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Ep 103: How Macros Affect Real Estate with Ben Miller


As life continues to be shaped by large scale drivers like technology and demographics, so too does real estate. Here to talk about some ways that the game has changed in the last thirty years and weigh in on high-level factors that are influencing things today is Ben Miller, Co-Founder, and CEO of Fundrise. Ben grew up in a real estate family and starts off our chat commenting on the real estate landscape in the 80s versus currently. Gone are the days of niched knowledge thanks to the ease with which information can be found online and Ben talks about how it is getting harder to find what he calls ‘alpha’ due to this. Ben has lived through three downturns and we explore some common trends between those times and our current moment. We zoom in on the topic of macros versus micro factors that affect real estate trends, and Ben talks about how bigger picture movements are harder to grasp in their entirety but of utmost importance to have at least some understanding of. We get into a few examples of big technological breakthroughs that have obliterated real estate asset classes and wonder what the pandemic, self-driving cars, and other big changes will mean for cities in the coming decade. As our conversation winds to a close, Ben shares a few learnings he has had from growing such a successful and large company. For key insights into some of the factors that are affecting deals which many people usually ignore due to their complexity, tune in today!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Ben’s real estate achievements and the skills he gained growing up in a real estate family.

  • An overview of the history of real estate and how things have changed.

  • The death of ‘alpha’ (competitive advantage), and how there are less off-market deals.

  • Technology’s influence and how the real estate market is becoming more like a public market.

  • Being a better operator and outperforming competition by knowing or doing something different.

  • Similarities in characteristics between previous real estate crises Ben has lived through.

  • Skepticism around buying too many deals, and how cap rates have gotten so much lower.

  • Macro versus micro factors to consider when choosing what deals to buy.

  • Thinking about real estate as being driven by flows not stock, where renters are the ‘flow’.

  • How macro factors like demographics and technology will affect the trend of urban living over the next ten years.

  • Not underestimating the effects of slow shifts in culture on real estate and business.

  • How attractive remote work situations are becoming and what this means for real estate.

  • Examples of how technology has disrupted real estate and new ways it will continue to.

  • The obsession with financial modeling and how often models are wrong.

  • Lessons Ben has learned growing a company about restructuring at stages.

  • Ben’s ‘Objectives, Challenges, Strategies’ framework for organizing thoughts and objectives.

  • ‘Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny’: How structure dictates behavior.

Tweetables:

“You can’t know the macro but you can be on the right side of the headwinds. As a real estate investor, you have to do that.” — @BenMillerise [0:23:58]

“Over ten years I think you are up against two macro drivers that are going to mean a slow erosion of urban performance.” — @BenMillerise [0:27:05]

“A lot of what technology has done is to make location less important.” — @BenMillerise [0:36:49]

“There’s a real learning curve around how to organize your thoughts.” — @BenMillerise [0:44:43]

“If you understand the structure of something, you can understand how it is likely to behave, and then you can take advantage of it.” — @BenMillerise [0:44:43]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Ben Miller on LinkedIn

Ben Miller on Twitter

Fundrise

Cushman & Wakefield

BlackRock

Zillow

Vanguard

AT&T


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