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Why Japan Is Holding Back as the World Rushes Toward Electric Cars

TOKYO — Just over a decade ago, Nissan became the first automaker to offer a mass-produced car that ran on batteries alone. That hatchback, the Leaf, has been a smash hit, at least by electric car standards, with more than 500,000 sold by the end of last year.

But as the trail that Nissan blazed becomes increasingly crowded, Japan’s mighty auto industry is in danger of being left behind. While governments and automakers worldwide are staking out bold pledges to transition to electric-only vehicles, Japanese car companies and regulators are hedging their bets.

Japan dominates the global market for the current generation of climate-friendly vehicles — gasoline-electric hybrids — and hopes to leverage its huge investment in the technology for as long as possible. That short-term focus, however, leaves the country’s most important industry at risk of missing a transformative moment, said Masato Inoue, the original Leaf’s lead designer.

“When disruption happens, there’s always fear,” said Mr. Inoue, who retired from Nissan in 2014. But ready or not, he added, “a big wave of electric vehicles is really coming.”

became the first major automaker to declare that it would eliminate all tailpipe emissions from its cars, vowing to do so by 2035. Last week, Volvo moved to outdo its larger competitors by pledging to go electric-only by 2030.

In addition to traditional automakers, start-ups like the Chinese company Nio and titans of other industries like Apple are seeking pieces of the burgeoning market.

Automakers in the United States, China, Europe and South Korea are already sprinting past their Japanese competitors. Toyota did not release its first all-electric vehicle on the consumer market until early 2020, and then only in China. Honda is relying on G.M. to produce electric vehicles for the U.S. market.

conference in his capacity as head of the automotive association, Mr. Toyoda scoffed at the idea of Japan’s replacing hybrids with all-electric vehicles, accusing the Japanese media of inflating their commercial and environmental viability.

report by IDTechEx, a market research firm. So it is understandable that Japanese firms — and regulators — want to try to recoup the country’s enormous investments in hybrid technology and wait to see how consumer preferences and foreign regulatory regimes evolve, said James Edmondson, an analyst at the firm.

“For the manufacturers like Toyota, like Nissan, the hybrids are so prolific, there’s a good business case for them, so it’s in the interest of the government to keep pushing for them,” he said.

Kota Yuzawa, an auto industry analyst at Goldman Sachs, said it was not a matter of whether Japan’s automakers could make the transition. They have world-class technology and are putting significant resources into developing more of it. “But they are waiting for the right timing,” he said.

admission, has lost its lead and is now scrambling to catch up.

Last summer, it announced its most ambitious battery-electric vehicle since the Leaf, an S.U.V. called the Ariya. And in January, the company said it would be carbon neutral by 2050, a decision that mirrored a new national policy change late last year.

But, like Japan’s other automakers, it is moving cautiously.

“For Nissan’s key markets, every all-new vehicle offering will be electrified by the early 2030s,” the company’s chief sustainability officer, Joji Tagawa, said in an email. But “in other markets, we will gradually switch to electrified vehicles.”

In the meantime, the company will heavily promote its newer hybrid technology, which it calls e-Power: essentially, an electric motor powered by a gas generator.

In Japan, the lack of government enthusiasm for emission-free cars is likely to put its automakers at a serious disadvantage, said Kazuo Yajima, the Leaf’s former lead engineer, who now runs Blue Sky Technology, a company that develops micro-electric vehicles.

China and the European Union have lost the race for hybrid technology, Mr. Yajima said, so their governments have made a strategic decision to invest in the development of electric cars, including key technologies like batteries.

Japanese automakers’ reluctance to make the leap to all-electric vehicles, Mr. Yajima said, could lead them to suffer the same fate as the country’s consumer electronics firms, which have largely faded into irrelevance because of their failure to stay ahead of market trends.

Mr. Inoue agrees. The automotive sector is “the final battlefield” for Japanese industry, he said.

