World’s Fair Flashback: Home of the Future, 1962

2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the World’s Fair in Seattle. Being the home and apartment junkies that we are, we wondered: what did the Home of the Future look like fifty years ago? Have we attained any of the marvels that were promised to us?

The article we’re quoting is “Home Utopia Is Almost Here,” from the July 30, 1961 edition of the Palm Beach Post, and written by AP writer Vivian Brown. The information was showcased at the World’s Fair in Century 21’s Electronics Home of the Future exhibit.

“Rooms Detachable”

The Claim: “The house of the future can be taken apart, and if you’re lucky enough to own one of those mobile units the wings of which can be moved, discarded or replaced at whim, you can enjoy a vacation in a wing of your very own house. Just move the bedrooms to the shore when you get tired of the mountains or vice versa.”

The Verdict: While the new Airstream does look pretty posh, a quick Google search for “modular” or “mobile” homes turned up the same old suspects–double-wides and trailer parks. There are some relatively portable micro homes out there, but to this day, we’ve never heard of someone taking their detachable bedroom on a vacation to the coast.

Image from the Palm Beach Post, July 30th, 1961

“Dust and Bug-Free”

The Claim: “The home will be equipped with its own power plant, and will be dust and bug-free.”

The Verdict: First thing’s first here: what do they mean by “its own power plant?” There were a few portable generators on the market in 1962, mostly used commercially; perhaps they were anticipating the streamlining of that technology. But unless everyone wants to pour gasoline and listen to the sound of a lawn mower 24 hours a day, that one’s a no. Then we have “dust and bug-free…” That’ll be the day!

And a Few More Misses:

  • “Showers for lazy types that will envelop them in a spray of water and soap; rinse and dispense a solvent to evaporate moisture, making it unnecessary to dry with a towel.” 
  • “Windows that close automatically when it rains.”
  • “Thermo electric panels that will heat, cool and light a room.”
  • “A method of hanging coats without touching them.”

“A Pillow Phonograph and Wall-Sized Televisions”

The Claim: “A pillow phonograph that will put you to sleep and wake you up. Wall-size television screens and closed-circuit TV for more togtherness–we’ll be playing bridge with people on TV.”

 The Verdict: We may not have two speaker pillows in every bedroom, but there is a real product of this description! Wall-sized televisions are an obviously around, and while I’ve never played bridge in a Google Hangout, we’ll allow “closed-circuit TV” to apply to webcams–three direct hits.
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And They Knock It Out of the Park:

Finally, their description of the home computer of the future applies perfectly to the combo of laptops and smartphones: “We may not be around when the home computer really becomes a status symbol, but we can’t help but note that it will help round up the children, plan the menus and remind Mom of dentist appointments.” Of course that’s just the tip of the iceberg these days, but not bad for a prediction from 1962!

Would you rent an apartment with detachable rooms? Have you found a way to abolish dust once and for all? And what do you predict for the homes of our future? Weigh in below.

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Ten Days of Buzz: February 15-25

Welcome to Ten Days of Buzz, where we round up what the experts have been saying recently and give it to you straight. Enjoy the buzz!

“Tell Donald Trump to look out.”

–Linda Basili, an investor who recently entered the multifamily housing industry. Mom and pop investors propping up home-buying market, USA Today, 2/15/12.

“In terms of economic development and new jobs for Seattle, this is off the charts.”

–Clise Properties Chairman Al Clise. Amazon to buy Denny Triangle property; plans 3 big office towers, Seattle Times, 2/16/12.

“Now, every home has to have granite if you want to not just sell it, but rent it. [Selling or renting a house without granite is] almost like trying to sell a house without a toilet.”

–Ron Cathell, real estate agent. Granite Becomes the Kitchen Counter Favorite, Seattle Times, 2/17/12.

“Looking ahead, we expect robust growth in the multi-family market. The outlook is very positive due to solid fundamentals, demographics, low interest rates and strong capital flows into the sector.”

–David Brickman, senior vice president at Freddie Mac. Strong Residential Rental Market Fueled by Fannie and Freddie, 2/21/12.

