Published by Ronald Gray on May 16, 2017

Three social housing projects that defied design conventions

Several social housing programs have been established to provide affordable rental homes to low-income families around the world. In the US for instance, approximately 1.2 million families benefit from the thousands of government housing units peppered throughout the country.

Housing units may come in different shapes and sizes but most of the time, these buildings aren’t exactly that architecturally and aesthetically impressive. However, many developers around the globe agree that affordable housing design doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, high-quality design juxtaposed with affordability is very much possible.

Here are some of the world’s most impressive social housing projects that will leave you speechless:

 

Image source: archdaily.com

Image source: archdaily.com

Honeycomb Apartments

This honeycomb-shaped social housing project is located in Slovenia. It’s composed of 60 apartment units and was completed in 2006. According to the design firm OFIS, the buildings were created to be flexible, with no structural elements inside them, providing more layout choices and instant reorganization.

Image source: thespaces.com

Image source: thespaces.com

Mirador Housing Project

Located in Madrid, Spain, this social housing structure is composed of a mini-neighborhood arranged vertically around a semi-public sky-plaza. The designer, MVRDV, successfully used light, color and an innovative circulation to create dynamically beautiful yet affordable 165-unit building.

Thanks to the Empresa Municipal de la Viviedna y Suelo de Madrid, the project was funded and completed in 2005.

Image source: inhabitat.com

Image source: inhabitat.com

Savonnerie Heymans

This housing project is located in Belgium and was a site of a former soap factory. Designed by MDW Architecture, the building is composed of sustainable accommodations ranging from studios to even several 6-bedroom apartments.

In addition, the design and structure of this project provide effective acoustical and thermal barrier in all its 42 units. You can also find public and outdoor spaces like the “mini forest” and a 3D landscaped park.

 

Low-cost housing developments are a rapidly growing segment of the real estate industry, both in developed countries and emerging markets. Especially with these types of design revolutions, which apparently do not compromise quality and budget, they are increasingly attractive to home buyers, investors, and even expatriates. The business is set boom in the next couple of years.

Published by Ronald Gray on May 12, 2017

REPOST: Japan’s Priests Turn to Property Development

Places of worship in Japan, such as temples and shrines, are located in some of the most lucrative spaces in the country’s congested cities. This is probably the reason why many developers have turned to priests to negotiate on constructing what they call ‘pilgrimage lodgings.’ The full report on Bloomberg:

 

Many shrines are in bustling city locations. Photographer: Shiho Fukada/Bloomberg

Many shrines are in bustling city locations. Photographer: Shiho Fukada/Bloomberg

Shinto elders at the centuries-old Unesco World Heritage Site of Shimogamo Shrine upset some neighbors when they bulldozed a swath of old Kyoto forest to build an apartment complex with units selling for more than $2 million apiece. “They should call it the Shimogamo Corporation,” says one angry parishioner, Akira Hitomi.

 

Skepticism of religion is common enough in Japan that there’s a saying, “If you want to get rich, become a priest.” In truth, many of Japan’s 180,000 temples and shrines are in deep financial trouble, says Yoshihide Sakurai, a professor of sociology of religion at Hokkaido University. “They need side businesses to make ends meet.” Many people in Japan visit Shinto shrines for weddings and New Year’s Day, and Buddhist temples for funerals, but fewer than 40 percent consider themselves religious, according to surveys by public broadcaster NHK. Fewer still are devoted enough to pay for the upkeep of places of worship, many of which are hundreds of years old and made of wood.

 

To make money, Japanese priests have hosted speed-dating events, rapping battles, and televised flower-arranging contests. They’ve also turned to real estate, a sign of the times as Japan experiences a property boom fueled by ultralow interest rates and a new inheritance tax that’s encouraged retirees to shelter money in rental properties. Real estate investment last year accounted for about a third of the country’s economic growth.

 

Location, location, location—it’s the big reason consultants and developers, including West Japan Railway Co. and homebuilding giant Sekisui House Ltd., are pitching projects to priests. Temples and shrines occupy some of the best buildable spaces in the country’s jampacked cities. In the central district of Osaka, wrecking balls are busy demolishing an old building Otani Shinshu Buddhists used for weddings and funerals. When construction is finished in 2019, a 17-floor business hotel operated by the Excel Tokyu Hotel group will stand beside the temple’s main hall. In Tokyo, Mitsui Fudosan Co. has so far developed an office tower and two condominiums on land leased from shrines. One is a short walk from the country’s busiest train station.

 

Continue reading HERE.

