Amazon Experience Centers Look to Transform Smart-Home Shopping

By Susanne Dwyer

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Amazon is making moves yet again. As a way to market its smart-home business segment without having to invest in conventional store locations, the online marketplace giant has partnered with Lennar Corporation to provide connectivity demos of Alexa-enabled products—everything from video doorbells and smart shades to lighting and scheduled deliveries—within the homebuilder’s model homes, calling these showrooms Amazon Experience Centers.

“Amazon’s ability to bring a home to life with Alexa smart-home experiences, entertainment and services—coupled with their obsession with customer experience—is a natural extension of our Everything’s Included approach to home-building,” said David Kaiserman, president of Lennar Ventures, in statement. “We picked Amazon because of our shared commitment to customers, their Amazon experts across the country, and their ability to connect customers with thousands of service providers through Amazon Home Services.”

These Centers are already open to the public in certain Lennar communities, including in Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. Within these model homes, prospective buyers can test-control thermostats, lights, shades, locks, televisions and more using Amazon’s trademark smart speaker, Echo, and Alexa AI.

“We wanted customers to experience a real home environment that showcases the convenience of the Alexa smart-home experience, great entertainment available with Prime and Home Services,” said Nish Lathia, general manager of Amazon Services, in a statement. “We are excited to extend our relationship with Lennar with the launch of Amazon Experience Centers. As one of the nation’s largest homebuilders, Lennar offers the potential to enable this experience within easy driving distance of millions of customers.”

Along with its smart speaker offerings, Amazon is also promoting Prime and Home Services, creating an intelligent home environment that is being touted as a money- and time-saver. For example, with Amazon’s Dash series, homeowners would be able to simply press a button to reorder any essentials, such as household items, favorite snack foods, pet supplies and more.

No doubt Lennar will see increased traffic to its model homes because of the partnership, but is this just Amazon’s next step in a larger campaign to fully entrench itself in the real estate industry? Its recent progressions pointing to—yes—talks of a robot give a glimpse into Amazon’s planned future for AI-run households.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

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Voice Activated: Do You Talk to Your Tech?

By Susanne Dwyer

How many of us are talking to our tech on a regular basis?

Ken Olmstead at the Pew Research Center recently highlighted the fact that nearly half of U.S. adults (46 percent) say they use voice-controlled assistants and applications to interact with smartphones and other devices.

Just over half (55 percent) say “a major reason” they use voice assistants is to permit hands-free interaction with devices.

The Pew study affirmed that voice assistant technology is being widely used to remotely control connected systems, including “smart home” lighting and heating devices. In fact, more than a quarter (26 percent) surveyed use voice assistants to connect remotely to those apps and devices.

So where are the newest voice control technologies being integrated in 2018?

Kohler, the global designer of kitchen and bath products, has introduced Konnect. This new platform allows consumers to conveniently personalize their experience with a growing number of the company’s products through voice control.

Claiming to have delivered the first voice-activated product line for the kitchen and bath, Konnect offers support through Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit.

Say the word and adjust the company’s lighted mirror, order up a soak with their voice-activated bathtub faucet, pick your spritz with their voice-command shower systems—and, yes, even apply a number of controls to the toilet!

Kristen Hicks at SeniorAdvisor.com says voice-activation improvements like these are helping countless homeowners age in place, by turning lights on and off, keeping grocery and to-do lists, reminding folks to take meds, changing interior temperature settings, using voice-activated technology to be sure doors are locked, and, most importantly, calling for help in an emergency. Hicks says while many home alert systems require reaching a phone or a button, a voice command can be issued without having to move.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

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20 Desirable Neighborhoods: Popular, but Not Sought-After

By Susanne Dwyer

Zillow_Neighborhoods

Homebuyers often idealize their wants on their wish list—and, for many, location is at the top.

The aspiration for a certain location, however, may be just that: an aspiration, according to a new report by Zillow that identifies what areas buyers are interested in the most:

20 Desirable Neighborhoods, Ranked

Led by L.A.’s The Oaks, Atlanta’s Tuxedo Park and San Francisco’s Presidio Heights, the majority of neighborhoods ranked by Zillow are enclaves with high price tags, suggesting that although buyers have a demonstrated interest in them, it is more out of curiosity or desire than an intent to purchase. Zillow based its list on the neighborhood’s number of pageviews during the first three months of 2018.