“The foreclosure-to-rental model can be developed in most every market in the United States.”

–Lewis Ranieri, the co-inventor of the mortgage-backed security. The Case for Converting Foreclosures to Rentals, The Wall Street Journal, 2/23/12.

“I think it’s going to be interesting to see whether there’s been a fundamental sociological shift in that 20-35 year old cohort, where they literally say ‘this American dream just doesn’t work for me.”’

–Brad Forrester, chief executive of the ConAm Group. In a depressed housing market, renters abound, Boston Globe, 2/24/12.

Well, that’s it for this week. Did we miss anything? Tweet us articles you found interesting (#10daybuzz) and maybe they’ll show up in the next column. Until then…see you in ten!

Everyone’s Moving to Seattle (and We Know Why!)

The Penske truck rental company just analyzed their nationwide reservation data and found out that Seattle is in the top five cities people are migrating to! The top five were as follows:

  1. Charlotte, North Carolina
  2. Sarasota, Florida
  3. Seattle, Washington
  4. Denver, Colorado
  5. Houston, Texas

So why are so many people moving to Seattle? We went ahead and compiled our own list of five reasons the city is so popular–and while the first draft was pretty much just the names of our favorite restaurants in Fremont, hopefully the finished product is a little more far-reaching.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

Five Fortune 500 companies are currently based in Seattle: Washington Mutual, Safeco, Nordstrom, Amazon, and Starbucks. It’s also a great place for start-ups, and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has called Seattle “No. 2 technology hub in the country.”

Distinct Neighborhoods

Ballard, Fremont, Belltown, Upper Queen Anne, Lower Queen Anne, Downtown, Pioneer Square…it’s enough to make a newbie’s head spin. Few cities in the US have such a diverse set of neighborhoods, with distinct cultural identities and complete neighborhood pride among the residents. As Seattle Magazine put it, “Neighborhoods are like family members–they all have distinct personalities.” (For information on particular neighborhoods, check out the SeattleRentals.com Neighborhood Pages.)

No State Income Tax

Only nine states in the US refrain from charging state income tax, and Washington is one of them. This makes it an attractive option for professionals who are considering relocation.

The Music Scene

From the Jackson Street Jazz scene in the 1940s to the better-known Grunge history of the 1990s, Seattle has played host to so many famous musicians and bands over the years, including Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, The Ventures, Jimi Hendrix, and (of course) Nirvana. Today we have the Experience Music Project and a full calendar of music festivals to keep the music playing.

Water and Mountains and Views, Oh My!

When you first relocate to Seattle, it’s actually hard to keep all of the different bodies of water straight–there are so many of them! Positioned right on the Sound, dotted with lakes, and with views of snow-capped mountains on at least two sides, Seattle enjoys a uniquely natural setting for its urban landscape.

Are you a recent transplant to Seattle? What drew you to the Emerald City? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page.

TVs are from Mars, Closets are from Venus

Are men and women looking for different things in a potential apartment or condo? According to a new study conducted by Trulia and covered in the Seattle PI, they just might be.

Gourmet kitchens are a middle ground

When asked what was important to them in a potential home, men and women did agree on a few things–a gourmet kitchen and a master bathroom were the features that came closest to being equally coveted, with just about ten percentage points’ worth of a difference between each gender for each feature (that’s 64% of men wanting a master bath, compared to 75% of women; for the gourmet kitchen, that drops to 51% of men and 62% of women).

But on other features, a predictable divide arose. 72% of surveyed women said that a walk-in closet was very important to them, compared to only 55% of men; meanwhile, 42% of men opted for an entertainment center & theater, with only 28% of women choosing the same.

If only we all had Carrie Bradshaw's walk-in closet...

Trulia also asked each group what they looked for, real-estate wise, in a potential spouse. Interestingly enough, whether a person owned or rented “didn’t matter to most women or men.” The important thing–at least for women–was that a person lives alone. Women also stated that they preferred men who live in the suburbs (36%, versus 19% preferring the city), while 32% of men would rather their paramour lives in the city.

What feature do tenants love in your rentals? What kind of housing do you look for in a potential spouse? Let us know in the comments, and head over to the Seattle PI for the full article.

