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Op/Ed

How a generational war is killing home sales

The Baby Boomers are happily sitting on their jobs and their homes – and they’ve got no plans to budge.

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The Millennials’ greatest challenge may not be the lousy economy that kept them in mailroom jobs much longer than earlier generations or not even student loan debt, the penalty they pay for having the bad luck to be educated at a time when the costs of running colleges and universities sky rocketed.

Could it be that their biggest problem is their parents?

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Sitting on the ladder you’re trying to climb

Fortified by the best medicine and empowered by the longest life spans in human history, Boomers are simply old and in the way. As employers ended forced retirement policies and Social Security began encouraging workers to wait until 80 for full benefits, millions of Boomers didn’t retire, blocking advancement for younger workers. 

In 1993, only 29% of people age 65 were in the labor force; the vast majority were retired. By 2012 more than 41% of Boomers over 65 were still in the labor force, the highest since the early 1960s.

Millennials are launching their careers later and taking longer to get traction in careers that pay a living wage. It now takes the average young worker until age 30 to reach the middle of the wage distribution; young workers in 1980 reached the same point at age 26. Young adults’ labor force participation rate is down to its 1972 level, after 40 years of growth between 1950 and 1990.

Now the same thing is happening in housing.

Choosing remodels over downsizing

The first wave of 78 million baby boomers on the verge of retirement was supposed to be selling their paid off, hard to maintain family homes and downsizing or renting by now. Demographer Arthur C. Nelson, author of Reshaping Metropolitan America, predicted that so many Boomer homes would flood the market that next year “the Great Senior Sell-off” would begin—a fire sale of properties so massive it will create America’s next housing crisis.

It ain’t happening.

Instead, a huge number of Boomers are “aging in place,” contributing to the inventory drought that is stunting the housing recovery, by keeping their homes off the market and making it harder for move up buyers to buy and sell the starter homes that are so scarce in hotter markets.

For as long as possible

A new study released last month by the Bipartisan Policy Center found that 38 percent of Boomers aren’t planning on moving at all. As for downsizing, the BPC reported that between 2011 and 2013, the average number of rooms per home increased, both for all Boomers and for younger Boomers born between 1956 and 1965.

The findings echo a 2010 AARP survey of individuals aged 45 and above, 73 percent of respondents strongly agreed with the statement, “What I’d really like to do is stay in my current residence for as long as possible.”

Rather than stimulating home sales, the home-bound Boomers are creating a miniboom for remodelers to retrofit their homes for senior living.

Old and in the way, that’s what I heard them say
They used to heed the words he said, but that was yesterday
Gold will turn to gray and youth will fade away
They’ll never care about you, call you old and in the way

– “Old and in the Way” words and music by David Grisman, October 1973

Patience is a virtue

Time, of course, will bring an end to the Boomers. The torch will be passed in the housing markets as well as the workplaces. It will just take a little longer than planned.

#BabyBoomers

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Steve Cook is editor and co-publisher of Real Estate Economy Watch, which has been recognized as one of the two best real estate news sites in the nation by the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Before he co-founded REEW in 2007, Cook was vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Realtors.

Op/Ed

A hugely dangerous challenge of the Internet of Things

(EDITORIAL) The Internet of Things is here, with all manner of soft AI voices and shiny Bluetooth bits. But how long can we count on it staying?

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LG Alexa internet of things

So, robot apocalypse. The Internet of Things machines have their cold metal fingers all up in our data, our houses, our sand dunes and/or porn.

And for what? What do they offer in exchange for this unprecedented invasion of our day to day lives?

Seamless, user-friendly automation to help with a thousand daily tasks, demonstrably improving our quality of life.

That’s… that’s actually a pretty good offer! Nice work, robots.

It comes with catches, and we’ve covered those, but Day One bumps and blunders are part of owning tech. They generally get engineered out.

What I want to talk about is Day 100, or 1000. Because the important word in “Internet of Things” isn’t “Internet.” We have the Internet. We can confidently expect the Internet to continue being a big deal.

But “things” is an important word. Things are distinct from tech. With tech, buying the thing and futzing with the thing are part of the fun, especially for practicing nerds like your narrator. Tech is new, and the excitement of a new game or a new phone can take the edge off, say, a server crash or a quick trip to tech support and back.

What about things? No early adopter aura in history will get a customer to ignore a fridge full of rotten food. Fridges need to work, period. So does your thermostat and your car. All those things are charter candidates for the full IoT overhaul, and they’re all capital T Things, not tech. They aren’t shiny toys people can live without for a week or four. They’re expected parts of daily life, things that need to work on Day 1, 100, and 1000.

Are companies preparing for that? Are the startups rising out of the blue-light-white-plastic Stuff Renaissance prepared to rebrand as global service providers, doing the hard, unglamorous, absolutely necessary work of digital maintenance?

Bigger question: are they prepared to guarantee security while they do so? Because anything with digitized bits needs patches and updates to function, and if it can download patches and updates, it can download things that are not patches and updates. No one wants to chase a botnet out of their microwave. Are the companies invested in always-on Things standing up and saying they’ll take responsibility for indefinitely securing and maintaining the infrastructure they intend to profit from?