“Real estate shoppers are usually very aspirational, so it’s no surprise we have a lot of shoppers looking outside of where they can likely afford and instead, looking at beautiful homes in desirable areas,” says Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow. “We see these more posh neighborhoods drawing shoppers in, but ultimately, these probably aren’t the neighborhoods most will end up in—the typical price of entry in the majority of neighborhoods on this list is generally much higher than their city as a whole.”

Homes in Malibu’s Point Dume—No. 7 in pageviews—are the steepest: a median $5,995,000, according to the report. Bel Air (No. 4) follows at a median $5,385,000. Homes in Crestwood, in Yonkers, N.Y. (No. 17), are at a median $559,735—the most affordable, relatively, of the top 20. Six of the top 20 are in the San Francisco metro, five are in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim metro, and three are in the Atlanta metro—the majority, markedly, are on the West Coast.

“It’s hard to blame these buyers, because, really, who hasn’t dreamed big when home shopping?” Terrazas says. “Oohing and ahhing over beautiful homes has become one of America’s favorite pastimes.”

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com.

DeVita_Suzanne_60x60Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

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New Data Finds Homeowners Struggle When Selling, Despite Hot Market

By Susanne Dwyer

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Twelve days before Thanksgiving, Mark and Sue Meaney decided to put their 109-year-old house on the market. They looked at comps of similar-sized homes near their St. Paul neighborhood, agreed on a price with their agent and waited anxiously for their first offer to roll in.

Mark and Sue knew their timing wasn’t ideal. The holidays loomed, and the market was slowing; worse, St. Paul was entering its notorious subzero season.

The couple felt torn. After one year of searching for a new home, they had found the perfect place a few miles away. It was spacious enough to raise their kids and had a first-floor bedroom and bathroom for Sue’s aging parents.

As first-time sellers—Mark and Sue had lived in the house for 20 years—the couple took a leap of faith. They bought the new home, moved in Sue’s parents and dropped nearly $20,000 to spruce up their old house to help it sell quickly.

Several weeks later, their vacant home remains for sale, its exterior weathering the forces of yet another Minnesota winter.

Selling a Home: Truth in Data
Skim any number of news articles on the U.S. housing market and chances are you’ll run across the phrases “low inventory,” “sellers’ market” and “strong demand.” This rings especially true in larger metropolitan areas, where stories of bidding wars abound, leaving the impression that sellers in these markets simply list their homes, sit back and receive offers above the asking price.

For much of the U.S., however, the data reveals a starker reality.

According to new findings from Zillow Group—which used data from the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2017—selling a home in the U.S. is not only fraught with anxiety, but often culminates in unmet expectations.

In fact, close to one-third of sellers said they felt unsatisfied with the selling process. Of first-time sellers, nearly 30 percent were unprepared for how long it took to sell their homes and said they wished they would have started the process sooner, according to the analysis.

Furthermore, 76 percent of sellers across the U.S. ended up making at least one concession, with lowering the price the most-cited compromise. Thirty-six percent said they either struggled to sell their homes within their desired price range or time frame.

“This data shows there is a huge opportunity to create a better end-to-end experience for sellers and help them turn over their homes faster,” said Jeremy Wacksman, chief marketing officer at Zillow Group.

More Information, More Stress
Much of the stress sellers feel stems from that nail-biting wait to get the right offer. Fueling this collective anxiety is, of course, more access to information.

While the internet has greatly democratized the buying and selling process, it has also created a state of seller vigilance. Sellers are more involved than ever in the sale of their homes—and more stressed out.

Take Mark, for instance. He’s constantly monitoring how many views his house gets on Zillow and how it ranks compared to other homes coming on the market. Despite working with an agent, Mark is immersed—and stressed.

While Zillow’s findings show that 82 percent of sellers valued having an agent guide them through the process, America has entered a new era of how deeply involved homeowners are in selling their most expensive investment, Wacksman said.

Sonia Krishnan is a senior writer at Zillow Group. This article was originally published on the Premier Agent Resource Center on Feb. 16, 2018. See the full story here.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

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Weighing Risk and Reward: Crypto-Investing in Home Equity

By Susanne Dwyer

Dominguez_Liz_60x60_4c

For homeowners that are looking to access home equity funds, but don’t want to take out a second loan, a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or a reverse mortgage, there are not many options; however, blockchain technology is looking to change that by offering investment opportunities that are tied to a home’s equity and rising values.

Quantm Real Estate (quantmRE) is a membership-based real estate investment network built on blockchain technology. It allows the primary issuance and secondary trading of investment tokens backed by fractional equity interest in single-family homes. This means that quantmRE invests in a fraction of the home by paying the homeowner a pre-determined amount of money (USD) to later benefit from rising home values when the homeowner decides to sell.

