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Real Estate Corporate

Huh, Amazon just bought a hotel… but why?

(REAL ESTATE CORPORATE) Amazon is everywhere, and now they are a new owner of a Residence Inn hotel by Marriott in Arlington, Virginia. But for what purpose?

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Open hotel door, is Amazon getting into hotel hospitality?

Amazon is everywhere these days. It is a delivery service that offers free two-day shipping with Amazon Prime. It is a grocery store with its food delivery service, Amazon Fresh. It is a television and film producer and distributor through the company’s Amazon Studios. And now, is it a hotel?

The giant e-commerce company has recently purchased the Residence Inn by Marriott near its second North American headquarters (HQ2) in Arlington, Virginia. But, no need to fret, Amazon isn’t going to be a hotel chain any time soon… yet. However, the company has tried steering in that direction already with Alexa for Hospitality, which offers a voice control system for hotels.

This hotel is part of the 11.6-acre development expansion in PenPlace — Arlington County’s largest undeveloped lot. But, the hotel isn’t what Amazon is interested in. The location is. According to an Amazon spokesperson, the hotel will be demolished. Even though it doesn’t need to be removed for development to continue, it’s still going to be taken down. With it gone, Amazon will be able to “maximize its new space and create a cohesive employee campus that aligns with its vision.” According to Forbes, Amazon has committed to employing 25,000 people by 2030. So, it’s going to need to maximize that space to fit everyone in it.

And, this expansion comes with a $148.5 million price tag. Acorn Development LLC, a subsidiary of Amazon, from Blackstone Group LP made the purchase back in September this year. In July of 2019, Blackstone had purchased the property for only $99.1 million. By Amazon purchasing the property, Blackstone profited almost $50 million.

With the hospitality industry being hit so hard by the pandemic, will other companies follow Amazon’s lead? Will they see hotels as an opportunity to acquire a good amount of space for a sweeter price with the added bonus of not having to deal with the landlords?

In a statement, Frank Cohen, chairman and CEO of Blackstone’s non-traded real estate investment trust, said, “This sale illustrates our ability to generate value for our investors by identifying attractive real estate assets in desirable locations. We will continue to invest in assets where we have high conviction and selectively sell where we see compelling pricing.”

While this all makes sense, I’m not so sure if buying hotels is going to be something all companies will shift to. In this case, the Residence Inn in Pentagon City that Amazon purchased helped the company secure control over an entire 11-acre square block in PenPlace. So, Amazon’s decision is not based on the hotel. Instead, it is based on how purchasing that hotel property is going to help them achieve its HQ2 plans.

However, hotels as real estate could be a benefit for struggling hotels. Hotels who might not be able to sail through this storm could try to get as much as they can. And investors, maybe they could make a profit like Blackstone.

Veronica Garcia has a Bachelor of Journalism and Bachelor of Science in Radio/TV/Film from The University of Texas at Austin. When she’s not writing, she’s in the kitchen trying to attempt every Nailed It! dessert, or on the hunt trying to find the latest Funko Pop! to add to her collection.

Real Estate Corporate

Really, Zillow, ANOTHER patent? This time, a presentation quibble

(REAL ESTATE CORPORATE) We’d like to say we’re surprised, but we also just are not as Zillow grabs another patent, further limiting small business innovation.

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Open moving boxes affected by Zillow patents

Alright, Zillow, I guess we’re doing this again.

Zillow, an acclaimed real estate website and patent hoarder of the first degree, has claimed yet another patent to add to their ever-growing list. We’d feign outrage, but at this point, it’s just redundant.

The patent in question relates to the presentation of information regarding a house or property. More specifically, the patent addresses the way that information is formatted. Should the image contain “a primary pane and at least two secondary panes to simultaneously display at least three types of information about the interior of the house in a coordinated manner”—you know, like every site ever—Zillow technically holds the patent for that style of presentation.

The way in which a user navigates through the aforementioned information is also mentioned in the patent. According to the patent information, if one must use “multiple user-selectable controls that modify information shown in the displayed GUI” to move through the photos or videos listed in the patented panes, that technically falls under the domain of the patent itself.

In theory, this doesn’t sound terrible; however, so many sites present information using the “pane” layout, and virtually every site that does so also uses arrows or other visual indicators—or, to use the patent language, “multiple user-selectable controls”—to navigate through that information.

We’ve spoken at length about how Zillow’s patent behavior is ruthless and, at times, bordering on maniacal. The sheer number of patents Zillow has accrued even in the last few years is astounding, and they all share one crucial commonality: Their application to competitors.

The implications of a company being able to scoop up patents left and right like this are frightening. Real estate isn’t exactly an easy enterprise to break into, and Zillow appears to be doing their damnedest to ensure that it stays that way by preventing smaller businesses from using objectively intuitive ways to show properties.

Worse still, these patent grabs are occurring during a period of time in which safe, remote presentation of information has never been more critical. To say that this is a flagrant abuse of patent law would be an understatement. Simply put, this kind of behavior is unethical, unwarranted, and—apparently—unpunished.