“Now Japan is winning,” he said, “but I think in 10 years if we lose the opportunity to move to the electric vehicles field, we may lose.”

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The Popsicle Place Program in Seattle Helps Families in Need

It’s tough to afford housing in many cities across the U.S., but in Seattle, it’s a particularly competitive market.

Living in an urban area with such a high cost of living can break a family when emergencies arise, but luckily for the people of Seattle, Mary’s Place has been relieving housing burdens since 1999.

Initially established as a women’s day center, Mary’s Place has evolved and expanded into a housing facility. It now provides a warm bed for 680 family members every night of the year.

As the shelter’s website states, “The Mary’s Place model is simple – partner with anyone and everyone who can help to address the issue of family homelessness: congregations, individuals, cities and counties, and businesses of all sizes.”

It seems to be a phenomenally successful model – and it only continues to grow. The Popsicle Place program, formed in 2018, is a Mary’s Place program focused on assisting families who are simultaneously experiencing homelessness and caring for medically complex or critically ill children.

A devastating statistic says that 1 in every 285 children in the U.S. alone will be diagnosed with cancer before the age of 20, and many more will be hospitalized for serious illness and injury. Additionally, 60 percent of people with the highest rent burden can’t cover three months of expenses.

Serious illness can put many families in financial crisis, and the stress of caring for children in need of medical intervention as well as maintaining livelihood for the whole family can be debilitating.

But at Popsicle Place, families don’t have to worry about costly emergency housing options, like motels, or choosing between having a place to live and having a healthy child. They also don’t have to worry about spending the night apart, since the Popsicle Place has a medical staff and volunteers on hand so that every member of the family can rest comfortably, in private rooms, all under one roof – regardless of health status.

While a small housing operation can’t alleviate every concern for families in medical and financial distress, simply having a bit of support can provide immense relief – relief that those families need to take their next step.

“Not only do they have their own private rooms,” says Marty Hartman, executive director of Mary’s Place, “but they also have access to our healthcare clinic. They have a Popsicle Place lounge, where if their children aren’t feeling so well or if they have immunocompromised conditions, they can go in there and relax. [We] just want to set them all up for success.”

And that they do, with excellent results.

The Mary’s Place blog recently shared the story of a single mother of three named Nycolle. When she found black mold in her apartment, she was forced to immediately leave with her children, each of them with their own unique and demanding healthcare requirements, leaving them in need of emergency housing. That’s where the Popsicle Place program came in.

“Being at Mary’s Place gave me peace of mind,” says Nycolle in the article, “knowing we had electricity for Karlah’s treatments and refrigeration for Krystoffer’s medications. It let me focus on keeping them well!”

With their basic needs managed, the family members soon found a large, affordable 3-bedroom house in Spokane and happily relocated. They now enjoy a large yard, as well as a home to call their own.

That’s exactly what the program is all about, according to Hartman. “Let’s get you the housing options that you need and then move you forward.”



5 Home Design Trends for 2018 (and 3 Fads That Need to Go)

Home design trends come and go – and in 2018, one look that’s on its way out could actually cause your home to sell for less.

Here’s a look at five design trends you’ll be seeing more of in 2018, and three it’s time to kiss goodbye (especially if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to sell your home).

Trending in 2018

Floral prints

Interior design experts predict floral prints in bold, contrasting colors will make a big comeback in 2018, particularly on large billowing fabrics, like drapery, as well as chairs and throw pillows.

Photo courtesy of DwellStudio via Instagram.

Statement floors

Forget statement walls – 2018 will be about statement floors. From bold colored geometric tiles to soft herringbone-style hardwoods, expect to see fab floors everywhere next year, especially in bathrooms and laundry rooms. They’re a great way to make a small room pop, without adding clutter.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Light wood cabinets

Homeowners are gravitating toward medium and light wood cabinets, particularly with flat fronts and clean lines. The warmth, texture and natural element wood cabinets add help make the space feel more inviting.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Warm neutrals

From warm reds to caramel browns to soft beige, moodier color palettes, both on walls and in artwork, will be popular in 2018.

