Tal and Oren Alexander, the brothers who became famous for closing megadeals in their early 20s then moved onto the biggest deals ever in their early 30s — they represented Ken Griffin when he bought that record-setting $238 million penthouse at 220 Central Park South in 2019 — recently announced that they’ll be developing and selling luxury real estate in the metaverse. That is, in virtual reality. It’s all imaginary construction; it can’t be lived in but exists only to be bought and sold and conspicuously consumed. Which sounds about right.
Like others in the moneyed Miami set, Oren already invests in crypto, and the brothers and everyone else with money and/or hustle seem to be trying to get rich(er) off NFTs and the metaverse right now. Mark Zuckerberg is falling all over himself to get in on and/or control every piece of metaverse action. And people are spending real money, or at least “real” “money,” to buy virtual yachts. Presumably, they will also spend upward of half a million dollars to own virtual mansions?
The Alexanders certainly seem to think so. The brothers have formed a partnership with Republic Realm, a metaverse developer that recently paid $4.3 million for virtual property in the Sandbox, one of the more popular metaverses. (It also owns a 259-parcel virtual estate in Decentraland that it bought for about $900,000.) “We want to just focus on trophy properties in the various metaverses,” Alexander told the Real Deal. This will take the form, according to Republic Realm, of an “architecturally significant master-planned community.” Which sounds a little (or very?) depressing.
Real estate has always been about status and shelter, skewing increasingly toward the former as one moves up the economic ladder. Speculators like Republic Realm and the Alexanders are banking (literally) on the fact that you can take the shelter piece out of the real-estate equation altogether, leaving just speculation and status. And the brothers, who have always made a point of living as their high-flying clients like Kanye West and Tommy Hilfiger do (a recent Instagram post shows Oren holding up a man-size tuna he spear-hunted in French Polynesia), seem to have a good read on the buzzy elite. “Oren and Tal have a knack for being at the right event during Art Basel, at the right camp at Burning Man, and at the right party at the Oscars,” Jay Parker, chief executive of Douglas Elliman’s Florida brokerage, once told the L.A. Times.
It’s also unclear what, if any, actual money the Alexanders are putting down to develop virtual properties with Republic Realm. So why not? It may all be a bubble of course, but people can make a lot of money off of bubbles before they burst. And while many have looked to the dream of the metaverse for its utopian potential over the years, the way things have gone with the internet has tamped down that idealism in favor of more practical considerations, like not letting Facebook, or Meta as it’s now called, control everything. The rosier visions generally involve people owning their own avatars and content such as, say, NFTs. “The thing I really care about is that you as an individual own objects. Property ownership is a tool. It works. It brings financial incentives,” Kayvon Tehranian, the founder of a marketplace for NFTs, told the New York Times earlier this year. That wasn’t dystopian, he maintained, just realistic. “We’re still talking about human nature, which is greedy and selfish.”