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American cities are going through a huge transformation. You can say goodbye to inefficient suburban areas as people choose a more efficient way of living.

This is why Americans will choose cities over suburban areas in the next 10 years.

Now, what does this mean to you as a real estate investor? If you plan for this uptick trend, the opportunities are endless.

If you get ahead of this trend, you can make boatloads of money while your competitors chase after small margin deals.

In this episode, Jon Commers of Visible City, joins us again and discusses the trends to look out for in city developments. Knowing these trends will give you a head start to insane profits in the short future.

Listen now.

Show highlights include:

  • Why this weird housing trend breaks down the typical American housing structures (1:10)
  • The “Brazilian” effect taking over American Cities (and what smart investors are doing to get ready) (1:30)
  • The one job in the real estate industry that will have huge demand in the future (2:50)
  • The government-induced zoning law changes that will set up future cities in America (and how investors can take advantage of this) (5:15)
  • How “The Great Resignation” will change the real estate landscape in the next 5 years (19:50)

To connect with Jon Commers, please visit:

To get the latest updates directly from Dan and discuss business with other real estate investors, join the REI marketing nerds Facebook group here: http://adwordsnerds.com/group

Need help with your online marketing? Jump on a FREE strategy session with our team. We'll dive deep into your market and help you build a custom strategy for finding motivated seller leads online. Schedule for free here: http://adwordsnerds.com/strategy

Read Full Transcript

You're listening to the REI marketing nerds podcast, the leading resource for real estate investors who want to dominate their market online. Dan Barrett is the founder of AdWords nerds, a high tech digital agency focusing exclusively on helping real estate investors like you get more leads and deals online, outsmart your competition and live a freer, more awesome life. And now, your host, Dan Barrett.

(0:40) Hey, guys, welcome back, you're listening to the second part of last week's episode. Let's jump back in. So I want to ask this is a question I've been mulling over since we first met, we talked a little bit about what you guys do. And this is more of a generalist question. But I want to tap into your your sort of scholarly background. And my question is, how much control? Do you feel we actually have over the direction of let's say that the cities, you know, the growth of cities in America? And how much control do we actually want? Right? And I specifically was thinking about a while back, I was reading about I think it's Brasilia, right, which is like the capital city, Brazil, which is this very, very, very consciously architected city designed around, you know, sort of, I think, what the author calls high modernist sort of ideas about how cities should work. And in practice, you know, and I've never been there, but what I read was, in practice, the experience of actually living there is sort of oddly off putting, right there's this sort of sense of being in a manufactured space that somehow is not 100%, human, humanistic, or however you want to put that, right. It's, it's, it's a little too artificial. And it strikes me that like a lot of the, you know, if you if you think about it, at least to the American sensibility, the European cities, that seems so beautiful, and so amazing, are the ones that have cobblestone streets that like don't go in a straight line, and like it's all very kind of all over the place. So I'm curious how you think about that being in this sort of realm of obviously, you're not designing an entire city, but you are helping people make decisions to sort of corral the growth of cities of any ways. How much control do we really have over that process? And how much control is maybe desirable to have over that process versus letting things happen? Organic?

(2:49) I had a conversation last night with a neighborhood friend whose son is interested in becoming an urban planner. And he said, What do you think of that? That career interest? John, I said, I think that, for the coming couple of generations, urban planning is going to be an incredibly, not only valuable, but really dynamic space to be involved. And I think that for a bunch of reasons, I think that obviously on a global scale, we are urbanizing, that continues to shift free substantially. And so more and more of the world's population will be living in cities as we go forward. But even beyond that, I think that is we were looked back at the 20th century, particularly in a Triodos note, and 500 years, I think we'll look back and say that the 20th century, in many ways was an exceptional one. And what I mean about that is that we really made a lot of decisions about how we would live together and cities are based on a set of kind of impulses, and a set of incentives that I don't think are going to be the long term incentives that are in place for for cities. So for example, obviously the interstate freeway system, we rely on it in a lot of ways today. But that system went through a lot of urban areas in a way that I see go over the near term and intermediate term, we're going to say this is not the most productive way to use urban space and those cities that are making changes to their interstates where they're covering now more in some cases, just getting rid of where those those roadways go through the urban centers that that is picking up speed and and I think that'll be interesting to watch. The way that we have designed places in a very with very segregated use it so you know, this is a this is a commercial district. This is an institutional district. This is a single family residential district, this is a multifamily residential district. That also is something that's pretty exceptional from the 20th century. That's not the way that people live for centuries before that, I don't think that's really the way that many cities are going to operate going forward, either Halo, and there will be much more mixing of that. And you're seeing that in local moves, where cities are making changes to zoning codes in their planning documents in order to just create more efficiency and more livability allow people to make choices about how they move around cities without having to get in a car, because I think there's a kind of a growing recognition that car dependence is not really an ideal, social or environmental or frankly, economic outcome. It's actually really isolating. It's not great for our older, nor our elders who live among us. It's not great for kids, et cetera, et cetera. So my short answer to your question is, I think that there's going to be a lot of dynamism in the next know, let's say, 100 years in cities. And I think the use of of data will be really important in kind of helping cities and communities move to the next step of what they what they're going to look like, and how they're going to operate together. The last thing I would say about that is, anytime we're living together, and this means not only physically but also digitally, it means that there are some privacy issues that need attention. And I would say that that is another thing that we're going to need to focus attention on as what is the sort of data privacy rubric that we're putting in place to allow people's data to be used for shared, you know, kind of community goals, but also reflecting the fact that they are entitled to some privacy and some ownership of data day that they generate. So that's going to be a tension that we're going to have to navigate together as we're, as we're building these cities of the future in the next couple of decades.

