A Virtual Golf Venue, A Metaverse Space: Rooms You’ll Find In Future Homes
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A Virtual Golf Venue, A Metaverse Space: Rooms You’ll Find In Future Homes

Real-estate developers forecast the new additions that homeowners will expect.

By Renee Onque
Tue, May 10, 2022 9:57amGrey Clock 4 min

A pandemic that left many people sequestered at home gave them a lot of time to think about spaces that would better cater to their future selves. Now developers are starting to integrate more comprehensive plans for working and learning into the rooms they design for new homes, says Andres Miyares, chief operating officer of CC Homes, a builder based in Florida. Some clients have more idiosyncratic ideas. From high-tech places for getting active to spaces devoted entirely to other dimensions, here are some of the rooms that could become must-haves in homes of the future.

An Indoor Sports Center

Rec rooms are going high-tech, says John Kean, founder of design/build company Kean Development, which designs homes in New York, Palm Beach and the Hamptons.

Indoor golf simulators that were once too expensive for most single-family homes are showing up more often now that prices have fallen, developers say. While the full immersive experience can cost as much as $100,000, entry-level simulators that use laser or infrared radar tracking to read the speed and spin of a golf ball and translate it to a virtual course projected on a screen are available for $6,000-$10,000. In most of these systems, players—typically using “soft-feel” golf balls—hit into the hanging screen that the game appears on. Nets can be attached on the sides of the setup to stop balls from flying into different areas of the room.

On some systems, game consoles can be connected to the projector to play your favourite games on a big screen. Many do double duty as entertainment systems for kids. “Every year, they’re getting better and better,” says Mr. Kean, who predicts they could replace TVs in some homes because of their wide screens.

A Space for the Metaverse

Gamers are looking for places to do their thing without stubbing a toe on their coffee tables as virtual reality gains popularity. Sales of VR headsets rose more than 70% last year from 2020, according to International Data Corp., with demand driven in part by rising hype around the metaverse, a term proponents use to describe a future 3-D version of the internet. Fine Homes By Hearthstone Corp., a California-based architectural and home construction firm, has recently started building virtual-reality rooms in people’s homes that include padded walls to protect them from hurting themselves as they don headsets and wander digital realms.

Virtual-reality gaming systems are included in many of the fully furnished homes the company sells. Customers haven’t yet inquired about the metaverse, “but I see that being something in the future,” says Robb Daniels, FHB Hearthstone’s owner. Some of the VR rooms have surround-sound speakers and vibration sensors in the floors to maximize the virtual experience. Mr. Daniels compares the technology to the vibration pads that some theatres use in seats, triggered by bass tones in movies.

“We’re just trying to make it a little bit more immersive, so they can enjoy it,” says Mr. Daniels of the custom-made rumble rooms for VR enthusiasts.

A Garage Without Grease

A shift to electric vehicles could also mean less grease and more connectivity in your garage. Some owners of EVs are already putting down flooring over the concrete in their garages and adding extra storage space. “It almost becomes an additional room to the home,” says Lisa McClelland, senior vice president of design studios at Toll Brothers Inc., a luxury-home builder.

Electric vehicles could lead more people to think of their garages as an energy source rather than just a spot to store a car. “As you start to transition to the electric vehicle, it starts to really integrate with the home,” says Nora Hennings, senior director of business development at Sunrun, a provider of home batteries that can be charged by solar panels. Last year, Sunrun announced a partnership with Ford Motor Co. on the F-150 Lightning electric truck. Those who buy the F-150 Lightning can also purchase Sunrun’s “Home Integration System” that, when paired with the charge station, enables the truck to serve as a backup power source for a home during an outage.

The Sound-Proof Room

Sound-damped studios typically associated with music production are in demand–but for new reasons. Customers need them for their internet broadcasts. “They’re using those for [making] podcasts as well,” says Dan Fuller, owner of Haley Custom Homes, a home-builder in Denver, Colo.

The pandemic’s focus on the home as a center for work and recreation has also heightened the appeal of the sound-proof room. “Everything can be done from the house,” Mr. Fuller notes.

