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    Buy My House, But I’m Taking the Toilet

    In this seller’s market, some sellers are exercising their power with unusual demands and stripping their homes of fixtures and appliances as they leave.In a housing market desperately short on inventory, with prices spiraling toward the heavens, sellers can demand almost anything these days. They can even take the toilets.Toilets, particularly expensive self-cleaning ones with bidets, are among the hot items ending up on moving vans, as sellers flex their muscle to squeeze the most out of a sale. Sellers are taking their appliances, too, and not just high-end Viking stoves. They are claiming midrange refrigerators, stoves and dishwashers to avoid shopping for new ones at a time when such items can be back-ordered for months. Then there are sentimental demands, like fireplace mantels and backyard fruit trees; one Manhattan couple insisted on keeping the sink where their daughter learned to brush her teeth 50 years ago.Buyers, beaten down from relentless bidding wars, shrug and slog along. What else can they do? This is a seller’s world and we’re all just living in it.“Look, sellers have become more greedy,” said Chase Landow, a salesperson for Serhant in Manhattan. “Good inventory is rather tight and they know that they can control the show.”In June, the nationwide median home sale price was up 25 percent year over year to $386,888, while the number of homes for sale was down 28 percent from 2020, according to Redfin. The homes that hit the market last month moved fast — a typical one sold in 14 days — and 56 percent of them sold above the asking priceEven in Manhattan, where the market was slow to recover from the pandemic, properties are moving quickly again, with the number of sales surging 152 percent in the second quarter of 2021, and the median sale price up 13 percent from last year, according to a Douglas Elliman report.With so many buyers knocking, sellers know that if one balks, another one will be waiting in the wings, probably with a better offer. Comedians on TikTok and YouTube paint a comically grim picture of the desperate buyer — throw in the family dog, or pay college tuition for the sellers’ children, and maybe they’ll consider your offer.Mr. Landow recently informed some clients, the buyers of a $15.5 million apartment in the Carlton House on East 61st Street, that the sellers wanted to take the kitchen cabinets. All of them. “The question is what the hell do you do with them?” Mr. Landow said. “I have no idea, which is why it’s all very odd.”The sellers were willing to wait on their custom bamboo cabinetry, which the buyers actually hated, until the buyers renovated the kitchen, agreeing to come back and claim them during demolition. So the buyers relented. “This market is so bananas, you want to do what you can do to keep the sellers happy,” Mr. Landow said. The deal closed in early July, bequeathed cabinets and all.In any market, it is not uncommon for buyers and sellers to spar over light fixtures, window treatments and appliances, with million-dollar deals sometimes unraveling over items that cost a few thousand. Generally, anything affixed to the walls — cabinets, sinks and toilets — is considered part of the sale, with removable items like light fixtures and mounted flat-screen televisions falling into a gray area that gets hammered out during contract negotiations. If an item goes, it is usually replaced with a contractor-grade equivalent. But ultimately, a contract can include whatever terms a buyer and seller agree to.And this year, buyers are agreeing to some doozies.In East Hampton, the sellers of a $2.2 million house decided they wanted to keep a pair of fruit trees, even though removing them left two gaping holes by the swimming pool.Even the sellers’ agent was confused. “Where did that come from? The buyer freaks out, it’s going to ruin the landscaping,” said Yorgos Tsibiridis, an associate broker for Compass, who represented the sellers in the deal. The trees, about six feet tall, were a gift to the sellers’ children from a grandparent and, it turned out, a deal breaker. “She said, ‘Nope, if they don’t allow me to take them with me I’m canceling the contract,’” Mr. Tsibiridis recounted.And so, a landscaper showed up recently and dug up the trees in time for the closing, which is expected to happen in a few days.There are other factors at play beyond power grabs. Housing is in short supply, but so too are appliances, furnishings and building materials, as the global supply chain continues to sputter through the pandemic recovery. As sellers part with their homes, some of them look around and realize that they may not be able to replace the items they’re leaving. So, why not take them?During the negotiations for a two-bedroom co-op in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, the sellers insisted on keeping the kitchen appliances and the washer and dryer. If the buyers wanted them, they could pay $10,000, a premium for secondhand Samsung appliances. The buyers were livid, as the demand was not mentioned in the listing for the $430,000 apartment.“They felt it was very petty and cheap to throw it in there at the last minute,” said Jack Chiu, an associate broker with Douglas Elliman representing the buyers. He said they would have altered their offer had they known the appliances were excluded. “It hit them from left field.”The buyers considered other apartments, but had gotten this one after winning an eight-way bidding war, following eight months of disappointments. “They were just so tired because they were outbid so many times,” Mr. Chiu said.They agreed to let the sellers take the appliances, and signed the contract. The buyers have started looking at appliances so they don’t move into an apartment with a stripped kitchen, but their first priority is securing a loan and getting approved by the co-op board so they can close in September.Other demands are purely sentimental. On the Upper West Side, a couple who have lived in their co-op apartment for decades looked at the Sherle Wagner sink where their now 52-year-old daughter learned to brush her teeth as a toddler, and couldn’t part with it. The decorative pedestal sink is hand-painted pink and green, and shaped like a seashell. “They know they have the upper hand,” said Sheila Trichter, an associate broker with Warburg Realty, speaking on behalf of her clients. “They know they are being absurd, to a degree. They know that they are asking for a lot.” The couple, moving to Florida, hope to install the sink in their new home.The buyers agreed to the demand, but instead of accepting a contractor-grade replacement, they asked for a credit toward the cost of a new one. “It’s all been friendly-ish,” Ms. Trichter said.And in Monroe, N.Y., Amy Wilhelm, a saleswoman at Corcoran Baer & McIntosh, was stunned when her client told her that she wanted to take the toilet in the main bathroom. “When I picked my jaw off the floor, I said, ‘I guess we could do that,’” Ms. Wilhelm said.The self-cleaning toilet lights up and the lid automatically opens when you walk in the room. But the seller wanted it for a deeply personal reason: Her husband, who had recently died, had wanted the toilet so much that he had jokingly filled a toilet fund jar. “This toilet was their running joke,” Ms. Wilhelm said.The seller disclosed her plans in the listing, turning the fixture into an oddity at the open house. Prospective buyers “were just so amazed by it,” Ms. Wilhelm said.On June 1, just days after the house was listed for $549,000, the seller accepted an offer, well over the asking price. It was one of six.For weekly email updates on residential real estate news, sign up here. Follow us on Twitter: @nytrealestate. More

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    Silicon Valley’s Best Pandemic Ever

