There’s better data on “the best kind of running sock to buy”: Fifth Wall’s Brendan Wallace on the iBuying imperative and why building sustainability is here to stay

In Part 2 of TRD interview, real estate venture capitalist talks betting on green buildings and standardizing homebuying

National /
May.May 08, 2020 12:30 PM

There are red states, and there are blue states. But cities, according to the head of the largest real estate-focused venture capital fund, are going green no matter what.

In the second part of an extended conversation with The Real Deal’s Hiten Samtani, Fifth Wall Ventures’ Brendan Wallace laid out his central premise for the Carbon Impact Fund, Fifth Wall’s new building sustainability fund — launched in January with a target raise of $200 million — that will help landlords reduce carbon emissions.

(Watch Pt. 1: Fifth Wall’s Brendan Wallace on the need for a retail bailout)

“The similarities between a public-health crisis and the climate crisis are uncanny,” he said. When Samtani pointed out that many real-estate CEOs do not believe in climate change, Wallace said they’d be compelled to play ball given the left-leaning dynamics in most of the major cities they operate in.

“You can’t move a building,” he said. “So it doesn’t matter what your political beliefs are. If you’re going to get taxed and fined for not meeting carbon-neutrality standards, that’s now an economic incentive.”

Fifth Wall is a key investor in Opendoor, the first startup to take on instant homebuying. Opendoor — like many other players in the iBuying space including Zillow and Realogy — was forced to suspend activity at the height of the pandemic, and just resumed operations this week. It has been hit by mass layoffs but Wallace remains optimistic about its prospects, given the size of the problem it’s trying to tackle. He said the pandemic had made customers more open to digitizing all aspects of the homebuying experience, from tours to appraisals to title insurance, and an institutionalized central player like an iBuying company could stand to benefit.

Finally, the discussion turned to the need — accelerated by the pandemic — for landlords to take greater ownership over a tenant’s well-being. There’s a growing realization, Wallace said, that landlords have “a social and health imperative to protect them, which is very much like being a micro-mayor — you have jurisdiction over your assets.”


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