Monday, April 9, 2007

Individualizing Education: Creating A More Interesting College Experience For Everyone

The University of Southern California is constantly changing and implementing new programs. Over the past few years, most of that change has been for the better, substantially increasing Southern California's prominence throughout the country. This positive change, however, has not kept USC from remaining open to all sorts of suggestions on how their methods can be improved. In trying to make the University as prestigious as possible, they have been taking advice on various aspects of academia through a program called the Dean's Prize for the Enrichment of Student Academic Life; a program that allows students to speak out on how they feel Southern California could be improved. One of the main points in USC's strategic plan of 2004 is to "shape educational programs to meet the needs of qualified students through pedagogy, instructional technology, curricula, admissions, and support services," and they are using this program to do exactly that. With that said, I would like to use this post as a means to give my recommendations on how I think the Marshall School of Business could improve their undergraduate program.

The Marshall School of Business, shown above, offers a lot of opportunities not available in most universities throughout the world, but I cant help but think how much room for improvement there still is. Most of the classes I have taken throughout my three years in Marshall have been interesting and helpful. However, there are a few classes I have taken that I have found to be not only uninteresting, but also not applicable to my current career preference. The course list for the undergraduate business program includes a set of 5 prerequisite courses and 10 required core courses, not including general education programs required by the university. It is utterly impossible for every course required by the business program to apply to every student, and because of this, I feel that a lot of the courses required are wasted on uninterested students.

My proposition for the undergraduate business program is a more student oriented course list, the goal of which being to make each individual's time in Marshall as interesting and thought provoking as possible. This list would include most of the required subjects already found in USC's course list, but would also give students an opportunity to choose a certain amount of courses prior to their senior concentration. There are a number of options that could be more applicable to some students than taking Finance, a second Accounting or Statistics course, and a third Economics class, etc. Rather than having to take these classes, the school could offer speaker series, internships, or even allow students to take classes under different parts of the university. All of these options could make the college learning experience much more interesting for each individual in the undergraduate business program.

After two summers of internships, I can speak from experience in saying that internships provide much more practical and useful information than any course offered at Southern California. If credit were given for interning, students would be more willing to work during the school year, thus gaining more career-oriented knowledge. Rather than force a student to take a class on a topic they will most assuredly never use again, allowing students to take part in internships for credit could allow each individual the opportunity to learn a great deal about their specific interests in a new environment, as is shown in the picture to the right. Speaker series are another great way to learn about different aspects of the business world, and would be very interesting and informative means of education for college students. Learning about the lives of successful businessmen in all aspects of life could educate students on topics not normally discussed in a classroom. This could be broken up into a number of different industries, possibly introducing the senior concentrations, and could give students a glimpse into a future career in each part of the business world better than any class ever could. These are only two options, but there are a lot of different courses or programs USC could offer in order to individualize undergraduate business education.

I am under the impression that the reason the undergraduate business program has such a wide array of courses required is to give each student a quick look into as many career paths as possible. Requiring so many courses does exactly that, however, I believe that this idea has been taken to an extreme unnecessary in order to obtain their initial goal. For example, giving a student the opportunity to take an internship with a marketing firm rather than being forced to take a third Economics course would be more interesting, informative, and much more practical for that student. Introducing this system into the business program would not be detrimental to the program; students with no current career preference could still take the wide array of courses currently required. Individualizing each student's education in Marshall would give every student the ability to make his or her four years at USC as interesting and career-oriented as possible.

Monday, April 2, 2007

David A. Gottfried: A Leader In Creating An Environmentally Focused Industry

The University of Southern California, shown left, defines its honorary degrees as a means “[t]o honor individuals who have distinguished themselves through extraordinary achievements in scholarship, the professions, or other creative activities, whether or not they are widely known by the general public.” Those selected by the University to receive an honorary degree deliver the commencement address to the graduating class during spring graduation ceremonies. Past recipients of honorary degrees include: former astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, the Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, as well as U.S. Senator John McCain. As commencement approaches, I have decided to honor someone whom I feel is playing a very important role in real estate. I am nominating David A. Gottfried for an honorary degree in laws, an award given for outstanding public service, at the University of Southern California for his efforts in making the real estate industry more environmentally conscious. He might not be well known outside of his niche, but he is leading the transformation of big industries to a less detrimental means of energy consumption, which will play an important role in preserving the future of the natural world.