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Published by Ronald Gray on April 19, 2017

A galaxy in the making: Star Wars theme parks

One of the world’s largest media franchises (second only to Pokemon and ahead of both Harry Potter and James Bond), Star Wars has transcended way beyond its cinematic origins. This US$42-billion (as of December 2015) entertainment empire has amassed plenty of tie-in projects, which include merchandise items, graphic novels, books, and even video games.  There is no limit as to which platforms the franchise can foray into, owing to its very special place in popular culture.

 

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Image source: cnn.com

 

Ever since the 1970s, the Star Wars movies have been bringing the world by storm. They are hailed as one of the most watched films of all time in almost all markets. That is because of the impeccable story line, the unforgettable acting, and of course the larger-than-life special effects. They have captivated the hearts of not only children but almost every other age group as well. It also makes people want to become Jedis. Let’s face it, there is nothing cooler than using lightsabers and the Force. Now, Disney is going to take the entire experience a step further by allowing fans to immerse themselves in the subculture.

 

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Image source: gizmodo.com

 

In the Star Wars Celebration 2017, Disney Imagineers and Lucasfilm employees has broken to the public their plans to open a Star Wars themed park named Star Wars Land in 2019. It will be one of the many irresistible attractions in Disney World California and Disney World Florida. As a matter of fact, at 14 acres, it will become the largest single-themed expansion in the entire history of Disney.

 

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Image source: wikimedia.org

 

There is even news that there will be a luxury starship resort. Once finished, the wall decorations and roof ornaments will certainly make visitors feel like they are in a whole new dimension. To ensure that they are on the right track, the company has sent out surveys to guests regarding their interest in the spaceship-inspired project. The whole park will become available to the public the same time as opening night for Star Wars Episode 9.

Published by Ronald Gray on March 24, 2017

REPOST: The Top 3 Hottest Real Estate Markets for 2017 Are in Florida

Beachfront houses are still among the most popular properties in the market, and Florida is definitely a top destination for such coastal dream homes. The full story on this Coastal Living post:

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Where are the hottest real estate markets this year? Turns out the top ones are on the beach—meaning that this might be your year to make the leap and snatch up your dream house.

Trulia recently published its list of the 10 hottest real estate markets to watch in 2017, and—no surprise—several coastal markets made the list. Trulia based its ranking of the 100 largest metro areas across the country on five criteria: a high search interest, a decreasing rate of vacancy, high affordability, a high rate of job growth, and a high population of people happy with the outcome of the presidential election.

The “hottest” markets vary depending on who you talk to—Zillow’s ranking of the hottest markets of the year looked very different. But if you’re looking for coastal real estate in an affordable city that has few people moving out of it, this list of the hottest coastal markets of 2017 might offer some suggestions. If you’re looking to capitalize on the recovering housing market and purchase your dream coastal escape, consider these hot markets:

1. JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA
Number one overall and number one on the coastal list, Jacksonville has a high rate of job growth and high interest from out-of-towners looking to move there. Best of all, it’s more affordable than other, similar markets in the state.

2. CAPE CORAL-FORT MYERS, FLORIDA
Coming in at number two both overall and for coastal metro areas, the Cape Coral-Fort Myers area on Florida’s Gulf Coast has the fourth-highest rate of job growth in the country and a falling vacancy rate as people flock to its sunny shores.

3. DELTONA-DAYTONA BEACH-ORMOND BEACH, FLORIDA
Number three for coastal areas and number three overall on Trulia’s list, this area on Florida’s Atlantic side has a rate of job growth to match the Cape Coral-Fort Myers area and a great ratio of people looking to move there vs. people looking to move away—not to mention its long, sunny days and high temperatures year-round.

4. TAMPA-ST. PETERSBURG-CLEARWATER, FLORIDA
The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metro area is on the Tampa Bay, on Florida’s Gulf side. It came in at five overall but is number four for coastal areas, with great job growth and affordability.

5. CHARLESTON-NORTH CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
Charleston has been in the spotlight as a tourist hotspot so much lately that it’s not surprising that it’s also a great place to move. Ranked number seven overall and number five for coastal areas, this Lowcountry port city has a huge number of people looking to move there (while few are looking to move away), good affordability, and decent job growth—and an amazing culinary scene.

The next five coastal cities share the previous five’s high interest, good affordability, and job growth. Read on for the next best coastal areas to live:

6. NORTH PORT-SARASOTA-BRADENTON, FLORIDA

7. WEST PALM BEACH-BOCA RATON-DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA

8. FORT LAUDERDALE-POMPANO BEACH-DEERFIELD BEACH, FLORIDA

9. NEW ORLEANS-METAIRIE, LOUISIANA

10. SAN DIEGO-CARLSBAD, CALIFORNIA

Published by Ronald Gray on September 1, 2015

The Top 3 Questions You’ve Always Wanted To Ask About Forex Trading

How does Forex Market differ from all other types of markets?

