The Landed Newsletter No. 23 — September 2017

Welcome!

In Landed Newsletter No. 23 there’s new Airbnb data and stories about CO2-eating houses, hacking your home’s power supply, foreigners buying real estate in Vietnam and much more.

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The Landed Newsletter highlights news and resources that you can use to make better real estate decisions, whether you are buying, renting or investing. With a focus on Asia and the Pacific Rim, The Landed Newsletter covers trends, legal and environmental developments and technology.

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Market News

Canada

Canada's bank regulator is rumored to be planning an increase in the mortgage stress test from 2% to 3%. The increase would apply to anyone renewing a mortgage if the value of their home had decreased, and would require the borrower to demonstrate they could service a mortgage 3-percentage-points higher than the rate charged by the lender.

Vancouver announced a proposed policy that would let owners of older homes build and sell infill houses in their backyards. The city also hired Canada's first municipal archeologist, who reveals some unpleasant truths about Vancouver's past.

This summer's forest fires are the worst in British Columbia's history. Some 10,000 square kilometers of forest has burned down.

China

For the first time, farmers are being allowed to build rental accommodations on rural land, in a pilot program designed to alleviate the country's housing shortage.

In Beijing:

China Jinmao says new price caps in Shanghai, which it describes as the nation's toughest, have forced the company slash the price of a new development by 30%, to 90,000–100,000 yuan per square meter.

Some 4,000 families in Chikan—a town in the Pearl River Delta famous for Kaiping diaolous—are being moved to make way for a tourist attraction. Diaolous are fortified, multistorey dwellings that are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, a think tank, claims that China is continuing to enlarge its artificial islands in the South China Sea. Chinese officials denied the allegations.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong's financial secretary reaffirmed the government's commitment to restraining the city's property market, say that now "was not the time" to ease cooling measures. However, Chief Executive Carrie Lam did appoint a 30-member task force on land supply to recommend solutions to the city's housing shortage.

Thirty percent of the homes under construction in Hong Kong are smaller than 200 square feet. Some of these tiny apartments have sold for HK$43,000 (US$5,500) per square foot. Meanwhile, a developer is converting 18 luxury apartments in Hong Kong's tony Shouson Hill neighborhood into rental apartments as small as 80 square feet.

Owners of government-subsidized apartments in Sai Kung demanded an investigation after garbage was discovered in the concrete of some blocks. In 2016, a building in Taiwan that collapsed after an earthquake was found to have cooking oil tins in its concrete pillars

The South China Morning Post published an interesting piece on urban forestry, which includes an interview with Deborah Kuh, who heads the Greening, Landscape and Tree Management Section of the Hong Kong government's Development Bureau. Kuh spoke at the Smart Cities conference at Hong Kong University in August and impressed me with her knowledge, enthusiasm and commitment to improving Hong Kong's environment.

A smartphone-based study by Stanford University of physical activity over 68 million person-days revealed that Hong Kong people were the most active. In Asia, Mainland China placed second, followed by South Korea (4th), Japan (6th) and Singapore (7th).

Japan

North Korea fired a ballistic missile over southern Hokkaido. There were no casualties and the missile landed in the sea.

Nippon.com looks at the politics behind the decision to move Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market to a new home in Toyosu.

Research conducted in Tokyo shows that urban design used to improve physical health can also have benefits for residents' mental health.

As if the Fukushima power plant didn't have enough problems, workers building a parking lot at the site discovered what they believed to be an 85-centimeter-long, World War II bomb.

Singapore

Singapore has joined Hong Kong on the list of markets where local companies are being out-bid by Chinese developers.

Taiwan

Superstition—especially surrounding death in a home—continues to play a large role in Asia's real estate markets.

Thailand

A Phuket lawyer withdrew a criminal defamation case against a BBC reporter. The case centered on a report about a British expatriate who had allegedly been defrauded by his Thai wife after his signature was forged on property documents.

Vietnam

Law firm Duane Morris examines the 50-year land use right certificates that apply to foreigners and the developers who are betting the government will either abolish or extend them to 90 years.

Trends and Ideas

Airbnb

A new study covering the entire United States suggests that a 10% increase in Airbnb listings leads to a 0.39% increase in rents and a 0.64% increase in house prices.

Data scientists Eliot & Me have created an Airbnb yield calculator that uses artificial intelligence to show how prices vary over time.

Beñat Arregi has created interactive maps for 28 cities in Asia, Europe and North America showing how Airbnb guests rate the neighborhoods where they have stayed, from 5 stars to less than 2.5 stars.

Hundreds or WiFi-enabled door locks used by Airbnb hosts were bricked after a failed software upgrade. The locks were manufactured by Lockstate.

China's Tujia had teamed up with Japan's Rakuten to create a new company to challenge Airbnb in the short-term rental market.

Climate change

In the United States, pets contribute about 64 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year according to a report by UCLA. As more research is conducted into climate change, it's going to create difficult choices about things like pet ownership, auto racing, vacation travel, vegetarianism and more.

Iida Group and Osaka City University will test a house that consumes CO2 by using solar energy to convert carbon dioxide into hydrogen.

Privacy

Audio equipment manufacturer Sonos announced that users would not be able to opt out of a new data collection program. The company said that owners who refused to accept the terms of the new program could find their sound systems inoperative.

Solar Power

Ikea is now selling solar panels and home battery systems in the United Kingdom. Some people are taking this idea one step further and storing the power they generate on banks of recycled laptop batteries.

Meanwhile a paper in Nature Energy suggests the health benefits of solar and wind energy more than compensate for any economic subsidies these sources require. The paper claims that wind and solar power have prevented between 3,000 and 12,700 premature deaths in the United States over the past decade.

Landed News

One of the most interesting parts of writing the Landed books—and doing custom research for clients—is learning about real estate horror stories, like Philadelphia's Logan neighborhood, which is built on cinder ash on top of a creek bed.

I was interviewed in the Financial Times about buying real estate in Yokohama. I was also featured in a story in Squarefoot magazine (PDF) about buying a home in Hong Kong.

I'll be hosting a panel on Hong Kong real estate for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce on September 7. And on October 12, I'll be moderating a discussion at the PERE Investor Forum in Tokyo. Tickets are still available for both events.

Landed Newsletter No. 23 was published on September 1, 2017.