Planning to sell your home this spring? While this winter is expected to bring a record-breaking number of buyers to the market, spring will bring more inventory and more competition.
Why wait until just before your home goes on the market to prepare it? There are plenty of things you can do right now that will cut down on the time and effort you’ll need to spend in the spring.
Have your Home Inspected
One of the most common reasons a home sale falls apart or is delayed is because of problems that the buyer learns about after the home inspection. Typically, price negotiations will reopen, but if the problems are beyond the buyer’s budget, they may just walk away from the deal.
If you have your home inspected now, you will not only avoid unpleasant surprises in the middle of the transaction, but you’ll have the rest of winter to get any repair projects out of the way. Chip away at these projects steadily and by spring your home could be in good shape.
The pre-listing home inspection isn’t a must, but if you’re concerned about any problems the home might be hiding, it’s best to bring them to light now.
Get a Head Start on Curb Appeal
Most landscaping tasks will have to wait until spring, but if you have inside space and a sunny window, you can get a head start by growing your own flowers from seed. Just wait until after the last frost to plant them outside.
You can also consider touching-up any chipped paint on doors and trim, creating an outdoor seating area, or updating your front door hardware. Replacing a ratty mailbox, installing new house numbers, and purchasing a new front porch doormat are other great ways to spruce up your curb appeal over the winter months.
Invest in Buyers’ Favorite Features
You know those weekends when it’s just too cold and miserable to leave the house? What better way to pass those gloomy days, than by adding some nice touches to the interior and exterior of your home.
The National Association of Home Builders surveyed prospective home buyers and learned that the top two desired features in a home are a laundry room and exterior lighting. A whopping 87% of home buyers will appreciate an investment you make in either of these areas.
How to get started? For your laundry room (or nook or closet), take this opportunity to add function. Consider adding a shelf, storage cabinet, or a wall-mounted drying rack.
As your luck would have it, wireless lighting has come a long way thanks to advancements in power and power storage technologies. Does your home have a path that could some extra visibility? A side yard that could use a motion sensor light? Shine some light on those darker areas to delight prospective buyers.
House prep may be less appealing than bingeing your favorite TV shows all winter, but doing some legwork now will help to ensure that your home will be the star of the spring real estate market.
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Joshua Beadle of Sarasota, Florida, lived in a 950 sq ft loft apartment for four years for about $900 a month until about one year ago when the owner sold the building and he was forced to move.
“Over the course of one year my rent has increased 116%. How does someone who works gigs and is making the same amount of money afford a price increase of $1,050 a month?” said Beadle. “Every month that I pay my rent I breathe a sigh of relief knowing I can live one more month, but I know that I am one emergency away from not being able to afford living expenses.”
According to an analysis conducted by RedFin, rents in the US jumped 14% in December 2021 to $1,877 a month, the largest rise in more than two years.
Some of the most affected cities included Austin, Texas, with a 40% increase in rental prices compared with a year previous, New York City at a 35% increase, and several metro areas in Florida exceeding over 30% increases in rental prices.
There is less housing available for rent or sale now than anytime in the past 30 years, with supply shortages worsening, contributing to rising rental costs, inflation, and making home ownership more unattainable.
For Beadle, his situation is now untenable.
His $1,500-a-month rent was already a struggle for him to pay, and if late on rent payments he incurs a $100 fee. With the latest rental increase of nearly $450, he worries about his future in Sarasota, a community he’s lived in and helped build as a promoter and organizer for LGBTQ events over the years.
“Now, I can’t even afford to live in the community that I helped to create,” added Beadle. “This is not OK, There needs to be an answer for the young, single people who are trying to survive and thrive. We can’t just be happy with being able to pay rent one more month not knowing if we will have a place to live next month.”
Though rental prices in the US initially dropped due to the Covid-19 pandemic, prices rebounded in 2021 and increases quickly began to outpace pre-pandemic growth trends. These soaring costs – coupled with a broader surge in inflation – have wiped out any wage gains experienced by low-income Americans, as rental prices were already far outpacing wage increases in the US.
Between 2001 to 2018, renter incomes grew by 0.5% while rental prices increased by 13%, leaving 20.4 million households, nearly half of all renters in the US, burdened by the cost of rent with more than one-third of their income going toward rent and utility bills.
A report published by the Roosevelt Institute in November 2021 emphasized solutions for these soaring rent prices, including increasing the supply of affordable housing and expanding rights for tenants who are currently at the mercy of landlords and real estate developers without rent control and rent stabilization policies in place.
Owens argued against solutions put forth by some economists seeking to rely on contractionary monetary policies such as raising interest rates through the Federal Reserve.
“We advocate for an aggressive increase in supply and for the federal funding required to get that done,” said Owens. “But because we’re not going to see that happen quickly, and because when you have a supply shortage, landowners and landlords really have quite a bit of power because you don’t have a lot of options, we think rent control should be on the table to really take the edge off of those annual increases.”
Without these comprehensive actions, the report notes, landlords, especially in markets where affordable housing supply shortages yield them significant power, will continue to hike rental prices, further burdening the incomes of renters and expanding their profits without any capital improvements to housing
One week before his wedding in January 2022, Joey Texeira and his partner received a lease renewal from their landlord in New York City, with a 30% increase to rent of $750 a month for a one-year lease renewal or a 41% rent increase of $1,050 a month for a two-year lease renewal for an apartment they have lived in since December 2020. The lease renewal would start on 1 May.
“We’re very stressed and don’t know exactly what we plan to do yet,” said Texeira.
His husband was also unexpectedly laid off recently and their neighbors downstairs were recently priced out of the apartment building with a rental increase of $250 to $500 added to their monthly rent.
