The jungle or the zoo – What’s your vision of real estate’s future?

Looking to the next 10 years of the real estate industry, social scientist Nigel Dalton offers up an interesting analogy. “Are you expecting a jungle or a zoo?” he asks.

As far as that might seem the day-to-day operations of real estate, it’s an interesting question with deep-thinking merit.

As he explains, both experiences offer the opportunity to see wild animals, but the mindset and preparation for each are very, very different.

If you’re expecting the zoo, you are anticipating an experience where everything is laid out and organised, and each animal can be neatly ticked off your list.

A jungle safari, on the other hand, offers no such guarantees.

Perhaps there won’t be a single encounter with any wild animal, or maybe, just maybe, an elephant will come charging out of the jungle.

Nigel’s concern is that too many real estate operators believe real estate will play out just like an experience at the zoo, when really they should be preparing for the unexpected and readying themselves for a jungle safari.

“Your mental preparation for going on safari is completely different to if you believe the next 10 years are just a zoo where it’s all organised and you’re going to walk your way through and tick all these boxes,” he says.

“My worry is that a lot of people think they’re just going to walk up to the next 10 years, play out the patterns of the last 10, buy a CRM and win in the real estate industry.”

And that means they will be caught unawares should an elephant make a charge when they least expect it.

As to who the elephant might be in the real estate room, Nigel will be discussing that at Elite Retreat from July 31 to August 3, but in the interim, he offers a thought-provoking perspective of the future.

The pace of change is accelerating

If you think the past few years have delivered rapid change, that’s nothing compared to what’s to come, Nigel predicts.

He notes we are currently in ‘liminal times’, caught between two eras.

The last era brought us the internet, technology adoption and more recently the metaverse and artificial intelligence. But now 2050 is closer than 1990 and that rate of change is set to accelerate.

“We are in the in-betweens,” he says. “And the in-betweens are very uncomfortable.”

By 2050, he tips there will be new innovations every few months, and technology will change all the time.

As to how that will impact real estate, Nigel says it will affect the industry in a series of ways.

On the hiring side, the industry will be embracing Gen Z, a cohort raised on gaming who have a lot to offer the workforce, if you can find the way to manage them well.

On the property side, there will be shifts too, with ageing becoming a key consideration the industry will need to address.

In the interim, all the property owned by the current Baby Boomers will shift the supply and demand landscape.

“You think of all the Boomers. Whether it’s s stereotype or not, they have a home, an investment property, a beach property,” Nigel says.

“They’ve all got to go somewhere and I think that’s going to be highly impactful on the industry.”

And then there are trends like the metaverse, and like it or not, Nigel states that will have an impact.

He notes Facebook has been telling us for ages there will be a million people in the metaverse.

While that might be taking longer to play out than expected, it’s effect could be 10 times what we expect.

“When it comes around it’s going to be a real shock to people,” Nigel suggests.

And yes, that will tie into real estate, largely because an entire generation feels excluded from the property market.

“Everyone wants property… when you prevent them doing that, they’re going to buy property where they can, which might be Decentraland,” he says.

While right now it might be hard to pick the full ramifications of a virtual world, Nigel stresses, the reality is, it is real estate.  

Solving your client’s struggle

All these scenarios will feed into the very real struggle that real estate customers have around property, and this, Nigel suggests, is the key to innovation.

It won’t be about what tech you adopt, but rather how you solve the struggle your clients are facing.

Technology will assist in addressing their struggle, but the true game-changer for the industry will involve recognising the roadblocks that stand in the way of transacting and renting property, then offering innovative solutions.


Are you curious about who the elephant in the real estate room might be and where the potential lies to innovate by solving your client’s struggle?

Nigel Dalton will be on hand throughout the upcoming Elite Retreat where he will delve into future trends that will affect the industry and how you can prepare your business for the shift.

You can find out more about Elite Retreat and the lineup of speakers and experts attending here.

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Cassandra Charlesworth

Cassandra Charlesworth is a features writer for Elite Agent Magazine with over 15 years’ journalism experience in metropolitan and regional newsrooms. She has a specialist interest in real estate, tech disruption and a good old-fashioned “yarn”.