New business wants to put smart technology in seniors’ hands

Ambient Home, a new company headquartered in Adams County, has released its smart home technology for senior living communities, with the goal of making it easier for residents to live comfortably and independently.

The innovative platform integrates a variety of smart devices, such as temperature control systems, voice assistants, lighting and locks, and unites them into a single application. Seniors control the platform through voice commands, a mobile app or a switch flip or key. Residents can also share access, allowing family members or facility staff to assist them with select devices.

John Gallo, chief operating officer of Ambient Home, said in a phone interview that what makes the system different is the shared access.

He said the New Oxford-based company, which formed last April but is fully launching now, has so far done one demo for a local senior living community.

Ambient Home plans to focus on central Pennsylvania first – with its plethora of retirement communities and national headlines promoting it as a retirement destination.

“It’s fantastic,” Gallo said of the area. Central Pennsylvania “is definitely a prime place to start” a business of this type.

He and CEO Alex Louderback complement each other, Gallo said. Louderback is a programmer by nature, and Gallo has the business and marketing bona fides, including an MBA from York College.

“At Ambient Home, our goal is to help facilities provide seniors with the highest quality of life possible,” Louderback said in a release. “Our innovative smart home technology aims to revolutionize the senior living industry by providing a safe, comfortable and connected experience for seniors.”

Ambient Home is committed to meeting the needs of the region’s – and country’s – increasing senior population through its cutting-edge technology and top-notch technical support.

“We support both residents and staff with training and technical support to ensure everyone can use the platform to better the lives of residents,” Gallo added in the release.

“Our goal is to help seniors leverage technology to help them stay safe and maintain their freedom.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Home health services provider adds remote technology to client care

Lancaster-based OneWell, a nationwide home health services provider, is adding a remote care platform to help its clients stay independent and safe in their homes and communities.

SmartCare by OneWell, powered by Artemis Care Inc.’s eCare4You, will provide clients with timely reminders for medicines, social and medical appointments, and activities of daily living, along with daily check-ins in their preferred language.

Those with medical needs can utilize easy-to-use equipment to measure vital signs and submit health assessments via Alexa or smartphones, a release said. Clients may also book Uber rides and schedule in-home assistance through SmartCare.

SmartCare by OneWell uses conversational technology – like Alexa – to ensure participant safety and a regular daily routine. Data is collected via approved medical equipment to produce readings through an easily accessible portal. All information is securely managed in compliance with HIPAA and other requirements.

“We made a promise to build an integrated system to deliver health care efficiently at a lower cost,” said Aytekin Oldaç, president and CEO of OneWell. “SmartCare by OneWell delivers on this promise by providing higher quality care at a lower cost to our clients, allowing them to be safer and healthier in their homes and communities.”

Arun Bantval, founder and president of Artemis Care, a remote care technology company based in Plainsboro, New Jersey, added: “This opportunity to … integrate our technology with OneWell’s superlative services brings the best of all worlds to the participants … . The ability to personalize and customize the solution to individual care needs means that the participants will get the right care they need when they need it.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Charles F. Snyder opens Willow Street funeral home

Charles F. Snyder’s new funeral home and crematory in Willow Street, Pa. PHOTO/PROVIDED

The new Charles F. Snyder Funeral Home & Crematory in Willow Street is now open.

For the month of October, the public has been invited to tour the 12,500-square-foot building at 2421 Willow Street Pike, designed by Cox & Evans Architects; the last open house is scheduled for 1-4 p.m. Oct. 23.

This is the sixth funeral home and third crematory for Charles F. Snyder. It’s also the first time in almost 120 years the Willow Street area will have its own funeral home, a release noted.

“We’ve always served families from all over Lancaster County, including those communities south of Lancaster city such as Willow Street,” said funeral director Charles F. “Chad” Snyder III, a third-generation owner.

“Dad and I have been looking for the right location for many years in the Willow Street community to make our services better and more convenient for the families there. This has been the best way we could imagine to do that, and we’re so pleased to finally be laying down roots here.”