“It’s criminal,” said Texeira. “Renters are completely unprotected. The only thing a landlord has to do is give proper notice in proportion to the percentage increase. Technically my landlord could have increased my rent 100% and there would have been nothing I could do. Renters need help and better protections.”
Sabrina Marie DeAngelis, a tutor in Austin, Texas, recently experienced her rent increase from $920 to $1,440 a month for an apartment she has been living in since 2014, which she first rented for $675 a month.
She was forced to accept the renewal with a monthly rental increase of $520, as she suffers from a disability that makes moving difficult and doesn’t have any family living nearby to help. DeAngelis tried applying for rental assistance benefits, but she didn’t qualify for assistance and Covid-19 rental relief funds in her area were already depleted by the time she applied.
During the pandemic, DeAngelis decided to return to school to complete her master’s degree in hopes of increasing her income in the long term, taking a short-term cut in her income to attend school.
“Now I’m forced to increase my work hours while going to school,” said DeAngelis. “My productivity at work and school has been terrible because I’m stretched thin on time. On top of that, almost all my income is going toward rent and bills.”
When we last analyzed the fallout from shifting global supply chains, we highlighted the looming growth in U.S. East Coast port traffic as imports from Southeast Asia increasingly bypassed gridlocked West Coast ports. From July 2020 to November 2021, monthly imports from Southeast Asia to the East Coast rose by an average of 32% above 2019 levels. Trade route traffic has continued to shift as higher shipping costs, tariffs and pandemic disruptions roil overseas supply chains. Meanwhile, trade clarity provided by the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement is driving import growth with trade partners closer to home, specifically Mexico.
Trends for U.S. trade in goods show a strong rise in imports from Mexico and Canada after the USMCA went into effect in July of 2020. Monthly import values from July 2020 to November 2021 have come in 14% and 8% above 2019 values, respectively, for Mexico and Canada. Imports to the U.S. have surpassed pre-pandemic levels for both countries, though this has occurred faster for Mexico. In fact, the swift and strong recovery in U.S.-Mexico trade is most apparent in inbound truck figures.
The number of inbound trucks from Mexico to the U.S. surpassed pre-pandemic levels, growing around 11% in 2021, after contracting only 2% in 2020. Meanwhile, inbound truck counts from Canada shrank by 8% in 2020 and failed to recover to pre-pandemic levels, despite 7% growth in 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Both trade partners have largely benefited from a strong recovery in U.S. consumer demand, although Mexico appears to be faring better.
After the implementation of USMCA, shifts in consumer spending significantly expanded global trade in goods. But the logistical pressure from this surge in demand has upended global supply chains as well, driving shipping costs higher. In this environment, Mexico appears to benefit due to its proximity and competitive import costs compared to China.
Since the China-U.S. trade war started, tariffs placed on Chinese imports have remained elevated along with higher shipping costs. Tariff- and shipment-related costs as a share of customs value for Chinese imports saw a significant increase starting in 2018, according to U.S. Census Bureau trade data. Costs to import Chinese goods as a share of customs import value grew from around 8% in 2018 to over 18% in 2021, while costs for Mexico have remained at around 2% over the same time period.
Import shipment costs have also risen in other countries, with farther-flung locations typically seeing higher costs. This is not the case for Mexico and Canada, which have very different cost structures despite similar geographic proximity to the United States. Mexico consistently provides both a lower shipment and tariff cost alternative.
As U.S. retailers and manufacturers develop shorter and lower-cost supply chains, Mexican exporters are poised to benefit, specifically maquiladoras, which are Mexico’s export-based assembly plants. Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography tracks the performance of these plants, with export figures since 2015 showing continued revenue growth. Maquiladora revenues for 2021 have surpassed pre-pandemic levels, albeit with diverging performance across the multinational cities on the U.S.-Mexico border. These border cities typically grow in tandem, with Tucson, Arizona/Nogales, San Diego/Tijuana, McAllen, Texas/Reynosa, El Paso, Texas/ Juarez and Laredo, Texas/Nuevo Laredo performing relatively better since 2019.
Research by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas indicates that a 10% increase in maquiladora production on the Mexican side of the border results in a 7.1% increase for Nogales, Arizona, employment, along with increases in Texas of 6.6% in McAllen, 4.6% in Laredo, 2.8% in El Paso, and 2.2% in Brownsville, according the Dallas Fed report. Recent employment trends for El Paso, McAllen, Brownsville and Laredo, which together make up over 60% of maquiladora revenue for the cities analyzed, show a strong performance through the pandemic as maquiladora business remained consistent.
Unemployment rates have generally retreated rapidly from pandemic peaks. El Paso and Laredo unemployment rates have dropped to 5%, below the 5.2% Texas average as of November 2021. McAllen unemployment remains elevated at 7.7%, largely driven by rapid labor force growth despite total employment already reaching pre-pandemic levels. At 6.9%, Brownsville, remains a laggard in the employment recovery, despite strong 2021 retail tax collections that point to a healthy consumer economy here.
Texas-Mexico border cities are not just interlinked with regard to employment, but also consumption, as around 30% to 40% of retail sales on the U.S. side can be attributed to Mexican nationals, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Although the pandemic affected border crossings and sales at the outset, 2021 retail tax collections across these cities have surged above 2019 and 2020 levels, as local and cross-border economies have reopened.
Goods consumption in these cities, which benefit from both local and international consumer demand, is expected to continue to accelerate, according to Oxford Economics forecasts. In fact, goods consumption for the four major multinational cities on the Texas-Mexico border is expected to grow 1.2 percentage points faster than the average for the nation. McAllen stands out, as goods consumption here is expected to outperform relative to the state of Texas as well.