Short answer, no. They’re not. Operations departments tend to be vanishingly small, painfully understaffed, spectacularly underpaid. Let’s be real,: we don’t prioritize stuff like that. We’re talking the digital equivalent of the guy who chases the raccoons out of your HVAC, and that sounds entirely too much like work.

Maintenance is not sexy.

But it’s absolutely necessary. It’s generally just the beginning of a thing. It gets the wheel rolling, and that’s not to be undersold.

But the IoT wheel is most definitely rolling. The issue is keeping it in motion, making it a wifi-level universal usage standard, not a 3DTV fad.

That won’t get done in a meeting. That gets done through long term adoption, and long term adoption will be about attracting, training, and retaining people willing to do the hard work of maintenance and customer support.

The Internet of Things wants to be a major step forward in the infrastructure of daily life. I am incredibly in favor of that. But daily life works because it’s the full time job of a whole lot of people to make sure it does so. So to Internet of Things companies, I say – pay them, treat them well, make your organization the best place in the industry for them, or be left behind by the people who do.

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Op/Ed

The texting sin to never commit with your clients, period

(EDITORIAL) Clear communication with clients is important (and that’s an understatement). This study found one error that separated the sincere text from the insincere.

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I have enough issues making myself understood when I speak with someone face-to-face. Now I need to pay attention to how I text so as not to be misconstrued.

According to the latest findings from Celia Klin, associate professor of psychology and associate dean at Binghamton University’s Harpur College, the mere use of a period (.) can make a person seem less sincere compared to say, using an exclamation point (!), which, by the way, ranks higher on the sincerity meter.

The study, led by Celia Klin of Binghamton University, and published in Computers in Human Behavior, suggests ending your text messages with a period makes them seem less sincere to the receiver.

Participants in the study read short exchanges with responses that either did or did not contain messages that ended with a period.

When the messages were in text message form, as opposed to handwritten notes, the messages that ended with a period were generally rated as being less sincere than messages that didn’t end in a period.

Klin points out that “Texting is lacking many of the social cues used in actual face-to-face conversations. When speaking, people easily convey social and emotional information with eye gaze, facial expressions, tone of voice, pauses, and so on.”

Instead, adds Professor Klin, people who text rely on what they have available to them: “…emoticons, deliberate misspellings that mimic speech sounds and punctuation.”

I’m not sure what the alternative to texting is. Lifehacker.com recently published its findings of what it feels are the five best alternative texting apps. But at the end of the day (or end of the sentence in this case) you are still texting and thus still setting yourself up for the dreaded improper use of a period (.)

That said, Lifehacker’s survey revealed that WhatsApp leads the pack. WhatsApp is a cross-platform messaging system that supports Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and Blackberry devices. WhatsApp is popular because the service is backed by hundreds of millions of active users, and allows you to send text, photo, and voice/video messages to individuals and groups for free using mobile data or Wi-Fi. And there’s not a Period (.) in sight. You can see the rest of the top five contenders by clicking here.

In terms of expressing myself, the use of emoticons works perfectly for me. Trouble is, within a professional context the cartoon-like emoticon looks out of place. That’s OK. It’s the next best thing to speaking in person (which I’d rather do anyway) and it sure beats worrying about period (.) misuse.

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Op/Ed

Why you should lose the sweat pants if you work from home

(EDITORIAL) While it’s tempting to cozy up and work in your most comfortable sweatpants or yoga pants, there are a number of reasons that dressing up to go to work can help increase work from home productivity.

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There are many often discussed benefits to working from home. If you’re not spending time on a daily commute, that means you have more time to work on personal projects and share with your family and friends. Plus it saves you gas and/or fare money.

While it’s tempting to cozy up and work in your most comfortable sweatpants or yoga pants, there are a number of reasons that dressing up to go to work can help increase work from home productivity — even if you’re just commuting to your couch!

You should wear pants (yes, everyday).

When you look your best, you feel your best, and arguably work your best.

It’s pretty hard to resist the temptation of vegging out a bit if you’ve rolled out of bed and headed to your desk while still wearing pajamas. If you have no plan to get dressed for the day, the temptation to hit the snooze button until the moment you need to be present and accounted for will really work against you.

Your computer will say work, but your favorite oversized t-shirt says go back to bed.

When you’re working from home, planning to get up early and prepare for your day allows you to create a transitional space that will help distinguish your home life from your work life. Dressing for success, even if you don’t see anyone during your office hours, will drive your sense of purpose and help you carve out a more productive space. It will also signify to any family members or roommates that you’ve entered the workspace and shouldn’t be bothered.

If you work from a restaurant, coffee shop, or workspaces, it can make you more approachable.

If you’re not dressed for the part, those around you may assume that you’re spending your time recreationally. Even if you are constantly answering your phone, drafting emails, or working on a project. It’s deceptively easy to look like you’re simply browsing the internet or socializing in casual attire.

There are plenty of opportunities to network and meet new people, even when you work from home. You never know who you may end up connecting with, and dressing appropriately to your profession can send the message that you’re an expert and take what you do seriously.

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