrate that Social Security income, pensions and investment earning will be able to pay for home loans and expenses, according to an advice column. That will likely also entail a higher down payment. While it may be difficult to find lenders when you’re not employed, good credit and those revenue streams may make you a more appealing candidate for a home loan. - HERALD TRIBUNE

7. Popular music producer L.A. Reid is selling his ultra-modern Los Angeles mansion for $22.9 million. Reid reportedly purchased the property for less than $18 million roughly 3.5 years ago, before installing a number of upgrades and renovations. The 2015 build is an 11,200-square-foot, glass, stucco and stone residence with a library, media lounge and scenic panoramas from the foot of the Stone Canyon Reservoir. Of course, it also includes a room well suited for a recording studio. - VARIETY

8. One of California's fastest-growing cities, Beaumont, is seeing a rapid development boom, if recent projects are any indication. While Beaumont was once a suburban refuge from high-priced city homes, it's now welcoming retailers and commercial growth that is making it a destination itself. That could drive its own property values higher: the median sales price for a house in 2017 was $310,000, compared with $345,000 today. - NEW YORK TIMES

9. The condominium owners at Trump Plaza in West Palm Beach, Florida, in early January will vote on whether to replace the "Trump" signs that once sat atop their towers. The signage had been there for decades before being removed for structural renovations in April. Since President Trump's inauguration, residents have been the target of much attention, including frequent demonstrations by anti-Trump protesters. In addition to the placement of the Trump name, condo residents must also decide if it’s worth spending $75,000 to recreate the original marquee, since it wasn’t salvaged upon removal. The Trump family has reportedly not owned this complex for 30 years. - THE PALM BEACH POST

10. Denver couple Nick and Francesca Drez transformed a school bus into a 130-square-foot house with the help of a new startup that focuses on the niche renovation. Dubbed “skoolies,” the new version of a mobile home is said to be “sturdier and safer than typical recreational vehicles (RVs).” Skoolie.com charged the couple roughly $55,000 to gut and reconfigure their old bus into a modern-farmhouse-style home. The couple said they like the idea of being able to travel to different sites in their unique dwelling. - STUFF

Written and curated by Darla Guillen Gilthorpe. Darla writes for the Houston Chronicle, where she was part of its 2018 Pulitzer Prize finalist staff. She was previously an editor at Vox Media site Eater and has had bylines in Elle Decor, SFGate and various other outlets. Follow her on Twitter here.

Edited by Inside.com editorial staff member Sheena Vasani, who also curates Inside Dev.

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