(6:57) So we, you mentioned, a whole bunch of things there that strike me is really, really interesting and things that I do think that even, you know, I'm 42, right, this is the first time you know, I've got I've got kids or I'm doing the, you know, parent teacher conferences, like that whole thing, right? That's, that's the phase of life that I'm in. And it's really the first time that you sit down and you, at least for me care about zoning laws or shooting, it's like the first day we're like, why is it that there? You know, you get wrapped up in a local local community in a way that just previous to this? I hadn't really. So I'm wondering, when you look out at communities today, is there something that you see happening, that you think is a notable mistake? Right, like, where do you think that people get their concepts of that urban space? Wrong? Is it in the kind of separation of commercial and non commercial? How, what do you think people could do differently now to kind of direct their communities in the right direction? I know, that's a broad question. So you can tackle that however you like?

(8:05) Hmm. I think one answer I would have to that, Dan is, I think just just by the nature of local policymaking, you know, you're you're constantly in a balancing act of trying to create the best outcome based on interests that are oftentimes, you know, not aligned. And they may be overlapping in ways that you're trying to kind of ascertain and understand. And I think that one common mistake that I see in the city space is kind of splitting the difference in policy measures. So what I mean by that is like, Okay, we're going to, we're going to rezone residential property so that I instead of only single family, you could do single family up to triplex or up to duplex. And that will help us generate more housing units. It'll give people more property rights that they should have in their hands, etc. That is an incremental move, that doesn't really create any impact. Because, as you know, the economics of trying to build a duplex or a triplex on a single family lot, it's not something that's really going to scale effectively, particularly now we've been through all these supply shocks, et cetera, from the pandemic, but yeah, the materials and labor, it's just not going to work. So we have to be willing to kind of go to the next step. And either choose not to pursue the increment at all, or to go to the other side of the increment and say, Okay, we're gonna be bold, and we're gonna say, instead of the single family, exclusive lot, you can do single family up to a four Plex, and suddenly, you're now into a building form that's a little more cost effective and might actually lead to your goal of stimulating more housing. And that's one example where I just think, no, maybe it's Out of saying, we've got a proposal and proposal B, let's just let's just find the middle ground, sometimes the middle ground is not really a place that, you know, it's going to lead a lot of political challenge, but it's not really going to deliver the outcome. So maybe you just stick with the status quo on that front, and then an another space where you can actually make up some ground, then you will be on the increment and actually adopt the, you know, the more robust proposal, you see the same thing and a lot of other ways like, no, there's more interest in having alternatives to car driving. So some cities are adapting bike lanes that are just painted surface. And that is kind of the same thing. It's like a middle ground that doesn't really create infrastructure that people are going to feel safe using as an alternative to current events. And so you end up sort of with with some of balls, and really, neither of

(10:54) either. Yeah, I mean, it's it strikes me right there's, that's a pattern that I see in a lot of different domains is this idea that like when you kind of try to strike the golden mean, you get the worst of both possible worlds, rather than just choosing your downside and getting all the upside right. Out the bike lane. When it's funny, I ride my bike, you know, it's like an eight minute bike ride from my house to work, right. So I ride my bike to work a lot of the time and we have exactly that. It's just a painted way they didn't make the road any bigger. They just painted a lane on right and I ride on the road by notice of most of the people I see riding bikes in town right on the sidewalk. I'm like, you know, I always get bitter about it. My wife always says I'm too judgmental, because I'm like, why after riding the ride and risking my life every day, why can't they? But it's like, you know, but the people on the road are irritated with me and I'm irritated with mutters though. Yeah, it's hard to share that space in a lot of ways.

