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Homeownership

Loftium trades a fat down payment for a spare bedroom made available for Airbnb

(REAL ESTATE NEWS) Loftium will help you out with a down payment on your first home if you turn your spare bedroom into an AirBnB and millennials seem open minded about this option.

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Homeownership may not be such a distant dream for renters hoping to buy one day. Seattle-based startup Loftium has devised an alternative approach to obtaining a down payment on a house: Airbnb a bedroom in the house for up to three years.

For buyers who have been pre-approved by a lender, Loftium will pay up to $50,000 on a down payment on a house.

The home must be the primary residence of the homeowner, so Loftium is not available for purchase as an investment property, per their eligibility FAQ.

In exchange for the dough, Loftium requires home buyers to sign a service contract agreeing to list a spare room on airbnb.com for 12-36 months, depending on the loan amount and rental price, and split the profits 70/30 with Loftium. The idea is to generate a passive income stream for the homeowner to help with monthly payments on the home.

While Loftium does take a cut of the Airbnb profits, they are in no way a co-owner of the home. If you purchased a home through them, it’s yours and yours alone – “like it should be,” the website declares.

There are a couple of caveats, and I mean, if someone is handing you $50,000 to help you buy a house, it would make sense to look into the conditions of ownership.

For instance, the Loftium home owner must be a good Airbnb host. So no sabotaging the listing by making the space sound like Shawshank, no making guests feel awkward or unwelcome, and listed rooms must be furnished with at minimum: a queen-sized bed (or larger) with mattress and frame, a chair, a desk or bedside table, and a lamp.

All other stipulations would be the same for any other Airbnb host.

This may sound a little insane, maybe even a little desperate to anyone who has successfully managed a down payment on a house to share the space with strangers for an agreed upon time, but this is exactly the boost many renters need to overcome the down payment hurdle. And Millennials are already primed for this sharing economy and are open minded to the arrangement.

Loftium co-founder Yifan Zhang believes that within the next five to ten years, prospective home buyers will have three standard options for coming up with a down payment: save, ask the parents to help out, or sign up for Loftium. Based on early interest, likely from those signing up for quotes and votes for their city (more on that), Zhang expects business to scale quickly.

So far, Loftium is only available in Seattle as a beta test for the service. There have already been successful homeowners in this brand new program, one of which had the clever idea of finding a place with a mother-in-law quarters to rent out as her listed space/bedroom, and Loftium is currently offering 50 down payments initially this fall in the Seattle area.

The plan is to eventually expand into Chicago and Washington D.C., but interested renters have the option of submitting votes for their city. As of publication, Austin is currently sitting around 4,000+ votes.

There will be some obstacles for particular cities that will prevent Loftium from setting up shop, such as city legislation that prevents people from renting out rooms in their homes, but I suspect that with the rise in popularity of alternative approaches to homeownership coupled with the demand of travelers seeking to rent out a shared space, this could absolutely change over time.

The service sounds almost too good to be true, and it will be very interesting to hear the success, or even horror stories, of how these contracts will play out, but I believe others will jump on board to offer something similar.

Take heed millennials, homeownership is within reach!

Ashe Segovia is a Staff Writer at The American Genius with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Southwestern University. A huge film nerd with a passion for acting and 80's movies and synthpop; the pop-cultural references are never-ending.

Homeownership

Hemp could be the next sustainable building material to catch on

(REAL ESTATE) Hemp has been introduced as a building material after becoming legal to grow in America, but will it be the next popular green building material?

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Although mud and daub type building structures date back thousands of years, interest in concrete made from plant materials has increased due to the interest in sustainable architecture.

Research into more sustainable buildings materials have led to the development of bio-composite concrete of hemp and lime, which has been registered in the United States as Tradical Hempcrete® by American Lime Technology Products company.

This green product is also sold as precast walls with structural framing. The hemp lime product alone had issues with fire safety, rotting under wet conditions, and the lack of ability to perform as a standalone structure due to its poor load-bearing qualities.

Different framing structures have been introduced worldwide to improve the capacity of the building material to be used in larger buildings, although ironically these high rise buildings have been found to be less energy efficient which seems to defeat the purpose of green building.

Hemp or bamboo stalks as the structural frame combined with the hemp/lime concrete mixture are the currently preferred construction materials, and are used by companies such as Hemp Architecture in England, described in an Architectural Review article on alternative building materials.

Growing hemp for construction purposes was never criminalized in in Europe, and hemp-constructed homes as well as businesses have flourished in France and the United Kingdom
Other building projects have continued in the United States, though custom homes using hemp based products such as James Savage’s home in Stuveysant, NY are the exception rather than the rule.

The main impasse to American hemp-based construction was growing hemp was not legal in the United States until recently, and the majority of hemp construction products are imported from Canada. Although these products are fire and pest resistant, as well as economically friendly, the main appeal may be the appeal of the drug culture stigma more than the practicality of the building materials.