In addition to the recent outperformance in employment and consumption growth, these four multinational cities are positioned to provide a growing labor force. All four cities are expected to grow their respective labor forces at a faster rate than the overall country, with McAllen and Laredo achieving similar growth performance to that of Texas. Strong labor supply, specifically in these last two cities, makes these more attractive for new industrial development and potential warehouse tenants.
Favorable trade trends, a rebounding maquiladora export economy, rising employment and consumption, coupled with a healthy labor supply, all paint an attractive picture for investment in these multinational markets.
Related: As US-Mexico Trade Booms, One Border City’s Industrial Market Reaps the Rewards
Industrial fundamentals also provide an encouraging view of these markets, with industrial vacancies at 5% or below for McAllen, Laredo and El Paso. The majority of available industrial supply has been absorbed since 2016, allowing vacancy rates to remain healthy across these geographies. New construction is limited, with forecast vacancies expected to remain tight as well.
Industrial investors and developers looking to navigate the newly emerging trade environment may want to consider a presence in McAllen, Laredo or El Paso. The healthy economic and demographic recoveries of these multinational markets, coupled with the current global trade backdrop, provide further room for these to grow into significant distribution hubs in the years ahead.
Juan Arias is a strategic consultant with CoStar Advisory Services in Boston.
When the asset management group Blackstone was founded in 1985, Peter G. Peterson and Stephen A. Schwarzman originally formed a mergers and acquisitions advisory boutique. Schwarzman approached Peterson, his former boss at Lehman Brothers, about starting an investment firm, and he wanted to make private equity investing the heart of the business model. Over the past three decades, Blackstone’s private equity business has been one of the largest investors in leveraged corporate buyouts. But within this past decade, Blackstone has also grown into a behemoth in the commercial real estate industry.
Blackstone (NYSE: BX) estimates the value of its global real estate portfolio is $448 billion, making it the world’s largest real estate company, according to a 2020 report by Fortune. Blackstone reported $684 billion of total assets under management at the end of the 2021 second quarter. Private equity (33 percent) claimed the most share, and real estate (30 percent) claimed the second most. The company also operates in two other segments, hedge fund solutions and credit and insurance. Blackstone had a bit of a down year in the pandemic-ravaged 2020, as its shares gained 15.8 percent. But the company bounced back strongly in 2021; its shares are up more than 105 percent from a year ago.
The company began investing in real estate in 1991, starting mainly by acquiring a series of hotel businesses like Days Inn of America and Super 8 Motels. Nowadays, Blackstone only allocates about five percent of its portfolio toward hospitality assets, and the firm focuses mainly on warehouses, rental housing, and net lease properties. Frank Cohen, Blackstone’s global head of Core+ Real Estate and chairman and CEO of Blackstone Real Estate Investment Trust, told Nareit the pandemic may have changed many things globally. Still, it has not altered Blackstone’s investment thesis that much. “We remain focused on acquiring a diversified portfolio of high quality, stable, income-producing real estate assets concentrated in our highest conviction investment themes,” Cohen said. Cohen noted that the logistics, rental housing, and net lease sectors have resilient cash flows and some of the best fundamentals, which is why they stick with them.
Some real estate sectors have been hit hard by changes wrought from COVID-19, such as retail, office, and hotels, but they comprise a small share of Blackstone’s real estate portfolio. Blackstone’s real estate investment trust, BREIT, owns property across almost all asset classes but has amassed 407 million industrial square feet, 182,000 residential units, 11 million self-storage square feet, and 12 million square feet of data center space. Recently, Blackstone has been highly active in gobbling up industrial/warehouse space, much like other real estate investment trusts and private equity firms. In 2020, Blackstone purchased 13 industrial warehouses from Iron Mountain for $358 million. The portfolio of 13 properties spans 2.1 million square feet in California, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, and Iron Mountain will continue to use the facilities and enter into a 10-year lease with Blackstone. Blackstone will get a steady revenue stream through rent payments as the warehouses appreciate value, part of another move that pushes the New York City firm even deeper into the logistics market.
An analyst at Pitchbook said the booming e-commerce industry had turned industrial real estate into “the best performing core real estate type in the last decade,” even before the pandemic blew the lid off e-commerce sales. Supply chain disruptions and the importance of last-mile logistics have also pushed industrial warehouse demand. A recent JLL report said the industrial market could require another one billion square feet by 2025. If JLL’s estimate turns out to be accurate, Blackstone stands to benefit significantly. In June 2019, the company purchased a portfolio of logistics assets from Singapore’s GLP for $18.7 billion. The portfolio spans 179 million square feet and put Blackstone in business with Amazon, GLP’s largest tenant. Later that year, Blackstone also acquired Colony Industrial, a REIT that invests in warehouses, and it purchased 22 warehouses in the U.K. from Clearbell Capital for £120 million ($161 million).
Logistics is one of Blackstone’s highest-conviction investment themes, and that trend looks likely to continue. Logistics accounted for just two percent of the company’s real estate portfolio in 2010. Still, that number has since grown to 38 percent by the end of 2020, making it Blackstone’s largest sector exposure. The company’s logistics holdings are so extensive now that they rival the REIT king of warehouse properties, San Francisco-based Prologis. Combined, Blackstone and Prologis own about 1.6 billion feet of warehouses worldwide. But even with those two big fish at the top, the logistics sector is still highly fragmented. In the United States, JLL reports about 14 billion square feet of logistics space late in 2019.