Any funds gained are used by quantmRE to continue investing in single family homes—of which the portion purchased goes into a pool of other equity from other homeowners. The company also invests in non-homeowner occupied single-family homes that are held as investment properties.

“Having to borrow from a bank simply to access the wealth that you have built up in your home is deeply unsatisfactory,” said Matthew Sullivan, CEO and founder of quantmRE, in a statement. “Our ability to digitize the value of a homeowner’s equity and realize the locked-up value will solve a huge problem for homeowners worldwide. It’s time for people to be able to access more affordable homeownership options, flexibility and less financial risk.”

Although the company makes a consistent effort to stay away from the term loan—because the process lacks monthly payments and interest charges—it is, in fact, a type of loan that needs to be paid back. The company does not charge interest, but homeowners are required to pay more than the original sum provided as quantmRE becomes a partner with the owner of the property and is entitled to a fraction of home value gains—a lien is placed on the property to make sure of that.

So, what’s in it for homeowners? At the moment, fast cash without having to worry about monthly payments and a small chance to profit should the property values dramatically increase from the time of investment. Of course, quantmRE funds are on the line if the property doesn’t appreciate; but if it does, homeowners will typically receive less for the sale of their property than if they had not engaged in a shared equity contract in the first place.

The question is, do these blockchain investment properties make out better than the homeowners? That may be the case. QuantmRE will always make its initial investment amount back, and has the chance to profit from home value appreciation. Homeowners, on the other hand, are automatically in debt—a term quantmRE chooses to refuse—and are then on the line for an even larger balance should their home’s value rise.

The pros? Risk of volatility is reduced, as the tokens deal with only real estate assets instead of other less reliable crypto-investments. When it comes to home improvements, quantmRE is not entitled to a fraction of the property value gains earned from these updates. Homeowners can also pay quantmRE before the sale of their home; however, the company may add provisions to ensure they don’t take a loss in the case of unfavorable market conditions. Although quantmRE’s website states that tax consequences are not known until a future date, homeowners should speak to their tax advisors to confirm before participating.

As with most investments, profitability is determined on a case-by-case basis. While this is a chance for homeowners to participate in a blockchain-based investment, they should consult a financial advisor to determine if this is the right choice for them or if traditional equity-funded loans make more financial sense.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
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Prepaid Property Tax Debate Undecided

By Susanne Dwyer

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Just a few days shy from the 2018 tax deadline on April 17, and controversy surrounding the new tax law—the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act—is leaving multitudes of homeowners uncertain about whether they should claim their prepaid property tax deductions. The new law imposes a $10,000 cap on state and local tax write-offs (previously unlimited) for both single filers and married couples, leaving tax consultants and taxpayers searching for ways to make the most of the decreased cap before it takes effect in next year’s filing.

Interpretation of the new law has been varied. The ruling clearly states that state and local income taxes are not eligible for prepayment. With no mention of property taxes, many homeowners rushed to prepay in December; however, on December 27, the IRS released a statement, clarifying that prepaid taxes are only deductible under certain circumstances—homeowners cannot deduct the prepayment for property taxes that have not been assessed prior to 2018.

The IRS provided the following examples:

“Assume County A assesses property tax on July 1, 2017 for the period July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018. On July 31, 2017, County A sends notices to residents notifying them of the assessment and billing the property tax in two installments with the first installment due Sept. 30, 2017 and the second installment due Jan. 31, 2018. Assuming taxpayer has paid the first installment in 2017, the taxpayer may choose to pay the second installment on Dec. 31, 2017 and may claim a deduction for this prepayment on the taxpayer’s 2017 return.”

“County B also assesses and bills its residents for property taxes on July 1, 2017, for the period July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018. County B intends to make the usual assessment in July 2018 for the period July 1, 2018-June 30, 2019; however, because county residents wish to prepay their 2018-2019 property taxes in 2017, County B has revised its computer systems to accept prepayment of property taxes for the 2018-2019 property tax year. Taxpayers who prepay their 2018-2019 property taxes in 2017 will not be allowed to deduct the prepayment on their federal tax returns because the county will not assess the property tax for the 2018-2019 tax year until July 1, 2018.”