For one, forex markets are not controlled by a central governing body. Unlike stocks or options, currency trading or forex trading has no regulated exchange and has no clearing office that will guarantee each trade that happens. All members trade or deal with each other based on credit agreements. So in a nutshell, forex marketing has no legal agreements and deals are always done with a handshake and is equally dependent on the marketer’s sense of business ethics.

Basically, the forex market is considered as the “Wild West” of finance. It’s basically where everything happens and it’s a lawless place where everyone can gain a profit by using dubious or legal means. Of course, the dubious ones get thrown into jail. Literally.

So wait, are you saying that forex trading or marketing is basically a gamble. More or less, yes. Why did you think only a few forex traders ever survive after years and years of experimenting and gauging the forex market?

What is a PIP?

PIP stands for “percentage in point”. It’s one of the most important things to remember when dealing with forex trading. In the forex market, prices are always quoted by the fourth decimal point. So for example, a perfume or beauty soap has a quote of 1.2000. Any change that happens in the fourth decimal is called 1 pip and it is typically equivalent to 1/100th of 1%. Sounds complicated, right? Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it.

Also, it is important to note that as far as world currencies are concerned, only the Japanese Yen is an exception to the PIP rule. 1 Japanese yen is now equivalent to US$ 0.01. Therefore, if you look at the USD/JY pair, the quotation only has two decimal points taken away. For example, 1/100th of yen is used, instead of 1/1000th with other major currencies in the world.

This is basic forex marketing knowledge, so better take note of this kiddos.

What exactly are you selling/buying in the forex market?

One newbie marketer asked me this question. And boy was he surprised when I gave him an honest answer.

For those who’ve been in the forex trading game for years, the forex market is purely a speculative market. Therefore, we’re not selling or buying anything. There is no actual exchange of currencies in the forex market nor do we exchange any product or service. All trades only exist as computer data and nothing more.

So if we’re not trading anything, why call it forex trading?  The primary reason why the forex market exists is to help process the exchange of one currency to another in order for multinational companies to trade currencies on a continuous basis. However, this actual trade is only 20% of the market share. The actual 80% in the trade system is still purely speculative and is placed there by multi-billion dollar hedge funds.

For more information about forex trading, please feel free to visit Forex CT, an Australian forex trading broker.

Published by Ronald Gray on July 5, 2015

Investing in Real Estate Properties

InvestingISDifferent_Header

Everybody knows that the price of the rent for a house is influenced by so many things, starting with the location of the house or apartment and ending with the contents of the said house. Some people earn a lot of money by simply renting out apartments in a complex, or houses to different tenants.

However, even if this can be a successful business, is not something easy. Real estate investment requires a lot of knowledge in this area, and always a thorough analysis of the market.

Here are a few tips about how to do great real estate investments, even if you are a beginner in this area.

The Budget

First of all, you need to know how much money you have available for buying a property that will bring you profit. You will need to have a considerable amount for this, as it’s better to buy a small apartment complex, than a single house. Identify the possibilities for using your own finances, finding a financial institution that offers you a loan or finding investors. Each of these options is viable, so start looking.

The Property

investing-briquette-press-equipmentOnce you have determined the amount of money that you can use, start looking for a property. There are many available properties in your area, so all you have to do is find the right one. Consider the location of the building and also what advantages are there for using it – the access roads, the magazines that are around, if there is any park. All these count, because with many advantages it would be easier to find tenants.

The House Inspection

This is something you will have to request, because it is the only way to know the condition of the property. The house inspector will tell you all about it, as he/she is highly trained in finding exactly if there is something wrong with the building. You will know about the structure of the building, the walls, the roof, the plumbing, and the materials that were used and if there are any faults with the building. The house inspection will also tell you if you need further investment in repairing different problems.

The House Valuation

investThis procedure will give you the market value and the investment value, if you ask for both of them. Usually, the second one is certainly needed, especially because you are looking to make an investment and not just buy the property for yourself. The valuer will give you a better evaluation if you have available the report from the house inspector. This way, you will know exactly what your building’s worth is if you plan to invest in it.

The Team

Once you have bought the building, determine who you will be working with. You certainly need a plan for making it work, and it is better that you are surrounded by people you trust. Managing a complex of apartments can be hard enough, so you will probably need a manager, if you can’t do it yourself. Keep in mind though that a manager will ask you the regular price for maintaining, Pyramid-Property-Group_Investingno matter if you have tenants or not.

Be Real

No matter what you’ve heard about real estate investments, make sure you remain realistic in your expectations. If you don’t find tenants, you will have to sustain your business for some time. A constant cash flow can be considered after all the apartments have been rented, and you remain with some profit after you pay the mortgage (if you have any), the bills and the utilities and so on.

For more info on investing in general, check out the guys over at LOM (they are offshore stock brokers)