Real Estate Daily News Buzz March 13, 2017

Real Estate Daily News Buzz is designed to give news snippets to readers that our (yet to be award winning) editors thought you could use to start your day. They come from various business perspectives, real estate, government, the Fed, local news, and the stock markets to save you time. Here you will find the headlines and what the news buzz of the day will be.

Friday, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index picked up 1.89 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,364.87. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 2.46 points to 20,858.19. The Nasdaq composite rose 1.25 points to 5,838.81.

Benchmark U.S. oil fell $1, or 2 percent, to $49.28 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, lost 92 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $52.19 a barrel in London.

In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline fell 3 cents to $1.62 a gallon. Heating oil lost 3 cents to $1.53 a gallon. Natural gas rose 7 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $2.97 per 1,000 cubic feet.

IRS strikes back as agents make big dent in identity theft — The IRS says the number of identity theft victims plummeted last year after agents struggled for years to combat what has become a multibillion-dollar industry. The IRS said the number of victims dropped by 46 percent, to 376,000. The victims had their identities stolen by criminals who used their Social Security numbers and birthdates to obtain fraudulent tax refunds.

Engineers Say Tax Increase Needed To Save Failing U.S. Infrastructure “The nation’s roads, bridges, airports, water and transit systems are in pretty bad shape, according to the civil engineers who plan and design such infrastructure. The new report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers gives the infrastructure of the United States a D-plus. That nearly failing grade should boost President Trump’s efforts to get a plan to invest up to $1 trillion in rebuilding everything from highways and bridges to tunnels and dams, even though the engineers’ group is recommending something the president and his party are unlikely to support: a huge increase in the gasoline tax. It’s not as though many of our bridges are about to collapse or our cars likely to be swallowed up by potholes, but according to ASCE, a significant number of the critical structures and systems that we rely on to get us to and from work, that provide us with clean drinking water, and that protect us from floods are in pretty bad shape. Take the nation’s roads, for example, which Greg DiLoreto, a former president of ASCE, says get the same disappointing grade as four years ago: a D. “More than 2 out of every 5 miles of America’s urban interstates are congested, and traffic delays cost this country $160 billion in wasted fuel and time,” says DiLoreto.” (NPR)

Trump Begins to Map Out $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan “President Donald Trump pushed his White House team on Wednesday to craft a plan for $1 trillion in infrastructure spending that would pressure states to streamline local permitting, favor renovation of existing roads and highways over new construction and prioritize projects that can quickly begin construction. ‘We’re not going to give the money to states unless they can prove that they can be ready, willing and able to start the project,’ Mr. Trump said at a private meeting with aides and executives that The Wall Street Journal was invited to observe. ‘We don’t want to give them money if they’re all tied up for seven years with state bureaucracy.’ Mr. Trump said he would was inclined to give states 90 days to start projects, and asked Scott Pruitt, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, to provide a recommendation. He expressed interest in building new high-speed railroads, inquired about the possibility of auctioning the broadcast spectrum to wireless carriers, and asked for more details about the Hyperloop, a project envisioned by Tesla founder Elon Musk that would rapidly transport passengers in pods through low-pressure tubes. ‘America has always been a nation of great promise, because we dream big,’ Mr. Trump said. ‘We’re going to really dream big now.’ The president called for a $1 trillion infrastructure plan last month in his address to a joint session of Congress and added that the projects would be financed through public and private capital. The White House was considering a repatriation tax holiday to generate about $200 billion in funding, but other sources also were being considered, a senior administration aide said.” (The Wall Street Journal, subscription required)

Electronics store RadioShack files for bankruptcy again “U.S. electronics chain RadioShack Corp filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday for the second time in a little over two years, faced with a challenging retail environment and an unsatisfying partnership with wireless provider Sprint Corp. The Chapter 11 filing comes after RadioShack, owned by General Wireless Operations Inc, tried to revitalize its business by co-branding stores with the wireless carrier in an effort to compete against their largest rivals. General Wireless, which acquired the RadioShack brand in 2015, listed assets and liabilities in the range of $100 million to $500 million in the U.S. bankruptcy court for the Delaware district.” (Reuters)

Ulta Beauty to continue aggressive store expansion “Ulta Beauty on Thursday reported a stellar fourth quarter that shows why many consider it one of the hottest retailers in the United States. The beauty products retailer also said it would open approximately 100 net new stores in 2017, and remodel 13 locations. Ulta Beauty’s net income for the quarter, ended Jan. 30, surged 30% to a better-than-expected $140.2 million, from $107.8 million in the year-ago period. Net sales jumped 24.6% to $1.6 billion, also better than expected.  Total same-store sales, which include online commerce, rose 16.6%, driven by 10.9% growth in transactions and 5.7% growth in average ticket. E-commerce sales grew 63.4% to $154.9 million from $94.8 million last year, representing 380 basis points of the total company comparable sales increase of 16.6%.” (Chain Store Age)