Photo courtesy of Adam Ford (The Happy Tudor) via Instagram.

Matte metal hardware

What kind of drawer pulls and light fixtures do you want with those wood cabinets? Matte metal! Homeowners are moving away from shiny silver- or gold-accented kitchen hardware – they can make the space feel cold.

Photo from Zillow listing.

2017 fads to forget

All-white kitchens

This look has been popular for a while, but it’s on the way out, according to the Zillow Home Trend Forecast.

Expect to see more color in kitchens next year, especially if the homeowner is planning to sell. Zillow data shows homes with blue kitchens sell for $1,800 more than homes with white kitchens.

Adding color and texture in the kitchen can help make the space feel more inviting. “While homes with all-white kitchens can be beautiful in photos, they are hard to keep clean and they may sell for less money,” says Zillow home design expert Kerrie Kelly.

You’ll see designers and bloggers painting their kitchen islands navy blue or deep red (maybe even purple!) or using white countertops to contrast with medium or light wood cabinets.

Bar carts

While perfectly staged bar carts look beautiful, most people don’t use theirs every day. Instead, the carts take up space and collect dust.

But don’t get rid of your cart just yet! Experts predict a shift toward coffee carts, which can be equally trendy, but far more practical.


Succulents are easy to care for and relatively affordable, but so many other vibrant indoor plant options are out there. Nobody’s saying to toss out your beloved Haworthia, but do consider incorporating other plant varieties into your home – perhaps a palm or hearty fiddle-leaf fig.

Top photo from Zillow listing.



Why Cities Must Become Affordable for the Middle Class

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Cities need the middle class. They need nurses and teachers. Yet if people have a well-paying job like those, they’re finding it increasingly difficult to afford to pay for a house in the city in which they work. Cities tend to have the most job opportunities, but they also have the highest cost of living. In recent years, the housing costs in urban areas have grown more than anywhere else.

“This isn’t just a coastal problem,” explains Zillow economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. “We’re seeing rapidly appreciating home values in places like Nashville, Provo, Charlotte, Orlando. These people that have good jobs are running into the problem that they simply cannot afford to live in cities anymore.”

Not enough to go around

So, what happened that is causing housing costs to rise so much? A classic problem of supply and demand. “We’re in a really strong part of the recovery,” says Gudell, “and it comes down to not enough homes available to sell right now, but a lot of people demanding housing.”

Even though cities are becoming unaffordable, there is still an intense desire for people – especially millennials – to move there.

“For a lot of people, their jobs are actually located in cities, so the appeal of a short commute is right there,” says Gudell. “Millennials are starting to think about renting, leaving their parents’ basements and perhaps even buying their first homes. They have a preference to be in cities, oftentimes. The acute inventory shortage that is being experienced all across the country right now is because cities don’t have as many single-family homes. They have more condos available.”

Smaller and smaller

Brooklyn. New York; Shutterstock ID 684623227

Unfortunately for potential buyers, there are not many choices that you can make in this situation of high demand/short supply.

“You can choose to simply rent,” says Gudell, “but you end up missing out on wealth building because you don’t actually invest in equity by paying off a mortgage. Or you have to choose to move farther out, where housing gets a bit cheaper, but then you face very long commutes.”

If you’re in an average, middle class-paying job, buying a home in a city with your current employment isn’t realistic at all. Unless that home is under 500 square feet – about the size of a toolshed. For the biggest cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Washington, D.C., your average affordability falls to under 300 square feet.

So, why shouldn’t we have cities be just for wealthy people, and suburbs and rural areas for people who are not? “In every city, you’ll find a coffee shop,” says Gudell. “You’ll need garbage pickup, you’ll need all these things, and it simply doesn’t work to say, ‘If you’re a janitor, you’re going to have to commute in for an hour and a half, but if you’re ua-rich, you can live in the city.'”

