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The Metaverse Looks To Be The Next Real Estate Market As Virtual Land Sells For $4.3 Million

Are you a real estate investor, but hate the travel and tedious upkeep? The Metaverse might have solved all your woes. On Tuesday, Republic Realm purchased a virtual plot of land for $4.3 million, making it the largest metaverse real estate acquisition to date.

This deal comes just a week after a 500-square-foot plot of virtual land was purchased by the Metaverse Group — a real estate investment trust (REIT) — for a then-record $2.43 million. The site is planned to host fashion shows and e-commerce for a number of brands.

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Metaverse Group calls themselves “the world’s first virtual real estate company,” and intends to focus on buying, selling, and developing virtual pieces of real estate in the Metaverse. Republic Realm also appears to have a similar strategy.

The real estate properties being sold in this case are known as non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. NFTs can come in various forms, from images to trading cards.

The Metaverse was created by Facebook (now Meta) founder Mark Zuckerberg. Essentially, the Metaverse is a digital world filled with various realms that combines different types of technology — such as virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR), as well as artificial intelligence — to allow users to work, hang with friends, go to a concert or movie, travel, essentially anything you might desire.

According to digital currency investor Grayscale, goods and services within the Metaverse have the potential to earn $1 trillion annual revenue, and that revenue could grow to $400 billion by 2025 – a $220 increase from 2020. Meanwhile, experts believe the Metaverse economy will become fully functionable within a couple of years.

However, whether or not the real estate aspect continues to boom remains to be seen. As The Independent notes, Decentraland — which is made up of five districts — is one of several VR platforms that offers Metaverse property listings. It’s also called one of the “most advanced” in the blockchain universe. Among the other realms include The Sandbox, Somnium, Cryptovoxels, and Upland.

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A number of notable virtual real estate deals in the Metaverse have occurred throughout the year. Republic Realm purchased a 16-acre plot for nearly $1 million ($913,228.20 to be exact) in June, while Axie Infinity announced one of its properties sold for $2.3 million on Nov. 27.

Over the last seven days, 530 properties in Decentraland were sold, with a trading volume of $17.5 million and an average price of $32,500. Decentraland saw a boom in purchases following Facebook’s switch to Meta – average properties bought daily before Oct. 28 ranged from five to the rare 30. Following the announcement, Oct. 29 saw 129 properties purchased, and Decentraland has had a steady daily rate since.

Early birds to the industry were well-rewarded. In January, a plot of land could go for $2,000. Now, buyers are able to resell their properties for sums over $150,000. Of course, the market is far from foolproof. As Futurism explains, there’s no guarantees that landowners make any return on investments, or even open up their land to the public. Many of the realms and cities, such as Decentraland’s Genesis City, are still closed and have no release date, despite the cash being thrown around that would suggest otherwise.

Home For Sale Sign

According To Studies, Home Prices Are Rising Faster Than Incomes

For likely home buyers, depending on how much of a salary they bring in, they may have to wait a bit longer before landing that perfect house.

According to Real Estate Witch, from 2019 to 2021, the average house-price-to-income ratio increased from 4.7 to 5.4, a 14.9% jump and more than double the recommended ratio of 2.6 — which means houses now cost 5.4x what an average person brings in yearly.

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However, home prices rising faster than the average individual’s income isn’t suddenly a new trend. Since 1965, home prices have risen higher than the median income at a rate of 7.6x , and 3.1x faster since 2008. From 2008 to 2021, home values have increased by 25%.

Real Estate Witch also found that from 1965 onward, median home prices have gone from $171,942 to $374,900 — an 118% increase — while the median household income just barely rose up from $59,920 to $69,178, a 15% increase. Even worse, 2020 saw a 2.9% decrease in average income from $69,178 to $67,521, the first statistical decline in income since 2011.

In order to afford a home in today’s real estate landscape, homeowners need an average income of $144,192, which clocks in around $75,014 higher than the current average household income. CNBC notes that a general rule of thumb when buying a house is that the price should be no more than 30% of your gross monthly income – something that’s becoming increasingly difficult to do.