    As the world reeled, tech titans supplied the tools that made life and work possible. Now the companies are awash in money — and questions about what it means to win amid so much loss.SAN FRANCISCO — In April 2020, with 2,000 Americans dying every day of Covid-19, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive and the world’s richest man, announced he was focusing on people rather than profits. Amazon would spend about $4 billion in the next few months “providing for customers and protecting employees,” he said, wiping out the profit the retailer would have made without the virus.It was a typically bold Amazon announcement, a shrewd public relations move to sacrifice financial gain at a moment of misery and fear. Mr. Bezos said this was “the hardest time we’ve ever faced” and suggested the new approach would extend indefinitely. “If you’re a shareowner in Amazon,” he advised, “you may want to take a seat.”At the end of July 2020, Amazon announced quarterly results. Rather than earning zero, as Mr. Bezos had predicted, it notched an operating profit of $5.8 billion — a record for the company.The months since have established new records. Amazon’s margins, which measure the profit on every dollar of sales, are the highest in the history of the company, which is based in Seattle.After stepping aside as chief executive early this month, Mr. Bezos flew to suborbital space for 10 minutes this week. Upon returning, he expressed gratitude to those who had fulfilled this lifelong dream. “I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer, ’cause you guys paid for all this,” he said.Mr. Bezos, who was not available for comment for this article, was the only chief executive of a tech company to enter zero gravity in his own spaceship in the past year. But Amazon’s pandemic triumph was echoed all over the world of technology companies.Even as 609,000 Americans have died and the Delta variant surges, as corporate bankruptcies hit a peak for the decade, as restaurants, airlines, gyms, conferences, museums, department stores, hotels, movie theaters and amusement parks shut down and as millions of workers found themselves unemployed, the tech industry flourished.The combined stock market valuation of Apple, Alphabet, Nvidia, Tesla, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook increased by about 70 percent to more than $10 trillion. That is roughly the size of the entire U.S. stock market in 2002. Apple alone has enough cash in its coffers to give $600 to every person in the United States. And in the next week, the big tech companies are expected to report earnings that will eclipse all previous windfalls.Silicon Valley, still the world headquarters for tech start-ups, has never seen so much loot. More Valley companies went public in 2020 than in 2019, and they raised twice as much money when they did. Forbes calculates there are now 365 billionaires whose fortunes derive from tech, up from 241 before the virus.Silicon Valley made the tools that allowed Americans, and the American economy, to survive the pandemic. People got their jigsaw puzzles, air purifiers and digital thermometers delivered by Amazon instead of picking them up two blocks or two miles away. The consumer economy swerved from local to national.Tech is triumphant in a way that even its most evangelical leaders couldn’t have predicted. No single industry has ever had such power over American life, dominating how we communicate, shop, learn about the world and seek distraction and joy.What will Silicon Valley do with this power? Who if anyone might restrain tech, and how much support will they have? Wealth and the ability to command and control tend to produce hubris more than modesty. As algorithms and artificial intelligence rearrange people into marketing groups, it’s uncertain — to put it politely — how aware the tech industry is of the potential for abuse, especially when it generates profits.With the House Judiciary Committee’s recent vote to advance a series of bills that aim to reduce the power of the most dominant tech companies, and with President Biden appointing regulators who have sharp views of Big Tech, these issues are finally set for a wider debate.It has been a tumultuous 18 months, and even the tech companies are having trouble absorbing what happened.PayPal, the digital payments company, had 325 million active accounts before the pandemic. It reported 392 million in the first quarter. “The winds were blowing in our direction, but we had to set the sails,” said Dan Schulman, the chief executive.The wind was so strong it blew tech into another universe of wealth and influence.The Pandemic’s TailwindIn March 2020, Redfin shut down its 78 offices around the country. Its stock lost two-thirds of its value. Shortly after, demand for real estate started rising again. Jordan Strauss/Associated PressOn March 13, 2020, Glenn Kelman, the chief executive of the online real estate broker Redfin, was biking to work when he got a call from Henry Ellenbogen, a longtime investor in Redfin who had started his own fund.At Harvard, Mr. Ellenbogen majored in the history of technology. One big thing he learned, he has said, was that technology is developed well in advance of people’s ability and willingness to use it.“Tell me something,” Mr. Ellenbogen asked Mr. Kelman, according to an account the chief executive posted on Redfin’s website. “When people start touring homes via an iPhone, won’t a lot of them decide, even after this whole pandemic ends, that this is just a better way to see houses? And if this whole process of buying and selling homes mostly goes virtual, how will other brokerages compete with you?”Mr. Kelman, a little preoccupied by how Seattle’s normally bustling streets were eerily empty, said he didn’t know.“I do,” Mr. Ellenbogen said. “The world is changing in your favor.”This was not a general view then, and it certainly was not what Mr. Kelman was experiencing. The first confirmed coronavirus death in the United States was a nursing home resident in a Seattle suburb on Feb. 29. Within hours, home sellers decided that maybe they did not want strangers breathing in their living room and bedrooms. Buyers began to pull out as well.For Redfin, that was the beginning of a crisis. Within a few days, it shut down its 78 offices around the country. Its stock plunged, losing two-thirds of its value.“The magnitude of the decline was increasing every day,” Mr. Kelman said. He agreed to sell Mr. Ellenbogen more stock for $110 million, thinking Redfin might need cash to make it through a long drought. In early April, Mr. Kelman furloughed 41 percent of the company’s agents, who were salaried employees. More than 1,000 people were affected.By that point, real estate was already turning around. Instead of killing demand for housing, the pandemic fueled it.“The economy split in two on about April 7, 2020,” Mr. Kelman said. “One part of the economy suffered greatly, but another did just fine — the people who said, ‘If the world is going to end in the virus-filled streets of New York, I’m going to Connecticut or Vermont or Maine and I need a house there.’ What we thought was a headwind was a tailwind.”The pandemic as a whole, it became clear, was a tailwind for tech in very basic ways.When tens of millions of people were urged and sometimes ordered to stay put in their homes, naturally companies whose very existence involves facilitating virtual lives benefited. The rise of the teleconferencing company Zoom as both a verb and stock market winner was perhaps the easiest call of the year.“Call it half luck — being in the right place at the right time — and half strategic tactics by companies recognizing this was going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Dan Ives, a managing director at Wedbush Securities. “What for most industries were hurricane-like headwinds was a pot of gold for tech.”Even companies that might have seemed vulnerable to stay-at-home mandates did well. Airbnb is a company whose whole existence was about going to stay in strangers’ homes. The pandemic should have killed the buzz for its long-awaited public offering in December. But its stock price doubled on the first day of trading, giving the company a value of $100 billion.Tech companies like Redfin that reacted defensively in March risked being left out of the recovery in April. The 2020 housing market, pushed by pandemic demand and negligible interest rates, turned out to be the best since 2006.Those furloughed at Redfin were soon hired back. Mr. Ellenbogen’s deal proved extremely lucrative. But an estimated 10 million people are behind on the rent even as eviction moratoriums start to expire.Mr. Kelman, more introspective than most tech executives, feels a little queasy.