Buying a home in London is a fraught process — expensive and highly competitive, it’s an enterprise in which your hopes and dreams can be crushed with one phonecall, even as you offer up your life savings to the gods of caveat emptor.
So the idea that people have snapped up $100 million worth of virtual real estate in the past few weeks is somewhat baffling.
How anyone has the appetite to engage in virtual property deals on top of navigating the real-world housing market is a puzzle, but investors have been buying up digital land in virtual worlds including The Sandbox and Decentraland.
Before you let your bewilderment get the better of you and dismiss this as a niche interest, these websites are considered a prototype of the metaverse, the buzzword du jour and a likely glimpse into the mainstream future since Facebook pinned its colours to the virtual mast in October.
Sure, you can’t actually live in an NFT house, but you can hold on to it as it accumulates value and then sell it on for a profit.
If anything, the rise of the digital property market exposes just how dysfunctional our dedication to bricks and mortar is.
The metaverse offers the potential investment return of a London home, albeit with more risk attached, divorced from all the emotional highs and lows of living there, too (and that’s before you get into adequate habitation as a basic human right).
Stephen Wright’s House of Dreams makes this point in the opposite way — his home is a physical expression of his personal emotional baggage, to the extent to which it would likely be unsellable as a home. Instead he has bequeathed it to the National Trust.