While this problem affects all classes and buyers, according to Bloomberg, those getting hit the hardest by the ever-increasing prices and overall lack of home flexibility are low-wage service workers and the blue-collar service class.

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There are a number of factors when it comes to the fluctuation of home prices. Local incomes play a big part, but so do shortages in supply and movements in mortgage rates. The economy, interest rates, and COVID-19 pandemic also affect median home prices.

According to real estate research firm CoreLogic’s chief economist, Frank Nothaft, the latest change in home price growth was one that hadn’t been seen by the company’s index in the four decades its been running.

“Annual home price growth was the most that we have ever seen in the 45-year history of the CoreLogic Home Price Index. This price gain has far exceeded income growth and eroded affordability.”

Most industry experts, meanwhile, believe that while the growth of home prices will slow, they won’t stop altogether or decrease. Fortune went over a number of real estate companies’ predictions, which see a home price growth of anywhere from 4% to 13.6% — or $389,896 to $425,886 — occurring in 2022. While the ranges of growth are clearly uncertain, the acceleration isn’t.

However, some other groups think the forecast may not all be cloudy. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, the prices of homes should drop as 2022 progresses, although the first quarter will see the median price of existing homes possess a 15.3% year-over-year gain to $362,000. By the end of 2022, the forecast calls for a 2.5% decrease in year-over-year home prices.

While Fortune does admit MBA’s decreasing prediction is an outlier, the number can still give hope to home buyers that purchasing a new house could become easier in the next 12 months, if only just a little bit.

Pay Rent Reminder

Billions In Renters Aid Still Available For Struggling Americans 

Six months ago Congress allocated more than $45 billion to the renters’ crisis which was triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic. Most of that money is still available today, in fact, only about a fifth of it has been used so far. 

According to data from the US Department of Treasury, $10 billion of the funding reached households by the end of last month, meaning there’s still around $35 billion in aid unspent and ready to be used. 

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Around 12 million adults are currently behind on their rent payments, according to a recent report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. One analysis over the summer found that the average American renter owed about $3,700, and in some areas rental debts were topping $10,000 per household. 

“There’s certainly remaining need in most states and cities. However, efforts to disburse the money have been challenged by a lack of awareness and cumbersome applications. Still, renters should not give up on getting the help.” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Just applying for renters aid can help you stay in your home longer. In at least five states individuals who apply for assistance are entitled to some level of protection from being pushed out of their homes. 

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For renters who don’t know how to apply, The National Low Income Housing Coalition has a state-by-state list of more than 500 organizations that are currently giving out federal money. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also has a new online tool to help renters easily apply for the aid. 

To be eligible for the aid at least one member of your household has to qualify for unemployment benefits or attest in writing that they’ve lost income or incurred significant expenses due to the pandemic. 

There also needs to be a demonstrated risk of homelessness, which may include a past-due rent or utility notice. 

Additionally, your income level for 2020 can’t exceed 80% of your area’s median income, although some state’s have prioritized applicants who fall at 50% or lower, as well as those who have been unemployed for more than 90 days. 

You could potentially receive up to 18 months of assistance. If you’ve already been approved for rental funds but continue to be behind, you can reapply. If you are at risk of being evicted you can find low-cost or free legal help with an eviction in your state at Lawhelp.org.

Zillow Pauses Buying U.S. Homes As It Works Through Backlog

According to Bloomberg, Zillow Group, the online real estate marketplace, has announced it will stop buying U.S. houses for the remainder of the year as it works to get through a backlog of properties it already owns.

Zillow purchased 3,805 houses in the second quarter of 2021, while selling just 2,086 of them. Despite the number of houses sold being the highest total Zillow has hit since the first quarter of 2020 (2,394 houses sold), the achievement loses its luster when considering just how much inventory the listing giant still possesses.

In response to Bloomberg’s report, Zillow chief executive officer Jeremy Wacksman released a statement on Monday, explaining that the supply and labor constraints that’s plaguing the real estate industry are the culprits behind Zillow’s stoppage.

“We’re operating within a labor- and supply-constrained economy inside a competitive real estate market, especially in the construction, renovation and closing spaces. We have not been exempt from these market and capacity issues and we now have an operational backlog for renovations and closings.”