James Freedman, the former president of the University of Iowa and Dartmouth College, said, “In bestowing an honorary degree [of which there is a long tradition in American higher education], a university makes an explicit statement to its students and the world about the qualities of character and attainment it admires most.” David A. Gottfried, with his many environmentally charged ventures, perfectly exemplifies that statement. Gottfried, shown right, is the founder of the U.S. Green Building Council, a “coalition of leaders from every sector of the building industry working to promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work.” According to their website, the USGBC’s “core purpose is to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.” This coalition is currently the biggest of its kind in the United States, with 7,500 members and over 75 chapters throughout the country. Gottfried graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Engineering and Resource Management. On top of establishing the USGBC, Gottfried created the World Green Building Council, ASTM’s Green Building Committee, and was one of many to set up the Industry Alliance for Interoperability. He is also the founder and CEO of WorldBuild Technologies, Inc., an environmental consulting firm based in Berkeley, California. Gottfried has published numerous articles, given hundreds of speeches throughout the world on various topics mostly focusing on spreading environmental awareness. Gottfried recently wrote a book entitled Greed To Green, in which he discusses balancing business obligations with social responsibility, and argues that conscientious companies fare better in the long run. It is Gottfried's belief of balancing between successful business and social responsibilty that is beginning to revolutionize the real estate industry.

The U.S. Green Building Council’s most effective tool in spreading environmental awareness is its recently developed rating system called LEED. Their system, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, has become “the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings.” This rating system is revolutionizing building production, offering a set of credible and consistent standards that green builders can use at their disposal. The LEED rating system focuses on five areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, energy efficiency, water savings, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. There are thousands of prominent buildings that have used this rating system, including Accenture’s offices in San Francisco and the Los Angeles Convention Center. If this system were to become mandatory with all new buildings, or a sort of government reward system were established, energy efficient buildings could increase substantially.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, more than 85 percent of the energy consumed in the U.S. comes from fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas, 18 percent of that coming from individual homes. If not for leaders and visionaries like David A. Gottfried, the future of the natural world would be in great danger. Buildings play such an important role in energy consumption throughout the world, a problem that is not being addressed as frantically as it should. It is important that buildings constructed in the future have as small of an imprint as possible. The number of buildings will constantly increase, however, their energy consumption could be considerably reduced through a number of different methods. If organizations like the USGBC continue to make this issue known, a big step could be made towards a less detrimental way of life.

The environment is becoming an important issue with the American people; it is beginning to shape our everyday life. With that said, if we are to truly save the environment, we must be environmentally aware in every aspect of life. Individual efforts to limit energy consumption do have a powerful effect on the environment; however, it is energy conscious industries that will make the largest impact. David A. Gottfried is leading one of the most prominent world industries towards environmentally conscious energy consumption, and in doing so, is setting an great example for the world to follow. If he were to give a commencement speech at the University of Southern California, he would stress the importance of social responsibility. He would preach that being socially and environmentally responsible does not mean that business will suffer. Most importantly, he would tell the graduating class that their actions over the next few decades, the choices they make, will shape the world for many years to come.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

My Motivation: Why Real Estate Is Important to Me

The reason that I have focused my blog on developments in real estate is because I believe strongly in a good life. More specifically, I believe that that good life revolves heavily around family and community. The real estate industry is often viewed simply as a means to an end, a way for professionals to make money. This might be true at times, but I think that real estate has a lot more to offer than that. I was fortunate enough to have been raised within a great community, and an even greater family, one not too far from the one pictured to the left. My family life is the reason that real estate initially appealed to me. I know that, for me at least, growing up in such a comfortable and safe environment is the reason why my life turned out so well. I don’t think its selfish to want a good life for yourself, but that doesn’t mean a healthy balance cant be reached between providing yourself with a good life, and providing the same for others. I can’t think of a better way of doing exactly that than through real estate.

