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New Survey Shows Homeowners and Buyers Fleeing Housing Market

New Survey Shows Homeowners and Buyers Fleeing Housing Market

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estate industry Simon Property Group Inc COVID-19 real estate hire a property manager real estate industry

We’re three months into the pandemic lockdown, and the real estate industry is frozen in place.

It’s a strange and unprecedented crisis— the fundamentals are unchanged, but both supply and demand basically evaporated overnight, as sellers pulled their listings, and cash-strapped buyers hunkered down. The most important questions are: how long will this market freeze last, and will there be lasting effects after the pandemic lockdown is lifted?

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A new study by Clever Real Estate surveyed sellers, buyers, and renters, to get a sense of their feelings regarding buying and selling in the future, and how their finances are doing as the lockdown drags on. Their findings suggest that, even if the lockdowns are lifted soon, the financial and psychological damage wrought by the pandemic might take a lot longer to heal.

From Bad to Worse

Clever has conducted a consumer survey each of the last two months, and this latest survey showed that, for most Americans, their financial situation has continued to decline as the lockdown enters its third month.

Many people are now confronting basic, nearly existential concerns; 50% of respondents, for example, are worried about whether they’ll be able to feed their family. Among homeowners, 56% said they were worried about running out of savings, 51% were worried about their ability to pay basic, everyday bills, and 33% were worried about being able to make their mortgage payments. With worries like these, there’s simply no bandwidth left for thinking about selling a home.

It’s no better for likely prospective buyers. In line with historic trends, renters are doing far worse than homeowners. A shocking 45% of renters have less than $500 in emergency savings, making them 2.5X more likely than homeowners to have very little money in the bank, and 5.5X more likely to have no savings at all. Surveyed as a group, 67% of renters were worried about running out of savings, 65% were worried about their ability to pay everyday bills, and 59% were worried about paying rent. However nervous homeowners are about their finances, renters are even more worried, and struggling to afford the traditional down payment. This is especially true in high cost areas like San Diego, Denver, and New York.

So how has this affected buyers and sellers? Well, things have gotten a lot worse, very quickly. In March, only 3% of homeowners surveyed said they’d abandoned the idea of selling their home because of the pandemic. In April, 27% said they weren’t going to sell at all “in the foreseeable future”– a 7.2X increase. This worrying trend held for homeowners who’d already listed their homes; in March, 13% of owners pulled their listing because of the pandemic, but in April that percentage nearly doubled to 23%.

Between March and April, sellers lost hope by another measure; When questioned about the value of their home, 63% of sellers said they were worried about declines in the value of their investment. It may be a while before these sellers feel comfortable listing their properties, and when they do, circumstances might push them towards unconventional routes, such as virtual tours and discount services to help them sell their properties.

The picture’s even gloomier when it comes to buyer demand. In March, 84% of prospective buyers said their buying plans had been impacted by the pandemic, but 93% said they were still looking to buy. Fast forward 30 days, and it’s a different story, with nearly 40% of buyers giving up on their home search “for the foreseeable future,” which comes to a 5.5X month-to-month increase. It’s not going to be easy to lure these buyers back.

People are scared, and scared people don’t buy houses. Over half, or 55%, of surveyed consumers responded that they didn’t think the economy was going to recover any time soon. And while many markets have started normalizing remote and online showings, this hasn’t caught on with everyone yet; 38% of respondents said they wouldn’t buy a property if they couldn’t view it in person.

Can you really call something “the new normal” if 40% of people aren’t on board with it?

What Are the Big Picture Implications?

The biggest problem facing the real estate industry right now (other than, you know, the global pandemic), is that Americans just don’t feel confident right now about much of anything. Sellers are worried about the price of their home, buyers are worried about their dwindling cash flow, and everyone is worried about the economy. Even if the lockdowns were lifted tomorrow, it’s hard to imagine many people rushing back out there to make some offers.

What no one can agree on is the effect this will have on home values. One analyst said he only sees home prices dropping between 1% and 2.5% in many leading markets. But that reading seems to be based on the economic fundamentals; unfortunately, it’s a psychological problem that we’re facing. If buyer demand is down 40%, it seems unlikely that home prices will stay miraculously buoyed at their present-day levels. While no one is predicting an apocalyptic 40% drop in home values, 1% is probably on the overly optimistic side.