Wacksman also stated that pausing home buying will allow Zillow to finish working with sellers that are already under contract, as well as help them to focus on their current home inventory.

Bloomberg noted that Zillow shares dropped by 11.4% to $83.54, and are down by 60% from their 52-week high. Meanwhile, competitors are seeing benefits from Zillow’s drop, as their shares rose by almost 7.9% to $25.27.

Zillow jumped into the online house-flipping business — the practice of buying a property, making renovations or improvements, and then flipping it for a greater return on investment — by launching “Zillow Offers” back in 2018, transforming themselves into what are known as “iBuyers.”

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Zillow Offers allows users to get an estimated market value (or “Zestimate” as they call it) for their home, followed by an in-person evaluation before a purchase. Zillow would then make light and needed repairs before reselling the house.

The quick and no-hassle model that Zillow promotes is certainly appealing over the usual, stressful process of listing a house (especially during a pandemic). This, along with the sudden activity the real estate industry experienced following lockdowns, likely contributed to the overwhelming amount of properties the company purchased.

As seen by Zillow’s overloaded business, house-flipping is becoming an active real estate market. The U.S. saw house-flipping rates increase in the second quarter of 2021 to 4.9%. However, return on investments were at 33%, which was down from previous quarters.

In addition to the labor shortages that have affected virtually every industry, house-flippers like Zillow are also dealing with inflation and supply shortages due to the ongoing supply-chain problems that could worsen even further within the coming months.

Bloomberg mentioned that Zillow, as well as its competitors, also stopped buying houses when the pandemic began. Additionally, it took nearly seven months before Zillow was able to buy houses at a pre-pandemic rate.

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Despite the company’s sudden halt, they still experienced strong numbers across the board in the second quarter. TheRealDeal reported that Zillow saw $9.2 million net income in Q2. While that was down from $52 million in the first quarter, Zillow also achieved a record $1.3 billion revenue – which is up 8% from Q1.

Additionally, according to Barron’s, Zillow Homes recorded a second quarter revenue of $777 million — up 71% from the previous year — while mortgage revenue was up 68% to a total of $57 million. Zillow also expects third quarter revenue to be around $1.91 to $2.05 billion.

With their stoppage, Zillow will now be in a race to successfully finish their current contracts and start accepting new ones by the start of 2022 – while also crossing their fingers that their opponents don’t gain the upper hand in the house-flipping industry in the meantime.

House Flipping Is Heading Upwards, But Profit Margins Are Down

According to a report published by Attom, the house flipping rate in the U.S. is trending upward. 79,733 single family homes and condominiums were flipped in the second quarter of 2021, coming out to a rate of 4.9% in all second quarter home sales (one in 20)— which Attom notes is the first increase in over a year.

The second quarter (which consists of April, May, and June) flipping percentage is up from 3.5% in the first quarter (January, February, March). However, both percentages are far from the 6.8% the house flipping market saw back in the second quarter of 2020.

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House flipping is typically defined as buying and selling a house within a 12-month time period. As you may have seen on popular TV shows such as HGTV’s “Flip or Flop” or “Fixer Upper,” home flippers renovate or improve their properties in order to create a bigger return on investment (ROI) when they eventually sell.

Like many tactics in real estate, the process and end result of house flipping can greatly fluctuate and depends on a variety of factors, from the types of improvements and costs needed to the location and market that the property has.

The gross profit on an average house flipping rose to $67,000, up by 2.5% from $65,400 in the first quarter. These profit numbers are up from 2020 and are some of the highest totals since 2005. However, while the gross profits may be promising, CNBC explains that the ROI (which is calculated after adding in flip costs) have taken some sizable hits in the past quarters.

“The return was just 33.5% in the second quarter, down from 37% in the quarter before and down from 40% in the second quarter of 2020. Investors are now seeing the lowest returns since 2011, when the housing market had yet to begin its recovery from the subprime mortgage crash.”

CNBC notes that there are a number of influences that contribute to these returns, which includes the tough reality that renovating a house is much more costly now due to inflation and the supply-chain being heavily impacted by the pandemic. Home-flippers also tend to be just one person or a small group, which impacts just how much (or little) discounted resources they have at their disposal.

