Editor’s note: Building the future, block by block

Maybe it was just the sun, sand and surf, but The Real Deal’s Future City event in the Bahamas last month left me feeling optimistic.

The three-day event, which brought together C-suite execs, startup founders and investors to discuss the intersection of technology and real estate, was held for the first time since the pandemic hit in 2020.

Events in the broader world since then may have contributed to the feeling that proptech can transform where — and how — we live. 

Stuart Elliott

After all, it was technology that helped us overcome the pandemic — by virtue of an MRNA vaccine. We were all forced to make sacrifices during Covid — and found that we could change our routines for the common good. And for many, the last several years have sparked a renewed commitment to civic values and a keen awareness of the fragility and importance of our democracy, now on display in the West’s response to the war in Ukraine. 

We can change our world for the better. And that ethos trickles down to the future of cities, with development, management, construction, design, marketing and finance all being transformed. 

The conference covered what seemed like the next 50 years of ideas — from smart homes, to blockchain, the metaverse, NFTs, electric vehicles, big data, decarbonization and new concepts in architecture — critical intel to stay on top of the changing built environment. Alas, it was all off the record, to allow for blunt discussion and to separate out what’s possible and what’s hype. You’ll have to join next year.  

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Meanwhile, check out photos of some of the big names (like Billionaires’ Row developer Michael Stern; execs from Fifth Wall, the biggest VC player in proptech; and heads of recently IPO’d startups like Latch) who attended. 

There is of course a flip side to all the optimism. Namely, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created a lot of geopolitical uncertainty, which is never good for dealmaking. As we cover in a series of stories, long before the invasion, supply-chain challenges were driving up construction costs and inflation concerns were setting the stage for higher mortgage rates. Now, the war has accelerated those trends. 

There are also the Russian oligarchs and their pricey pads to deal with. President Biden has vowed to go after properties tied to the Kremlin elite. We look at complicating factors in a story by Lidia Dinkova. And Joe Lovinger reports on the latest tools that watchdogs are using to try to crack down on money laundering via real estate — which has always been an odyssey.

We’ve also got our signature annual ranking of the top residential agents in Manhattan. Hint: current and/or former reality-TV stars still dominate. And we’ve kept score on the largest resi firms in South Florida and Los Angeles. 

In one of the newer cities we’ve been covering closely, we peek under the hood of the Austin luxury residential market, where the car of choice might surprise you.   

“If you’re doing certain kinds of business, especially if you’re doing ranches, it’s pretty good to have a Ford F-150,” one broker told us. “You get a lot of respect if you pull onto the property in a pickup truck.”

Enjoy the issue and keep on truckin’.