“Tech used to be delivering these wonders to the world, and all of us in the industry felt the human uplift of general progress,” he said. “With the pandemic, fortunes have really diverged and at least some people in tech are really uncomfortable about that.”Pushing Back“We went from being pirates to being the Navy,” said Marc Andreessen. “People may love pirates when they’re young and small and scrappy, but nobody likes a Navy that acts like a pirate.”Steve Jennings/Getty ImagesThe biggest, and perhaps the only, threat to tech now is from government.Tech antitrust reformers say the government response to the pandemic, including the national eviction moratorium, repudiated decades of entrenched belief in a hands-off economic approach. Now, the activists say, they will have their moment.“When the government moved in a robust way to keep everybody afloat, free-market ideologies died,” said Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a research and advocacy organization that fights corporate control. “People now appreciate that the government can either make choices that centralize power and wealth or it can structure markets and industries in way that deliver benefits more broadly.”There are signs of pushback against tech that would have been unimaginable a few years ago, beyond the House bills. Ohio sued Google, saying it should be regulated like a public utility. The Teamsters, one of the biggest labor unions, passed a resolution to supply “all resources necessary” to help organize workers at Amazon. Lina Khan, who made her reputation as a critic of Amazon, was appointed Federal Trade Commission chair. On Tuesday, the White House said it would nominate Jonathan Kanter, a tech critic, to be the Justice Department’s top antitrust official.But there are signs of movement in the other direction, too. The F.T.C. and a coalition of state attorneys general saw their antitrust lawsuits against Facebook dismissed by a Washington judge last month. The F.T.C. can refile an improved suit by the end of this month.Any measures restricting tech will ultimately need public sentiment behind them to succeed. Even some of tech’s biggest supporters see the potential for worry here.“We went from being pirates to being the Navy,” Marc Andreessen, a central figure in Silicon Valley for a quarter-century, told the Substack writer Noah Smith in a recent interview. “People may love pirates when they’re young and small and scrappy, but nobody likes a Navy that acts like a pirate. And today’s technology industry can come across a lot like a Navy that acts like a pirate.”Beyond the threat of misuse of tech lurks an even darker possibility: a misplaced confidence in the ability of one loosely regulated sector to run so much of the world.Weeks before the pandemic, the RAND Corporation published a study on systemic risk and how a problem with one company can imperil others in its network. Systemic risk was a big issue in the 2008 financial collapse, when the government propped up some companies because their downfall might imperil the whole system. They were too big to fail.The research group investigated whether tech companies had supplanted financial firms as a key node in the economy, and if the economy was growing too dependent on them. Amazon, whose AWS cloud division has millions of customers, was highlighted.In December, RAND’s point was made when SolarWinds, which makes software that allows other companies to manage their networks, was revealed to have been infiltrated by Russian hackers. Since SolarWinds had so many clients, including Fortune 500 companies and federal agencies, the breach became one of the worst on record.Tech’s dominance means the risks are more concentrated than ever. There were problems at the security firm Cloudflare in July 2020, at Amazon in November, at the cloud provider Fastly last month and at the content distribution network Akamai on Thursday, all of which took down other sites at least briefly.These outages caused little concern.That’s typical of systemic issues, said Jonathan Welburn, a lead author on the RAND study. “Before 2008, when house prices kept rising and rising, no one wanted to hear how they were being artificially propped up and why that could be a problem,” he said.Pushing Forward“When people are remote, I worry about what their career trajectory is going to be,” IBM’s chief executive, Arvind Krishna, recently told the BBC.Brian Ach/Getty ImagesThe pandemic gave tech companies the power and the cash to make aggressive bets on their individual destinies. Buying another company was one way to do this. Global deal values in tech soared 47.3 percent in 2020 from a year ago.Zillow, a digital real estate company in Seattle, spent $500 million in February to buy ShowingTime, a scheduling platform for home showings. A few weeks later, Zillow said it would hire 2,000 people, increasing its work force by 40 percent.But its biggest bet will take longer to play out. Before the pandemic, Zillow discouraged working from home, like most companies. Then last summer, it said 90 percent of its employees could work remotely forever if they chose.At the time, Zillow was in the vanguard of a movement. Now the idea of the non-virtual office is re-exerting its pull with managers.Amazon says its plan “is to return to an office-centric culture as our baseline.” Google asserted the same thing, although it backed off after workers rebelled. IBM says 80 percent of its employees will be in the office at least three days a week.“When people are remote, I worry about what their career trajectory is going to be,” IBM’s chief executive, Arvind Krishna, told the BBC.Zillow is something of an outlier. Even after a year of working from home, 59 percent of its employees told the company they planned to go into the office once a month or less.This may be the pandemic’s ultimate tailwind: not just the future coming much faster to your company, but actively pushing your company faster into the future. It is a risk that might be easier to undertake if your market value has suddenly tripled the way Zillow’s did.If Zillow is wrong about the future and employees are less bound to an office they visit only virtually, the company will stumble. If it is right, it will increase its workers’ loyalty and outdistance earthbound competitors.“The pandemic forced change on all of us,” said Jeremy Wacksman, Zillow’s chief operating officer. “We didn’t wish for it but now we’re learning from it.”More than a third of Zillow employees moved in the year that began in March 2020. Many moves were from one part of Seattle’s metro area to another, indicating a general reluctance not to get so far away from the office you could not drive there. But other employees dispersed to New Mexico, Mississippi and Alabama. Nine moved to Hawaii.“They liked their job but wanted to go somewhere else. That used to be a problem. Now it’s not,” said Viet Shelton, a Zillow spokesman who, as it happens, just moved to Manhattan from Seattle because he always wanted to live in New York.Now that employees no longer have to live where Zillow has an office, interest has swelled. More than 55,000 applied to work at Zillow in the first quarter, up 51 percent from the prepandemic level and about 10 applicants for every person employed there. Zillow has hired more recruiters to deal with the onslaught.Over at Redfin, the stock is up 400 percent from its pandemic bottom. Redfin paid $608 million in February to acquire a publisher of rental listings, its biggest deal ever. But while the company seems so rich, so successful, so lucky from the outside, it feels different within. Managing growth is almost as hard as managing a downturn.“Customers are clamoring for service and we can’t hire fast enough,” said Mr. Kelman. “Redfin never had a moment when it was absolutely and totally killing it, but I always imagined when we did that it would be more fun than this.” More

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    The Car Market 'Is Insane': Dealers Can't Keep Up With Demand