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Real Estate Corporate

STOP giving Zillow your ad money, listing data – today, they’re a competing brokerage

(REAL ESTATE) We’ve warned of this for years, the industry funded it, and Zillow Homes brokerage has launched, and there are serious questions at hand.

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zillow group

Zillow Homes was announced today, a Zillow licensed brokerage that will be fully operational in 2021 in Phoenix, Tucson, and Atlanta.

Whoa, big huge yawn-inducing shocker, y’all.

We’ve been warning for more than a decade that this was the end game, and the company blackballed us for our screams (and other criticisms, despite praise when merited here and there).

Blog posts were penned in fiery effigy calling naysayers like us stupid and paranoid.

Well color me unsurprised that the clarity of the gameplan was clear as day all along over here, and the paid talking heads sent out to astroturf, gaslight, and threaten us are now all quiet.

They figuratively swore on their collective dead grandmothers’ graves that they’d never ever EVER ever ever practice real estate, but they’ve openly inched closer and closer to that status, with today marking the official date that no human can make that pinkie promise ever again.

Years ago, they began acquiring startups that pointed to this end game. Then they promised they were seeking brokers licenses across the nation so their operations and referral partnerships were more legit and they could do more than just soak up your ad budgets like an unworthy, moldy sponge, they could panhandle for your referral fees and inhale MLS feeds created by Realtors.

Fast forward to today, and they’re literally a traditional real estate brokerage.

Your ad dollars funded this.

Yawn. BUT…

How can anyone defend sending their listing data to Zillow? I mean they did swear on their dead grammy that they’d remain an entertainment media/search site in perpetuity.

How can any broker defend pouring ad money into a competitor? If you’re a KW broker, do you spend $10K to advertise on Coldwell Bankers’ main site or C21’s portal? OF COURSE NOT BECAUSE YOU HAVE A BRAIN. One that can read, write, and reason.

So why then would Zillow remain part of your marketing strategy now that they’ve pulled the final band aid off of the mound of band aids masking their subterfuge of your business?

Let’s say I haven’t convinced you because you like their logo, you think their leadership is geeky chic and you want to be like them. Okay, let’s watch the launch video together:

Such script. Much wow.

If you had “reimagine,” “innovation,” “streamline,” and “raising the bar” on your Real Estate Bullshit Buzzwords Bingo card, you win the chance to do one whole eyeroll, and I mean a really dramatic one. Go ahead, I’ll wait…

I want to be upset by this, but we’ve watched this ultimate trainwreck in super slow motion, so their explanation of the “hand off” being “confusing” as their inspiration is just laugh worthy. And sadly, expected.

What if your worry is that these big boys will use your data to find the “best” agents? Don’t worry, they swear again on their grammys’ graves that they won’t use their massive data to pinpoint talent and recruit agents from other brokerages, they’ll only use current employees and get ’em licensed up to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with you in your business. They can’t even come up with their own model, they’ve lifted yours and Redfin’s model. Oooh, innovative.

There’s no surprise in today’s news, but the excuses and delivery are overwhelmingly nauseating.

But hey, at least they no longer have to pretend that they took your money and data all of these years to benefit their eventual brokerage launch.

Next up, we’ll explain what this has to do with Zillow’s patent spree and how it will inevitably and irreversibly damage the real estate industry (these people really are evil geniuses, you’ve gotta give it to ’em).

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Real Estate Corporate

JPMorgan hurries to open and already has a case of COVID-19

(BUSINESS NEWS) JPMorgan has been eager to return employees to their office. But reopening has already resulted in a COVID-positive employee, raising staff concerns.

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JPMorgan interior office, hoping to return to normal.

JPMorgan’s New York branch is suffering reopening setbacks after a newly-returned employee already tested positive for COVID-19. After nearly six months of working at home, the company is eager to get workers back into the physical office and set a hard September 21st deadline for equity traders and senior management. In a report by Bloomberg, at least one unidentified worker has tested positive for the virus on the fifth floor of the 383 Madison Ave. building last week.

This case merely reflects the massive challenges facing companies across the world as workers are asked to return to office spaces. Some offices buildings are getting the coronavirus renovation treatment à la touch-less doors and faucets, improved air ventilation systems, and wet wipes and hand sanitizer galore. But the risk of exposure is never zero.

JPMorgan is one of the few banks putting pressure on reopening. Over this summer Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon has voiced concerns about the ramifications of extending remote work. He recently told Keefe, Bruyette & Woods analysts that productivity has slipped as employees work from home, with output primarily affected on Mondays and Fridays. He’s advocated for the government cautiously reopening cities in order to improve the economy.

Rightly, employees are concerned about their safety over the company incentive to bring back their pre-pandemic profits in-office. JPMorgan’s aggressive strategy is quite different from American Express. They hold about as much presence in NYC, and are allowing all its employees to work remotely until July 2021.

JPMorgan spokesman Brain Marchiony declined to to say how many workers tested positive this week though he said the company is “is following appropriate protocols when they occur.” Marchiony did not comment on whether the push to reopen would continue, or what percentage of employees were working in branch offices.

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