Blackstone launched Link Industrial Properties in 2019 to operate its warehouses, which will likely focus on last-mile facilities that help enable rapid delivery to big metro centers. Blackstone’s heavy investment in industrial and logistics could be a huge boon given the forecasted growth of e-commerce. Material Handling & Logistics reports that e-commerce sales grew between 39 and 44 percent in 2020, and CBRE predicts that by 2025, e-commerce will account for 26 percent of all retail sales in the U.S. A challenge in many parts of the U.S. and global market will be to build enough distribution facilities to meet demand. If facilities aren’t built fast enough, it could push industrial rents up even higher than the record rates they’re at now. It’s not a bad problem to have for firms like Blackstone and Prologis that control so much industrial space.
Purchasing a home can be a long and stressful process. Even after closing, you’re likely to have a long to-do list before you can finally sit down and relax in your new home.
With all of this going on, it can be easy to forget simple tasks such as re-keying the locks. Below we’ll discuss why re-keying all the locks and deadbolts in your new home should be at the top of your priority list, and a few things to consider.
The most obvious reason to re-key your locks immediately is security. This is important even if you know and trust the previous homeowners; remember, you don’t know what spare keys may be floating out there. You may trust the previous home owners not to enter the home, but do you trust all their extended family, friends, cleaning services, or anyone else who may have received a spare key over the years?
The only way to ensure that only your family has access to your new home is to re-key all the locks immediately.
How Much Does It Cost?
The actual costs to re-key locks will vary by locksmith, and will depend on how many locks there are. However, on average you can expect to pay around $75 per hour. On top of this, you may also pay a trip fee between $50 and $100.
These costs are to re-key the existing locks, not to change the locks entirely. To learn about the differences between re-keying and changing locks, you can reference our article here.
How Do I Re-Key the Locks?
As mentioned earlier, you can always call a locksmith to re-key your locks. If you’d rather save some money, you also have the option to re-key the locks yourself. If you’re going to attempt the DIY route, you’ll want to do some research on what type of rekey kit you need for the brand of lock, and consult a how-to guide such as this one.
To avoid any disastrous surprises after purchasing a home, it’s highly recommended that you hire a quality home inspector. Additionally, it’s best practice to choose a home inspector before you make an offer on a home, as you’ll likely need to move quickly once an offer is submitted.
But what should you look for in a home inspector? Our checklist below should help you find a home inspector you can rely on.
There are 2 major professional organizations for home inspectors, American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI). On the above websites, you can search for any home inspector to see if they’re certified by each respective organization. Certification by either of these organizations is not a requirement to be a professional home inspector. In fact, some states don’t even require home inspectors to be licensed at the state level.
That being said, if an inspector is certified by either of the above organizations, it’s a good indicator that the inspector is serious about their work. These organizations require rigorous processes to maintain certification, typically much more than is required at the state level.
Speaking of state certifications, the ASHI website includes a feature to see the applicable home inspection requirements in your state. If the state does require inspectors to be licensed, the state agency’s website will typically include a search tool to verify that your inspector’s license is current.
2. A Normal Price
If you’re interviewing multiple home inspectors, it could be tempting to go with whoever has the lowest price. However, if one home inspector’s prices are significantly lower than everyone else you speak to, that should be a red flag that something is wrong. A qualified, experienced home inspector is not typically going to charge bargain barrel prices. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you should look for the highest price either. Just be wary of any deal that sounds too good to be true, because it probably is.
As with most professions, it’s usually a good sign if a home inspector has plenty of experience. That experience can come in different forms; many home inspectors have background experience in construction or as a contractor, which is a positive. At the same time, that experience is not necessarily a substitute for years of experience working as a home inspector.
Keep in mind that experience alone doesn’t necessarily indicate that someone will do the best job. You may like your introductory call with a more novice home inspector who checks off the rest of your boxes. Plus, if a novice home inspector is certified by an organization like ASHI, they’ve likely been mentored by more experienced inspectors as a requirement of their certification.
If you’re still shopping for a home, you may not know what type of specialty experience you will need. However, if you are able to narrow down specific types of experience you’ll need (such as new construction, or if you know you’re purchasing an older home), that should help find the right inspector for the job.
This type of specialization is important when it comes to non-typical issues that a general home inspection may not always need. For example, if you’re purchasing a much older home, you may want someone with experience testing for lead.
It may not occur to you to request references from a few past customers, but this should not be a surprise to the home inspector. You’ll want to ask these customers about the inspection process, how well the inspector communicated (before, during, and after the job), and how comprehensive the inspection report was.
Other resources are your state government website and the Better Business Bureau (BBB). You can look for any complaints about the home inspector and see if any disciplinary actions were taken against them in the past.
Make sure your home inspector has liability insurance. Why is this important? Because on the off chance something happens to damage the home during inspection, the seller could potentially take legal action against you! Although this is rare, the cost could be substantial. Your home inspector’s liability insurance will ensure that you don’t end up paying for any accidental mishaps.
They may also have Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance. This covers the inspector, and yourself, if they miss something big that should have been caught during the inspection. If an experienced home inspector does their job, this shouldn’t be an issue, but it’s still good to know they have it.
7. They Want You to Be There!
An experienced home inspector will encourage home buyers to be there for the inspection. If this is not possible, they’ll likely ask that you at least show up at the end to review the inspection report together. If a home inspector seems indifferent to you being there for the inspection, or worse, actively suggests that you not be there, that should be a major indicator that something is wrong.
In January, vacation-home demand soared to the highest it’s been in a year and just below a record 90 percent gain in demand tallied in September 2020.
The popularity in second homes is so great that it’s actually outpacing demand for primary homes, which was up only 42 percent from pre-pandemic rates as of January.
Redfin gathered demand levels for this report by analyzing residential mortgage-rate lock data.
We’ve all heard of and understand what the metaverse is, right? Good for you if you answered yes. If you’re like me and over the age of 40 and/or not inclined to follow technology’s rapidly evolving pace, your answer was probably no. According to my extensive (not true) research (I typed in the Duck Duck Go search bar), a metaverse is a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection. And it’s not just the wave of the future, it’s here.