    Rick Ricart is expecting nearly 40 Kia Telluride sport utility vehicles to arrive at his family’s dealership near Columbus, Ohio, over the next three weeks. Most will be on his lot for just a few hours.“They’re all sold,” Mr. Ricart said. “Customers have either signed the papers or have a deposit on them. The market is insane right now.”In showrooms across the country, Americans are buying most makes and models almost as fast as they can be made or resold. The frenzy for new and used vehicles is being fed by two related forces: Automakers are struggling to increase production because of a shortage of computer chips caused in large part by the pandemic. And a strong economic recovery, low interest rates, high savings and government stimulus payments have boosted demand.The combination has left dealers and individuals struggling to get their hands on vehicles. Some dealers are calling and emailing former customers offering to buy back cars they sold a year or two earlier because demand for used vehicles is as strong as it is for new cars, if not stronger. Used car prices are up about 45 percent over the past year, according to government data published this week. New car and truck prices are up about 5 percent over the past year.Those price increases have fed a debate in Washington about whether President Biden’s policies, particularly the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan he signed in March, are responsible for the sharp rise in inflation. The government said this week that consumer prices across the economy rose 5.4 percent in the last year through June.Republican lawmakers have argued that the March legislation is overheating the economy and are citing the rise in prices to oppose additional government spending. But Biden administration officials have pointed out that temporary supply shortages are largely responsible for the surge in prices of cars and other goods.Government stimulus may have helped some consumers, but it is hard to say how much. Several large forces are at play.The chip shortage, for example, is affecting automakers all over the world and is not directly related to U.S. policies. Industry officials blame limited production capacity for semiconductors and pandemic-related disruptions in supply and demand for the shortage.To make the most of limited chip supplies, General Motors has temporarily done away with certain features in some models, like stop-start systems that automatically turn off engines when cars stop for, say, a traffic light. And the French carmaker Peugeot has replaced digital speedometers with analog ones in some cars.Rental car companies that sold off thousands of cars during the pandemic to survive are now in the market to buy cars and trucks. They want to take advantage of a summer travel boom that has driven up rental rates to several hundred dollars a day in some places.“The industry has had strikes and material shortages before that have left us short of inventory, but I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Mark Scarpelli, the owner of two Chevrolet dealerships near Chicago. “Never, never, never.”His dealerships normally have 600 to 700 cars in stock. Now, he has about 50. Once or twice a week, a truck arrives with five or 10 vehicles. The cars disappear quickly because of customer waiting lists, Mr. Scarpelli said.Industry executives said the last time demand and supply were this out of sync was most likely after the end of World War II, when U.S. auto plants returned to making cars after years of churning out tanks and planes.Dealers said virtually everything was selling, from luxury vehicles and sports cars that cost more than $100,000 to basic used cars that many parents buy for teenagers.Even though the unemployment rate is still higher than before the pandemic, many people have money to spend. Government payments have helped lots of people, but many Americans, kept from vacationing or eating out, saved money. Financing cars is also relatively cheap — at least for people with good credit. Some automakers like Toyota, which has been less affected by the chip shortage than others, are advertising zero-interest loans on some cars.Mr. Ricart’s family businesses include a custom shop that sells high-end, special-edition trucks and sports cars. “We had a $125,000 Shelby pickup, and I said, ‘Who’s going to buy that?’” he recalled. “The next day it was gone. There’s so much free cash in the market. People are paying full price, even for the most expensive vehicles we have.”Buyers often have to take vehicles that don’t meet their specifications, and move fast when they find one close enough.Gary Werle, a retiree in Lake Worth, Fla., recently traded in a 2017 Buick Encore for a 2021 version, drawn by its safety features such as blind-spot monitoring and automatic braking. “I’m 80, and I thought it would be good to have those,” he said.On Memorial Day, his dealer called, and Mr. Werle didn’t hesitate. “I was at a party and left to buy the car,” he said. “I’d heard about the shortages, so I wasn’t sure the car would be there the next day.”Dealers are selling fewer vehicles, but their profits are up a lot. That’s a huge change from the spring of 2020, when most dealerships shut down for roughly two months and they had to lay off workers to survive.“The strong demand from consumers paired with a lack of supply from the manufacturers has created a gusher of profits for dealers,” said Alan Haig, president of Haig Partners, an automotive consultant.Now, dealers typically dictate the price of new or used cars. New cars typically sell for the manufacturer’s suggested retail price or, in some cases, thousands of dollars more for models in very high demand. Haggling over used cars is a distant memory.“There’s not a lot of negotiating that goes on right now on price,” said Wes Lutz, owner of Extreme Dodge in Jackson, Mich.Some customers have balked at paying top dollar for new cars and have opted to make do with older vehicles. That has increased demand for parts and service, one of the most profitable businesses for car dealers. Many dealers have extended repair-shop hours. Mr. Ricart said he had some repair technicians putting in 10- or 12-hour days three or four days in a row before taking a few days off.Of course, the shortage of cars will end, but it isn’t clear when.As Covid-19 cases and deaths rose last spring, automakers shut down plants across North America from late March until mid-May. Since their plants were down and they expected sales to come back slowly, they ordered fewer semiconductors, the tiny brains that control engines, transmissions, touch screens, and many other components of modern cars and trucks.At the same time, consumers confined to their homes began buying laptops, smartphones and game consoles, which increased demand for chips from companies that make those devices. When automakers restarted their plants, fewer chips were available.Many automakers have had to idle plants for a week or two at a time in the first half of 2021. G.M., Ford Motor and others have also resorted to producing vehicles without certain components and holding them at plants until the required parts arrive. At one point, G.M. had about 20,000 nearly complete vehicles awaiting electronic components. It began shipping them in June.Ford has been hit harder than many other automakers because of a fire at one of its suppliers’ factories in Japan. At the end of June, Ford had about 162,000 vehicles at dealer lots, fewer than half the number it had just three months ago and roughly a quarter of the stock its dealers typically hold.This month, Ford is slowing production at several North American plants because of the chip shortage. The company said it planned to focus on completing vehicles.Mr. Ricart recently took a trip on his Harley-Davidson to Louisville, Ky., and got a look at the trucks and S.U.V.s at a Ford plant that are waiting to be finished. He said he had seen “thousands of trucks in fields with temporary fencing around them.”He said he hoped to get some of those trucks soon because Ricart Ford had only about 30 F-150 pickup trucks in stock. “We’re used to selling a couple hundred a month.” More

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    Work at Home or the Office? Either Way, There’s a Start-Up for That.

