Houston comes in at No. 7 on a new list of most apartments completed during the first six months of 2020. Photo courtesy of Caydon

The coronavirus pandemic has brought many activities to a unsettling halt. But it has failed to blunt Houston's apartment construction boom.

New data from Yardi Matrix, a supplier of commercial real estate data and research, shows that Houston comes in at No. 7 for most apartments completed during the first six months of 2020, with 2,085 apartments built.

Houston also comes in third place for projected apartment completions in 2020 is the Houston metro area. Yardi Matrix foresees the Bayou City region welcoming 10,404 new apartments this year, up 2 percent from 2019.

Little surprise to those paying attention to Texas real estate: More apartments were completed in Austin during the first six months of 2020 than in any other U.S. city. In the first half of the year, construction of 3,827 apartments was finished within the city of Austin, according to Yardi Matrix.

Right behind Austin on that list is San Antonio, where 2,871 new apartments hit the market in the first half of this year. Dallas follows Houston at No. 8 with 1,869 units; behind Big D is Farmers Branch, No. 18 with 1,161 units.

"Around the U.S., we have seen a variety of states, counties, and cities choose to close nonessential businesses for 'stay at home' or 'shelter in place' orders. For the most part, construction activity has been included as an essential activity that can continue with business as usual during these orders," Doug Ressler, manager of business intelligence at Yardi Matrix, says in a release.

"The popular Texas metropolitan area saw an increase of 62,000 residents from 2018 to 2019," Yardi Matrix says. "In response to the high demand, Austin metro has been an active scene for new construction in the past five years, having completed over 50,000 new apartments since 2016."

In the Yardi Matrix forecast, Dallas-Fort Worth eclipses all other U.S. metro areas for the number of new apartments predicted to be finished this year — 19,318. This would be DFW's third year in a row to lead all metro areas for annual apartment construction, with New York City claiming second place.

While that's an impressive amount of apartments, this year's anticipated final total for DFW would be down 29 percent versus last year, Yardi Matrix says.

Coming in at No. 19 for predicted apartment completions this year is the San Antonio area, with 4,595 new units on taps. However, that total would represent a 20 percent jump over last year, putting San Antonio in fourth place for the percentage increase from 2019 to 2020.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Dolce Midtown Apartments is one of the many new apartment options in the Houston area. Photo courtesy of Dolce Midtown Apartments

Houston booms among nation's top 10 markets for new apartments

They come, we build

It's not all in your head. Those new apartments you spotted on your way to work probably did just pop up — and it's happening in big numbers in Houston and around the state, according to a new study.

RentCafe estimates 7,143 new apartments will be built in the Houston metro by the end of 2019 — the 10th highest projection nationally. Nearly half of those new units will rise within the city of Houston proper.

And these aren't vanity projects. With more than 90,000 new residents calling the Houston area home, we need all the apartments we can get.

Houston leads the region in terms of projected new apartment units at 3,163, followed by Conroe's 724 expected units and The Woodlands' 678.

Most of Texas is booming, too. No. 1 on RentCafe's list is Dallas-Fort Worth, with 22,196 new units expected by the end of the year. No. 5 Austin is expected to bring 10,783 new units to the region. Meanwhile, 3,510 new units will be built in San Antonio, a steep decline of 41 percent from the 5,993 units built there in 2018.

Nationally, Seattle makes for a distant second behind DFW with 13,682 new units expected, followed by New York City, which was No. 1 in 2018, with 13,418 units planned for this year.

Unlike the Lone Star State, the nation as a whole is seeing a slump in apartment construction. The 299,442 new apartments expected in 2019 represent an 8.2 percent drop from 2018's 326,240 new units, which also were weaker numbers than in 2017, when 331,765 new apartments were built.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

The Houston apartment market is rising. Photo courtesy of Vantage Med Center

Why investors are targeting Houston's multifamily housing market

Show me the money

As local developers, renters, and anyone trying to navigate all the new construction knows, Houston is in the midst of an apartment boom. A recent national report suggests that boom may not slow anytime soon, as it lists Houston as a top buy for apartment investors — and an area that will see rising rents in the foreseeable future.

