Covid-19 as Real Estate’s “Great Disruptor”

The Covid-19 pandemic has been “the Great Disruptor,” forcing people into reconsidering their living circumstances, fueling (in part) migration between various states.

So says Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of Miller Samuel Inc., a real estate appraisal and consulting firm he co-founded in 1986. He is a state-certified real estate appraiser in New York and Connecticut who performs court testimony as an expert witness, holding the Counselor of Real Estate (CRE) and Certified Relocation Professional (CRP) designations. His Matrix blog is widely read in the real estate industry, as is his weekly email update, called Housing Notes. Miller Samuel’s research and data analytics drives much of the national real estate brokerage publications and strategic plans.

Miller explains how Zillow Surfing has become the pandemic real estate pastime, and has driven some of the activity. Even as vaccinations become widespread, contracts for sales continue to rise. The lockdown has acted as an accelerant on a variety of pre-existing trends.

The “death of cities” has been greatly exaggerated, too. They have an optics problem — the business districts are mostly empty during WFH, but the residential areas are vibrant and active. Net residency is the result of an inbound/outbound ratio where inbound has been frozen during the pandemic lockdown, but outbound shifts to standalone homes with more space than apartments has been very active.

We also discuss a possible transition of office space, which he estimates as having an excesses of 20% in total square footage. Converting that to residential will reset costs, making urban centers more attractive to younger buyers and renters. He defines why luxury real estate is ill defined by the industry — he prefers an objective measure of price, and uses the top 10% of transactions by price.

A list of his current book reading is here; A transcript of our conversation is available here Monday.

You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google, Bloomberg, and Acast. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.

Be sure to check out our Masters in Business next week with Michael Lewis, the poet laureate of finance. We discuss his latest book, The Premonition, A Pandemic Story. He is the author of Undoing Project, Moneyball, Flashboys, Big Short, and so many others. We discuss how the United States was the best prepared nation in the world for a pandemic, yet allowed a variety of its institutions to fail.

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