    As more Americans return to an office a few days a week, start-ups providing tools for hybrid work are trying to cash in.SAN FRANCISCO — Before the pandemic, Envoy, a start-up in San Francisco, sold visitor registration software for the office. Its system signed in guests and tracked who was coming into the building.When Covid-19 hit and forced people to work from home, Envoy adapted. It began tracking employees instead of just visitors, with a screening system that asked workers about potential Covid symptoms and exposures.Now as companies begin reopening offices and promoting more flexibility for employees, Envoy is changing its strategy again. Its newest product, Envoy Desks, lets employees book desks for when they go into their company’s workplace, in a bet that assigned cubicles and five days a week in the office are a thing of the past.Envoy is part of a wave of start-ups trying to capitalize on America’s shift toward hybrid work. Companies are selling more flexible office layouts, new video-calling software and tools for digital connectivity within teams — and trying to make the case that their offerings will bridge the gaps between an in-person and remote work force.The start-ups are jockeying for position as more companies announce plans for hybrid work, where employees are required to come in for only part of the week and can work at home the rest of the time. In May, a survey of 100 companies conducted by McKinsey found that nine out of 10 organizations planned to combine remote and on-site working even after it was safe to return to the office.Providing tools for remote work is potentially lucrative. Companies spent $317 billion last year on information technology for remote work, according to the research company Gartner. Gartner estimated that spending would increase to $333 billion this year.An Envoy employee demonstrating how to use the software to book a desk.Lauren Segal for The New York TimesHybrid and remote work have the potential to benefit workers for whom office environments were never a good fit, said Kate Lister, president of the consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics. This includes women, racial minorities, people with caregiving responsibilities and those with disabilities, along with introverts and people who simply prefer to work at odd hours or in solitude.But she and others also warned that the move to hybrid work could make remote workers “second-class citizens.” Workers who miss out on the camaraderie of in-person meetings or the spontaneity of hallway chats may end up being passed over for raises and promotions, they said.That, start-up founders argue, is where their products come in.Rajiv Ayyangar, the chief executive and co-founder of Tandem, leads one of several software start-ups that have created desktop apps that help teams better collaborate with one another and that recreate the feeling of being in an office. He said Tandem’s product was trying to help with “presence” — the ability to know what one’s teammates are doing in real time, even if the worker is not with their colleagues in the office.Tandem’s desktop program, which costs $10 a month for each user, shows what teammates are working on so colleagues know if they are available for a spontaneous video call within the app. The list of user statuses automatically updates to let people know if their co-workers are on a call, writing in Google Docs or doing some other task.Pragli and Tribe, two software start-ups that have been around since 2019, also offer similar products. People can use Pragli’s product to create standing audio or video calls that others can join. It is free, though the company plans to introduce a paid product. Tribe’s software uses busy and available statuses to facilitate in-platform video calls; it is currently only accessible with an invitation.Owl Labs, a start-up founded in 2017, is also trying to tackle “presence.” It makes a 360-degree video camera, microphone and speaker that sits in the middle of a conference table and automatically zooms in on the person who is speaking.Owl’s 360-degree camera, microphone and speaker system is intended to remote workers to attend meetings seamlessly.Owl LabsThe company, which said its customers quadrupled to more than 75,000 organizations over the pandemic, said the $999 camera was a way for remote workers to participate in office meetings by being able to see everyone who is speaking, rather than the limited view enabled by a single laptop camera.Other start-ups, such as Kumospace and Mmhmm, said they were working on improving video communications for hybrid work. Kumospace, a video-calling start-up, structures calls so that users enter a virtual room. They then navigate the room using arrow keys and can talk to people when they are close to them.The design is meant to replicate in-person socializing, where people can mill around and have multiple conversations in the same room. That contrasts with a service like Zoom, where everyone is by default in the same conversation as soon as they enter the video call.Mmhmm, which was created by the founder of the note-taking and productivity app Evernote, Phil Libin, offers a variety of interactive video backgrounds, tools for sharing slideshows and other features for live conversations and asynchronous presentations. It has a free version and a premium version, which costs $8.33 per employee a month.Some companies said their products can help businesses understand their space usage as fewer workers come in needing desks. Density, a start-up in San Francisco, makes a product that uses custom depth sensors to measure how many people are entering an area or use an open space. Companies can then analyze that data to understand how much of their office space they are actually using, and downsize as necessary.Density also plans to offer other tools for hybrid work. Last month, it acquired a software start-up that provides a system for desk and space reservation.Envoy said its new Desks product had attracted 400 companies, including the clothing retailer Patagonia and the film company Lionsgate.Larry Gadea, chief executive of Envoy, at the company’s headquarters.Lauren Segal for The New York Times“The companies that use us get much more accurate data that’s standardized across all their offices globally,” said Larry Gadea, Envoy’s chief executive. “And then it’s around using that data to inform space planning things. Do we need more floors? Do we need more meeting rooms? Do we need more desks? Do we need more desks for this one team?”Lionsgate said it had used Envoy’s products since before the pandemic. When the coronavirus arrived, it turned to Envoy’s employee-screening software to provide health checks to those entering the office.Now, as more employees return to in-person work, the company is using Envoy to manage where everyone sits, as well as to track who is coming in. Lionsgate said the information can help determine how often teams will need to be in the office.“We’ll be able to know really how much space we need,” said Heather Somaini, Lionsgate’s chief administrative officer. “So I think it’ll be really useful.” More

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    At Sweetgreen, Seeing the Future of Work in a Desk Salad