Some key takeaways to consider in purchasing virtual real estate vs. *real real estate…
What Currency To Use
Metaverse– You still need money, but in the metaverse you pay with crypto currency out of a digital wallet. But not all buying platforms accept all forms of crypto so you may be forced to invest in a speculative form that may or may not stick around and every crypto coin has its own value independent of others (not confusing at all), plus if you forget the ‘seed phrase’ you’re assigned when your wallet is opened it is almost impossible to retrieve it which means you have lost your virtual wallet with real assets in it. Like, gone.
Reality– When you buy real real estate, you’ll use your money (electronically withdrawn from a bank insured by the FDIC) in combination with a lender’s money if you get a loan. No need to worry about what kind of money, if it’s American currency and you’re buying real estate on American soil, you’re good. And if you forget your password, you can pretty easily retrieve it.
How To Find Property For Sale
Metaverse- As of now, there are not virtual Realtors to help you find virtual real estate so you will either do your own extensive research (and it is extensive) before buying your property (oh my goodness be sure you understand the real world asking price of the properties you’re interested in since crypto coins valuations vary) directly from a specific platform, or you can go through a third-party platform that offer buying and selling opportunities. You will have the ability to view what it is you’re interested in purchasing including nearby amenities as well as neighbors. That’s neat.
Reality- Hopefully you have employed the services of a qualified and reputable real estate agent who will listen to your wants and needs and initiate a search based off of your criteria via whatever online listing database is utilized in your neck of the woods. You will then start touring properties you like together and the agent will be able to educate you on the surrounding areas, schools, shopping, amenities, etc. You may even wave to a potential future neighbor or two. Here’s where a big difference comes into play. These future neighbors may provide cups of sugar for you in a pinch or even dare I say it, an actual physical friendship.
From Offer to Closing
Metaverse– Well, hands down for speed and ease, the process of making an offer and closing in the metaverse is much easier and quicker, but not as secure. Depending on which platform you’re buying from, you either make an offer on the land you want and it’s accepted or rejected, or even simpler, you click it and buy it with the cryptocurrency in your online wallet. No appraisals yet as this is all still highly speculative and valuations can fluctuate rapidly. Remember not to lose your digital wallet where you store your NFTs because there is no other way to retrieve your NFT title. And one more small detail, if a metaverse platform devolves and goes offline, so does your NFT real estate investment.
Reality– In the real world of course, especially now in this extremely tight seller’s market, the process can be much lengthier and somewhat draining emotionally if you are finding yourself competing with other buyers, but in the long run your purchase will be more secure. If you are getting a loan there will be an appraisal as the bank wants to insure the property is worth what you’re buying it for which alleviates a large portion of speculative risk. You will then head to a closing attorney’s office where you get the title after signing a ton of paperwork and paying the down payment. Here comes the best part, if the bank goes out of business, your asset doesn’t disappear, your mortgage just goes to a different lending institution. Oh, and of course you have physical land that you can go have a picnic on or actually build a house on. That’s the best best part.
Hopefully I’ve given you a little insight into the new world of metaverse real estate. I’m still learning myself and it’s a tad overwhelming. But if you’re interested in buying or selling physical land or an actual home, that doesn’t overwhelm me at all, in fact I love it. It would be an honor to serve you with any of your real real estate needs.
By Holly A. Morris, Realtor
The Meridian Real Estate Group
*For the sake of this article real real estate refers to land or property that is tangible to our senses in the physical world. There is an argument to be made that metaverse real estate is real too despite not being tangible.
Ownership of the home will be transferred using a unique blockchain token — known as an NFT — that can be held in a crypto wallet.
An international property startup is launching a way to store U.S. home titles in a crypto wallet in the hopes that this process can be scaled to drive a large number of blockchain-based real estate transactions.
The company, Propy, is currently helping sell an investment property in the Florida city of Gulfport, near St. Petersburg. The 2,164-square-foot property has five bedrooms and is currently listed for $650,000.
To facilitate this type of transaction, Propy creates a limited liability company that owns the property. Ownership of that LLC will be tied to the owner of a unique blockchain token known as an NFT.
Through this setup, buyers will be able to purchase these NFTs — and by extension their LLCs, and the properties themselves — through a cryptocurrency transaction.
The seller is a real estate and cryptocurrency investor named Leslie Alessandra, according to the listing on Propy. She’s hired an agent from Heckler Realty Group to represent her. Propy says it has been assigned to create the NFT and auction it off.
The home is also listed on the MLS, according to its page on Zillow. The overview doesn’t mention the NFT process or Propy, describing the home as an “auction property.”
The company plans to hold the auction for this property on Feb. 8, Techcrunch reports. Signups for the auction are taking place on the listing page on Propy’s website.
To get in on the auction, prospective buyers are being asked to sign up from the listing page on Propy’s website.
The home’s list price of $650,000 is on the higher side of prices in the neighborhood. Zillow’s estimates for home values on similar sized lots on the same block range from $250,000 to $640,000.
If these NFT-assisted transactions start to take off, Propy anticipates the early use cases will focus primarily on so-called “collectible” properties.
“Trophy real estate owned by celebrities, or in prime location, or with unique digital art and architecture can be regarded as a collectible,” Propy said on the listing page. “The level of pride of ownership is very high, and the purchased price is almost irrespective of the trading potential of the property, just like with other collectibles.”
Propy had previously sold an apartment in Ukraine through a similar process.
At an Inman Connect Now session in June, Propy CEO Natalia Karayaneva said she wanted to make agents a party to this process.