The topics that I have discussed in my blog so far have involved new developments in the real estate industry. It has been my intention to focus my posts on topics that will have a big effect on the industry, on homeowners and buyers, for a long time to come. There are so many tools becoming available to everyone, mostly through the Internet, that make it a possibility for people to get the best out of their living situation. Whether it is an easier way to search for homes, a better method of choosing a real estate agent or other technologies being developed, it seems like the real estate industry is continuously becoming more focused on the consumer.

There are a lot of negatives that have always been associated with the industry: the most prominent regarding the amount of money necessary for someone to own a house. This is obviously a big issue, and it has always played an important role in those willing and able to own homes. I’m not saying that I have an answer for this problem, I’m not sure if there even is an answer. However, I would like to think that there is a way to offer cheaper housing with a safer environment for families, possibly through focusing costs on things other than home production. If new communities could focus on things like security or community programs, a safer family environment could be created in historically less safe areas. With that said, a new home in a new community is always going to be an expensive investment, regardless of what socioeconomic class you fall under, but I can’t think of a better way to spend your money.

It seems like the industry as a whole has started to drift away from the values that it should have found most important. However, that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t, and still isn’t, doing good things for the world. In my internship for a real estate development company last summer, most of my job was spent driving around Southern California looking through newly developed, or still developing communities. Whether it is important to them or not, these companies are developing communities that will provide parents and children with a safe and happy environment in which to live. Even though these communities were located in different areas, all with very distinctive demographics, I saw the great life that they were offering mostly new families. This is something I have always dreamed of having for myself, and I would like to make that dream a possibility for others.

Monday, March 5, 2007

A New Kind of Home Searching Emerges: Streaming Videos Begin to Shape the Industry

One aspect of real estate that has been increasing in popularity over the past few years has been the resources available to homebuyers through the Internet. Although real estate professionals have not yet fully adapted to the changing market, a recent development is showing that they might be catching up quickly. A small part of the industry is beginning to follow the lead of sites like YouTube, who have taken the world by storm with their vast array of streaming videos. Charlie Young, the vice president of marketing for Coldwell Banker said, "I believe streaming videos on Web sites is the wave of the future." With the introduction of web sites specializing in streaming video home tours and many other features, as can be seen in the picture to the left, it looks like the future might involve an easier, more convenient means of home searching.

There are many different methods that companies can use in order to take advantage of the Internet's role with homebuyers. According to an article by Les Christie, a staff writer at, one residential development in Delaware "has begun using high-quality, television news-style presentation to sell homes. On the site, viewers take interactive tours of the property, led by two on-line hosts, through different site channels." The development, Peninsula on Indian River Bay, is showing that features like online video tours do not necessarily mean that information or personality have to be lost. In the article, Christie says the site leads “users through a virtual tour of the development's offerings, including its neighborhoods, home styles, nearby beaches and features and amenities, including a Jack Nicklaus designed golf course.” This site makes the home searching process much more interesting for homebuyers, and could have an effect on the future of the industry.

One reason why this system will play an important role in the future of real estate is the convenience that it offers. Such features as video tours, floor plans and an almost unlimited amount of photos make searching for homes much easier. If homebuyers cannot find the time to look for homes, or have no means to travel across the country if they plan on moving longer distances, then the availabity of these resources on the Internet can be of great aid. An article by Manufacturing Talk, the number one production news source, says “The tremendous confidence buyers get through this type of interaction has lead to an increase in purchases 'sight unseen' from across the country, and the globe. Buyers know in advance that their furniture will fit in the desired space, and exactly what remodeling, if any, they want to have done even before they move in.” Offering such in-depth services gives homebuyers opportunities that would have seemed impossible only a few years ago.

