Real estate leaders gathered Tuesday at Inman CEO Connect to discuss what kinds of changes might shape the next chapter in the housing business.

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It was Tuesday afternoon and lunch was just finishing up when some of real estate’s biggest names began huddling beneath the glimmering chandeliers of the New York Midtown Hilton. They were leaders of major franchisors, founders of tech startups, and successful brokers. And their task was to gaze into their proverbial crystal balls and predict the future.

The event was part of Inman CEO Connect, an exclusive gathering for company leaders that is part of the Inman Connect event happening this week in New York City. And it specifically asked the various leaders to break out into small sessions and discuss some of the most pressing issues facing real estate. The conversations ranged over an array of topics, but here are four predictions for the future that emerged from the talks:

1. Partial homeownership

OJO Labs founder and CEO John Berkowitz said that his breakout group felt there’s “a generational shift in how consumers think about ownership” right now. He pointed out that in decades past, people might own a few shares of a big company like General Electric but not really think of themselves as actual “owners” of the company.

However, thanks to the flood of younger traders into the stock market and the rise of stock trading phenomenons such as GameStop, that mindset is shifting and holders of a handful of shares do think of themselves as company owners.

This matters because it could influence consumers’ willingness to own parts of homes, in the same way they own parts of companies.

“We think that’s going to start transferring to full ownership and partial ownership,” Berkowitz said.

Tim Heyl, left, and John at Inman CEO Connect Tuesday. Credit: AJ Canaria & Mercedes Santiago of MoxiWorks

2. Subscription models

Homeward CEO Tim Heyl was part of the same breakout group that Berkowitz participated in, and said that they also discussed the potential rise of subscription models in real estate.

Heyl pointed out that years ago, companies such as Microsoft would simply sell a product. Getting a particular version of Word, for example, was a one-time deal. Eventually, however, tech companies have switched over to subscription models that turn their consumers into recurring customers.

Heyl suggested real estate could see a similar shift, with subscriptions becoming popular for a wide variety of home-related products and services.

3. Reimagining the purpose of a home

Clelia Warburg Peters, a managing partner at Era Ventures and the moderator of numerous Connect sessions, participated in another breakout group and said that her gathering discussed the “bifurcation” of how people think about homes. Specifically, she pointed out that for many decades, Americans have thought of their homes in terms of utility: they were places to live.

However, homes are also most Americans’ greatest store of wealth, meaning they’re also a financial asset. These conceptions about home existed side-by-side, but as the real estate industry evolves they could increasingly stand alone, with, for example, a greater focus on the home as an asset.

4. Down payment assistance

Peters — whose day job involves vetting and investing in early-stage companies — also said that in one month she recently heard four pitches for essentially the same thing: Companies that want to offer down payment assistance in return for an ownership stake in the home. The concept speaks to the challenges of getting into the housing market, and is related to the first point above about incremental ownership.

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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