One client commissioned a sound-proof room to use for teaching online real-estate classes, says Phil Kean, president of Phil Kean Design Group, a construction firm in Florida. “The doors had to be soundproof,” Mr. Kean says. He used fabric on the walls that absorbed sound and added extra electrical outlets for technical equipment.

The Multi-Tasking Space

One room to do the job of several: Behring Co. real-estate development company calls this the 18-hour space, a room that can be transformed for different uses.

Equipped with flex desk areas and retractable screens, the room is designed to accommodate various people and activities from day into evening. A projector setup that’s used for virtual meetings can also be used for family movie night. “That space works around the clock for them,” says Colin Behring, chief executive officer of the Bay Area company.

Though convertible rooms existed before the pandemic, the need for work-from-home and relaxation areas increased after Covid-19 emerged. Giving underutilized rooms multiple uses has become a smart alternative, Mr. Behring says. “It is a better solution that increases utility, adds value and lowers the cost for everyone all at the same time.”



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Hong Kong Takes Drastic Action to Avert Property Slump

The city’s real-estate market has been hurt by high interest rates and mainland China’s economic slowdown

By ELAINE YU
Fri, Mar 1, 2024 3 min

Hong Kong has taken a bold step to ease a real-estate slump, scrapping a series of property taxes in an effort to turn around a market that is often seen as a proxy for the city’s beleaguered economy.

The government has removed longstanding property taxes that were imposed on nonpermanent residents, those buying a second home, or people reselling a property within two years after buying, Financial Secretary Paul Chan said in his annual budget speech on Wednesday.

The move is an attempt to revive a property market that is still one of the most expensive in the world, but that has been badly shaken by social unrest, the fallout of the government’s strict approach to containing Covid-19 and the slowdown of China’s economy . Hong Kong’s high interest rates, which track U.S. rates due to its currency peg,  have increased the pressure .

The decision to ease the tax burden could encourage more buying from people in mainland China, who have been a driving force in Hong Kong’s property market for years. Chinese tycoons, squeezed by problems at home, have  in some cases become forced sellers  of Hong Kong real estate—dealing major damage to the luxury segment.

Hong Kong’s super luxury homes  have lost more than a quarter of their value  since the middle of 2022.

The additional taxes were introduced in a series of announcements starting in 2010, when the government was focused on cooling down soaring home prices that had made Hong Kong one of the world’s least affordable property markets. They are all in the form of stamp duty, a tax imposed on property sales.

“The relevant measures are no longer necessary amidst the current economic and market conditions,” Chan said.

The tax cuts will lead to more buying and support prices in the coming months, said Eddie Kwok, senior director of valuation and advisory services at CBRE Hong Kong, a property consultant. But in the longer term, the market will remain sensitive to the level of interest rates and developers may still need to lower their prices to attract demand thanks to a stockpile of new homes, he said.

Hong Kong’s authorities had already relaxed rules last year to help revive the market, allowing home buyers to pay less upfront when buying certain properties, and cutting by half the taxes for those buying a second property and for home purchases by foreigners. By the end of 2023, the price index for private homes reached a seven-year low, according to Hong Kong’s Rating and Valuation Department.

The city’s monetary authority relaxed mortgage rules further on Wednesday, allowing potential buyers to borrow more for homes valued at around $4 million.

The shares of Hong Kong’s property developers jumped after the announcement, defying a selloff in the wider market. New World Development , Sun Hung Kai Properties and Henderson Land Development were higher in afternoon trading, clawing back some of their losses from a slide in their stock prices this year.

The city’s budget deficit will widen to about $13 billion in the coming fiscal year, which starts on April 1. That is larger than expected, Chan said. Revenues from land sales and leases, an important source of government income, will fall to about $2.5 billion, about $8.4 billion lower than the original estimate and far lower than the previous year, according to Chan.

The sweeping property measures are part of broader plans by Hong Kong’s government to prop up the city amid competition from Singapore and elsewhere. Stringent pandemic controls and anxieties about Beijing’s political crackdown led to  an exodus of local residents and foreigners  from the Asian financial centre.

But tens of thousands of Chinese nationals have arrived in the past year, the result of Hong Kong  rolling out new visa rules aimed at luring talent in 2022.

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