Cool New Products at 2013 Builder’s Show

October 23, 2013

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 Two new innovative products showcased at the Southeast Builder’s Conference last month caused quite a stir.

 Encore Stone Products debuted its recycled granite pavers made from the granite waste created by countertop fabricators. Owner Brett Maugerihas found a way to turn that granite into 100% recycled granite pavers, interior tiles, and fire pits.

BRZ Brands displayed the BRZ Floor Guards, a product creating a specially-developed film covering for the bottom of your shoes that provides protection for carpet, tile, and hardwood floors. All you do is step into the “feet,” and you’re ready to go.

The BRZ Floor Guard is crafted from recycled plastic, features a recyclable film and has a low cost per use.


Peace on Earth

December 20, 2012

ImageTomorrow, if the world doesn’t come to end, I will celebrate yet another birthday.  It may be cliche, but what I will wish for when I blow out the candles is Peace on Earth.

There was a time when a puppy or G.I. Joe or even Glow-Globs were tops on my list, but those days are long gone.

The mindless killing of the children — and the adults charged with their care — in Newtown further magnifies that violence has become the backdrop for everyday life. This year alone,  there have been 16 mass shootings in the United States. Yes, 16, leaving 88 people dead.

Perhaps even more poignant, all of the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School — and for that matter, anyone born since 2001 — knows no other life than America at war.

I know there are no easy answers to the world’s strife. But at least for the next few days, may there be peace on earth and good will toward men.

Happy Holidays.


A Summer of Rental Discontent

June 21, 2012

 A slow down in apartment construction, coupled with low vacancy rates and a rising millennial demographic will continue to fuel a rise in apartment rents this summer.

According to Trulia, a company that tracks rents and home prices, it now costs more to rent than to own a home in 98 of the top 100 U.S. metropolitan areas.

Moody Analytics reports that demographics has become a leading factor in more people renting then buying, and “demand for rent will remain solid over the next two years.”  While the overall rental rate is 35%, the renter rate for those between the ages of 25-29 is nearly 65%, and for those under 24 years old, it is 77 percent, according to the Census Bureau.

On the single-family home stage, the rental craze has made it frustrating for the homebuyer. Inventory of “decent” homes is being depleted as investors snatch up single-family homes for the purpose of renting them out. Those left on the market are receiving multiple offers, resulting in bidding wars.  And prospective buyers with FHA loans are finding out that their loans may require sellers to do more home repairs than other loans. Subsequently, if a seller receives multiple offers, they may avoid the ones with FHA loans.

Prospective buyers are also losing homes to cash buyers and bidders with bigger down payments.

This is all playing into the hands of investors who surmised a couple of years ago:  “Accumulate hundreds or thousands of homes, rent to the 99% and make a killing when they dump them back on a property-starved market in three to five years,” according to Personal Real Estate & Investor.


Miss Your Basement?

March 26, 2012

A new kind of home has opened in Florida: It’s theTransformation House in Harmony Transformation House and it comes with its own Spacement©, a flex space like no other, especially if you miss that basement you had up north.

By opening a door and stepping up to the Spacement©, you find space that can be used for air-conditioned storage (Florida basement), a bonus area (grandchildren’s space), bedroom(s), bathroom(s) or a mixture of all. This flexible space can include one or two baths and two or three flex rooms.  And no matter what configuration the homeowner selects, the static mechanical, plumbing and electrical design coincides.

 Built in the town of Harmony by Wetherington Builders, the 2,500 square-foot, energy-efficient home is being certified by Tracy DeCarlo of One Stop Green Home Certification.

For more information, visit http://www.homebuildinglessons.com/TDBlog/2012/02/20/transformation-house-energy-efficient-flexible-green-and-accessible-3/

 


The Terra Firma…

February 17, 2012

The Terra Firma Institute: Eco-Friendly Values in Children

The exuberance of youth is alive and well inCentral Florida. And they have their sights set on how we educate our children.

By forming the Terra Firma Institute last June in Winter Park, a team of recent college graduates are laying the groundwork for something quite extraordinary: creating a generational change in the way we teach by returning to our roots and offering a better quality of education that emphasizes self-expression and instills eco-friendly values. This is far from a bunch of free-thinking antagonistic radicals — but they are out to change the world.