Fill in the cities

The middle class should be able to afford the cities they serve without incurring the burden and long-term physical and mental stressors of a multi-hour commute. With America’s supply and demand problem not getting any better, there are certain steps that both governments and the private sector could do to try to help impact cost in a positive way.

“Cities have to evolve with the times, and that means adding more units,” says Gudell. “People oftentimes are afraid that higher-density living will ruin their cities, but in the end, higher density will just change the character of a city. It won’t ruin it. But pushing people out and having only a city for the rich will probably ruin cities.”

All photos from Shutterstock.



20 Best Cities for Trick or Treating in 2017

Pumpkins, haunted houses and costumed kiddos can only mean one thing – it’s time for Halloween!

Every year, Zillow’s team of economists crunches the numbers to find the best cities for little ghosts and ghouls to score the best candy. These cities are based on places where home values are high, there are plenty of kids under 10, and where homes are close together, meaning less walking while you’re going door-to-door. After sliding to third place last year, San Francisco reclaimed its title as the #1 city for trick-or-treating, followed by San Jose and Philadelphia, which was last year’s top city. This year’s newcomers to the list are Long Beach, Calif., El Paso, Texas, and Mesa, Ariz.

Check out the complete Trick-or-Treat Index, and the top neighborhoods in each city, below.

Happy Halloween!

Top Cities

Neighborhood Rankings


To calculate the Trick-or-Treat Index, Zillow uses the Zillow Home Value Index, single-family home density, and the share of the population under 10 years old in cities with a population of at least 500,000.  This data is combined to reveal the cities where trick-or-treaters can get the best candy in the least amount of time.


Upsizing: The Hottest New Housing Trend You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

For Rhiannon Kruse, moving to a bigger home was about facing the music.

For five years, Kruse and her husband had squeezed themselves into a downtown Seattle high-rise. At 700 square feet, their home meant giving up a dresser to cram clothing into an under-the-bed storage space, and limiting the number of guests they could invite over for dinner. Even Kruse’s parents had to stay in a hotel after making the six-hour drive from Oregon to visit; there just wasn’t enough space for overnight guests.

But for the duo, both professional entertainers, the final straw may have been the makeshift recording studio they crammed into a tiny desk space, wedged between the bed and the window. It just wasn’t practical for a couple that make their living as piano players, Kruse says.

“We had a keyboard setup and a desk and recording equipment. To play, we had to wear headphones because we were in a shared space,” Kruse says. “We definitely maximized the space, but everything had to have a purpose.”

So when Kruse’s husband broached the idea of moving into a much larger house just outside the city limits, it took a little bit of convincing – but not much. The couple fell in love with a 2,700-square-foot new construction home about 15 miles north of the heart of the city.

They also fell in love with the idea of having a place to put a piano – an actual piano.

“My grandmother had given us her grand piano. It was sitting in a storage place for two years,” Kruse says. “[Now] I play a lot more at home. Probably five times as much – and when I do, it’s relaxing. I don’t feel suffocated.”

Rhiannon Kruse and Jeff Coleron in front of their home on the day they moved in. Photo courtesy Rhiannon Kruse.

“People want these larger houses”

The couple’s story may not seem like much of an anomaly these days. They’re part of an uptick in upsizing: More homeowners are opting for a bigger home and larger price tag, skipping the traditional starter home altogether. Millennials are especially part of this movement, according to Zillow research.

What’s more? A new analysis of census data shows that the median square footage of new homes is up 20 percent since 2000, from about 2,000 square feet to about 2,500 square feet.

The data corresponds with what sociologists are seeing firsthand, says Brian Miller, an associate professor of sociology at Wheaton College, just outside Chicago. Miller, who studies cities, suburban migration and culture, argues that several factors could be impacting the shift in housing trends, including the strength of the national economy.