“We’re very ambitious in the company that this can potentially transform the industry and transform the paradigm of home ownership,” Karayaneva said at the time. “We see that we can empower … agents to transact faster and make their customer look at the agent with more satisfaction.”
Where will you live when we’re all in the metaverse? Putting the ‘real’ back in real estate.
Real estate agents are selling property in the metaverse. Buyers are purchasing traditional homes with cryptocurrency. Companies are creating non-fungible tokens (NFTs) as digital titles for real properties.
How can you wrap your head around all of these technologies in a way that’s simple and pragmatic? I’m not a software engineer and no expert in crypto. I’ve read enough in this space to give you explanations that techies will probably hate.
But we’re just here to understand the business, not the technology protocols. Let’s talk about these new phenomena without the technical lingo and focus on what they mean in practice.
Under all is the land
Supply and demand: They define how real estate valuations rise and fall. Real property’s finite availability, its scarcity, underpins its value.
Does this scarcity exist in digital worlds? Do digital properties increase in value if a digital title can be purchased for them? Is purchasing these digital assets, or advising others to, a smart decision?
We’re going to look at the hype, the hope, and the skepticism. Let’s get down to brass tacks: what’s the new oil and what’s just snake oil?
The news headlines are mystifying. People are buying digital property rights on the internet. They’ve paid over $1 million for items like:
Virtual property in online cities
“The world’s gone mad,” you might say. But maybe it’s no madder than it’s ever been. Why would people pay so much for items which don’t exist in physical form? Potential profits, ego, excitement – is it all that different than a bet on a football game, the purchase of a vacation, or buying the bar a round of drinks?
What can’t be denied is that there’s a current demand for these digital assets. And demand generates money. Who makes the money, and how long that demand lasts, are the questions at hand in the metaverse.
The metaverse is often portrayed as a fully virtual world, but there are many degrees of metaverse. Remember Google Glass, the eyeglasses that displayed information in the lenses as you traversed the physical universe? You’ve seen a metaverse. Have you created an avatar in a game and interacted with others online? Metaverse.
You have connections on Facebook and you share friendships and emotions with them. This is just one component of the metaverse, and it’s not new. What is new are the deeper and more immersive versions of metaverses that we’re seeing today.
These digital experiences are different from your fully physical experiences, but they’re still undeniably real. Whether it’s a full 3D virtual reality experience or a video call on FaceTime, you’ve been experiencing levels of what people are now calling the metaverse for a long time.
NFTs: non-fungible tokens (Don’t quit reading!)
A token can be a “title” for ownership of something. A property title says you own real estate. A Chuck E Cheese token says you own the rights to play one game. A digital token says you own the right to something identified in a digital contract.
Fungible just means identical things can be exchanged for each other. Two Chuck E Cheese tokens are fungible. Two $1 bills are fungible.
Non-fungible things are unique. Each home on your block is non-fungible. Every condo in a building is non-fungible. There are fundamentally different location features of each.
Tokens transferring real estate
So a non-fungible token says you own the rights to something unique. And, yes, ownership of real estate can potentially be transferred with an NFT, in specific cases.
While the actual title to real property is governed by your local county or municipality in the U.S., you can create an LLC that legally owns a property. So you can also create an NFT that owns the LLC, and you can sell/buy/trade it. It’s been done by TechCrunch Founder Michael Arrington and CEO of Propy, Natalia Karayaneva.
Whether it’s a digital picture or an LLC for a piece of property, an NFT can prove your ownership. Just because you own it, doesn’t mean it’s worth anything. Let’s be honest, people buying ape pictures for thousands of dollars are probably going to regret it later.
But trading tokens that govern the ownership of real property is serious business. The environment is currently the Wild West, and the government will make its way into the conversation at some point. Remember that in most areas, property title transfer taxes on real estate sales are major funding sources for government projects. But there’s no government transfer tax guaranteed on an NFT sale. Uncle Sam’s going to come for his cut when he’s out of money to build roads.
But for now, there’s a lot of blue ocean in the viewfinder. New digital means to move property are, without question, preferable to today’s paper-and-stamp practices that still exist in many parts of the U.S.
Cryptocurrency uses cryptography technology to create potentially valuable digital coins. They’re valuable today because people have created demand for them and will use “real” government-backed fiat currencies to buy them.
Bitcoin, Ether, Dogecoin … you can actually buy and sell things with them. It’s an extremely slow, expensive, and clunky experience to transact with them today, but there is the potential of more utility. Newer technologies with better experiences are being built alongside and on top of the current incumbents.
Bitcoin at Starbucks
Will cryptocurrencies become popular, broadly used currencies in everyday business? It’s difficult to say. Governments have, by and large, not played their inevitable cards on crypto yet. Today, it’s mostly people who are already deeply embedded in crypto enthusiasm that are buying items with them.
The only people I personally know who spend cryptocurrencies regularly today are using them to purchase other crypto assets or evade government detection – no joke. They’re sending money back to their family in foreign countries and don’t want the government to take a slice.
And those crypto real estate purchases we hear so much about: they’re mostly agents hyping a transaction where a buyer sells off crypto to pay in dollars for a home. There are platforms now, though, where a true crypto-for-title transaction can take place. They’re still rare.
Web3: A truly decentralized digital world
People are talking about Web3, the purported third major life cycle of the web. The vision of Web3 is that governments and huge corporations would no longer control our digital experiences. Instead, individuals could own and control their own data and destiny on a decentralized network by the people, for the people. Imagine a web where everyone is connected to everyone else but there’s no big platform that everyone is forced to connect with to get some desired digital experience.
Decentralization, in its purest form, does give power to individual contributors, but its complexity makes it expensive to do well. So true decentralization is actually rare across the spectrum of topics we’re covering. There are for-profit companies centralizing services to make them more easily accessible to consumers. Corporations still control almost everything today as far as consumers are concerned.