Another reason why this could soon become a valuable part of the industry is the amount of portability offered through this technology. There are a number of gadgets, such as the one shown to the right, that can give homebuyers the information they need even if they are away from their computer. The iPod is beginning to play an important role with this too, as video podcasts are being used to give homebuyers video tours on the go with little or no information lost. Russell Shaw, a contributing writer for, says in his post “Four Reasons Why Every Realtor Needs To Video Podcast” that “Home-selling (and buying) is a visual medium. Homes, and in many cases the accompanying land, are best described through visual means. Video podcasts are ideal for walk-through tours that up until now, have been mainly illustrated either via photograph-based virtual tours or slide shows.” Podcasts offer the real estate industry a combination of portability and knowledge that cannot be matched by any other means.

One downside of this technology could be an increase in the gap between large and small companies. Larger organizations such as Century 21, Coldwell Banker and Re/Max are putting a lot of their resources into making sites that offer streaming videos. With a lack of resources or capital, smaller companies might not be able to offer most of these services, or at least not offer them as comprehensively. Most of these features do not require too much capital, but they do require quite a bit of time and energy. If smaller companies want to continue to compete with bigger ones, they might have to sacrifice some of their initial profit and increase spending on the Internet.

Though it might hurt smaller companies, there is no strong argument that can be made against incorporating such features into the industry. The Internet allows real estate professionals to reach a larger number of potential homebuyers at a relatively low cost, and there is no question that it makes researching easier. It looks like the real estate industry as a whole might soon begin to take full advantage of the Internet. The demand and technology are certainly there, but real estate professionals need to start utilizing this opportunity, or they could soon end up without a job. In the words of Christie, “Today, if your site doesn't offer virtual tours, mapping technology, neighborhood guides and a video library of buying and selling tips, it's nowhere.”

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Other Side of the Industry: How Are Professionals Taking Advantage of the Internet?

Most of the topics my blog has addressed up until this point have involved the ways that technology is shaping real estate. The industry continues to change, and as the picture to the left points out, it is increasingly becoming one based around the computer. One issue that I addressed earlier in my blog was how homebuyers are taking advantage of technology, mostly through the use of the Internet. As a contrast to that topic, I have decided to focus on the other side of this issue: how real estate professionals are using technology to keep up with the evolving industry. Rather than make my own post, I have once again decided to feature a couple of posts from other blogs that I found to be very relevant with this topic. The first post was written by Richard Nacht, the CEO of Blogging Systems, a company that, according to their website, “provides real estate professionals with marketing and communications solutions using leading-edge blog technology.” Nacht mostly focuses on how the majority of agents are failing to keep up with the changes in the industry. The second post is from, which is a prominent online real estate classifieds website, and has no author listed. The company questions whether or not real estate professionals are savvy enough to keep up with the evolving industry. My comments to both of their arguments can be found on their respective blogs, and can also be seen below.

“Homebuyers Are Using the Internet; Agents Are Not”
Comment #1:

It seems to me that every real estate professional would be eager to take full advantage of the different opportunities that the Internet and other technologies have given them. Fully utilizing the Internet would give professionals a greater reach in advertising, and would also give them a way to offer easy to use services to a lot more people. You brought up in your post through a quote from another agent that this could be due to the number of real estate professionals using the industry as a second means of income. Do you think the Internet will separate out those people? I would think that in a few years, the industry will revolve heavily around the Internet, and those not involved in it will be somewhat obsolete. Also, could these new developments end up hurting smaller companies, who have less resources and capital to enable them to fully take advantage of the new options available to them? I am still in college, but I am planning on going into the real estate industry when I graduate. Personally, I can’t think of a better way to run a successful business and reach new customers than to take full advantage of the Internet. Maybe there is too big of a generation gap, and those real estate professionals that are part of the older generations will never fully utilize the many opportunities available to them through new technology. What do you think about this?