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(12:24) Well, you know, we've been talking about complexity. And so I'm going to ask you an impossible question, which I think is going to be, but if if you add if you're sitting down with an investor, and they're saying, Hey, I'm looking for a way to judge, you know, to make an educated guess, let's say maybe not a prediction, but an educated guess, about the trajectory of given area of look at let's say, an urban area, I'm thinking about investing in this area, I'm trying to get a sense of where it's headed. If you had to give that person one thing that they could think about or look at to get a sense of the underlying health of a community, could you pick something out that you think would would help them make a better decision? I know, we just said that, like, you can't ever separate out causal factors and such, but let's let's try to be fobbed off parler Did you could you think of something that you think would be helpful to that person?

(13:14) There's a lot of great answers to that question, Dan, that is a use case that we have worked with in the past. And sometimes that party is interested in their block, sometimes they're interested in a district, sometimes they're interested in a much larger geography. And I would say a good starting place for that kind of evaluation really is particularly given it's 2022, we have a good resource in the form of the census date. And I say that because it's it allows for strong comparison from 2010 to 2020, for example, or even 2020 10, and 2020. None of that data is going to, you know, blow people's minds in terms of the behavioral nature of it are the revelation around really fine grained activity. However, it does give us a really strong underlying basis for understanding where is their movement in particular area? And what does that look like? So we can look at all kinds of things, housing characteristics, you know, demography, how people are moving around in that space, how they get to key destinations, certainly, you know, mobility, who's moving in and moving out of that space? Where are they coming from all those kinds of factors, depending on that client's interest could be incorporated into a take like that. And that's often a no a good step one that we that we might take with a scope like that. And then we have subsequent steps that we use to kind of dive further into that inquiry and and add some additional layers on to it that are more behavioral in nature, but it's a really strong starting place to be able to at least ask those questions and making sure that you're at your tagging kind of the big

(14:59) themes Okay, so i Alright, so I really want to ask, and I'm going to ask what's next for visible city and kind of what you see the sort of future is, before we leave these sort of really broad topics, I have to ask about your background in economics. I'm fascinated by economics. I go back and forth on how much I think that the sort of academic body of economic knowledge was let's real life and what may or may not be. So I'm very curious if you think about the sort of proper economics academic background that you have, is there one sort of idea or mental model, you find yourself returning to, in your day to day work for its explanatory power? Or? Or maybe it's its ability to kind of help you make decisions? Is there something you could pull out of that background? And you're like, you know, it's all very useful. But there's this one thing, it's just a tool I'm constantly pulling out of my mental toolbox?

(15:52) Man, it's a great question. I would say that one example of that is, I should disclose to that on my team. I'm somewhat famous for mixing metaphors. So I beg your pardon of bad my made me gather this, but well, that also is is me. So I'm all for a good mix metaphor. There's not. I think one thing that, that I have come back to many, many times in, in my work in the various settings that I described, is the sense that, you know, price setting is, in its core, a behavioral element. And I think that sometimes in the US, particularly, I think we start to assign characteristics to prices or to markets that are unfairly comprehensive, we believe that they have rationality that, that they often don't. And if we think about the fact that individual market participants are sometimes rational, and sometimes irrational saw our collections, no matter how large of individuals, which operators, markets, and, and you know, our recent examples, of course, the caricature of people, you know, hoarding toilet paper and things like that, there's maybe a little bit more happening in that sense. But some of those activities are those trends really created a lot as it again, markets that we have just long believed are totally rational. And as long as you know, an ebb and flow that is always manageable. And in reality, there are real exceptions to so that's one piece, I think the second piece I would mention, as I have long been a fan of the Freakonomics writings and podcasts. And I love their approach of taking economic concepts and really stretching their application into areas that, you know, in a classical education, you're typically not going to address those topics using your own economic concepts. So thinking about why most drug dealers live with their parents, for example, is a really interesting question that has a lot of layers to it. And you can use economic concepts to dig into these questions that I think are really interesting and much more varied than is often suggested about the economics practice or curriculum,

(18:08) right? Yeah, economics can can often seem segregated into its own universe that's kind of divorced from actual activity, whereas just like you said, right, from the model transfers over Alright, so let's, let's talk about what's next for visible city, kind of what you guys are planning, kind of what your goals are renovating visible city is such an interesting company, you guys, just like you said, you're, you're at the kind of edge of this massive space to do go in so many different directions. How do you think about what you want to achieve? As a team? Or kind of where you're going? Do you plan it all out? You're like, we have a 10 year plan, you know, and here's what we're gonna do, I should have gone with five year plans with the communist thing or whatever. But you know, or are you more organic? And you know, you're like, Oh, we're dancing with complex systems? And who knows? How do you guys think about what you what you want to achieve and where you want to accomplish?