Built by Benchmark Construction Co., the facility features a state-of-the-art crematory, multiple chapels (one honoring Hans Herr, which showcases Tom Hermansader’s original watercolor of the Hans Herr House), arrangement offices, monument offices, preplanning offices, cremation participant room, comfort room, modern selection room and outdoor gathering terrace.

The supervising funeral director is Kelly Gramola Townsend, who has been with Charles F. Snyder Funeral Homes for 21 years.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Pennsylvania home prices rise again

Pennsylvania’s median home sales price climbed to $219,154 in July, up almost $3,000 from June, according to a report prepared for the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors.

Meanwhile, activity continues to slow. Closed sales totaled 13,096 last month, down 19.4% from July 2021.

“Median home sales price is up about 10% compared to last year at this time, as the commonwealth continues to see rising prices in most markets throughout the state,” Pennsylvania Association of Realtors President Christopher Beadling said in a release. “Higher prices in combination with increased mortgage rates is causing an affordability issue for some potential homebuyers.”

Beadling noted that the number of listings was about the same for June and July, and is down more than 20% year over year.

“We’re still seeing strong demand for homes in most markets and competition for those properties,” Beadling said. “However, conditions are making it harder for first-time buyers … . Some of the buyers I’ve been working with have made offers on multiple properties over a longer period of time before they’ve been successful.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Fast-growing West Shore Home opens second headquarters

West Shore Homes newest headquarters. PHOTO/PROVIDED

West Shore Home, the central Pennsylvania-based, technology-enabled home remodeling company, announced the opening of a second headquarters in Mechanicsburg.

The 67,000-square-foot building at 4600 Westport Drive is an expansion of the corporate office at 3 Crossgate Drive, also in Mechanicsburg, which opened last year. A release said the new headquarters will hold over 300 employees, servicing the rapidly expanding company’s 33 branches in 15 states.

Founded in 2006, West Shore Home specializes in window, door and bath remodeling and replacement, with most projects completed in a day.

The Westport Drive site is an existing structure that’s being redesigned in three phases. Phase I, which is completed, has the capacity for 180 employees in West Shore Home’s call center that fields queries from customers around the country. Other support teams are onsite, including information technology and human resources.

Phase II, to be finished by October, will expand the facility to 47,000 square feet and is expansion space for several support departments.

Phase III, the final 20,000 square feet, remains in the planning phase. The build out will start early next year.

Westport Drive’s open design concept, similar to the Crossgate Drive office, features light industrial architecture and modern décor.

“West Shore Home is growing at an explosive rate,” CEO B.J. Werzyn said in the release. “With this comes the need for even greater corporate space as we continue to expand. In the past three years, we have quadrupled the number of employees within the company. I am proud that we continue to lay down roots in central Pennsylvania, bringing even more jobs to region.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Tech-enabled property management company announces record-breaking venture funding round 

Home 365 leadership: Ian Solomon, CFO; Dvir Milo, CTO; Daniel Shaked, CEO; Chad Gallagher, CGO; Nate Jones, COO; Alexander Boothroyd, SVP Customer Sucess; Kamal Khubani, SVP Product Management. PHOTO/Home365

Following its merging with Lancaster-based SlateHouse Property Management and Realty last year, tech-enabled real estate and property management platform, Home365, announced a Series B venture funding round of $26 million. 

The funding, led by international venture fund, Viola Growth Ventures, includes a series of investors including Gatewood Capital, Verizon Ventures and Samsung Next. 

It is the largest funding round for a South Central Pennsylvania headquartered company in history, Home365 wrote in a statement. 

Home365 manages more than $1.5 billion in investments across 7,000 properties in 17 cities and seven states. The company manages that portfolio using an AI technology platform that automates the property management and maintenance process. 

It operates a technology headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel; a strategic headquarters in Santa Clara; and an operational and growth headquarters in Lancaster. The Lancaster headquarters is the company’s largest with 45 employees in-house. 

The newly announced round of $26 million will go to strengthen the functionalities of Home365’s investment and management platform and help the company expand into new cities including Chicago, Seattle, Phoenix and more. 

“Home365 has brought an elegant technology solution to a traditional property management industry that is responsive to tenant and owner’s needs for capabilities long afforded to large investors and institutions.” said Rafi Carmeli, general partner at Viola Growth.  