“I see a lot about tiny houses and micro apartments in Seattle, San Francisco, and New York – these cities who are really grappling with housing issues and trying to fast-track 200- or 400-square-foot apartments,” Miller says. “And yet the overall pattern across America is that people want these larger houses.

“The economy has gotten better over the last few years,” he continues, with a nod to cities like Dallas, one of the hottest housing markets in the country. “It seems it’s enabled people to [buy large houses] again.”

Popular culture may be influencing this decision as well, Miller adds, pointing to how homes are depicted on television, in both the reality and scripted genres.

“The typical home on TV is huge. Think about the ‘Friends’ apartments, which were impossibly large,” he says. “I’m thinking of HGTV shows I’ve seen over the past few years, where the dining room seats 10 or 12. I don’t have those parties, but if you’re watching HGTV, it just seems like everything is huge.”

Popular reality and scripted TV shows often depict larger homes as the norm.

Growing home size, guided by research

The abundance of larger homes in popular entertainment isn’t by accident. Home design shows are rooting their programming in extensive research, says Julie Link, director of research and consumer insights for Scripps Networks, which owns HGTV, the Food Network, and others. The company recently conducted an in-depth, comprehensive study they called Dynamics Shaping the Future of Home.

The study’s goal was to better understand what is going on in the lives and in the homes of Scripps Networks’ audience in order to cater programming to them. The network asked consumers to complete video journals, diary entries, collages, and even Pinterest boards.

“We don’t want to be showing million-dollar homes when we’re in a recession,” Link adds. “We want to be reflective of what’s going on in the homes of our viewers.”

The results? Both surprising – and not. Younger consumers (adults between 25 and 39 years old) are beginning to prioritize space, the study found. Fifty-six percent of millennials said that having a large home is important to them, compared with 42 percent of Gen Xers and just 35 percent of baby boomers.

As millennials move into larger homes, they often delay buying new furniture and decorative pieces until they find just the right item.

Once young homeowners find the perfect space, many are biding their time until they find items that are multi-functional and carry meaning, Link continued. They might wait to fill an empty wall until, say, they can frame Instagram photos from a favorite trip, or afford to purchase a high-tech yoga mat that can also double as an elegant carpet.

“Millennials want a story behind [what they buy]. They’re doing this to create a sanctuary,” Link explains. “The world is a chaotic place right now, no matter what your views on politics are. [Millennials] really look inward, and they want to control something. The easiest thing for them to control is their home.”

Open floor plans reflect modern lifestyles

Add that focus on intentional buying to the shift in how homes are designed, with a nod to larger, open spaces. Gone are the days of rigid, closed-off eating spaces or television rooms. In their place are open floor plans and shared spaces, says Mary Dignan Hill, a real estate agent with John Aaroe Group in Southern California.

“Definitely I would say a home design trend is happening. People don’t have formal dining rooms, or aren’t interested in formal dining rooms anymore,” says Dignan Hill. “A more casual lifestyle is becoming more common, and I can see that reflected in home design.”

Dignan Hill, who has worked in real estate for a decade, recently noticed more clients seeking out open floor concepts or renovating older homes to take down walls to create larger, open spaces.

“People want to be able to be in their kitchen and cook, but also be with their family,” she notes. “Where you used to have a separate kitchen, a separate dining room and a separate television room, it’s all becoming one big space.”

Open floor plans’ popularity derives from the flexibility they provide homeowners.

Room to stretch

Two years after upsizing from 700 square feet into her 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom home, space is still a novel idea to Kruse – and one she doesn’t take for granted.

“Now that I have the extra space, I understand it. I understand why people want to do it,” she says. “I really don’t miss living in the condo, and I thought I would.”

She mentions the give-and-take of their old, cramped quarters: How, when she lived in the small condo, if she bought a shirt, she’d have to get rid of an old one. A new pair of shoes meant donating a worn-out pair to charity. It was a dance of space.