“Are Real Estate Brokers Internet Savvy Enough?”
Comment #2:

I am currently a junior at the University of Southern California, and plan on pursuing a career in real estate when I graduate. I first want to say that I found your post very interesting, and I think it really applies to the path that real estate is currently heading. It seems like real estate professionals as a whole are adapting to the Internet much slower than homebuyers are. Do you think this is true? You said in your post that "a home buyer in today's market wants to go online and do just about all of their work in terms of locating their next dream home." Why do you think homebuyers are so much more willing to use the Internet as a tool? The Internet provides so many great ways that professionals can reach a large number of people, and so many different services that they can offer. I cant think of a better way to run a successful business in real estate, as well as in any other industry. Do you think that the older generations of professionals will be able or willing to learn how to use these tools? I personally don’t think that the industry will fully utilize the opportunities available through technology until younger generations enter the market. What do you think? I would really appreciate your input on this issue.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Housing Slump Continues: New Information Shows Further Decline In Market

The housing market has been on a down slide for a over a year, but the National Association of Realtors recently released information from last month showing that the slump is far from over. Data regarding home prices and home production over the past month, as well as most of the results from the last quarter of 2006, brought with them bad news for the real estate industry. These figures come one month after the lone promising piece of information was released by the National Association of Realtors. Pending home sales jumped 4.9% last December, a number that, according to the National Association of Realtors was the largest jump in almost three years. Although that piece of news is a step in the right direction, the new data regarding prices and production make it clear that the market still has a long way to go. The market's current state is obviously affecting homebuyers, but it is also having a great effect on homebuilders, who have become extremely uneasy with the housing market. The slump is going to continue until homebuyer demand catches up with the overwhelming amount of supply left over from the housing boom, and hopefully then homebuilders will become more comfortable with the market.

One piece of recently released information that plays a big role in the continuing housing slump is home prices. The graph above shows the continuing downward trend that the numbers have been following over the past year. In other data released by the National Association of Realtors, home value dropped in the fourth quarter of last year in half of the United States' metropolitan areas for the first time since 1979. Throughout the nation, the median home price in the last quarter of 2006 was $219,300, a drop of 2.7% from the year before. James R. Hagerty said in an article found in that “prices began falling in many areas last year after a boom that pushed prices up at double-digit annual rates in much of the country in the first half of this decade." The biggest drop came in the Sarasota area of Florida, which fell 18% from last year. Florida is home to the majority of the biggest decliners this year, which Hagerty attributes to the "glut of new condominiums" that are "weighing on the market." Ohio is another part of the country whose homes have significantly dropped in worth, more specifically in cities like Youngstown and Toledo, which Hagerty claims are being "hurt by shrinking industrial employment."

One reason that this decrease in prices has gone on for so long comes from the overwhelming abundance of new homes in most areas throughout the country. These new residences were developed while the market was still at its peak, and are a big reason why numbers remain low in most areas. Prices will not begin to rise until homebuyers' demand can catch up to the current overwhelming surplus of supply. Hagerty's article presents another reason for the continuing slump, arguing that the lenders are being more strict with regards to their credit standards, making it harder for some potential homebuyers to obtain loans. This comes at the same time that late payments and defaults have been on the rise, something that could increase the number of foreclosures in the market.

Another statistic proving the slump will continue is the decrease in home production. As is shown in the graph to the right, housing starts, which is another term for home production, have dropped considerably over the past year due to lack of consumer demand. The Department of Commerce recently released data stating that the number of homes being produced decreased by 14.3% last month, bringing that number to its lowest point in ten years. In an article found on, Jeff Bater and Brian Blackstone break down the decrease in housing starts by region. According to the authors, "housing starts last month decreased by 28.5% to 301,000 units in the West, 15.2% to 195,000 units in the Midwest, and 11.8% to 716,000 units in the South. Starts rose 8.9% to 196,000 units in the Northeast." It is clear that builders still hold a pessimistic view of the market, and seem to be afraid to continue to build new communities. There might not currently be high demand for new homes, but if homebuilders remain skeptical and refuse to build communities in the future, they could end up hurting the market once homebuyer demand does catch up with supply.

Although on a big scale there has been a continuing decrease in all aspects of the real estate market, there are some areas of the U.S. that have shown signs that the trend could change relatively soon. Home prices may have declined in 73 metropolitan areas last quarter, but they also increased in 71 areas. The article written by James. R. Hagerty also reveals that places such as Atlantic City, whose median home price rose 26%, show signs that the market could turn around relatively soon. David Lereah, the National Association of Realtors' chief economist, is very optimistic about the housing market: he said, "Hopefully, the fourth quarter was the bottom of this current business cycle." Although the housing market will most likely continue to drop over the next few months, the fact that not every area in the country is struggling offers a bit of positive news for the future of real estate.

