Real (Estate) Tech: The Luxury Market, Six-Terabyte Hard Drives, and Facebook Camera

What do the Wall Street Journal and Geekwire have in common? Real (Estate) Tech! It’s all the best rental real estate and technology news rolled up into one convenient monthly feature. Here we go…

1. It’s official: Apple is “the world’s most valuable brand.”

Millward Brown’s 2012 BrandZ Top 100 list is out, and the major players are about what you’d expect. Apple Inc. is at number one, as it was last year; Microsoft follows at number five, with Amazon.com in the top 20 as well. “Despite a prolonged period of economic stress…the value of the world’s leading brands keeps rising,” Millward Brown CEO Eileen Campbell said in a statement. What does this mean for landlords? If you’re going digital with your business, stay Apple-friendly–but don’t go naming your building the iPartment; it’s been done. Check out the Techflash article here.

2. The rental market has remained tight this Spring–especially for upscale renters.

Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you: vacancy is low all over the market, with affordable rental housing very difficult to find. But it’s not just the affordable market that’s tight–according to a new article from the Wall Street Journal, it’s equally difficult to find a luxury apartment these days. Why is vacancy so low? “There is a three-year cycle for development,” explains Nancy Packes, a consultant in New York. “We’re at the bottom of the cycle now.” So what’s the advice for renters who just have to live in that “Starchitect” building? Bring your money and your paperwork to the showing. And as for property managers, just sit back and relax–there are clearly more than enough renters to go around. Read the article here.

3. Share photos of your vacancies with…Facebook Camera?

The past few years have seen the democratization of photography, as camera phones have gained megapixels, better lenses, and the apps to go with all of that hardware at an exponential rate. Facebook’s $1 billion Instagram acquisition was a sign of the times–people are documenting their lives with photos, and they’re sharing them on social networks. Now Facebook has gone a step further, releasing Facebook Camera, and iPhone app that turns Facebook into a photo-centered experience. Much like Pinterest, marketing potential for the rental market is definitely there in Facebook Camera–every app of this sort provides another avenue in which to generate buzz about a building or unit. Read the Geekwire article here.

4. Marketwatch: the strong apartment rental sector is good for everyone.

The latest from Marketwatch is nothing but good news for real estate, both rental and otherwise. According to the National Association of Realtors’ quarterly commercial real estate forecast, the apartment rental sector has not only fully recovered over the past few years, but continued to grow–and that’s good for the economy as a whole. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, explains: “By far the greatest impact of job creation is multifamily housing, where newly formed households striking out on their own have increased the demand for apartment rentals.” Check out the article here.

5. Hardware tip from the NYTimes: Need secure data storage and surveillance that doesn’t break the bank?

Gadgetwise, from the New York Times, caught our attention this week when it reviewed the Iomega StorCenter ix2, a portable hard drive with six terabytes of storage and a built-in processor. Starting at around $200, the drive can perform remote backups and even record video surveillance when networked with cameras from Sony or Panasonic. With cameras sold separately, it’s not dirt cheap, but it’s less expensive than many of the alternatives with that kind of storage capacity, and might be just the trick for running surveillance in common building spaces. Read the review here.

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Real (Estate) Tech: Low Vacancies, Sixties Decor, and Schmoozer of the Year

1. Apartment vacancies are the lowest they’ve been in a decade.

Reis Inc., a real estate research firm, has the latest news–and it’s so very good. The nationwide vacancy average currently stood at 4.9% for the first quarter, which is the lowest it’s been since 2001. Thanks to the low vacancy, rents across the country have jumped 0.5% this quarter, to an average of $1,070 per month. Reis expects rent growth to continue rising this year; check out the Reuters article for all the juicy details.

2. The Seattle 2.0 Startup Awards: there’s a Schmoozer of the Year? 

This very-Seattle awards show took place at the EMP yesterday. Winners included Investor of the Year (Chris Cooley of Founder’s Co-op), Schmoozer of the Year (Shauna Causey, VP of Marketing at Decide.com), Deal of the Year (Popcap Games), and–of course–Geek of the Year (Jim Demonakos of Emerald City Comicon). Check out Geekwire’s article for a full list of winners (and links to the companies we mentioned above). Maybe you’ll see Reachwerks on that stage someday!

3. Buildings with their very own libraries? New York does set the trends…

While gyms and rooftop gardens have long been standard offerings for many urban apartment buildings, a new trend has been quietly taking root as a way to stand out in the myriad of apartment towers in New York City. We know what you’re thinking: Libraries? Really? But put down your Kindle for a moment and check out the slideshow–these spaces are gorgeous and peaceful and a great way to foster a sense of community among tenants. Click here for the full article from the New York Times.

4. When it comes to interior decorating, it’s a Mad, Mad world.

Mad Men–perhaps you’ve heard of it? The Emmy-winning show from AMC is set in the 1960’s, and the show’s impeccable wardrobe sparked a recurring interest in pencil skirts and charcoal suits a couple of years ago. Now the sparkling set design has ignited a passion for split levels and vintage Danish Modern. As Mad Men’s fifth season continues, expect to see plenty of Barcelona Chairs and optical illusion pieces cropping up in the next few months. Want to decorate your home or a model apartment with a sixties theme? Check out the Seattle Times article for tips.

5. There are now more single-family rental units than units in apartment towers.

This tidbit comes from the Wall Street Journal’s Developments blog. According to data from CoreLogic, there are approximately 20.7 million 1-4 unit rentals out there; compare that with 17.1 million rentals in multifamily buildings (with five or more units). “The main hurdle facing Wall Street, however, is how to make single-family rentals behave like stocks, bonds and other tradable securities,” writes Robbie Whelan. Check out the full article here.