    A favorite lunchtime destination of many urban office workers weathered the pandemic thanks to its digital savvy. It’s confident more people will be returning to their offices soon.What can office desk salads tell us about the state of the pandemic?To Sweetgreen, which has been selling $10 to $15 salads to lines of office workers for more than a decade, they say the end is in sight.“Covid’s over,” Jonathan Neman, chief executive of Sweetgreen, said in a recent Zoom interview from Culver City, Calif., where the company is based, and where employees are being asked to return to the office on July 19. “At this point, it’s just getting people back in.”Sweetgreen, which has 129 restaurants across more than a dozen states, is among the businesses that have been obsessively tracking coronavirus case numbers on sites like Axios and The New York Times throughout the pandemic. It has also been monitoring car traffic and OpenTable reservations to gauge consumer activity.The company and its meals are connected to the status of office workers in cities, particularly millennials and those in Generation Z. Sweetgreen has raised more than $450 million in funding since it was founded in 2007 and has cultivated a loyal following thanks to its fresh ingredients, digital savvy and sharp branding, which extends to the design of its stores and celebrity partnerships with the likes of the tennis star Naomi Osaka. But it has also bet heavily on serving many white-collar workers in cities like New York and Los Angeles, a once-ubiquitous slice of urban life that was upended by the pandemic.“It has definitely been challenging, especially in the cities that had a full shutdown,” Mr. Neman said.Before the pandemic, he said, the company had set up more than 1,000 “outposts” — its name for salad pickup locations at places like corporate offices and hospitals. Sweetgreen now has about 250 up and running.With a few dozen Manhattan locations and regular digital ordering, Sweetgreen has had insight into the movements of its customers.Rozette Rago for The New York Times“We’re definitely not fully back from an office perspective,” Mr. Neman said, though he added that the company had experienced a steady rise in business since many mask mandates were dropped in May and the Memorial Day weekend.“You’re starting to see these really nice increases as people are slowly returning to the office,” Mr. Neman said. He said he planned to watch for a similar bump after July Fourth, though Labor Day “is going to be a very big moment.” Many companies have signaled that early September will be when they bring most workers back to the office, at least for part of the week.With more than 30 locations in Manhattan and many customers who order salads digitally, Sweetgreen has had insight into the movements of its customers, even if they are not yet fully back to eating at their desks again.The company has seen neighborhoods “start to really light up, like the Upper East Side and Upper West Side,” Mr. Neman said. “The true Midtown office has been the slowest to return, so we have a store in Rock Center, Bryant Park, those sorts of areas which have definitely been the slowest.”Sweetgreen is also beginning to set up more restaurants outside the city in areas like Westchester County and around Greenwich, Conn., as well as regions of New Jersey and Long Island.“There’s definitely some following customers in their dispersion,” Mr. Neman said. The company had been planning a suburban expansion before the pandemic, but it has accelerated those initiatives.Although Sweetgreen said it had been insulated from some of the shocks of the past year because of its online ordering abilities and its robust delivery service, the future of work matters for its business. The company was recently valued at $1.78 billion, and, according to a report by Axios, it has confidentially filed for an initial public offering. Sweetgreen does not share its financials but has said its revenue exceeded $300 million in 2019.Third-party research firms have found that the company is still recovering from the past year. In the New York metro market, transactions at Sweetgreen were down 20 percent in May relative to 2019, according to Earnest Research, a data analytics company that monitors millions of debit and credit card payments made in the United States.Sweetgreen, which has 129 restaurants across more than a dozen states, is among the businesses that have been obsessively tracking coronavirus case numbers.Rozette Rago for The New York Times“As higher-vaccinated markets continue to drag, the impact of the lunch crowd heading back to the office will likely be a key factor on this I.P.O., especially with fewer folks returning from the urban exodus,” said Zach Amsel, a senior data analytics director at Earnest Research.Mr. Neman is expecting companies to go back to in-office work for three or four days per week, especially after Labor Day.“The office is not dead — I do think that sitting behind a screen all day created burnout,” he said. “I land a little bit more in a moderate world, where the world’s probably not going 100 percent back to where it was, but I also don’t think the world is going full-on work from home.”As for Sweetgreen’s return to office plan this month, the company said it had been encouraging vaccinations but would not mandate them for employees. The topic has been fraught, with companies like Saks and BlackRock requiring vaccines for employees who are returning in person and others hesitating to establish those guidelines.“These decisions get so loaded these days,” Mr. Neman said. “We are trying to find the balance between creating this place that everyone feels safe but also not overstepping in terms of pure personal decisions.” More

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    Manhattan Real Estate Finally Bounces Back to Normal

    The volume of sales surges back to pre-pandemic levels, but prices are up just slightly.As vaccination levels rise and businesses reopen, residential real estate has finally bounced back to where it was before Covid devastated New York.In Manhattan this spring, the number of apartments that sold was more than double what it was a year ago, when the city was locked down in the early days of the pandemic, according to a half dozen market reports released Thursday.Though in many ways the market had no where to go but up — apartment showings were restricted for most of last spring — the surge in closed deals is even strong by historical standards. Not since 2015, a time of a major boom, has there been a three-month period with comparable activity, the reports show.There was more of a mixed picture in terms of prices, with co-ops and condos trading for an average of $1.9 million and a median of $1.1 million, up slightly from last spring. Brokers say the so-so improvement can be explained by an oversupply of apartments, which has fueled discounts.But the spike in sales volume seems to have the real estate industry wiping sweat from its troubled brow.“The way people were looking at the city a year ago, it would now be a dystopian hellscape with nine people left in Manhattan,” said Jonathan Miller, the appraiser who wrote the report for the brokerage Douglas Elliman, referencing early fears that many New Yorkers would decamp permanently to the suburbs or second homes outside the city. “But it seems that cooler heads have prevailed.”Though the count of total sales varies from firm to firm because of different methodologies, all showed huge spikes in activity, versus spring 2020, but also compared with this winter.There were 3,417 completed deals from April to June, versus 1,357 deals a year ago, according to Elliman, for a gain of 152 percent. Even when measured against the January to March quarter, when Manhattan had 2,457 sales, this spring seemed particularly busy.In the third quarter of 2015 — the most recent high point — there were 3,654 sales, Mr. Miller said.The Corcoran Group’s report showed a similar increase in sales. “A year-and-a-half after the pandemic began, it’s safe to say that New York City has its mojo back,” Pamela Liebman, Corcoran’s president and chief executive, said in a statement.Buyers over the last few months gravitated toward co-ops, a housing type that had seemed to lose some favor in recent years. Co-ops accounted for 49 percent of all deals, versus 37 percent for existing condos, according to Corcoran. And in the frenzy of the post-pandemic market, downtown seems to have benefited at the expense of uptown, according to Compass, which reported that neighborhoods like Chelsea, SoHo and the East Village accounted for 31 percent of all deals.For Elizabeth Stribling-Kivlan, a senior managing director at Compass, one of the spring’s most heartening developments was improvement in the financial district, a neighborhood that became a veritable ghost town during the pandemic with the emptying out of office buildings. Median prices there soared 33 percent in a year, the largest increase of any neighborhood, she said.Yes, shuttered stores, sleepy business districts and gun violence make Manhattan feel different than before, she said. But with more workers expected to return to offices this fall and beyond, the borough should soon start to resemble its old self.