Renters: Are you Protected?

Wherever you rent and live, your possessions help it feel like home. If something were to happen to your belongings, how would you replace them? This week, guest blogger John Ramsay with John Ramsay Insurance is here with the rundown on Renter’s Insurance.

Home sweet home

Computers, clothing, furniture, that lamp Aunt Doris gave you…it all adds up. By the time you’re in your twenties or thirties, the typical renter has about $30,000 worth of belongings.  Could you afford to replace everything you own if your apartment had a fire? Or what if you had a personal liability claim brought against you–if, for instance, your dog bit someone (we know he’s a sweet dog, but these things do happen). Do you have any protection?

With Renter’s Insurance, you can protect yourself in these and other situations. In fact, Renter’s Insurance is so vital to protecting your home that many landlords require that their tenants carry it, for liability protection. What’s more, the insurance often includes coverage for the reasonable increase in living expenses necessary to maintain your normal standard of living, up to twelve months, if a covered loss makes your current residence uninhabitable.

Don't just stop at locking up...

Renter’s Insurance can be tailored to each renter, with specific coverage applied for any high-value items you own. You can set custom limits on each type of payout (personal property, liability, etc.) in the way that makes the most sense for you.

And here’s the ringer: Renter’s Insurance typically costs about $10 per month. It may even cost less if you carry auto insurance with the same company. So you may want to check it out–for less than the cost of a couple of cups of coffee, you could be protecting your laptop, your favorite sofa, and all of those things that make up your daily life.

Renting: It’s So Hot Right Now

There’s a hot trend in towns across America right now, and everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. Newlyweds are doing it; seniors are doing it; and even Suze Orman thinks it’s a good idea. What could it be? Contra dancing? Hot yoga? Nope…we’re talking about renting a home instead of buying one.

To be fair, it’s not a completely new fad–the days when financial experts encouraged buying a home at all costs (so to speak) are firmly behind us. In the wake of recent tough economic times, renting offers greater freedom–to relocate, upsize, and downsize as necessary–and allows many families to live in areas they could not afford to buy houses in.

So just how persistent is this trend? Are people likely to start buying again any time soon? For more information we turned to an article from The Bottomline on MSNBC.com. Written by John Schoen, the article breaks down numbers that the Commerce Department released on Tuesday.

According to the data, the amount of renters is continuing to increase–there were 749,000 more renters in the fourth quarter of 2011 than at the same time in the previous year.Just 66% of US homes were owner-occupied at the end of 2011, putting home-ownership at its lowest point since 1998.

Should we buy? --Let's rent instead.

It’s likely, says NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe, that newly-formed households will keep choosing to rent until people are convinced that the housing market has hit bottom–and that is likely to take several years. For now, with 22% of mortgaged properties underwater (according to CoreLogic), renting will continue to look very, very attractive.

For even more numbers, check out the MSNBC article, America is Becoming a Nation of Renters.

Winterizing…Your Tenants?

With today’s sunny blue skies and temps in the low fifties, it’s kind of hard to believe it was snowing just a few weeks ago! But if Punxsutawney Phil is any indication, we’ve still got some winter weather ahead of us.

Every good landlord knows that winterizing your properties is vital to the health of both your buildings and your bottom line. There’s one thing, however, that you may have forgotten: winterizing your tenants.

Because you can’t be at all of your buildings all of the time, it’s important that your tenants are informed about what they can do to protect their units from the effects of winter. Of course, exactly what they need to know differs from building to building. Single-family homes are perhaps most vulnerable, but there are helpful steps residents can take in nearly any building.

It's official! Six more weeks of winter. (Getty Image via @daylife)

Some landlords send out mailers detailing these procedures, or post information in communal areas of the building. Others may choose to speak personally with tenants or post information on their building’s website. However you choose to get the information out there, it should be short, simple, and easy to follow–but make sure to include enough information that people who hail from warmer climates will know what to do!

For more information on winterizing your property, check your inbox for our recent newsletters. Not yet a subscriber? E-mail Kyle (kyle [at] seattlerentals.com) to get signed up.

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