Another positive that can be taken out of the housing market slump is the increase in pending home sales that occurred last December. Rex Nutting, a contributing writer for, said in an article that during the last month of 2006, pending home sales rose in all four regions, the highest being 8.1% in the Northeast. In the article David Lereah spoke on the subject, "Some of the monthly gain may be weather related, but it appears buyers are becoming more comfortable, sensing the timing is good and that their local market has bottomed out. I expect modest sales gains throughout the year, with what I believe are sustainable levels of activity." Unemployment and mortgage rates remain low, which could go a long way in ending the market’s slump relatively soon. Still, the key to stabilizing the market remains with the homebuyer, and the slump will come to an end as soon as demand can meet the overwhelming amount of supply in the market.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Online Education: One More Way That Technology Is Affecting Real Estate

This week, rather than creating my own post, I have decided to focus on a couple of posts written by other people that I found both interesting and helpful. The topic that both of these posts relate to is online education, a trend that has been growing in popularity over the last couple of years. The classroom has become a thing of the past, and the picture to the left is a perfect example of a new type of classroom, the computer. The first post is regarding online education in general, and whether or not it is the best means to receive an education. The second post that I found is more specifically about the role that online education is playing in the real estate industry, focusing mostly on the positive changes that online education is bringing to the industry. I have included below the links to each of these posts, as well as displayed below the comments I made to each of the writers. I hope you find these posts as interesting as I did.

Post #1: "Pros And Cons Of Online Education"
By, Harris Jhosta

I am currently a junior at the University of Southern California, and am planning on getting involved in the real estate industry after I graduate. It seems like online education is becoming a very popular method in learning about real estate, as it is with every other industry. You seem to be more on the pro side of the argument, but I was wondering if you thought that anything would be lost through an online education. You said in your post that it might be looked down upon, or not understood by employers, but do you think there is a good reason for that, other than the fact that it is a new and somewhat unknown means of education? Are there things that can only be learned through the classroom, like communication skills or working well in groups? One of the more important things that I have gotten out of my time at USC has been the ability to work well with others, and allocate different jobs within a group. This is an important aspect of professional life that could not be fully taught through an online education. There seems to be no question that online education is more convenient and less expensive, but could there be a limit to how popular and respected online education could become?

Post #2: "Are You Learning Online?"
By, Dave Shaut

I am currently a junior at the University of Southern California, and am planning on concentrating in real estate development next year. As of right now, I would like to get involved in real estate in some way or another after I graduate, although I’m not quite sure exactly what I would like to do. It seems like postgraduate online education is a really practical and much more convenient means of learning about the real estate industry. Your post focuses only on the positives of online education, which there seem to be a lot of. However, I was wondering if you could explain some of the reasons why online education isn’t as popular as it could be. What are some of the negative aspects that come with learning about real estate online, rather than through the classroom? It seems like it would be hard to regulate all of the online educational programs to ensure they remain creditable. Are there certain things about the real estate industry specifically that could be lost or harder to understand if learned through the Internet, such as communication skills or working well in groups? Any advice or information you could give me would be very much appreciated, thanks.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

The Future of Real Estate: Better Educated Consumers Begin to Shape the Industry

Recent developments in technology have had a big effect on the real estate industry with regards to production, but production isn't the only aspect of the industry being affected by technology. These developments are beginning to change another part of the industry: the role of the homebuyer. The Internet has greatly changed the amount of information available to the world, something that can be clearly seen through the effect it has had on real estate. The Internet, along with a drastic change in homebuyer demographic, is starting to change the industry entirely. The homebuyer is not what it used to be, and continues to get younger and more knowledgeable with time. The picture to the left features a young couple getting their information primarily from the Internet, rather than using traditional means like brokerage firms. This is the new homebuyer; a young couple, or even single man or woman, who mostly researches the housing market through the Internet. This new search method allows potential homebuyers to get more information from a better variety of sources. The increase in information available through the Internet might not have a direct effect on the housing market, but it has done a great deal in creating a better-educated and more informed homebuyer.