The larger disordering may not be in home prices, but in a redistribution of demand among markets. Buyers are showing much more interest in properties outside dense urban areas, which represents a stark reversal of the trends of the last decade or two. Pageview data from Zillow, which cratered in the early days of the pandemic, has since rebounded to a year-over-year increase of 18% on average. But not all markets have gotten that bump.

Pageviews for the New York City market, which has long been one of the hottest markets, but was hit hard by the pandemic, are down by 2%, year over year. But in sprawling, car-centric cities, views have gone through the roof. Austin, TX pageviews are up 35%, Los Angeles is up 32%, and Houston is up 56%. This suggests that, when the market heats up again, the pandemic experience will meaningfully reshape buyers’ choices.

(On a positive note, all this Zillow browsing could also mean that there’s a huge amount of pent-up buyer demand, ready to be released.)

The Forbearance Problem With The Real Estate Industry

And then there’s the forbearance problem. The CARES Act gave homeowners with federally-backed mortgages the option of not making mortgage payments for up to a year. But the law made no accommodations for mortgage servicers, who are responsible for billions in payments every month. In much the same way that rent strikes imperil landlords who rely on rent to make their own mortgage payments, forbearance imperils the mortgage servicers who actually hold the debt, and are obligated to make payments to their investors. These nonbank lenders actually originate a majority of new mortgages in the U.S. today, and if the forbearance rate rises to 25% – much less 50% – then these companies will be under extreme pressure. If one of the big nonbank lenders went under, the disruption to the real estate industry would be extreme.

So why doesn’t the government step in, as they’ve stepped in to shore up the securities market? You’ll have to ask them; while most experts believe that mortgage servicers are headed for serious trouble, the head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency has consistently downplayed the situation, and made it clear that there won’t be any government help for servicers.

Right now, the real estate industry is in the same position as the rest of the economy: stuck in wait-and-see mode. In some ways, the best case scenario is also the worst case scenario. Let’s say that the real estate market enters the same twilight zone as the real estate market; home values don’t lose any ground, and sales rebound, in defiance of poor economic conditions on the ground. Positive on its face, it would also be a move into unprecedented territory. And in an industry that relies so heavily on consumer confidence, the unexplainable is also unwelcome. We might find ourselves in the position of hoping for a slight downturn, if only because it’s the only outcome we could explain.

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Exosomes Could Improve Inhaled Therapeutics

Instead of disguising vaccines in synthetic lipid nanoparticles, researchers used exosomes as their drug delivery vehicles to the lung. The exosomes are…

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For respiratory diseases, from asthma to COVID-19, inhaled treatments can quickly deliver a drug to the desired target, the lungs. Global health depends on such treatments. As Kristen Popowski, a PhD candidate in comparative biomedical sciences at the North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Raleigh, and her colleagues wrote: “Respiratory diseases are among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide, with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) remaining prevalent in the ongoing pandemic.”

Kristen Popowski [North Carolina State University]
Although lipid nanoparticles offer one delivery vehicle for such treatments, nature creates an obstacle. “The lung has natural defense mechanisms against inhaled particulates, and traditional lipid-nanoparticle vaccines present challenges in cytotoxicity and respiratory clearance,” says Popowski. “A nanoparticle formulation that can withstand these defense mechanisms remains a critical challenge.” So, Popowski and her colleagues explored an alternative approach.

“Instead of disguising vaccines in synthetic lipid nanoparticles, we utilize cell-secreted nanoparticles called exosomes as our drug delivery vehicles to the lung,” Popowski explains. “Our exosomes are secreted from native lung cells and are recognizable by the lung.”

Consequently, she says, “We can minimize pulmonary toxicity and clearance to better deliver and retain vaccines.” In addition, the exosome-based treatments developed by Popowski and her colleagues can be formulated as a dry powder that requires no refrigeration and can have a shelf life of 28 days.

Despite the incentives to take an exosome-based approach to inhaled treatments for respiratory diseases, turning that into a part of bioprocessing requires more research.