The company greatly expanded the properties it manages last June when it merged with SlateHouse Property Management in Lancaster. It has continued to grow quickly in that time, adding anywhere from 100 to 300 units to its portfolio every month. 

This most recent funding round is the third for Home365—the last being a $16.3 million funding round that was announced in the same month as the SlateHouse merger. That round was led by Greensoil PropTech Ventures. 

“When we merged, we took this great technology platform and culture and meshed that with SlateHouse Management’s culture to create a combined company that is now growing very quickly,” said Chad Gallagher, chief investment and growth officer at Home365 and former SlateHouse cofounder. “We brought a lot of the real estate and scale investing experience.” 

Gallagher said that prior to joining Home365, SlateHouse licensed the technology it used to manage properties. Now with Home365’s in-house technology, it is possible to change that technology to fit the needs of the property management space. 

Home365 is looking to accelerate its mobile app-based technology platform for owners and tenants using the new funding. It will also be looking to hire high-caliber real estate talent across the country. 

“Our DNA as a company as well as our software is wired around managing people’s money and meeting their financial goals,” said Daniel Shaked, Home365 founder and CEO. “Our model attracts not only professional Investors who embrace peace of mind but especially a new market segment of people who are interested in diversifying their cash into a real estate without the pains associated with being a landlord.” 

Entry-level buyers hurt by lack of affordability 

Greg Bardell knows firsthand how hard it is for homebuyers right now. 

The broker and owner of Lancaster-based Realty One Group Unlimited said one agent had seven buyers make seven offers on houses within a few days – and everyone was turned down. 

The situation is especially tough for first-time purchasers, who often can’t compete with experienced buyers able to spend more on a house or pay in cash. 

The National Association of Realtors’ recent report, “The Double Trouble of the Housing Market,” illustrates how record-high home prices and record-low inventory are making it more difficult for Americans to achieve the dream of homeownership. 

Across the U.S., more than 400,000 fewer affordable homes are available for sale for households earning $75,000 to $100,000 when compared with the start of the pandemic – 245,300 in December 2021 versus 656,200 in December 2019. 

That’s just one affordable listing available for every 65 households in that income group, the report noted. 

While total home valuation nationwide is estimated to have risen by $8.1 trillion from the first quarter of 2020 through the end of 2021, this was not accompanied by a rise in the homeownership rate, which stayed at approximately 65%. 

The report also highlighted the “significant and persistent” racial homeownership gap. Since 2017, the annual homeownership rate has been more than 70% for white Americans but just slightly above 40% for Black Americans. 

Realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale explained that the low inventory problem “is particularly acute for some racial and ethnic groups who have faced greater hurdles to homeownership … .” 

In the fourth quarter of 2021, NAR said in a separate release, the typical mortgage payment on a 10% down payment loan on a typical starter home valued at $307,400 jumped to $1,224, up $198 from a year ago. 

Entry-level buyers at a disadvantage 

“Certainly for first-time homebuyers, it’s really challenging right now,” Bardell said. 

For listings to attract 10 to 20 offers is still not uncommon, he said. And rising interest rates could further limit affordability for entry-level buyers, causing some to drop out of the market. 

Bardell recalled that 2015-16 was a pretty heavy buyer’s market, and sellers eventually stopped listing. 

Today, with it being a strong seller’s market, “we may see the same thing happen with buyers.” 

2022 president of the Lancaster County Association of Realtors, Bardell said the competition for some properties is so robust bidders are sweetening their offers by waiving home inspections. 

“We would never recommend” doing that, he said, because buyers could end up with a sudden problem – and expense – after they move in. 

The limited supply of houses coming on the market is also leading some bidders to make other compromises, such as spending more than they had originally budgeted. 

And if buyers decide they’d rather rent than purchase, that’s not an easy alternative either as rents are going through the roof, Bardell said. 

“There are not a lot of good options right now.” 

Finding a house was time-consuming for Allison Steffy and her fiancé, and one of the reasons is because they would not waive an inspection. 

That was non-negotiable for the first-time homebuyer couple, Steffy said. 

