What We Can Learn About Changes in Real Estate from the Movie Nomadland

The old norms of housing are shifting

As someone working and thinking and talking to people about real estate on a daily basis, it was interesting to hear about the success of the movie “Nomadland”.

For those of you who don’t know about this movie and what it’s about, here is what Wiki says in its description:

“Nomadland is a 2020 American drama film based on the 2017 non-fiction book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder. The film is written, edited, produced, and directed by Chloé Zhao, and stars Frances McDormand (who is also a producer on the film) as a van-dwelling working nomad who leaves her hometown after her husband dies and the mining industry closes down, to be “houseless” and travel around the United States.”

Bob Wells — American Nomad — PBS March 2020

I am a subscriber and avid viewer of YouTube channels that describe traveling in RV’s (even though I would not want to permanently live in one). I love some of the channels like Wild Wonderful Off-Grid where a couple bought a piece of land and are now developing their off-grid homestead.

My wife and I have watched the family from Red Poppy Ranch as they moved from a traditional house in Arizona and owning a plumbing business to buying a property in Idaho where their ancestors came from (Pilgrim times). Now they are building a farm — literally building every 2×4, roof, wall, electrical, workshop, fence, etc.

I love Hartmut Conrad and his wife for sharing the adventures they take each year in their 27-year-old RV to long visits to Spain, Greece, Croatia, etc. He literally travels from RV part to RV park for about 4 months at a time before returning home to Germany. His videos describe the parks they visit in great detail, the features of the ever-improving RV, and how others can take similar trips.

Another great, more extreme example is Jake & Nicole. They wanted to own their own real estate but had little money. Jake is Canadian and he could buy acreage in the Canadian rain forest of British Columbia. As an avid gardener, he and his fiance are now clearing the land, live in a yurt, and in 2021 started developing their raised bed gardens.

Taking all these examples together, you might ask what they have to do with real estate investing we normally address?

We have gotten so used to associating real estate with houses or apartments that the actual definition got lost. Here is what “real estate” means:

“Real estate is the land along with any permanent improvements attached to the land, whether natural or man-made — including water, trees, minerals, buildings, homes, fences, and bridges. Real estate is a form of real property.”

The Pandemic of 2020/2021 has made all of us reflect on our circumstances more than in previous years.

More and more people who contact me are interested in changing their life.

Here are some reasons:

  • I don’t want to pay most of my income for rent. (now that many people can work remotely, maybe we don’t have to anymore)
  • I don’t want to be pressed into traditional norms
  • I don’t want to continue living in congested areas (social distancing)
  • I want to see the actual fruit of my work and not just emails and files on a computer
  • I want to be closer to nature
  • I want to eat healthy, organic, homegrown (if possible) food
  • I want to be independent and feel free
  • I don’t want to work for someone else all my life

The new options described above address many of these wishes.

Real estate is not just buying or renting a house or apartment close to a place of work.

I predict we will all be much more dependent on our talents in the future. Employers will hire anybody with the right talent and have them work remotely. With the emergence of the global Starlink internet system, people everywhere will have high-speed internet service. That also means they can work for any employer from any location, as long as the work hours align with requirements.

Nomadland is focusing somewhat on people who have fallen out of the traditional norms of society or suffered a tragic event in their life.

I believe it is just the beginning of a new trend. Initially, it looked like Gen-X and millennials would prefer more affordable cities. The movement seems to go further and include moving off-grid.

Photo by Iva Rajović on Unsplash

Pretty soon, judging by the many YouTube channels and how many subscribers they attract, the movement will attract more and more people who just want to change their lifestyle.

Maybe you like to look for some types of real estate you can test. There are long-term RV parks in almost every state and you can rent a vehicle to see how you like it, the tiny house movement, ADU’s on ranches, and much more.

Nomadland was a snapshot of an emerging change. I can imagine there might be a Nomadland #2 that shows how the young generation is following this trend, just for other reasons.

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