(19:04) I'm gonna say we we have, we're working in a couple of different ways right now. One is we're working on really close attention to the systems, the processes, the sort of assets that we're developing internally, and really trying to be thinking rigorously about how we how we identify inventory, and then really carry those assets forward into future projects and client opportunities. Some of that is about when we hear from clients in commercial real estate or in other fields. When we hear a pattern of what we're getting from the marketplace, then sometimes we'll take some of those assets and think about them a little differently. Like maybe this is something we should eat you bait and try to develop in a in a little different track than our more project based kind of efforts that we're having in parallel we're doing in parallel. So that's that's one piece is kind of the internal focus. The other piece, though, is I think it's an increase doubly interesting and arguably turbulent time in marketplace. So yes, we've gotten, you know, rising interest rates that's a little unfamiliar from recent history, we're not totally sure how to manage that. But there are other kind of cross currents of I think structural cheese that are our net worth, you think about the fact that the value of location and the value of the individual attributes of what makes a great location, those are all in flux, right now, they're all changing, right? Think about the mobility workforce, you know, this has talked about Office, particularly, but it's going to affect every segment of the commercial real estate marketplace, and demand and supply are gonna change in different ways, depending on the geography, the sub market, you know, the ownership, the profile of that space, what's around it, all of those things will influence what those spaces are going to look like. And then I think to just about the nature of work, I mean, I'm not totally sure about what the great resignation is, or is not. But it's clear that people do have different ideas about what work means and what it does not mean than they had in February 2020. And that's a cultural shift, there's a there's a movement that is taking place. And I think it's gonna be really interesting and challenging at times, but also big opportunities to figure out where that points us as we go forward. So I'm excited about visible city, adding a toolbox, and having kind of a way of bringing together various dimensions and layers of data to give, you know, medical centers and developers and city agencies and other parties, give them hand side about where we see stuff going in the corners of the world where they're most interested.

(21:43) Well, I mean, man, talk about just visible city being situated at this really fascinating place. And I think if you are, you know, if you're an investor, and you're listening to this, there are so many different questions that a company like visible city can help you answer can help you pull together data to make better decisions. It's such a fun, fascinating thing. So for people that want to learn more about you, or about visible city, where are the best places for them to learn about you? Obviously, there's the website, visible dot city, did you do social media or anything like that? We do. We do. Danielle, we're on Twitter, and we're on LinkedIn. And our contact information is on Facebook, although we don't engage on Facebook, because we adopted a data privacy policy about three years ago that we feel like Facebook does not comply with. And so we had a space there that gets you to our website, but we don't otherwise engage on that flat platform. But we do definitely share project examples and other thoughts on Twitter and LinkedIn, we'd love to connect with your listeners there. Or of course, at our website, visible that city, always welcome. Yeah, for sure. I will link to all those places at the show notes which you can get to AdWords nerds.com/podcast. But again, the website visible dot city, go check them out. It's really, really cool. They've got some examples of projects that they've worked on and stuff. It's really fascinating. John commerce, thank you so much for coming on the show. Man. This was a real treat for me. I'd never get to say complex systems theory in this podcast. And I'm always happy whenever I get a chance to bring it up. So thank you so much, man. This was awesome.

(23:18) Thank you, Dan. I really appreciate the conversation too. And the invitation. Thanks for reaching out. That is it. That's it for our interview this week. AdWords nerds.com is our website. Folks, you can go there, you can find all our past episodes, show notes. And more than I mentioned this in the beginning, obviously. But look, if you're a real estate investor, and you're worried about the market right now, you want to talk about how online marketing can help you get through the hard times, you can go to AdWords nerds.com and request a call with our team. It's totally free. It is not a sales pitch. What we do is help you put together an online marketing strategy that makes sense for your market, your risk tolerance and your goals. I do not believe in a one size fits all approach to anybody's business problems. And we certainly aren't going to try to foist one of those on you. So it's going to be customed to you. If you're interested in doing that. Like I said, AdWords nerds.com is the website. Go there? Check it out. Like I said, totally free. I really appreciate you listening to podcasts every week. Thank you so much for being here. I will see you next week.

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