The homeowner has been changing drastically over the past few years. According to Stefan Swanepoel, a contributing writer at, “in 2005, 40% of homebuyers were first time buyers and 50% of them were between the ages of 25 and 34 (Gen X and Echo Boomers). Even more telling - 38% of all homebuyers in that period were under the age of 35…According to numerous studies undertaken by NAR and the California Association of Realtors, approximately 70% of all homebuyers start their search on the Internet.” This means that the traditional ways of buying and researching homes has become a thing of the past. The new homebuyers are beginning to take full advantage of the resource that is their computer. A new medium has taken control of the industry, and there are a number of ways with which it is doing so.

One of the many recent developments keeping consumer's informed has been, interestingly enough, the blog. According to, one of the top 10 trendsetters in real estate in 2006 is Blogging Systems, “for leading the way in expanding blogging into the real estate industry.” The blog allows a means for homebuyers and homeowners throughout the country to communicate with one another about whatever they desire. One site,, currently collects blogs from over 3,000 neighborhoods in 55 cities. Blogs on this site can range from types of restaurants in any given area to the quality of schools. Sites like this bring with them a huge amount of information, and have begun to severely limit the role of the real estate professional. However, blogs are not the only resource being used by the new generation of homebuyers.

Broker review sites are another trend that is turning the real estate industry upside down. offers reviews of brokers in any area in the United States. A feature like this, according to Les Christie, a staff writer for, allows consumers to “engage the most professional real estate agents available." It also forces brokers to pay more attention to how they treat the people using their services. It might not be the most ideal situation for brokers, but it will ensure that their customers receive the best service.

The most dominating theme in the changing industry is the amount of information becoming available to the common man. As long as there is Internet available, there are no boundaries to what any homebuyer can learn about the housing market. Having a more educated and informed consumer not only means that they are able to make a better decision regarding the purchasing of a new home, but it also means that the role of the real estate professional is becoming increasingly less important. Before the introduction of the Internet, brokers were relied upon for most of the information regarding their housing markets. If they are going to remain a major role player in real estate, brokers will have to adapt quickly to the changing industry.

There are a number of ways professionals can use the Internet to reach the new generation of homebuyer. Although the Internet might limit the consumer’s reliability on real estate professionals, the Internet does offer a new medium through which the industry can advertise. The Internet is a relatively cheap way to reach a large number of people, and is becoming large part of most companies advertising campaigns. Also, companies could begin to offer certain online services via their website, which could once again increase their role with consumers. There is a lot of potential for brokerage firms with the Internet, and they must utilize that potential in order to keep up with the evolving industry.

If the people currently working in real estate would like to keep up with the industry they will have to adapt to the changing environment; if they fail to do so, the entire industry will pass them by. With that said, real estate professionals can take advantage of certain aspects of the new direction the industry is going by offering a number different services that only the Internet allows. There is an opportunity for professionals to make themselves more available to homebuyers and owners. This generation has a lot of information available to them, and they have begun to utilize it. The homebuyer is no longer the traditional family in the United States, and the real estate industry is becoming anything but traditional.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Real Estate Goes Green: Homeowners Become More Environmentally Conscious

The past few years have brought to the United States a newfound respect for, and awareness of, the state of the natural world. This awareness can be seen in many different aspects of human life, whether it be through the increased use of hybrid cars, the development of cleaner burning forms of fuel, or the number of environmentally charged films, like "An Inconvenient Truth," that have been recently gaining popularity. Though there has been a very noticeable change in overall attitude, homeowners have not yet taken a significant stand on eliminating methods harmful to the environment. With that said, recent developments of energy saving techniques have piqued homeowners' interest in the effect that they can have on the environment. With these developments, along with a recent increase in awareness, many homeowners are beginning to take an active role in lowering the energy they consume.

