Real estate is one of those goods that will remain scarce for the foreseeable future. It is hard to imagine a time when territory on planet Earth will not still be considered a valuable resource.
However, real estate prices might be dramatically affected (and in many cases lowered) by some near future technologies that are already on their way:
- Automated construction techniques will allow buildings to be fabricated with less workers, at a lower cost, and in less time. Thus the price of actual structures, if not necessarily the underlying property, should fall accordingly.
- Likewise, new automation-enabled architectural designs might allow the creation of structures that more efficiently and comfortably fit larger numbers of people within the same plot of land.
- The growing efficacy and acceptance of telecommunication technologies should allow increasing numbers of people to choose where they live regardless of whether that location is near a job site.
- Growing numbers of permanently unemployed people who have given up and dropped out of the labor force may find it increasingly compelling to move away from cities and other centers of economic activity. If they are not going to find work anyway, they might as well live where things are cheaper.
- Commuting in self-driving cars will be a vastly improved experience—why not enjoy a movie or a nap during your two hour drive? Thus it may become increasingly viable to live farther away not just from your job site but from your loved ones and other amenities. Do you necessarily need to live right next to nightlife, for example, if an automated chauffeur will drop you off wherever you want and then pick you up at the end of the night?
- Virtual reality will improve our currently narrow-bandwidth communications technologies. Over time, people will be able to get more and more of the benefits of being “face to face” by simply connecting remotely.
- Eventually virtual reality may even get good enough that people will be able to tolerate living in much cheaper and more cramped living quarters. What if after you got home, you could put on a headset and be transported to a virtual mansion?
- New food production methods (such as lab-grown meat) might allow us to reclaim land currently devoted to tasks like farming. Similarly, technological disruption of industries might lead to many formerly commercial districts getting repurposed as residential.