While ROI was down nationwide, some populated areas saw terrific boons of returns. Among the metropolitan areas that have experienced the highest ROI rates in the second quarter of 2021 are Oklahoma City (196.4%), Fargo, N.D. (185.7%), Pittsburgh (154.2%), Omaha, Neb. (135%), and York, Penn. (115.%).

If you’re a lover of renovating while munching on cheesesteaks or crab cakes, you’re in luck. Along with Oklahoma City and Pittsburgh, Philadelphia (100%), Buffalo (93.3%), and Baltimore (90.5%) were among metro areas with at least a population of one million that saw the largest returns in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, midwestern and southern areas such as Gulfport, Miss., College Station, Texas, and Corpus Christi, Texas had the smallest investment returns, seeing losses of up to 7.8%. These towns also dealt with considerably small raw profits.

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If you have an interest in real estate and think you could manage despite the tough profit margins, house flipping could be a viable market to jump on while it’s growing. USA Today touched down on a number of tips for flipping beginners. Studying and knowing your market is the first and most important duty, as your location will heavily impact your potential profits and returns (as evident above).

Setting a budget and timeline is also an important goal. USA Today specifically emphasized the 70% rule— which is how much you should spend on the property when keeping in mind how much you want to sell it for and how much it will cost to renovate.

Lastly, you should stay away from making too many improvements. If not, you run the risk of either becoming too attached to the property, or ruining your potential ROI when the profit doesn’t cover the vast amount of changes you made.

There is another positive, which is that as Attom notes, the average time it takes to flip a house— 147 days in the second quarter— is the lowest it’s been since 2010. That’s great for potential investors who don’t want to be wrapped up in a long-term project.

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Global Wellness Real Estate Market Surging Throughout Pandemic 

Wellness real estate is defined as “commercial, institutional, and residential properties that incorporate wellness elements in their architecture and amenities,” according to the nonprofit Global Wellness Institute (GWI).

GWI explained that throughout the past few years the wellness real estate market has seen exponential growth, even with the pandemic. 

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“The pandemic fueled the shift in the real estate and construction industries toward wellness: from 2019-2020, wellness real estate continued to grow by over 22%, even as overall construction shrank,” the organization reported.

GWI held their annual Wellness Real Estate and Communities Symposium this week in New York where they discussed the market as it currently stands, and ways to continue to expand and improve it. 

“The wellness real estate market as a continuing opportunity, driven in part from lessons learned during COVID. Doctors, architects and wellness professionals have come together to introduce preventive medicine intentions into the way we design the built environment as a preventative medicine tool,” shared presenter and sponsor Paul Scialla, CEO of wellness technology firm Delos.

“The pandemic has driven the idea of ‘building for human health’ into the mainstream consumer consciousness, and the recent market growth far exceeded our predictions.”

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The US and China alone account for 60% of the overall total wellness real estate market. GWI estimates that there are more than 2300 wellness projects worldwide in various stages of development and completion; three years ago that number was around 740. 

GWI attributes the growth in the industry to many factors, including many brought on by the pandemic; “stress, loneliness, remote work and an increasing eco-consciousness in the public sphere.”

“The pandemic has definitely brought the wellness real estate concept more into focus. COVID forced us to see our homes and built environment in a radically new light. Wellness real estate is now quickly moving from elective to essential.”

According to GWI vice president of research and forecasting, Beth McGroarty, the pandemic drove trends in wellness real estate thanks to a multitude of factors, such as advanced technology, remote working procedures, and affordability depending on the area.

How The Real Estate Industry Is Working To Combat Climate Change

Real estate accounts for nearly 40% of the energy-related carbon emissions in the world. Investors are now focusing on cutting emissions to net zero by refurbishing old properties and avoiding new projects.

US Homebuyers Investing In Florida Real Estate 

The amount of homebuyers in Miami have tripled over the past couple of years. According to a new analysis by Redfin, in July the net inflow of Redfin users moving to Miami rose to 7,610 from 2,216 last year. 