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Homeownership

The Granny Pod could be the alternative to nursing homes (and why people will soon demand bigger back yards)

The Granny Pod looks like a guest house and sits conveniently in any backyard – they plug right up to existing plumbing and electrical and allow both caregiver and senior to have their own space while remaining connected.

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I’ve spent most of my life living everywhere but the United States, and from what I’ve seen in other cultures, when couples tie the knot parents come with the marriage! That doesn’t necessarily mean the parents live with the kids (although I’ve seen that in countries like Japan, Korea, and Turkey), but I feel safe saying that it’s a given the kids will taken in/take on/take over their ailing parents at some point in said parent’s lives (Italy for example).

I’m not sure the US is set up that way. The big business of senior living facilities and nursing homes tells me otherwise.

But that might be changing thanks to the Granny Pod and similar mono-living facilities that can be installed in a person’s backyard (which is why we suspect people may demanding bigger back yards in coming years).

Close, but not TOO close

MedCottages or “Granny Pods” seem to be a viable solution for taking care of elderly family members without giving up the independence Americans put so much emphasis on.

A recent story explains that Reverend Ken Dupin created the MedCottage as an alternative to nursing homes, as 78 million baby boomers head toward retirement.

These 12 feet by 24 feet pods can sit conveniently in any backyard and plug right up to one’s existing plumbing and electrical. The pods allow both caregiver and senior to have their own space while remaining connected.

Retiree support for Granny Pods

For its part, AARP, the lobbying group for aging Americans, has gone on record to assert that local zoning laws pose one of the biggest obstacles to making such dwellings a practical solution to caring for aging family members in what it calls “accessory dwelling units.”

AARP spokesperson, Nancy Thompson said “the MedCottage has some of the features the organization advocates in accessory dwelling units, but not all of the universal design features that could be useful for people of all ages.” She does add that it’s a step in the right direction for accessory dwelling units.

No more condo fees

I’m no social worker, but studies bear out that human contact is vital as we grow older. Even in a worst case scenario (when an individual living in a nursing home is alone in their room for much of the day), they at least meet other patrons at lunch or dinner, and at whatever social outings are plugged into a daily schedule. For all the close circuitry and monitoring the Granny Pod offers, I don’t know if it takes the place of human contact, so hopefully families will remember the ties that bind them and do more than just monitor a screen to see if Granny is okay.

Another benefit of the Granny Pod is that once it’s paid for and installed, that’s it – no more monthly rent or condo fees that can deplete a retiree’s resources.

Granny Pod starting a movement

According to the Washington Post, other companies seeking to make similar structures are Seattle-based FabCab (whose name comes from Fabulous Cabin), and San Francisco-based Larson Shores Architects, which designs what it calls “Architectural Solutions for the Aging Population,” or ASAP, and its “Inspired In-Law” dwellings” demonstrates that assisted living facilities aren’t the only item on the menu.

As this type of structure catches on, it may threaten nursing homes and even retirement condo villages, and could influence the sizes of yards builders offer in coming years. Industry practitioners should be aware of the trend, and be able to offer this type of setup to clients who are actively considering options for their parents (the solution may just be a bigger back yard).

#GrannyPods

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Homeownership

Real estate association launches impactful video – I’m not crying, you are

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) The dream of owning a home is under assault – one real estate association has launched a massive awareness campaign that is truly meaningful.

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The Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) has launched a new site, KeepTheDreamAlive.ca to lobby locals to “keep the dream of home ownership alive.”

America is not the only nation with diminishing affordability conditions, rising prices, and limited inventory. No, Canada is experiencing a similar market, and OREA is taking action to make sure those people hoping to own have the chance to do so.

“Millennials want to own homes but it’s never been tougher to achieve,” the organization notes. “Rising home prices have pushed home ownership out of reach. All their hard work and saving just isn’t enough to compete with rising prices.”

The KeepTheDreamAlive.ca site offers homeownership statistics and makes it easy to email their candidate to express the importance of the dream of ownership.

The video is moving. Prior to watching, we assumed it was another feel-good video about how neat homeownership, but to end it in broken dreams is more realistic than what you’ll see here in America.

We hope that changes. In America, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) is extremely realistic with data and they have long been very vocal on people being squeezed out of the market. And the major real estate sites paint a sunny picture of home searching and making the dream come true, but none reach as far as OREA has, to express that homeownership is simply out of reach for otherwise qualified people.

Send a link to this story to your local and state Associations as they consider their plans for marketing outreach next year. Perhaps it’s time to empower local homeowners to contact their representatives, lest they remain unaware of the big picture.

While NAR has repeatedly noted that three things will alleviate the pressure on the market (investors putting inventory on the market, builders stepping up production, and more current homeowners opting to sell), overall awareness that homeownership is out of reach for many can put a spotlight on these conditions in each market.

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