Blockchain (I Promise This Won’t Hurt)
Blockchain technology is at the root of most of these potential innovations (but not all). We don’t need to spend a lot of time on it, except for knowing that it creates distributed systems, which can have a central authority or be fully decentralized. It’s not hype, though it is sometimes overhyped.
You can imagine it as similar to how you use Google Docs to allow many people to edit a document at the same time on the web. They all have a record of what the document looks like now. They all have the ability to look at the history of all changes made by all participants on the document and that history is stored on Google’s servers, the central authority.
Imagine now if Google Docs was turned into open-source software: we’ll call it Boogle. Everyone installs Boogle on their own computer and they all connect to each other directly across the web without Google in charge anymore. This is decentralization.
If every person was constantly downloading the state of the document on their personal computer, they could always look back at the historical record of who changed what on their own device. No individual could hide what had happened in the historical records. Everyone is an owner of the immutable (unchangeable) truth.
This is essentially how blockchain works. Each node (computer) on the network has its own copy of the ledger (transaction record) and they all share updates with one another. One node can’t change history without the others knowing and agreeing.
Blockchains of many colors
So a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin operates a decentralized system where all users are in control. But blockchains can also be private, permissioned, tightly controlled networks.
For example, the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO) is analyzing a model where every MLS in the country could contribute to a national Unique Licensee Identifier service via their own nodes on a blockchain network. This kind of service doesn’t exist in the U.S. today, as state agencies keep their own broker/agent license records and do not collaborate with one another. Agents who work and live in multiple states have disjointed records across MLSs, associations, brokerages, and vendors.
In a distributed ULI model, each node would be able to submit new license data and receive updates from the system. The MLSs could maintain some independence on their own systems while the central organization would be the overseeing data cop to ensure accuracy in distributed updates. Each MLS would know that nothing was being changed by the central authority without their knowledge as they’d have an unchangeable copy of all historical events.
Blockchains can be used by traditional companies in highly controlled environments, as well as in fully decentralized services. There are many different blockchains.
How sticky is your web?
Location, location, location: in real estate, proximity to high-demand amenities creates value. A property is networked to things based on its location: property structures, nearby schools, high-speed internet, beaches, employers, family members and more. For each individual, this network has an effect that influences what value they put on that piece of real estate. The more value the network provides to the buyer, the more they’ll pay.
These network effects are the key element to the value of digital assets, though focused on the people in your network. You might hate Facebook, but you can’t leave because your cousins put their new baby pictures there. Ancestry.com draws its users back over and over because more of their family continues to join, thereby improving the service’s value.
People continue buying iPhones for many reasons, one being that group messages with friends and family break when the only non-iPhone user responds with a message of the wrong color bubble. Your human network is sticky, and it creates lock-in for the products that hold it.
It’s important to think about the stickiness of these network effects when evaluating digital assets’ long-term value. Will people stay interested in them and for how long? Without physical assets attached, their entire value is based on the digital demand of humans, which can be a finicky thing.
Your metaverse neighbor: Snoop Dogg
So back to “real estate” in the metaverse: digital neighborhoods and cities are being built.
The demand for digital items is real. My kids buy video game logos and specialty wheels with their allowance to impress complete strangers playing online somewhere across the world. Digital property is, without a doubt, valuable.
Metaverse property has supply and demand repercussions like the physical world, except that supply in the metaverse is completely arbitrary and controlled by creators of software, while supply of physical real estate is constrained by geography, materials, labor, and government regulation.
When someone buys the lot in Decentraland next to Snoop Dogg for $1 million, maybe they’re crazy. But maybe they’re just making a bet on demand. If metaverse traffic flocks to Snoop’s block, the ability to leverage that high profile location could be lucrative: advertising on digital billboards, for example, could be profitable for a person with a plot of “land” in the right location.
Agents rush in, as they always do
Some agents are promoting the specious link between real property and digital land sales. Should real estate pros be giving advice to consumers about buying digital property? Probably no more than your Bitcoin maximalist cousin should. At a minimum, the ethical implications of purporting to have metaverse expertise via a real property brokerage license loom large.
There’s also a need to abide by securities sales and anti-money laundering laws. Just ask RE Consortia’s CEO, Teresa Grobecker, who consults on the intersection of law and distributed ledger technology. Not just anyone can sell investments to the public. Caution is warranted at this stage.
It ain’t real estate, but it is a gold rush. Remember who gets rich in physical gold rushes? It’s more pick and shovel salesmen than prospectors. There’s money to be made in the metaverse property game, but if the bottom falls out, there’s no land to land on.
Who Can You Believe?
Jack Dorsey, recently departed CEO of Twitter, has been working with his successor to incorporate decentralization elements onto the platform. He’s also CEO of payment company Square, which he renamed Block (chain). Dorsey says there’s nothing more important to work on in his lifetime than Bitcoin.
Elon Musk publicly touts his investments in Ethereum and Dogecoin. Jack Black, Eminem, Rob Gronkowski, Martha Stewart, Shaquille O’Neal and Mark Cuban have all sold NFTs. If you’re looking for successful, rich, famous or brilliant people to substantiate a belief in the future of decentralization and metaverse valuations, they’re not hard to find.
They might be right. The valuations for these bets could go to the moon. They could also melt down to nothing as the little guys are the last ones holding the bag. Successful people often famously don’t know any better than you do.
“The idea of a personal communicator in every pocket is nothing more than a pipe-dream fueled by greed.” Andy Grove, CEO of Intel, 1992.
“There is no chance of the iPhone ever gaining significant market share.” Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, 2007.