Most importantly, her new 2,700-square-foot home – with backyard raspberry bushes, fire pit, and private recording space – just brings her peace, she says.

“I had felt so tense living downtown,” Kruse recalls. “When we finally got to space and we could stretch and everything – a lot of that tension was alleviated.”

Find out how much upsizing would cost you in major U.S. metro areas.



Hidden Costs of Homeownership Typically Top $9,000 a Year

Buyers too often focus on a home’s list price or mortgage payment to determine what they can afford. However, the numerous less-obvious costs associated with homeownership can affect the monthly bottom line.

To help home buyers budget more accurately, Zillow and Thumbtack identified several common but often overlooked home expenses and calculated what homeowners around the country could expect to pay for them. The analysis also included utility cost estimates from UtilityScore.

While each extra expense might seem small, they cost U.S. homeowners, on average, $9,080 a year, according to the report.

Unavoidable costs

Nationally, homeowners pay an average of $6,059 a year in unavoidable costs, which include homeowners insurance, property taxes and utilities. Since nearly half (47 percent) of home shoppers today are first-time buyers, many of these extra costs may come as a surprise.

San Francisco homeowners pay the most of the metros analyzed ($13,019 on average), primarily due to the market’s high home values and property taxes. Indianapolis homeowners pay the least ($4,699).

Maintenance expenses

Nearly all homeowners (96 percent) have made some kind of improvement to their homes, according to the 2016 Zillow Group Report on Consumer Housing Trends. While many complete these projects themselves, those who pay professionals can expect to spend an average of $3,021 for the six most common hired home projects requested by Thumbtack users: carpet cleaning, yard work, gutter cleaning, HVAC maintenance, house cleaning and pressure washing.

Labor costs can vary significantly by region, with Seattle homeowners paying as much as $4,052 a year on average for those six projects, while San Antonio homeowners pay an average of $1,962.

Budget planning

More than a third of buyers go over budget on a home purchase. In addition to the mortgage, the price includes estimated property taxes, insurance, PMI, utilities, taxes, HOA fees and closing costs.

Curious how much these hidden homeownership costs are in your area? Here’s a breakdown of the metros analyzed in the report:



The First Names Who Own the Most Valuable Homes, in Every State

What’s in a name? When it comes to home values: A lot.

A Zillow Research analysis of more than 70 million property records showed that homeowners named Alison and Stuart own the most valuable homes across the country.

Homeowners named Anne appear on the list the most, turning up tops in 10 of the 45 states analyzed, from Alabama to Wisconsin. In California, homeowners named Anne also had the most expensive homes, worth about 30 percent more than the median home value. Only 14 first names have median home values above $300,000, well above the national median Zestimate home value of $199,200.

Some homeowner names are also more common than others. To determine the most popular homeowner names by state, the Zillow Research team counted up how many homes are owned by each name nationally, then did the same for the number of homes owned by each name in every state – and then found which name is the most over-represented among homeowners in every state.

In Arizona, Guadalupe is a more popular homeowner name than it is nationally, while the Melvins are the reigning kings of Maryland. Fun fact: Of all the homes owned by Melvins nationwide, five percent are in Maryland.

Willie is more likely to be the name of a homeowner in the Southern states of Alabama, Louisiana, and Georgia. The Pacific Northwest is dominated by Heidi homeowners, while K monikers rule the Midwest – from Kari in Wisconsin to Kristine in Michigan.

“This analysis reveals a lot of interesting – and fun – differences between homeowner names and the relative popularity of less common or non-traditional homeowner names from region to region,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. “U.S. homeowners are an incredibly diverse bunch, with a variety of names reflective of many cultural and familial backgrounds.” 

Roughly 64 percent of Americans own their home, with homeownership rates highest in the Midwest, according to the U.S. Census.

See a full breakdown of the data on Zillow Research.