18 Feb No Fixed Address and the Digital Nomad
How long has it been since you mailed a letter to a friend? Not an email – but an actual paper version using a pen, envelope, and a stamp.
Without doing a google search or checking your phone contacts, do you know the physical address of the top 3 individuals outside of your household whom you have the most frequent communication?
Digital addresses such as emails and social media accounts are becoming more relevant than physical street addresses. And some people are even opting to be digital nomads without a permanent physical address.
Yes, we want to have a safe and relaxing place to stay, but that does not necessarily correlate with home ownership. The trend is moving away from home ownership and towards temporary membership arrangements where you can come and go as needed. Ideally, these come fully furnished with flexible terms and create communities of like-minded individuals.
‘This propensity to not want to be tied down in a long-term relationship with a physical residence, much less fill it with possessions that later need to be moved, has manifested itself in myriad ways impacting commercial real estate development, particularly multifamily production.’ (1)
Given what the members of Generation Z have lived through since the 2008 Financial Crisis and its accompanying residential Mortgage Meltdown, is it any wonder they are thus far avoiding homeownership and rapidly becoming locationally fluid. This matters in part because as of 2020, Gen Z represents 40% of all consumers and Millennials represent 50% of the workforce. Their preferences in living accommodations will impact multifamily construction, urban regeneration, and community development over the next two decades, through 2040. (2)
This ‘lightweight’ lifestyle is being attributed to global citizens who are just as comfortable and frequently exploring the world as they are in their native environment. In fact, their native environment becomes global. As they set out to explore the world, their attitudes to home ownership are changing.
More and more people are favoring ‘access’ over ‘possessions’. Today we tend to measure ‘value’ in term of experiences rather than material objects – we collect treasured experiences that can be shared. Collaboration started with music, games and films, then it moved to cars, bicycles, workspaces and even living spaces. Now it’s spreading fast into most sectors globally, sparking some panic but also innovative new business ideas. Evidence suggests that online communities and affinity networks have made people more open to the idea of sharing with strangers, meaning that the social media revolution has broken down conventional distrust barriers. (3)
Increasingly people are concluding that there is more to life than just owning ‘stuff’. They willingly adapt to ‘lightweight’ cost-friendly subscription over ‘heavy’ cost-intense ownership – and freedom from the trappings of possessions make them agile and mobile. (4)
Millennials expect seamless services wherever they go and we will see revolutionary new models emerging in politics, economics, education and healthcare – completely reshaping society and business. At the end of the day, ‘lightweight’ is a mindset that will be adopted at different speeds and for various reasons. The early adopters embrace ‘autonomy’, followers look for ‘convenience’ and the last to adopt will accept the new world order because it makes ‘sounds business sense’ or because there are not other options. (5)
So next time someone asks, ‘What is your address?’ The desired response may be a social media account or digital address and NOT a physical location.
By Scott Huish
Scott Huish has directed technology driven companies in finance, agriculture, energy, construction, and real estate. Scott has completed advanced education at Oxford, Harvard, and London School of Economics and Political Science.