The metaverse is here, and we're just living in it. Or rather, our avatars are, and they can become big-time real estate investors in the virtual world, if we want them to be.
According to Citi, the metaverse is on track to be a $13 trillion opportunity by 2030. Many forward-thinking real estate investors are staking their claims in the metaverse and seeking to monetize, whether they are building entertainment districts, malls, or even erecting billboards to be rented out for advertising revenue.
I'm all for being forward-thinking, especially when it comes to a good investment. But I've got concerns about how a digital real estate boom will affect the real real estate world. Here are three reasons why.
1. It's deflecting attention from the housing crisis in the real world
The median home price hit $405,000 in March, according to Realtor.com, an increase of 26.5% over March 2020. That's great news for investors, but I worry about those who continue to be locked out of the housing market due to high prices and rising mortgage rates.
I do see the intrigue of owning land in the metaverse, but at the end of the day, owning an NFT is not the same as having a roof over my head -- or anyone's head. Which begs the question: What about the housing crunch in the real world? Everyone needs shelter. Pixels? Not so much. There is not enough affordable housing, and I am concerned that people who have the means to finance more housing in the real world -- be it converting an old office building to an apartment complex or simply a garage to a studio apartment as an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) -- are focusing more on how to monetize land in the metaverse.
2. Real commercial investors might eventually suffer
I am not averse to living at least part of my life in a virtual world. I love that I don't have to go into an office anymore, yet I can be productive at home and even forge meaningful connections with colleagues. And I can stay in touch with friends and family who I can't always see in person.
However, this is not the way I want to live my life 24/7 -- and that's saying a lot, since I'm an introvert by nature. I enjoy going to a café and getting a latte from time to time. Online shopping is convenient, but I still like a good trip to the mall. And live music will always get me out of the house to a real concert venue. I don't want my favorite spots in New York City to close because everyone's at home rocking out in their VR glasses instead -- and I'm thinking that the owners of those buildings don't, either.
3. It seems riskier than buying a fixer-upper without a home inspection
Risk is inherent in real estate, but risk in investing in virtual real estate is on another level. This is really my primary reason for being concerned about the metaverse boom, of course. I've avoided investing in cryptocurrency and am not too keen on having to fill a crypto wallet just to play in the metaverse.
That's not to say I'm risk averse. I have continued to add cannabis stock to my portfolio, even though I've watched some holdings go up in smoke, as it were. Yet somehow, the metaverse actually makes me feel safe with my cannabis stock. I am content to buy and hold and wait. I like and believe in the future of the cannabis industry, and it's something that experts can talk about. Even though I'll keep an eye on how the cannabis industry takes on the metaverse, this "other" world remains far too speculative for me.
I'm not saying that I won't ever step into the metaverse, but I don't want it to get to a point where I care more about maintaining my avatar's place than I do for my own home. Maybe it's possible to have the best of both worlds -- but for now, I'll stick to the real one.