Not all tax experts agree, and several members of the Ways & Means Committee are petitioning the IRS for higher deductions of reasonable estimates, according to the Wall Street Journal. The issue has not been resolved across the board, but with a low audit risk due to limitations on IRS resources, some taxpayers are urging their tax preparers to claim the deduction without disclosing the write-off on the required IRS form (8275).

“There is no reason to believe that Congress made a mistake in omitting property tax prepayments, and there was certainly no basis for the IRS to substitute its own policy judgements that departs from the act of Congress, especially when the consequence of the IRS’s determination may have cost taxpayers millions of dollars,” states the Ways & Means Committee letter.

Stay tuned to RISMedia for more developments.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
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With Fast-Growing Prices, Gains in Equity Are Exceeding Minimum Wage

By Susanne Dwyer

Zillow_Equity_Wage

For many Americans, homeownership is a vehicle for wealth—an appreciating asset that, more often than not, earns a profit at resale.

In the market today, homeowners are all but promised to reap the rewards. According to an analysis recently released by Zillow, appreciation is so healthy that homes in many markets are producing more than a job for minimum wage would. Although the average homeowner is earning $7.09 in equity for every hour spent at work—16 cents less than the federal minimum wage—homeowners in half of the 50 largest markets are earning more in equity than their local minimum wage. The analysis assumed eight-hour days, or 2,087 hours of work per year.

“As home values continue to rise at a rapid clip, many homeowners have earned more in home equity over the past year than they would have by working a minimum wage job—and in some areas, more than they’d have earned even if they had a job paying a six-figure annual salary,” says Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow.

The areas earning the most are on the West Coast: San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle. In San Francisco, appreciation has been $60.13 per hour worked; in San Jose, $99.81; and in Seattle, $54.24.

In the 25 largest markets:

“Equity ‘earnings’ are a lot different than the salary typically taken home on the first and fifteenth of each month; it is not money that accumulates directly into a checking account or that can be spent on daily needs,” Terrazas says. “Equity is only available once a homeowner chooses to sell a home, and even then is often subject to various taxes and other expenses. Still, particularly for homeowners that have already or are very close to paying off a mortgage, this supplemental ‘income’—especially if allowed to accumulate over several years—can essentially serve as a kind of second job that pays directly to a homeowner’s bottom line, without nearly as much actual work involved in collecting it.”

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com.

DeVita_Suzanne_60x60Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
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Home-Selling Can Come With $18,000-Plus Price Tag

By Susanne Dwyer

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Are you a homeowner listing your property for sale? Consider the expenses that are often overlooked by sellers: cleaning costs, moving costs, painting, staging…

“Even in the hottest housing markets in the country, selling a home takes time and costs money,” says Jeremy Wacksman, CMO at Zillow, which assessed the costs that come with listing in the recently released “2018 Hidden Costs of Selling” report.

“From decluttering and staging to pre-inspections, agents and homeowners often spend months behind the scenes prepping a home—well before it’s listed on the market,” Wacksman says. “If you’re planning to sell this year, try to take some time to research what costs you may be responsible for and how they could affect your profit, or even budget for your next house.”

According to the analysis by Zillow, the average homeowner is on the hook for $18,342 when selling, with $4,985 allocated to prep projects and $13,357 going to the agent’s commission and sales taxes. The data was drawn from Thumbtack, which offers quotes for professional services.

Costs differ by market, the analysis found. In San Jose, Calif., where the median price is one million-plus, the average cost to sell is $81,507; in Cleveland, Ohio, where the median price is $137,600, the average cost to sell is $12,986. (Get the complete data for the largest markets.)

Carrying out improvements, though pricey, is worth it, says Lucas Puente, economist at Thumbtack.

“While there could be some initial sticker shock associated with the costs of selling a home, investing in home improvement projects like painting and home staging often proves to be very valuable in the long run,” Puente says. “Homeowners starting to think about selling should take time to research and budget for the projects that can ultimately help sell their home faster and at a higher value.”

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
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HQ2: How the Experts Think Amazon’s Decision Will Shake Out

By Susanne Dwyer

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Since Amazon announced its search for a second headquarters site, experts have speculated on what city will become home to HQ2. In January, the company narrowed down its selections to 20. The area Amazon chooses can expect its economy to surge, and, in the housing market, an influx of new residents.

According to experts recently surveyed by Zillow, Atlanta and Northern Virginia are frontrunners. Twelve of the 85 experts who participated in Zillow’s 2018 Home Price Expectations Survey believe affordability, the availability of land and business-friendly incentives are what make Atlanta a prime spot.