Although the process was frustrating at times, their patience eventually paid off. They “absolutely love” the detached, single-family they recently moved into, she said. 

It took 10 months to get a house, Steffy said, “and finally we have it – with an inspection.” 

Chip Trautman, an agent with Gateway Realty in Lancaster, said established buyers have an advantage in this market because they usually possess more money to put down. Some are also paying in cash, which is attractive to sellers. 

The hurdles are great for entry-level purchasers but “not insurmountable if they keep trying,” he said. 

It’s easy to get discouraged, however, Trautman said, and he’s seen investors drop out of this lopsided market. 

Homebuyers are adjusting their expectations. One example is a willingness to relocate to an area where competition for houses is less frenzied, he said. 

Elle Hale, an agent with Century 21 Core Partners in York, said probably 85% of her clients are entry-level purchasers. 

Most are in their 20s and 30s; some previously rented while others lived with family. “A lot are single women,” she said. 

In this tight inventory market, people won’t sell their house until they find a new place, said Hale, 2022 president of the Realtors Association of York & Adams Counties. 

“Everybody is waiting on each other,” she said. “It’s very frustrating.” 

New construction isn’t really an option either, Hale said, as those homes are too expensive for the entry-level segment. 

This is also a market where it’s hard to find sellers willing to offer closing-cost assistance to first-time buyers, she said, who may need that help. 

Hale advised new buyers to save as much as possible for a down payment. 

The clients she deals with are willing to compromise – such as looking at duplexes when they originally sought a single-family house. 

And they’re being patient, waiting until the spring when houses typically go on the market. 

But if they find something they like, they need to have their ducks in a row and move fast, Hale said. The message is “here’s what we have available: If it fits, it might be gone next day.” 

“Everything has to be lined up and ready to go,” she said, “to find the place you want.” 

Victorian-era Harrisburg property to be converted to apartments 

A late Victorian-era property in Harrisburg formerly housed women’s fashion boutique The Plum. PHOTO/PROVIDED

A 122-year-old Harrisburg building that formerly housed The Plum, a women’s fashion boutique, has been sold and will be converted into three two-bedroom apartments. 

Harristown Enterprises Inc. is the buyer of the 3,300-square-foot, red brick, late Victorian-era property at 213 Locust St. Dan Alderman, of Lemoyne-based NAI CIR, handled the transaction, according to a release. 

Work on the project is expected to be completed in the fall. The Plum, which operated at the Locust Street location since 1967, maintains a storefront on the West Shore, in Camp Hill. 

“We are delighted to preserve this amazing building, which was built in 1900, and renovate it into three unique and desirable apartments in the heart of downtown,” Brad Jones, Harristown’s president and CEO, told TheBurg. He is collaborating on the conversion with construction partner Don Mowery. 

“Because this was the home of The Plum for more than half a century, purchasing and renovating this building has special meaning,” Jones added. 

“We are happy to see that the building will be preserved,” Isaac Mishkin, who runs The Plum with his daughter, Kirsten, told TheBurg. “Having served on the Harristown board of directors for many years, it pleases me to know that they will take care of this historic structure.” 

The Plum’s roots date back about nine decades, to when Isaac’s father, Moe, arrived in Harrisburg to open a millinery on Market Street. 

Harrisburg Jewish Home board sells senior care facility to real estate investment firm 

Non-profit senior care facility The Campus of the Jewish Home of Greater Harrisburg will be sold to New Jersey-based real estate investment firm, Tryko Partners. 

The board of The Campus of the Jewish Home of Greater Harrisburg announced the sale this week, citing a “persistent and increasing” gap between Medicaid reimbursement rates and the cost of caring for residents—challenges that were exacerbated by the pandemic. 

The Jewish Home also pointed to persistent staffing shortages, which have limited the number of residents the home has been able to accept. 

The sale includes the organization’s campus at 4000 Linglestown Road, Lower Paxton Township, consisting of the Jewish Home’s 138-bed skilled nursing facility and 58-unit personal care home, known as The Residence. 