“People are feeling like they want to come back there, they want to see what will come out of this,” she said. “It’s a new era for us.”Prices, though, may have a ways to go. The price per square foot for resale apartments, which is a useful indicator because it controls for the apartment size, Mr. Miller said, actually declined this spring over a year ago, to $1,408 from $1,461, or 3.6 percent.“Prices are still not at parity with a year ago,” he said. The overall discount that buyers are paying on list prices is at 6.4 percent, which is better than 2020 but still higher than the decade average of 4.9 percent. “There still is a Covid discount out there,” Mr. Miller said, “but it’s easing.”Increased inventory in Manhattan also may contribute to the gap between asking and selling prices. There were 7,880 unsold apartments this spring, up from 6,225 in spring 2020, when many sellers pulled their apartments off the market over fears of having strangers in their homes.And while bidding wars have become the norm in many suburban towns, they accounted for only 6.8 percent of all deals in Manhattan this spring, versus 31 percent in the hot market of 2015. “This market is a return to normal,” Mr. Miller said, “whatever ‘normal’ means.”For weekly email updates on residential real estate news, sign up here. Follow us on Twitter: @nytrealestate. More

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    It’s Summer in the Ski Towns, 2.0

    Last year, mountain resorts were overrun by travelers in search of space and fresh air. The visitors are expected back, but now the towns have expanded activities and plans in place to deal with the crowds.For their vacation this summer, Susan Tyler and her husband have booked a house in the small ski resort town of Red Lodge, Mont., with a group of friends. As they message daily about the trip, the anticipation grows, said Ms. Tyler, a performing arts administrator in Texarkana, Texas. “Being outside with friends is smart and renewing, and it feeds your soul,” she said.True, but not when the trailhead is so packed you can’t find a place to park. Last summer, pandemic travelers, remote workers and an unprecedented number of new full-time residents descended on mountain towns in search of space and fresh air, prompting longtime locals to complain about overcrowding and quality-of-life concerns. This year promises more of the same.The difference? Resort towns are prepared, with on-mountain activities back to operating at full capacity, programs in place to educate visitors on outdoors etiquette, plans to address overcrowding and new attractions that highlight the alpine environment.A mid-May report from DestiMetrics, which tracks lodging in mountain resort destinations, describes bookings as “surging” for this summer, with July, August and September already well ahead of the same time period two years ago, which was itself a record-setting summer for resort visitation and revenue. At the same time, average daily hotel rates were 32 percent higher than they were in summer 2019.“We’re seeing earlier demand than we’ve ever seen before and at higher levels,” said Anna Olson, the president and chief executive of the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce, who noted that lodges in nearby Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks that had closed for most of last summer have reopened, increasing the number of rooms available near the Wyoming resort town; additionally, the Cloudveil, a new Autograph Collection hotel, has opened.Not just for skiingOf course, summering near ski resorts is nothing new. Some towns, like Jackson and Whitefish, Mont., have historically attracted warm-weather visitors because of their proximity to national parks. Others, like Colorado’s Aspen and Telluride, have drawn vacationers with longstanding cultural events, like the eight-week-long Aspen Music Festival and School and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. And many ski areas have long offered scenic chairlift rides to hiking and biking trails. But now resorts are increasingly promoting themselves as warm-weather destinations and adding more outdoors-oriented activities like purpose-built bike parks, forest canopy tours, mountain coasters and via ferratas, a European-derived system that consists of permanent steps and ladders bolted into a rock face; users attach themselves with carabiners to steel cables to prevent big falls.Summer visitors have long been drawn to ski towns for cultural events like the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado. Benko PhotographicsFor one, there’s the desire to create more of a year-round — and less snow-dependent — economy. Additionally, passage of the Ski Area Recreational Opportunities Enhancement Act in 2011, and subsequent policy guidelines issued by the U.S. Forest Service in 2014, eliminated cumbersome aspects of the permitting processes on federal land, making it easier for many mountains to develop summer recreation.Vail Resorts was one of the first to capitalize on the new legislation with its Epic Discovery summer program, introduced at Vail Mountain and Breckenridge in Colorado, and Heavenly in California, starting in 2016. Zip lines, alpine slides, ropes courses and more, along with educational components, aim to let visitors immerse themselves in the mountain environment. Since then, many other resorts have followed suit. This June, for example, Telluride, in southwestern Colorado, introduced its first canopy tour, with zip lines, aerial bridges and rappels.The approach has been working. Some would even say too well. “Now at most mountain destinations in the West, and at many in the Northeast, the summer occupancy is as high or higher than during the winter months,” said Tom Foley, the senior vice president for business operations and analytics for Inntopia, a resort marketing and e-commerce firm. (He adds that lodging prices, however, still lag behind winter’s peak rates.)Even resorts that long had infrastructure in place have benefited. Vermont’s Killington introduced its bike park (which sits on a combination of state and private land) 30 years ago. But from 2016 to 2018, visits surged to 30,000 from 12,000, said the resort spokeswoman, Courtney DiFiore. She attributed the growth to new beginner and intermediate trails, more programming for children and an all-season pass option.This year, resorts expect summer visitation to ramp up several notches, in reaction to the pandemic. “It’s unreal how much demand there is for Jackson right now,” said the ski area spokeswoman, Anna Cole. “Jackson by nature is outdoors and pretty distanced, and people want to get in their cars and drive,” she said. “We fit the bill on all fronts.”In the summer, visitors enjoy the patio of the Piste restaurant at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Teton Village, Wyo.Natalie Behring for The New York TimesThe ski area continues to expand its offerings. The Sweetwater gondola is running for the first time in summer, hauling riders and their bikes to new routes within a growing