“Although commercial manufacturing of exosomes has recently shown extensive improvement, optimization of mRNA loading into exosomes remains a challenge,” Popowski says. “Endogenous mRNA expression through exosome engineering would likely be necessary for large-scale production.”

The post Exosomes Could Improve Inhaled Therapeutics appeared first on GEN - Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News.

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War, peace and security: The pandemic’s impact on women and girls in Nepal and Sri Lanka

The impacts of COVID-19 must be incorporated into women, peace and security planning in order to improve the lives of women and girls in postwar countries…

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Nepalese girls rest for observation after receiving the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19 in Kathmandu, Nepal. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

Attention to the pandemic’s impacts on women has largely focused on the Global North, ignoring countries like Nepal and Sri Lanka, which continue to deal with prolonged effects of war. While the Nepalese Civil War concluded in 2006 and the Sri Lankan Civil War concluded in 2009, internal conflicts continue.

As scholars of gender and war, our work focuses on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. And our recently published paper examines COVID-19’s impacts on women and girls in Nepal and Sri Lanka, looking at policy responses and their repercussions on the women, peace and security agenda.

COVID-19 has disproportionately and negatively impacted women in part because most are the primary family caregivers and the pandemic has increased women’s caring duties.

This pattern is even more pronounced in war-affected countries where the compounding factors of war and the pandemic leave women generally more vulnerable. These nations exist at the margins of the international system and suffer from what the World Bank terms “fragility, conflict and violence.”

Women, labour and gender-based violence

Gendered labour precarity is not new to Nepal or Sri Lanka and the pandemic has only eroded women’s already poor economic prospects.

Prior to COVID-19, Tharshani (pseudonym), a Sri Lankan mother of three and head of her household, was able to make ends meet. But when the pandemic hit, lockdowns prevented Tharshani from selling the chickens she raises for market. She was forced to take loans from her neighbours and her family had to skip meals.

Some 1.7 million women in Sri Lanka work in the informal sector, where no state employment protections exist and not working means no wages. COVID-19 is exacerbating women’s struggles with poverty and forcing them to take on debilitating debts.

Although Sri Lankan men also face increased labour precarity, due to gender discrimination and sexism in the job market, women are forced into the informal sector — the jobs hardest hit by the pandemic.

Two women sit in chairs, wearing face masks
Sri Lankan women chat after getting inoculated against the coronavirus in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in August 2021. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

The pandemic has also led to women and girls facing increased gender-based violence.

In Nepal, between March 2020 and June 2021, there was an increase in cases of gender-based violence. Over 1,750 incidents were reported in the media, of which rape and sexual assault represented 82 per cent. Pandemic lockdowns also led to new vulnerabilities for women who sought out quarantine shelters — in Lamkichuha, Nepal, a woman was allegedly gang-raped at a quarantine facility.

Gender-based violence is more prevalent among women and girls of low caste in Nepal and the pandemic has made it worse. The Samata Foundation reported 90 cases of gender-based violence faced by women and girls of low caste within the first six months of the pandemic.

What’s next?

While COVID-19 recovery efforts are generally focused on preparing for future pandemics and economic recovery, the women, peace and security agenda can also address the needs of some of those most marginalized when it comes to COVID-19 recovery.

The women, peace and security agenda promotes women’s participation in peace and security matters with a focus on helping women facing violent conflict. By incorporating women’s perspectives, issues and concerns in the context of COVID-19 recovery, policies and activities can help address issues that disproportionately impact most women in war-affected countries.

These issues are: precarious gendered labor market, a surge in care work, the rising feminization of poverty and increased gender-based violence.

A girl in a face mask stares out a window
The women, peace and security agenda can help address the needs of some of those most marginalized. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

Policies could include efforts to create living-wage jobs for women that come with state benefits, emergency funding for women heads of household (so they can avoid taking out predatory loans) and increasing the number of resources (like shelters and legal services) for women experiencing domestic gender-based violence.