These are America’s favorite fast food restaurants “In an industry rife with competition, quick-service restaurants are pulling out all the stops to turn patrons into loyal customers. Diners aren’t just looking for quality food or speedy service, they want both. Chains that are able to adapt to changing consumer demands are better equipped to keep customers walking in the front door. Market Force Information is out with a new set of restaurant rankings culled from the responses of more than 11,000 people and aggregated into a composite loyalty index that measures satisfaction with the food quality, service, value and restaurant experience, among other things. The company averaged each chain’s score to determine which had the highest loyalty rating.” (CNBC)

Latino Real Estate Titan Clashes With His Friend: President Trump “[Radio Interview] Jorge Pérez is known as the “Condo King of Miami,” and sometimes he’s called the “Donald Trump of the Tropics.” He’s been a business partner and friend of Trump’s for decades. But the two don’t see eye-to-eye on politics and their relationship has been strained recently. Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson talks with Pérez about his work supporting the arts, his development projects and his thoughts on the Trump administration so far.” (

RealConnex, a platform connecting real estate pros with projects and each other, raises $3.5 million “RealConnex, a four-year-old, Miami and New York-based platform connecting real estate professionals to capital, investments and services, has raised $3.5 million in strategic funding led by Silver Portal Capital, a San Diego-based real estate investment and merchant banking firm. The round is part of a much bigger trend of startups working to change how properties are built, bought and sold — and investors are funding their vision. In fact, according to the research firm CB Insights, real estate tech companies have raised almost $6.4 billion in funding across 817 deals since 2012. RealConnex was founded by Roy Abrams, who spent much of the era in international sales and business development roles at Lotus Development before serving as CEO at a couple of digital media agencies in London. Abrams set up his first property development company in the U.S., following the financial recession of 2008; RealConnex was later born out of his struggle to efficiently find people he wanted to work with on real estate projects, including developers and lenders.” (Tech Crunch)

Preiss Adds to Its Student Housing Portfolio “The Preiss Co., one of the nation’s largest student housing owner-operators, announced its first two joint venture acquisitions of 2017—GrandMarc at University Village, close to the University of California’s Riverside campus, and Gateway at Huntsville, located near the Sam Houston State University. Both communities were acquired in separate joint ventures for undisclosed amounts from different private investment groups. The Preiss Co. will manage the assets, while overseeing renovations and upgrades….GrandMarc at University Village is 760-bedroom community located on a 12-acre lot at 3549 Iowa Ave. in Riverside, Calif., minutes from the UC Riverside campus and across the street from the University Village retail center. The community comprises six four-story stucco buildings with one- to three-bedroom floorplans, each with its own separate bedroom and bath. Apartments feature a patio or balcony, full-sized washer and dryer, laminate countertops and a full kitchen appliance package. Common area facilities include a resort-style swimming pool and spa, outdoor grilling station and a basketball court. Furthermore, the recently renovated clubhouse offers study and meeting rooms, game room with billiards and table tennis, theater room, 24-hour fitness center and tanning beds. In addition, Preiss plans to install technology improvements such as the highest rated Wi-Fi speed, program upgrades to simplify online leasing, as well as enhancing social media connectivity.” (MultiHousing News)

Is Chicago becoming a serious tech town? “Mark Muro is bullish on Chicago tech. The city has been getting more attention in recent years, with a steady procession of companies that have grabbed attention for fast growth, IPOs or big paydays, including Groupon, Grubhub, Cleversafe, Fieldglass and Braintree. Now the data are backing it up. ‘What’s interesting is we now see Chicago on the shortlist of places in the U.S. expanding their share of the digital tech industry,’ says Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who analyzed where the jobs have been added recently. ‘We think that’s the most fundamental indicator of competitiveness.’ A rising tech tide doesn’t lift all boats equally. In a new report by Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program, Muro says 86 of the nation’s largest 100 metros have either seen their share of the national tech employment pie go sideways or actually shrink since 2010. Six actually lost tech jobs. The San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley led the way, adding 59,000 jobs between 2013 and 2015, growing about 12 percent, according to an analysis of Moody’s Analytics data. Together, they made up 10 percent of the nation’s digital services employment in 2015, up from 9 percent in 2013 and 7.7 percent in 2010, Brookings says.” (Crain’s Chicago Business)

Sea levels are rising, so developers and governments need to band together: panel “As the oceans continue to rise, Miami-Dade County communities will need to collaborate more with developers in order to form sustainable communities. This was the message from David Martin, president of Terra Group, a Miami-based real estate development firm, during a panel discussion on climate change held at the Philanthropy Miami 2017 conference at Jungle Island Thursday morning. Other panelists at the climate change conference, moderated by CLEO executive director Caroline Lewis, were Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales and Tiffany Troxler, director of Florida International University’s Sea Level Solutions Center. According to NOAA, the oceans may be up to seven feet higher than current levels within 80 years. That would not only inundate sections of the county, but also compromise underwater fresh water supplies. But we don’t have to wait 80 years to see the effects. Morales and Troxler showed photographs of “sunny day flooding” events that hit low areas like Miami Beach’s Sunset Harbour area, Morningside Park in Miami, western Miami-Dade County, and western Broward. Those news reports are now often coupled with projections of sea-level rise, a trend that threatens the sustainability of South Florida itself, Martin argued.” (The Real Deal Miami)