“This was a very difficult decision,” said Richard Spiegelman, president of the Jewish Home Board. “Because of the significant fiscal challenges we have faced as a stand-alone facility, we decided the best option for residents of the Jewish Home and Residence and the staff was to sell the facility to an organization with the scale and resources to uphold the high standards we have followed for 40 years.” 

Tryko, which expects to complete the purchase of the property by March, currently owns 6,000 skilled nursing/assisted living beds across the country. The facilities are supported by Marquis Health Consulting Services, a nursing home consulting company. 

“The Jewish Home and Residence provides outstanding care for the Jewish community and larger population,” said Uri Kahanow, director of acquisitions at Tryko. “Our mission is to carry that forward and quickly earn the trust of residents, their families and the dedicated care team at the Jewish Home and Residence.”   

Penn State Health to launch at-home services through partnership with Highmark and Contessa 

Penn State Health plans to launch an at-home health care service that includes hospital and skilled nursing care through a partnership with Highmark Health and Nashville-based high-acuity home care company Contessa. 

Penn State Health Home Recovery Care will begin in the first half of 2022, officials said. 

“Healthcare is evolving, and Home Recovery Care is on the cutting edge of innovation and patient-centered care,” said Chris LaCoe, vice president of virtual care for Penn State Health. “Partnering with Highmark Health and Contessa to bring this new at-home option empowers patients to take control of their health, while decreasing costs, increasing outcomes and enhancing comfort and convenience.” 

Hospital Care at Home will allow patients with a variety of acute conditions the chance to continue their care at home, monitored through remote patient devices and treated through a combination of in-person and virtual care, according to a press release from Penn State Health. 

Through the new Skilled Nursing Care at Home service, patients who qualify will be able to receive rehabilitation and other medical care from their home instead of from a skilled nursing facility. 

The new offerings are part of Highmark and Penn State Health’s joint investment of $1 billion into the region, which was first announced in late 2017. 

“Highmark Health is committed to making healthcare simpler, smarter and more seamless, which includes enabling individuals to heal in a place that is more familiar and comfortable—their home,” said Monique Reese, senior vice president of home and community care at Highmark Health. “We are thrilled to expand Home Recovery Care to provide central Pennsylvanians safe, comprehensive, and high-quality acute-level care in their home.” 

Contessa, a subsidiary of Amedisys, a publicly traded home health, hospice and personal care provider, will be using its own home health model for the two new services. 

The model reduces readmission rates by 44%; decreases the main length of a hospital stay by 35% and has a patient satisfaction score of more than 90%; according to Contessa. 

“Home Recovery Care is a natural extension of Penn State Health’s mission to continually improve the health and well-being of its patients,” said Travis Messina, Contessa CEO. “This model personalizes care for acute and chronic conditions, while lowering costs and increasing patient satisfaction. It’s exciting to see this partnership come to life.” 

Home Recovery Care is slated to launch at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in the first half of 2022. The service will initially be available to Highmark Inc. Medicare Advantage and commercial health plan members with plans to expand in the future. 

Lancaster chooses four affordable housing projects for national grant program

Four Lancaster affordable housing projects are slated to receive $2.4 million in funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The projects were identified by the city of Lancaster as part of the department’s national HOME funding program and will include 82 new affordable housing units when finished.

Lancaster announced the winning projects and the funding they will receive on Friday.

They include: $850,000 to The Apartments at College Ave by HDC Mid Atlantic, $752,000 to Landis Place on King by Landis Quality Living, $377,730 to Scattered Rowhomes by Partners with Purpose and $500,000 to Conestoga North Townhomes by the Spanish American Civic Association.

The funds will be distributed by the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development.

“The City of Lancaster is committed to using all of the tools we have to create as many affordable housing units as possible,” said Chris Delfs, Lancaster’s director of community planning and economic development. “The availability of affordable housing is a key issue for our city residents and neighbors in Lancaster County. The creation of 82 units is a significant accomplishment not seen in many years, and we know there is a greater need.”

Along with the $2.4 million in funding, the County Redevelopment Authority also awarded $1 million to Bausman Place Apartments by Community Basics Inc.. Bausman Place is located on the boundary of Lancaster Township and the city and is expected to bring 136 affordable units within the city’s limits.