Ten-X Commercial, an online platform for commercial real estate transactions, identified two Texas cities (Houston and Fort Worth) that commercial investors should target in its annual U.S. Apartment Market Outlook. Only three other American cities are considered strong buys for apartment investors: Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Salt Lake City. The data in the report is generated from the more than $20 billion worth of transactions handled by Ten-X Commercial.

In analyzing Houston and Fort Worth, Ten-X Commercial finds that both offer strong net operating income benefits — a key driver in commercial real estate — to investors for years to come. Houston's apartment rents are buoyed by a "resurgent energy sector" that is "turbocharging the local economy" and jumped 6.1 percent year over year. The report also forecasts that Houston is "likely to prove considerably more resilient during a modeled downturn than other markets."

According to the report, here's a quick breakdown of the numbers for the Houston multifamily market:

  • Q1 2018 rent: $987
  • 2021 projected rent: $1,184
  • Q1 2018 vacancy: 6.2 percent
  • 2021 projected vacancy: 4.4 percent

With every top buy report comes a warning to sell. Cities where investors should consider unloading are New York; Miami; San Francisco; Oakland, California; and San Jose, California. These markets are witnessing rising vacancies and flattening rents.

But how much is too much growth? Nationally, according to the research, multifamily completions should reach an all-time peak in 2018 as more than 300,000 new units flood the market, outpacing even the highest absorption levels in recent history. As a result, vacancies are expected to drift above 5 percent by the end of the year for the first time since 2011.

Ten-X Chief Economist Peter Muoio noted in the report that "while millennials and other demographic groups continue to forego homeownership in favor of renting in walkable neighborhoods, developers appear to have gotten ahead of themselves in creating rental supply."

Muoio added that the pipeline "can reasonably be described as a flood and though demand for these units is likely to come in the years ahead, we can expect to see some significant digestion issues in the near term."

Until that happens, Houston renters would be wise to lock in their lease rates, as it's clear that our apartment market is anything but flat.

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This story originally appeared on CultureMap.

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Houston unicorn fintech company launches new B2B education platform

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Houston-based HighRadius — which recently hit $1 billion valuation, reaching unicorn status — has launched a new learning platform.

Highako Academy by HighRadius, launched the platform to help credit and collections teams build certain skills faster. Highako features over 650 expert-led videos, community forums, and resources. The new on-the-job training platform, which announced its launch this week, is used by more than 2,800 companies, according to a press release.

"Our customers have asked us for an online self-service learning platform, and that led us to launch highako.com as a beta platform last year," says HighRadius COO Urvish Vashi in the release. "With 10,000+ users on the platform and a vibrant partner ecosystem consisting of credit groups, collection agencies, attorneys and industry associations, we see this echoing a larger trend of millennials and Gen Z gravitating towards microlearning platforms."

In honor of the launch of Highako Academy, the organization has announced plans for Credit SkillCon '21, a lunch-and-learn event from June 16 to July 20. The 53 live workshops, panel discussions, and on-demand sessions will focus on topics including negotiations, credit risk assessment, bankruptcy litigation, collections strategy and more. .

"We continually hear from members about wanting more and different educational options," says Jon Flora, president and CEO of NACM Business Credit Service. "The last year has changed much about how we answer this call, and now we have a solution. We are the first NACM affiliate to partner with Highako Academy."

HighRadius and its AI-powered SaaS technology, which streamlines accounts-receivable and cash-management processes, are growing fast. The company, which processes over $2.23 trillion in receivables transactions annually, per the release, raised $300 million in March. At the time of that raise, HighRadius, founded in 2006, employed more than 1,000 people around the world — and was hiring.

"Our goal has always been to build a long-lasting business that outlasts all of us," Sashi Narahari, founder and CEO of HighRadius, said in the news release. "I look forward to working with [our] high-quality, long-term investors, who share a common vision of transforming the office of the CFO using a combination of artificial intelligence built on top of connected-finance workspaces and embedded analytics."

Autonomous delivery company joins forces with FedEx for new pilot in Houston

self-driving mail

A tech company with self-driving robots deployed across Houston delivering pizza, groceries, and more has yet again launched a new pilot program — this time focused on parcel delivery.

Nuro and FedEx announced a new partnership to deploy Nuro's technology for last-mile delivery at a large scale with FedEx.

