And so it goes. Another week. Turns out it is mid-November.
Same week as another week but with more leaves on the ground.
Have a wonderful weekend.
“When you are distressed by an external thing, it’s not the thing itself that troubles you, but only your judgment of it. And you can wipe this out at a moment’s notice.” — Marcus Aurelius
9 years ago I saw a video titled “A Day Made of Glass,” by Owens Corning. Predicting the uses of technology integrated into our houses and our lives can be dicey. It’s like the concept car at the auto show but for our lives. Owens Corning does not even create the tech that goes into the glass, just the glass, but the video underscores how the company is looking into the future.
How does your team do this? Do you have a concept car for your company? If you thought about it this week, what vision of the future would you paint?
I’ve remembered that video going so far as to track it down several times in the last 9 years. In fact, I’m not sure what Owens Corning is up to these days. I remember the video.
Questions about the Future from this week:
Q: What is going to happen with commercial real estate?
A: The same way we questioned how relationships would or would not survive the quarantine in April, we are now asking the same questions about office buildings and urban rent prices.
A couple of theories are swirling around: 1). Offices are over. 2). Offices will reopen, partially, but small businesses in and around offices will close without people 3). It will all “get back to normal” as soon as a vaccine allows.
As someone who traveled a lot prior to the travel restrictions imposed by COVID-19 risks, I absolutely love working from home. My hope for companies (re)evaluating work-from-home policies is to consider a different type of arrangement. Instead of a smaller part of the company traveling often for conferences and business development, the entire workforce would work from home regularly and travel once or twice a year to gather as an entire company in rented offices. Commercial real estate will end up looking more like WeWork than we thought. Instead of individuals or start-ups, though, it will be a rotating series of annual company gatherings.
What’s more, the central cities with offices and amenities — Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Nashville, Chicago — will help keep travel costs down and buildings in those cities full.
San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York will remain important, no question, perhaps rethinking where we work and why, though, will change.
My vote (shocker) is annual trips to Detroit for everyone.
Q: Are people really fleeing big cities like San Francisco and New York?
A: All data points to yes. There is not a nationwide trend in all cities, the way some stories might imply, but the exits from SF and NYC are confirmed. In several meetings this week, I saw data that pointed to a variety of sources — surveys, geographic housing data, loan size and home size — to confirm that a theory has become a trend. Those moving off the coasts are moving to smaller cities and buying bigger houses. What started as a flight to Tahoe from the Bay Area is now showing up in data from Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Texas and Florida.
Q: Is now the moment when Millennials will “catch up” and start buying homes?
A: Maybe. Right now, there are not enough homes to buy. Some first-time home buyers are having luck, especially those who can compete with cash offers form investors or institutional buyers (ibuyers). Generally speaking though, demand is making it tough. Places like Detroit would probably be able to attract even more first-time home buyers if better housing supply existed. Since it is too early to begin converting or retrofitting commercial real estate the only option is existing homes. There, Detroit is not as attractive as other small or mid-sized cities.
If necessity is the mother of invention, now is the time to be looking at a variety of housing solutions — modular, manufactured, communal — that will quickly provide options to a lot of people.
This week the Wall Street Journal published a study of rents for single family homes. Rents are so strong that corporate landlords are moving to the build-for-rent model to create more homes in these rising rent areas — Sun Belt and Southern cities. Between COVID-19 and limited housing supply, suburban rents are increasing.
Urban in-fill is one of the ways we could inject new housing into the system lowering the cost of housing overall. The only problem is the manufacturing and transportation costs for new homes makes it difficult, if not impossible, to create at scale.
The reality is that most people would love a flexible option. Be able to move around the country while maintaining the ability to accrue real estate equity.
I’ve thought a lot about a subscription model that would entitle the subscriber to data and availability of properties nationwide. Within the catalogue of homes, members could move from place to place and continue to earn equity in the entire portfolio of homes. Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) meets fractionalized ownership and flexibility in the hands of the consumer. Staying in a home for 3 months, 4 months or 3 years would all be calibrated by the real-time measure of the value of your equity. Move to Dallas in a 6,000 sq foot home and earn some equity but mostly the monthly payment would go to “rent.” Move to a small craftsman home in Grand Rapids, MI, earn equity faster and less of the payment goes to rent. Overall the partnership would maximize owning and mobility.
Q: Where do you stand on the phrase “forever home”?
A: I accidentally referenced it this week. Followed immediately by, “I hate that phrase, why did I use it? My forever home will be a coffin.”
Yup, I said it. Do you? Would you?
Work from home … or not. As employees begin considering the long(er) term status working from home, companies and governments are responding as well. CEOs must decide whether employees moving to new states will have compensation adjusted for cost of living in the new state. Or visa versa.
Research from the Deutsche Bank policy arm decided that perhaps work-from-home employees be taxed 5% to offset the lack of economic activity generated by commuting and working in a city. Based on DB research, the tax would be paid for by employers and the income generated would be paid to people who cannot work from home. “This could earn $48bn (£36bn) if introduced in the US and would help redress the balance, the bank says.”
When my friend Adam read this story he said, “Or maybe I should receive a 5% tax credit for the saving the climate the use of fossil fuels and roadways.”
5% work-from-home (WFH) tax on an average $55,000 salary works out at about $10 a day in the US. For the UK, the tax equates to about £7, based on a salary of £35,000.
On one hand, I recognize it can be helpful to debate to be provocative. This is that. On the other hand, I do not understand why we continue to tax one thing instead of incentivizing another.
Incentivize the behavior we want.
Quote: “Talk about a dream, try to make it real.” — Bruce Springsteen
Bonus Content: American muscle cars. Goofy ads. Large, fast automobiles. …Cause remember when…
Continued success and continue to answer well,