Milagros Alvarez, a Miami real estate agent at Redfin, said that “the pandemic has brought even more out-of-towners to the area because so many people can now work wherever they want.”

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“Homebuyers are moving here from all over the map—Atlanta, Cincinnati, New York, Columbia, Mexico City, Pittsburgh and Philly, to name a few. The beaches, warm weather and low taxes are the major draws. Florida has also been much less shut down than other states during the pandemic, which some house hunters see as a positive,” said Alvarez. 

Alvarez also warned that the warm weather in Florida may seem like a main selling factor, but it also comes with its downsides. Miami is one of the most vulnerable cities when it comes to natural disasters or damages caused by weather-related events. 59% of Miami properties face some level of flood risk. 

Sea levels in Miami-Dade County are projected to rise by two feet by 2060, which would displace thousands of residents. The region also faces extreme heat risk, however, Alvarez explained that climate change hasn’t deterred Americans from flocking to the Sunshine state. 

“The homebuyers I talk to rarely mention climate change. Most of them aren’t concerned. A lot of people seem to have this idea that it won’t impact them in their lifetime, so it doesn’t need to be a consideration when buying a home.”

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Daryl Fairweather, chief economist at Redfin, warned that “the recent UN climate report shows that places like Miami will see the impacts of climate change within the next thirty years. Miami homebuyers should think about how they can make their homes more resilient to climate change and how their finances would be impacted if their homes lost value,” he said.

Sacramento, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Austin, and Atlanta have also been experiencing exponential rises in real estate investments, according to Redfin. The report also claimed that US citizens were mainly moving away from New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington DC.

“Big, expensive cities normally lose the most residents, and that trend accelerated during the pandemic as remote work gave people the flexibility to leave expensive job centers for relatively affordable places.”

“Yet, a handful of the metros that experienced the largest outflows in July saw fewer people leaving than a year earlier—likely because many of the pandemic restrictions that made those places unattractive places to live have now been lifted,” the report said.

Mattel Family Barbie Penthouse On The Market In Los Angeles For $10 Million

A 3,200-square-foot Century City residence formerly owned by Mattel founders Ruth and Eliot Handler has just been listed for $10 million. The property was initially acquired from the Handler’s in 2012 by developer and designer Nicole Sassaman for $3 million.

“Technically, I bought the home from the real Barbie, Barbara Handler Segal. Ruth and Elliot passed away. Her brother, Kenneth, was deceased as well. So everything was left to Barbara. But don’t call her ‘Barbie.’ If you call her ‘Barbie,’ she will correct you and say, ‘It’s Barbara.’ She is a lovely woman. But few people know that Ken and Barbie were the inspiration behind the iconic dolls,” Sassaman says of the penthouse.

Sassaman went on to explain how the original penthouse didn’t have a Mattel feel to it. “It felt like a 1960s time warp. The only thing in the home related to Barbie was the Barbie and Ken dolls in a glass case. I only wish that I had asked Barbara for them, but I didn’t have the heart. Basically we tore out all the electricity, the plumbing and the framing and the windows. We came down to nothing. The whole place was one room. We started all over again,” she said.

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Sassaman is no stranger to flipping famous properties and reselling them. She’s mainly known for buying and selling the Greta Garbo estate, which she claims helped her when it came to designing the Barbie Penthouse.

“One of my favorite properties that I flipped was a house that quite a few celebrities lived in, including Greta Garbo and Gloria Vanderbilt and Tab Hunter. The house got a lot of press, but when I sold it, the people largely bought it because Greta Garbo had lived there; it was called the Greta Garbo estate. And I thought, ‘Wow.’ If I ever buy a house or a property where someone famous has lived, I will pay respect to the iconic aspect and document everything from the beginning. So I took this approach with the Barbie penthouse. Also, I never got to redesign a penthouse, so this was such a fun opportunity to do something on a different scale,” she explains.

The house has an immaculate view of the Pacific Ocean and the Hollywood Sign.

“Every room you go into has something unexpected, whether it’s the library shelves that are actually a secret door or the little room with a loft. The penthouse has a lot of interesting things you don’t see every day.” The property has three bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms. The office space has a queen-sized bed loft as well as a 350-square-foot balcony.