trail network, and last summer the mountain added to its guided via ferrata routes.Other resorts, like California’s Mammoth Mountain, have also built via ferratas. For some ski areas with rugged winter reputations (including Jackson Hole), offering hikers the challenge and reward of safely ascending rock features is a fitting alternative to more passive experiences. “We’re not looking for zip lines or mountain coasters,” said David Norden, the chief executive of Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico, which added a via ferrata last August. “We want people to engage with the mountain and get that sense of accomplishment.” Colorado’s Arapahoe Basin delves into summer operations for the first time this year with its own via ferrata — topping out at 13,000 feet in elevation, it’s North America’s highest — along with an aerial adventure course.Taos also introduced lift-served mountain biking last year, tapping into another summer growth area, as resorts across the country have introduced or expanded existing bike parks. Though these projects have taken at least a couple of years to plan and construct, they coincide fortuitously with the pandemic-inspired surge in cycling.For instance, New Hampshire’s Cranmore Mountain Resort, near North Conway, opened a family-friendly bike park last year, while nearby Loon Mountain opened its version in fall 2019. In Idaho, lift-accessed mountain biking returns to Sun Valley’s extensive trail network after a year’s hiatus and Snowmass, Colo., continues to add trails to its park. Even Mammoth, which was the world’s first resort to offer lift-served mountain biking back in 1986 and now hosts California’s largest park, is still expanding, adding some e-bike-specific on-mountain trails last summer.Goodbye to the slow seasonBut the increase in visitors has come at a cost, especially in summer, when recreation takes place across more outdoor venues with greater impact. The upsurge of people vying for space on trails and in restaurants in the summer months means resort towns never get a break. “Discussions about overtourism in mountain towns have been going on for a long time,” said Inntopia’s Mr. Foley, who also noted the scarcity of affordable housing for workers, especially given the recent run up in prices as new home buyers have sought refuge from the pandemic in the mountains. “Every problem that existed before the pandemic is still there and probably worse.”Many longtime locals say the growing number of visitors, especially those who may not be familiar with low-impact outdoors practices is having a negative effect — and they are taking their objections public. Perhaps the most notorious instance took place in Lake Tahoe last August, as groups of residents, fed up by the onslaught of tourists and an avalanche of litter, staged protests at several busy intersections.The Taos Ski Valley Via Ferrata, situated at 11,500 feet in a sub-alpine ecosystem, features beginner-through-advanced climbing route challenges, a 100-foot skybridge and a double-cable catwalk. photo via Taos Ski Valley.As a result, mountain towns are planning to greet this summer’s visitors with messages about how to encounter wildlife and engage with other people, especially given the ever-changing Covid regulations and staffing shortages in the hospitality industry. “We need the summer of courtesy and kindness,” said Rose Abello, the director of Snowmass Tourism.Remember to be niceWhitefish, home to a large ski area and a gateway to Glacier National Park, encourages visitors to Be a Friend of the Fish by limiting social media tagging on popular trails, staying calm in lines or traffic, packing out trash and keeping a safe distance from wildlife. Similarly, Sun Valley’s Mindfulness in the Mountains campaign asks visitors and newer residents to practice good environmental stewardship and adjust their pace and expectations to the area’s “modest, unpretentious, down-to-earth feel.” Jackson Hole’s Wild Rules tool kit provides expectation-managing emails and social media posts for businesses to share with guests, ideally before they arrive. And Breckenridge touts its new B Like Breckenridge program, which emphasizes respect for wildlife, using good trail etiquette, consuming less and walking more.The town of Mammoth Lakes, home of Mammoth ski area, opted to fund a community host program, with both paid and volunteer ambassadors answering questions and handing out maps that show where dispersed camping is allowed and list important backcountry basics, like how to douse a campfire and bury or pack out human waste. At many resorts, hikers will be encouraged to cut down on trailhead crowding by going midweek or earlier or later in the day or by choosing less-frequented but still rewardingly scenic trails.How travelers will respond and whether or not this new outreach will have a positive effect could go a long way toward decreasing friction between residents and tourists. “We’re a resort town but also a tight-knit community,” said Laura Soard, the marketing director for the Steamboat Springs Chamber, in Colorado. “It’s newer for us to be giving visitors behavior expectations, saying we want you to come visit us, but we want you to follow our rules and respect our community.”The return of signature summer events, from outdoor concerts to food festivals, may mean fewer people all heading to the trail at the same time. Last summer, “we saw trailheads being stacked with cars, camping sites full and recreation stores sold out of gear,” said Ray Gadd of Visit Sun Valley. “This summer will have much more of a feeling of normalcy,” he said, mentioning annual gatherings like a multiday wellness festival and well-known writers’ conference that are once again on the schedule.At New Hampshire’s Cranmore Mountain Resort, a new bike park features lift-serviced, beginner-friendly downhill mountain biking.Josh BogardusAs for traffic, road trips will likely still be a popular form of travel this summer, but resorts hope to alleviate congestion by encouraging visitors to return to public buses and shuttles or to bike around town. New transportation options that make a rental car unnecessary have special appeal this summer, when cars are in short supply. Taos Ski Valley’s airline, Taos Air, offers new direct flights from Texas and California to a small nearby airport, and then shuttle service to the resort. Travelers to Breckenridge can book a United Airlines package that offers seamless transfer to the resort: They’ll board a 35-seat motor coach directly on the tarmac at Denver International Airport, along with their luggage, for the drive to their final destination.Among the most important messages mountain towns hope to convey this summer: Plan and book well in advance, whether for lodging, restaurant reservations or guided outdoor activities. “Booking early helps us prepare and makes for a more relaxed experience for guests,” said Abe Pacharz, the owner of Colorado Adventure Guides in Breckenridge. You’ll get a spot on a trip, and perhaps advice on acclimating to the altitude, what gear you’ll need and what activities are the most appropriate.“You have to have a reservation,” said Ms. Olson from the Jackson Hole Chamber. “The idea that you can come to national parks or ski area destinations and find somewhere to stay or camp is very limited. It may not be their vision of being on the open road and making last-minute decisions, but the reality of coming to these beautiful places with limited resources is that people have to be planners.”Follow New York Times Travel on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. And sign up for our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter to receive expert tips on traveling smarter and inspiration for your next vacation. Dreaming up a future getaway or just armchair traveling? Check out our 52 Places list for 2021. More