The U.S. Green Building Council, an organization focused on raising environmental awareness throughout the real estate industry, defines a green house as being one that uses less energy, less natural resources and a smaller number of toxic chemicals. According to the USGBC, green buildings can improve air and water quality, reduce solid waste, conserve natural resources and contribute through a variety of other environmental and economical means. A green house does not need to stand out, and could even be made with a less toxic form of paint or a showerhead that uses less water. Building a green house is not necessarily about excessive lifestyle changes, but rather, is about taking a more active and conscious role in the effects that homes can have on the environment, as well as the effects that homes can have on the human body.

According to the Department of Energy, more than 85 percent of the energy consumed in the U.S. comes from fossil fuels -e.g. coal, oil, and natural gas- and 18 percent of that comes from individual homes. An article written by Lew Sichelman, a contributing writer to the Los Angeles Times, entitled "New products say it loud: They’re green and they’re proud", predicts that over the next 25 years “40 million houses and 20 million square feet of commercial space will be built to accommodate America's swelling population.” Certain methods, such as solar power, shown above, and wind power have been available for many years, and do severely limit the amount of hurtful energy consumed by individual households. However, the costs involved in providing such power are extremely high, and unreasonable for the majority of the population. Because of this, new methods are being developed to benefit the earth, as well as homeowners' bank accounts.

The Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, estimates that “the typical house loses 15 to 20 percent of its heat or air conditioning leakage from ducts alone.” Sarah Max, a contributing writer to, says, “Energy-conscious construction can significantly reduce that waste. Some of the savings come from materials that provide extra thermal resistance, such as…insulated concrete forms. More can come from designs that maximize exposure to winter sun and minimize summer heat.” These ideas are simple, and for the most part, do not have the high costs that are often associated with energy conscious designs. They might not have as profound of an effect on the environment, but present a great starting point for the majority of homeowners building new homes or reconstructing old ones. There are, however, some bigger scale methods being developed that will play a large role in the state of the environment in years to come.

One new method being developed is underwater logging. Triton Logging, a company based out of Canada, currently manufactures lumber products that are made from trees found solely in underwater forests. Triton Logging was recently recognized as one of the top ten products of the year by the editors of the Environmental Building News, an award that recognizes the most innovative and exciting new green building products. The trees that Triton cuts and manufactures come from forests that have been submerged for years due to hydroelectric dams that created reservoirs and lakes. This is done through the use of remote-controlled submarines, shown right, that clamp onto trees, attach flotation devices to them, and cut the trees with an electric chainsaw. The trees are cut, rather than ripped out, to avoid releasing a large amount of sediment in the lake floor. The company believes that there could be up to 100 billion board feet underwater throughout the world. This process has the ability to greatly lower the need for trees in forests throughout the world. It could provide a much-needed break in the destruction of rainforests, and could end up having a great impact on the environment.

Another example of environmentally friendly home production comes in the form of a new type of countertop being developed, called PaperStone. According to Sichelman, this is a “dense, hard, water-resistant, solid-surface composite made from cellulose fiber and a nonpetroleum phenolic resin derived, in part, from a natural oil in cashew shells…the latest PaperStone is 100% post-consumer recycled paper.” This product is not only environment friendly, but also extremely practical, offering no less functionality than any of its competitors. It is products like this that will eventually become commonplace in homes throughout the United States, and severely limit unnecessary waste.

The one drawback in building a house with such environmentally friendly features is the initial investment required. This investment might be overwhelming in a few cases, with construction costs increasing by more than 20 percent. However, in most cases, homeowners only spend about 2 to 4 percent more on construction costs. A simple change would not bring too high of a cost, and would most likely end up paying for itself in the long run with lower energy bills. With that said, a green house might not be the best idea for a short term investment, but if you are planning on living in one place for a long time, then creating a more environmentally friendly home, even on the smallest of scales, would be a great idea. With all of the new environmentally conscious methods being developed, it won't be long until green houses become as common as traditional houses. Not only will it help the environment, it will also decrease energy costs, and increase a home's resale value considerably.