Founded by Clayton Ferrara of Winter Park, a 25-year-old 2009 Rollins College alumnus with degrees in Biology and Environmental Sciences, the Institute will accomplish its mission through a boutique eco-daycare, tutoring, and teaching others its methods. 

Ferrara chose the phrase Terra Firma — Latin for solid earth — since he believes education needs to do a better job at grounding us and concentrating more on the environment.  For example, he believes algebra could be taught by figuring out kilowatt hours or how much life a stream can manage.  The teachings will be conducted mainly through hands-on education in science, music and art.

“Science is what my degrees are in, but education is my real talent,” explainsFerrara. He decided to forego graduate school at MIT to be the Director of Education and Head Curator at the Oakland Nature Preserve in Central Florida. For two years, he honed his skills that would lead to launching the Institute.

To assure his vision comes to fruition,Ferraraturned to some of the finest young talent inCentral Florida.  Chris Castro, a 2010 graduate of the University of Central Florida (UCF) with a Bachelor’s in Environmental Science and a minor in Energy & Sustainability, is on board. The 23-year-old co-founded IDEAS (Intellectual Decisions on Environmental Awareness Solutions) as an undergraduate at UCF, a concept that has blossomed to 16 chapters at campuses nationwide. In December, he was honored for his work by President Barrack Obama at a White House holiday reception. He currently works forOrangeCountyas an energy specialist evaluating buildings for efficiency.

Castro explains that the work of Terra Firma and IDEAS is a perfect marriage, noting the IDEAS chapters make a great source of employees for the Institute when it opens.

“Terra Firma fills an incredible niche in the sustainability and environmental movements,” says Castro. “It will take generational shifts instilled in our current and younger generations.”

Lillie Wright ofWinter Park, who sits on the Institute’s Board of Directors, is offering guidance for the school’s evolving business plan. A 2010 Music Business graduate of FullSail University, Wright, 23, is working with Walker and Company building a sustainable elementary school inOrangeCounty.

“I see so much waste,” she says. “We have a chance to educate a younger generation to build things to last, not to be disposable.”

 Today Ferrara and his team are busy spreading the word about the Institute, writing grants, and raising funds to construct a building — green and sustainable, of course — to house the educational facility.

“We go under the banner of education,” he says, “but it’s really about finding yourself and being happy.”

For more information, contact hello@thinkterrafirma.org.

Reprinted from Central Florida Lifestyle, January 2012, by Kevin Fritz


Orlando’s Perfect Storm

November 29, 2011

Cap ratesOur economic problems at home keep us from seeing the value in our own market based on our own fears. But with the current prices, increasing rents, decreasing inventories, and a growing market, it appears to be the perfect storm for buying property in Orlando.  

Orlando is one of the key markets being targeted because of the availability of distressed properties, and because it has one of the highest cap rates in the country — 8.2% compared with a national average of 5.4%.  A cap rate is the rate of return on a particular investment — in this case, rental properties.  

In markets like Orlando that experienced high foreclosure rates, as well as price reductions of more than 50%, investing in rental housing has become the silver lining in the housing market today.


Have a (Cuban) Cigar, You’re Gonna Go Far

November 29, 2011

In the 1970s, Pink Floyd famously wrote “Have a Cigar” about making it in the world. Now the country known best for its cigars — Cuba — has given its citizens that same chance by allowing them to buy and sell homes at their discretion and to move at will. 

The National Association of Realtors leads the way in the United States to ensure Americans have the right to own, use, and transfer real property. The right to own your own home may seem innate to most Americans, so it is hard to imagine there are places in the world where the buying and selling of real estate is forbidden.

But thanks to reforms being undertaken by President Raul Castro, Cuba is no longer one of those places. A multiple listing-type website is reportedly already flooded with listings as Cubans find themselves with the freedom to buy and sell real estate for the first time since Fidel Castro took power in 1959.

The new law went into effect November 10, and there are limitations, such as two homes per owner and financing must go through Cuba’s Central Bank. Some worry the change could worsen class warfare and lead to a major homelessness problem as properties are bought out from under others, especially from money supplied by investors outside of Cuba.

For a more detailed look at the new Cuban law, read Cuba to Allow Buying and Selling of Property, With Few Restrictions by Victoria Burnett of the New York Times.