Another 12 experts believe that, though costly, Northern Virginia is ideal for its proximity to Washington, D.C. Eleven others chose Austin, nine chose Raleigh and six chose Denver.

Los Angeles, Miami, Newark and New York are the least likely to be selected, according to the experts, chiefly due to congestion, high home prices and lack of incentives.

Whichever city wins, how Amazon has benefitted Seattle—where its current headquarters is located—could indicate how it will impact HQ2’s market.

“As the experience of Seattle suggests, Amazon will not only directly bring thousands of high-paying jobs to the chosen city, but also has the potential to transform the regional economy,” says Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow. “The local jobs boom that Amazon’s HQ2 promises will spur demand for the full spectrum of housing types, ranging from urban apartments to suburban single-family homes.

“Atlanta has the benefit of being one of the most affordable markets in the country, and is undergoing an urban renaissance with new public infrastructure providing attractive opportunities for employers seeking to lure young urbanites,” Terrazas says. “Northern Virginia has its benefits, as well, as it’s close to a highly educated workforce and a well-developed public transit infrastructure in the D.C. area.”

Amazon’s benefits, however, could come with drawbacks. A boom in the housing market could pressure prices, and more commuters could impact infrastructure.

“The potential economic benefits of hosting Amazon HQ2 are tantalizing, and will tempt the 20 municipalities still in the hunt to dangle significant tax incentives to get a deal done,” says Terry Loebs, founder of Pulsenomics, which conducted the survey with Zillow. “These cities should be prepared not only to justify their financial inducements, but to carefully weigh the social risks and costs that could accompany their HQ2 commitment. The mix and degree of these potential risks, such as diminished affordable housing stock, more congested roadways, and greater income inequality, vary considerably across the 20 markets.”

Amazon announced it would build the headquarters in October. The contenders: Atlanta, Ga.; Austin, Texas; Boston, Mass.; Chicago, Ill.; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colo.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Los Angeles, Calif.; Miami, Fla.; Montgomery County, Md.; Nashville, Tenn.; Newark, N.J.; New York, N.Y.; Northern Virginia; Philadelphia, Pa.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Raleigh, N.C.; Toronto, Canada; and Washington, D.C.

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
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Property Coin: Crypto Investors Looking to Fix and Flip

By Susanne Dwyer

Dominguez_Liz_60x60_4c

Is blockchain the future of real estate transactions? So far, only a few contracts have closed through Bitcoin or other forms of cryptocurrency; however, with offerings being introduced, that could quickly change.

Aperture Real Estate Ventures, a real estate technology and investment firm based in Los Angeles, Calif., claims it has launched the first-ever real estate-backed digital currency, Property Coin. Aperture’s model relies on coin proceeds to power its real estate investment business, which focuses on acquiring distressed residential properties and rehabbing them, as well as writing loans to smaller investors who have the same objective.

“Unlike many cryptocurrency offerings, Property Coin’s proposition is straightforward,” said Andrew Jewett, co-CEO of Aperture, in a statement. “One-hundred percent of the net proceeds from sales of Property Coins will be used to invest in properties and loans identified by our proprietary software and our experienced team. Accordingly, Property Coin is designed to be 100-percent backed by real estate assets, giving each coin holder a fractional economic interest in the investments made by Aperture or its affiliates with the net proceeds realized from the sale of Property Coins.”

When buying Property Coins, investors are not only receiving a fractional percentage of assets owned by Property Coin and its entities, but coin holders will also own 50 percent of the net profits from the loan and property investments.

Built on Ethereum—another blockchain-based cryptocurrency not far behind Bitcoin in popularity—Property Coin is completely backed by U.S. real estate assets. Aperture asserts that all investments will be made using the experience of Wall Street and real estate investment professionals while also incorporating industry technology powered by data science.

Property Coin’s public sale began on Feb. 26 for its initial offering at 50 U.S. dollars each, or through the equivalent value of Ethereum or Bitcoin currency. Property Coin purchases are restricted to Accredited Investors who buy at least $1,000 worth of coins.

“We’re very excited to be able to offer this proprietary formula to cryptocurrency investors who want access to a diversified, tech-powered, professionally managed portfolio of real estate assets through Property Coin,” said Matt Miles, co-CEO of Aperture.

Of course, volatility remains an issue with blockchain technology. Aperture is relying on its reinvestment strategy to add token stability and to create renewed interest in the real estate investment market.

Stay tuned to RISMedia for more developments.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Property Coin: Crypto Investors Looking to Fix and Flip appeared first on RISMedia.

From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893