“Subscription models for music are bankrupt. I think you could make the Second Coming of Jesus himself available on subscription and it wouldn’t be successful.” Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, 2003.
Finding the Balance
At this stage of the web’s evolution, it’s probably better to not have all the answers. The bets you make on metaverse properties or NFTs are speculative and there’s no reason to label them anything else.
There are substantial reasons to be a skeptic when it comes to comparing digital property to physical real estate. There are significant concerns about the government’s future scrutiny of investments in untaxed and unregulated securities and property transfers. This isn’t a game, and the government always gets its bite.
There are echoes of past financial frenzies where the rich and powerful got out early and the average Joes were left having evaporated their retirement savings. In addition, the unsustainable energy crisis that crypto technologies could inflict on the world are not to be ignored.
But it would be inadvisable, also, to dismiss the possibility that these new (and old) technologies could become critical utilities in our lifetimes. Many of the world’s most valuable companies only produce digital products. Video calls from across the globe on your mobile phone are an everyday thing today but were science fiction not so long ago.
This brave new world is filled with the same innovators, evangelists, hucksters and scam artists as the old one. Real estate professionals who intend to do business in this space should be explicit about the risks involved. This isn’t investment in real property, and it’s not a game where everyone wins. Sometimes fortune favors the bold. But for every Amazon, there’s a pets.com.
Carpe diem, caveat emptor.
Prices are up as high as 30 percent in some relocation hotspots across the United States Sun Belt — where nine of the 10 most popular relocation destinations are — pricing out locals and aspiring relocators alike, according to a new report from the online brokerage Redfin.
“Moving across the country is now easier for many Americans, thanks to remote work. That cultural shift is here to stay,” said Redfin Deputy Chief Economist Taylor Marr. “What’s changing is the affordability of the most popular destinations. Some locals, particularly renters who aren’t able to take advantage of rising home values, are getting priced out of places like Phoenix and Austin as the cost of housing and other goods and services go up.”
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In Phoenix, the typical home sold for 28 percent higher in December than it did a year ago — well above the national average of 15 percent — while the average monthly rent price increased by 26 percent year over year. Consumer goods are also rising higher in relocation destinations, with an influx of new residents driving up inflation, according to a separate Redfin report.
Part of the price growth is driven by out-of-towners with larger budgets entering the market.
“Sellers are listing their homes at higher prices than ever before, partly because of huge demand in the last year from out-of-towners,” Austin Redfin agent Barb Cooper said in a statement.“I recently had a couple looking for a 2,000-square-foot home anywhere in the Austin area for under $300,000. I had to tell them it doesn’t exist.”
During the same period, all three cities saw the number of homes on the market decreased significantly. The amount of homes for sale decreased in Phoenix by 18.6 percent between 2020 and 2021, by 27.6 percent in Dallas, and by 29 percent in Orlando, according to Redfin.
“New construction tends to be robust in sprawling Sun Belt cities, and local governments ought to continue to prioritize building new homes to keep up with ongoing demand,” he said.
It’s hard not to look at the unprecedented territory of the U.S. post-COVID housing market with a twinge of fear that the country is returning to conditions that existed before the collapse around the Great Recession.
“I was thinking, ‘What is really a bubble?’” said Selma Hepp, chief economist of CoreLogic. “There is no firm definition of a bubble.”
“To some people, high appreciation is going to be a bubble. To others it’s high speculation,” Hepp said. “Generally among economists we think when there is an increase in speculation, when people are buying based on expectation of appreciation as opposed to that need for housing, that’s when we could be in a bubble.”
In a way, the pandemic may have led buyers who ordinarily might have purchased a first or second home in a few years to do so much sooner.
“One question we don’t know for sure is how many people moved forward to buy a house because of the stimulus and low interest rates that they would have bought this year or next year,” said Doug Duncan, chief economist at Fannie Mae.
That expedited purchasing might not make it any easier for those who are getting squeezed out of entering the market for the first time.
“Everybody is going to have their own mindset and excuses to do or not to” buy, said Kyle Alberto, an agent with Porchlight in San Diego. “I just explain [that] buying now versus holding off and waiting for a bubble to burst is likely going to put you in a place where you’re paying the same price or more but at a much larger interest rate.”
There are a few things that make the market’s ongoing ramp up fundamentally different this time around.
More recently, the market has been driven by much healthier, fixed-rate and 30-year mortgages that give owners certainty after buying.
“We have much stronger borrowers [and] less risky loan products,” said Nicole Bachaud, a Zillow economist. “The vast majority of buyers are getting 30-year fixed mortgages … If you lock in a 30-year mortgage your monthly payment is not going to be changing.”
While that rate is rising and expected to keep climbing, it pales in comparison to the rates from 30 and 40 years ago.
The pandemic shifted people all over the country, leading to demographic changes at warp speed.
Buyers bidding on homes and driving up the cost of housing shows the fundamental supply-demand economy at work.
‘Organic’ supply and demand principles
The lead-up to the 2007 housing collapse saw speculation, over-extended credit and other factors that artificially inflated prices.
“What we’re having now is the complete opposite. We have a market that’s run on scarcity,” Zillow’s Bachaud said. “That’s an organic and sustainable thing that’s happening. In that sense these are completely different markets.”
Alberto’s clients in San Diego are more concerned about simply finding a house to make an offer on.
And with millennials taking over as the country’s largest group of homebuyers, there’s no indication that will slow soon.
“We’re still three to four years away from the peak first-time homebuyer age in the millennial generation,” Duncan said. “Secondly, when you look at the underwriting criteria, the risks being taken in the lending space are nothing like they were back in the 2005 to 2007 timeframe.”
“Those two things together suggest it’s more of a mismatch of supply and demand,” he added.