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6 surprising real estate trends, from bikes to barks

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Companies know they need bike racks at the office to compete for young workers these days. Photo by Christophe Guiard
Chantel Martin, Kiba, SPCA, Hotel Palomar
Dogs seem to fit into everyone's lives these days. They also better fit into your apartment complex's amenities. Photo by Sylvia Elzafon
6922 vivian ave, charles dilbeck, hollywood heights
First-time homebuyers have given up trying to get loans and are renting instead. Photo courtesy of Shoot2Sell
News_iron man_bicycles_triathalon
Chantel Martin, Kiba, SPCA, Hotel Palomar
6922 vivian ave, charles dilbeck, hollywood heights

Real estate reflects the way people want to live, work, shop and play. If there’s a new trend afoot, you’ll see it being played out in the real estate market.

At the 48th annual conference for the National Association of Real Estate Editors in Houston, scads of new trends came to light as dozens of experts spoke. These are six of the most interesting.

1. Two-wheel lifestyle
Companies are engaged in fierce recruiting wars to get the best employees, and that means having the best workplaces with great amenities, says Chip Clarke of the Transwestern commercial realty firm. Therefore more and more office-building owners are installing bicycle racks to appeal to Millennials. Houston-based Avera Cos. is even putting in employee bicycle racks in the warehouses it develops, says company rep Trey Odom.

2. Four-legged friends
Offering dog-walking services is a way to make an office building a better workplace, and developer Hines is doing just that in some of the buildings it manages, says vice chair Hasty Johnson. In multifamily housing, pet facilities — parks, grooming services and pet sitting — may be the most-wanted amenity, so many new apartment projects have them, says Houston apartment developer Martin Fein.

3. Healthy living habits
One in three Americans is obese today, compared to one in eight in 1970, says Rachel MacCleery of the Urban Land Institute. Developments need to be designed with intentional access to fitness facilities and trails, and they should even encourage people to use stairs instead of elevators. Indoor air quality is vital.

Houston’s Bayou Greenways initiative to develop trails and linear parks on the bayous dovetails into the healthy places movement, says James Vick of the SWA Group. Will Holder of Trendmaker Homes says consumers now want trails in their communities instead of golf courses.

4. Home separation anxiety
Mortgage rates reached record lows in 2012 and 2013 of around 3.3 percent for 30-year home loans. Homeowners don’t want to let go of those once-in-a-lifetime bargain mortgages, says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. So homeowners avoid putting their homes on the market in order to keep those low mortgage rates, and that has resulted in super-low inventories of homes for sale.

Although rates are still low (less than 5 percent), many people are opting to rent out their houses so they can hang onto great mortgages, Yun says.

5. Texas-style house porn
A lot of people like to shop for houses online — or at least browse. The Houston Association of Realtors website, with more than 18 million visitor sessions in May, is the most popular real estate website in Houston. Can’t get enough of a good thing?

Well, HAR is getting ready to go statewide, carrying listings from all Texas cities, and it will have a lot of info about schools and property taxes, says Taqi Rizvi, chief technology officer. Only problem? The name “Houston” doesn’t play too well in Plano.

So as the site shows listings in other cities, HAR.com will stand for “Homes and Realtors,” instead of “Houston Association of Realtors.” You can now see the beta version of the Texas-wide HAR.com.

6. First-time buyer blues
The market for starter homes, which are houses generally purchased by younger people, is soft. Lenders have tightened their standard for giving people mortgages, says Anthony Hsieh, CEO of Loan Depot.

If you don’t have a FICO credit score of 750, it may be tough to get your first mortgage. The excitement, joy and fun of buying your first home has been replaced by dread, Hsieh says. Lenders have been too restrictive, and the recession was hard on the younger generation, says Jed Kolko, chief economist for Trulia.

A lot of young people have given up trying to buy a house and are renting instead.

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Ralph Bivins, editor of Realty News Report, is a past president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

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