“I am always so touched by the relationship people have with Barbie. I also had Barbie’s when I was a little girl. I loved Barbie. But the most fun thing for me when I was a child was building and designing Barbie’s houses.”

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Sassaman explained why now was the right time to sell after all the work and love they put into the property:

“When I finished the penthouse in the early days, I was offered $10 million from quite a famous hotelier. It was a terrific offer. But I just wasn’t ready to sell at that time. If I don’t sell it, I get to continue to live here. And all my friends are dying that I’m selling. But I just thought it was a good time to let go and a great lesson to teach my 15-year-old daughter not to get too attached to things. Nothing lasts forever, and it is good to move on and try something new, not get stuck in a certain thing in one place. Also, it’s important to share this home. It’s a beautiful place. I have created so many amazing memories here. Even last night, all my friends were over. Everyone wants to celebrate here as long as we have it, so it seems like every night is a party. But I think it’s time to pass the torch and let someone else enjoy it,” she says.

Scott Segall is a real estate agent who’s responsible for the Malibu Barbie beach house listing in California who recently spoke about how unique the Penthouse property was in comparison.

“If you’re going to buy your daughter a Barbie Penthouse, and that Barbie Penthouse was a toy, it would look like this. It’s the live version of what Barbie would have had. There’s always been this idea that Barbie likes the finer things in life and we are delivering that.”

“This penthouse is a little more understated and low-key, so it’s not in your face. And I think a lot of people with high profiles love that. Beyond that, the history of having the Handlers who invented Ken and Barbie having lived there gives it some sort of cache. Nicole has completely reimagined the space. And I think it’s always fun when you have some kind of history associated with a remarkable property,” he adds.

Investing in Real Estate

Tips For Investing In Real Estate Right Now 

Now that the Covid-19 pandemic is beginning to slow down a little, many are beginning to take on new business endeavors. Real Estate investments have been on the rise within the past year, especially among first-time investors. So what should you know as you enter into your investments in 2021?

Many experts believe that first-timers should always find a mentor who they can trust to guide them in their initial investments.  Realty ONE’s CEO Kuba Jewgieniew, explained how now that more individuals are opting to stay home for work, looking at trends in the market has never been more important. 

“With fewer people returning to a physical office and many more people reevaluating their life choices, we’re seeing a resurgence in cities like Phoenix, Arizona, our headquarters’ home of Las Vegas, Nevada, and even once-less-popular markets like Boise, Idaho,” Jewgieniew explained. 

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“As more people move to these metros but also out to the suburbs to get a bigger space for less money, we’ll see even these areas become more popular, driving home prices higher.”

“An area with higher property values has the potential the yield a more lucrative real estate investment. So pay attention to on-the-rise hotspots—that can be a certain city or even a specific neighborhood—when deciding where to invest,” Jewgieniew explained.

Apartment buildings and boutique hotels have been predicted to receive a slew of investments in the coming fiscal year as well, which Jewgieniew thinks will lead to a larger presence of tech giants in our communities:

“I anticipate that retailers like Amazon will buy up these malls and convert them into distribution centers, creating jobs near the former malls. I believe that a lot of these apartments near the malls are going to get converted into condos to accommodate the workforce.”

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Jewgieniew explained that it’s important to build an organized business plan before making any official decisions as well.

“It’s not just about how much money you have and what income the building creates; you’ll need to factor external factors such as interest rates, vacancy rates, and occupancy rates into the equation too.”

Finally, Jewgieniew urged first-time investors especially to not get too excited by the thrill of investing in a new property, and take their time when it comes to reading all the fine lines. 

“A year ago, I would have said something different, but do not try to get in and get out quickly. Buy it, hold it long term, and focus on cash flow. Competition for these properties is intense right now, so you may have to pay a little more than you should to acquire one—and since construction materials are also extra expensive, it’ll be harder to turn a profit.”

Overall, just be smart with your money and make sure you’re making investments that will benefit you in the future. “If you’ve got a business plan in place and have a network of resources, like a knowledgeable real estate pro, then now could be a good time to invest in a flip property.”