"FedEx was built on innovation, and it continues to be an integral part of our culture and business strategy," says Rebecca Yeung, vice president of advanced technology and innovation at FedEx, in a news release. "We are excited to collaborate with an industry leader like Nuro as we continue to explore the use of autonomous technologies within our operations."

The new pilot, which began in April, according to the release, is the latest in the FedEx portfolio of autonomous same-day and specialty delivery devices. The partnership allows for FedEx to be able to explore various use cases for autonomous vehicle logistics, like multi-stop and appointment-based deliveries. Meanwhile for Nuro, it's the company's first expansion into parcel logistics.

"Working with FedEx—the global leader in logistics—is an incredible opportunity to rethink every aspect of local delivery. This multi-year commitment will allow us to truly collaborate and bring Nuro's powerful technology to more people in new ways, and eventually reach large-scale deployment," says Cosimo Leipold, Nuro's head of partnerships, in the release. "Our collaboration will enable innovative, industry-first product offerings that will better everyday life and help make communities safer and greener."

California-based Nuro has launched a few delivery pilots in Houston over the past few years, including the first Nuro pilot program with Kroger in March 2019, grocery delivery from Walmart that was revealed in December 2019, and pharmacy delivery that launched last summer. The most recent pilot program — pizza delivery with Domino's — officially went live in Woodland Heights earlier this year.

Nuro's expansion in Houston has a lot to do with the legislation that's happening at the state level. Last year, Nuro was granted its exemption petition from the United States Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This move is a first for DOT, and it allowed Nuro to roll out its vehicles on public roads without the features of traditional, passenger-carrying vehicles — like side mirrors or windshields, for instance.

The city also just offers a lot of opportunities to try out various neighborhoods and environments.

"As a company, we tried to find a city that would allow us to test a number of different things to figure out what really works and who it works for," Nuro Product Operations Manager Sola Lawal says an episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "It's hard to find cities that are better than Houston at enabling that level of testing."

Lessons in prototyping: Figuring out the best type of prototype

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As you continue your journey of developing and bringing a new product to the market, you have a series of decisions to make when it comes to prototyping — whether you're going to launch a hardware or a software product, or the combination of both — you need to have a prototype made.

Before you begin, there are a number of things to consider. In an article for InnovationMap last week, I looked at major choice points and their implications that will help you navigate the process in the most efficient way.

After you successfully laid the foundation for the development process and got you CAD models ready, you arrive at the next choice. Prior to making a prototype of your invention you need to decide what type of prototype you're going to build. Whether you're making it yourself or hiring a rapid prototyping company, you need to know the purpose your prototype will fulfil because it will help to select proper methods, techniques, and materials for building. With that in mind, let's go through the types of prototypes and purposes behind building them.

Types of Prototypes

Mockup

This type is usually used as a simple representation of your product idea, to gauge physical dimensions and see its rough look. It's especially useful for making physical models of complex and large products without investing a significant amount from the start. Mockup is perfect for initial market research and various types of early testing.

Proof of concept

This type of prototype is built when you need to validate your idea and prove that it can be realized. It comes in handy when approaching potential partners and investors.

Functional prototype

This kind of prototype is also called a "looks- and works-like" model because it has both technical and visual features of the product presented. It is used for testing product's functionality, conducting consumer surveys, and fundraising campaigns.

Pre-production prototype

This is the most complex type that is made at the latest stage of product development. It's used for ergonomics, manufacturability, and material testing, as well as to minimize risks of defects during manufacturing. This is a model that manufacturers use to produce the final product.

Choosing to Partner with Prototyping Company

It's important to note that prototyping is an iterative process. It is a fusion of art and science that helps you to uncover the full potential of your product, which in turn increases its chances for market success. Therefore, you will likely go through several types of prototypes, with each kind usually requiring a few versions to achieve the parameters you set for the model.

And this process also requires help of a company that builds prototypes or of a professional product development team. You can start looking for the one after you made your first mockup or proof of concept. It is recommended because creating more complex prototypes implies the use of sophisticated equipment, sourcing of materials and components that could be too expensive or complicated to do without an established network of suppliers. Plus, skills and experience play a huge role in creating quality prototypes. Taking all three factors – equipment, experience and skills - into account, it's smart to outsource your prototyping needs to a professional company.

This article is a follow up article to my post from last week. I have also previously contributed to guest columns on the following:

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Onega Ulanova is the founder of OKGlobal.