The impacts of COVID-19 must be incorporated into women, peace and security planning in order to achieve the agenda’s aims of improving the lives of women and girls in postwar countries like Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Luna KC is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Research Network-Women Peace Security, McGill University. This project is funded by the Government of Canada Mobilizing Insights in Defence and Security (MINDS) program.

Crystal Whetstone does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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ThreatX raises a fresh round of capital to protect APIs and web apps

ThreatX, a vendor selling API protection services to mainly enterprise clients, today announced that it raised $30 million in a Series B funding round…

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ThreatX, a vendor selling API protection services to mainly enterprise clients, today announced that it raised $30 million in a Series B funding round led by Harbert Growth Partners with participation from Vistara Growth, .406 Ventures, Grotech Ventures and Access Venture Partners. With the new cash, which brings ThreatX’s total raised to $52 million, CEO Gene Fay tells TechCrunch that ThreatX will “accelerate” investments in platform development while scaling sales and marketing initiatives.

The raise highlights investors’ continued confidence in cybersecurity businesses to net returns, despite the current macroeconomic woes. While there’s some evidence that fundraising has begun to slow down, cybersecurity startups raised $2.4 billion between January and June, according to PitchBook. Companies that defend APIs from outside attack have been particularly fruitful, lately, with startups such as Ghost Security and Corsha raising tens of millions of dollars in capital.

ThreatX was co-founded in 2014 by Bret Settle and Andrius Useckas. Prior to starting ThreatX, Settle was VP of enterprise architecture at BMC; Useckas had worked with Bret at BMC, where he was an enterprise security architect. The two were also colleagues at Corporate Express, which was acquired by Staples in 2008, where Useckas came in as an external pen tester.

“Over the course of working together for several years, Settle and Andrius saw a massive gap in the market in terms of solutions to protect BMC’s application portfolio,” said Fay, who was appointed CEO of ThreatX in 2020. “The products available required endless tuning and rule-writing and returned piles of false positives. Through all of this, the notion of innovating in the space — and ThreatX — was born.”

ThreatX offers API protection, bot and DDoS mitigation and traditional web application firewalls (WAF) for first- and third-party web apps. The platform builds a profile of threat actors, leveraging a detection and correlation engine to show which actors are actively attacking and which might pose the greatest threat.

Image Credits: ThreatX

Fay sees ThreatX competing primarily with two categories of cybersecurity vendors. The first are newer API observability tools such as Salt Security and Noname. The second are bot management platforms like Cequence and WAF players such as Akamai, F5 and Imperva, which generally rely on applying rules-based protection to web apps and APIs.

Fay argues that the former group — the bot management and WAF vendors —  tend to offer capabilities that came together through acquisition, so they’re less integrated. As for the latter — the API observability tools — Fay asserts that they often don’t offer web app or bot protection and require offline analysis, which precludes the ability to block attacks in real time.

“The bottom line is that to protect APIs, you must be able to block attacks in real time,” Fay said. “Grabbing data through observation and analyzing it after the fact may be interesting, but it does little from an immediate security standpoint. For our customers, the number one priority is protection — in real time, all the time. That is the value proposition we offer to our customers.”

Real-time protection or no, it’s true that API attacks are a growing cyber threat. Gartner predicts that by 2022, API attacks will become the most frequent attack vector, causing data breaches for enterprise web software.

“The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated use of APIs as companies looked at how they might provide new services to deliver value — and derive revenue — from customers,” Fay added. “As people — both as consumers and professionals — turned to technology to get more done, reliance on both APIs and web applications grew substantially. That, in turn, has increased the need for security in this context — which presents a ton of opportunity for ThreatX.

While Fay demurred when asked about financials, he said that ThreatX currently has “more than” 100 customers. He declined to name any names.

When reached for comment, Harbert Growth Partners general partner Tom Roberts said in a statement:

APIs are a strategic priority for businesses of all sizes and have become a primary target for threat actors. Organizations are now contending with constant threats and require API and web application protection capabilities that can identify and respond to attacks in real time. This need for “real-time attack protection” is driving the API security market toward an aggressive pivot. Based on ThreatX’s strong customer traction and unique product capabilities, we believe the company is well positioned to meet this shift head-on as a valuable partner to businesses looking to secure their attack surface.

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