The real-estate industry is bracing for what could be a rough winter: Housing markets are cooling around the country, home buyers are balking at rising interest rates and backing out of sales, and agents are getting laid off or scrambling to find additional sources of income.
But in the metaverse, where Mark Zuckerberg did a little dance this week while promising legs to his fellow avatars, a crash has more definitively arrived. Prices for virtual land are down almost 85 percent since January. Despite a huge amount of hype in 2021 around this digital world — where real-estate parcels are bought and sold with cryptocurrency, and where someone not too long ago paid $450,000 to be Snoop Dogg’s “neighbor” — the metaverse is a virtual wasteland that even Meta employees don’t use. (That land next to Snoop Dogg’s replica mansion is likely worth only $25,000 right now, per Forbes.)
Jessica Stocker, a 25-year-old real-estate agent (in the real world) who is also a metaverse consultant and who happens to be on the new season of Winter House, has watched the fall of the meta-market up close (virtually). Stocker was bullish on the metaverse initially, creating a Zillow-like app called Digiland, but has since returned her efforts to the real world, where she is flipping houses. “There’s no concrete proof yet that any of these metaverses are going to survive,” she says. We talked about being on a show about hot people; what it even means to broker real estate in the metaverse; and why, right now, she doesn’t recommend I try to build a water park there.
Congratulations on the premiere. How did you get cast on Winter House?
Jason [a fellow cast member and male model] messaged me on Instagram. It was probably just a pickup line, but he was asking about the metaverse. I work in the metaverse, and he was interested in the crypto space. I had a conference that I was hosting — I had speakers, like this guy that did Justin Bieber’s NFTs — and I was like, “Oh, you should come.” He actually flew out for it.
You’re going to have to walk me through, as if I’m the dumbest person alive, what the metaverse is and why there is real estate for sale there.
I would say it’s an alternative way to advertise for your business. Just think about when you’re on Instagram or Facebook and there are ads on there. That’s essentially like you’re buying digital real estate, right? You’re buying ad space. So real estate in the metaverse is — there’s actually a plot of land, but it’s really just that you either host experiences and charge people or you advertise for your business in the real world.
So you don’t think of it as a place to actually live?
No, I mean, not yet. I think that’s gonna be way in the future if we even get to that point. But as of right now, it’s really just advertising space in a digital world.
When you’re a metaverse real-estate agent, who are you selling land to, and whose land are you selling?
I would call myself a consultant. I would find buyers and sellers and connect them. I didn’t market anyone’s land or list it for them, because there’s not really a platform to do that — I was actually creating a platform to do that, like a Zillow for the metaverse, called Digiland. I can’t call myself a broker because there’s no way to actually do that legally in the metaverse.
So you don’t stage showings of metaverse land.
No — that’s definitely a really good idea, though. And honestly, that’s what I was trying to do with Digiland. We were going to stage the properties: Let’s say we’re listing a plot of land and there’s nothing on it — we would then have a digital designer come in and stage what it could look like. Like, Okay, this could be a three-story mansion hosting concerts for Justin Bieber. It would put ideas into their head of what it could be. My personal opinion is that we’re going to find a technology for showings that’s as seamless as something like sunglasses or a chip in the head. It’s not going to be these big, bulky VR headsets.
Is land in the metaverse sold in square footage?
It’s different in every metaverse, but in Decentraland, for example, there’s 90-by-90 foot parcels, and you can buy double parcels or triple parcels. And the bigger the parcel is, the higher you can build on top of it. There are some rules about that.
You’re saying there is zoning in the metaverse?
I would say there is zoning, yeah.
Can I build anything I want on my land if it follows the rules? Can I build a water park?
I mean you have to have, like, coding and an engineer who understands how to build stuff in a virtual world. So that’s hard. Unless it’s preprogrammed, you probably wouldn’t be able to do that unless you hired someone.
Do you own land in the metaverse?
I do not, no. I did at one point, but it’s a very, very volatile market, and even when I was consulting, I still made sure everyone understood this is a lot of projected value. There’s no concrete proof yet that any of these metaverses are going to survive. Like right now, some of the land that people bought in Decentraland is down 70 percent.
So when you are — or when you were — explaining the value of metaverse real estate to a potential buyer, what is the value?
Land in the metaverse will be a big thing. It’s just a matter of which metaverse is going to be big. I don’t think anyone should buy land in any metaverse right now. I think that the metaverse that’s going to be here for the long term hasn’t been created yet. It’s a short-term play, and it’s also a big risk if you want to buy land for a thousand dollars and hope that maybe, you know, it’ll be worth like a hundred thousand or something like that. But as far as a long-term play, it’s like betting on a social-media company back in the very early 2000s. There’s no metaverse that will be worth anything in, say, 40, 50 years from now, but there is going to be another Facebook that comes out of the metaverse and gets everyone on their platform.
But it seems like a lot of people were selling the metaverse as a sure thing — Facebook changed its whole name.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of money to be made when things are really popular. People who sell you the dream are money grabbers. There were a lot of people who were promoting NFTs and promoting real estate in the metaverse because they benefited from it; whether they own those NFTs and if they promote it, it goes up in value or because they bought land, they want to promote it so other people value it more so their value goes up. It’s a weird time because there’s so much hype and a lot of manipulation.
Are you still consulting in the metaverse?
I’m really just focused on real estate in the real world. I wanted to be portrayed as the metaverse queen because of my app, and I still definitely want that to be a thing, but I’ve shifted to real real estate because there’s a lot more opportunity, since the market is also correcting, to buy a bunch of distressed properties. We’ve been making a lot of money flipping them. So that’s where I’m spending a lot of my time right now.
Have you ever done a metaverse experience, and what was it like?
There was this concert Paris Hilton did; her avatar did a DJ set in the metaverse on New Year’s. I joined because I wanted to see what it was like. Basically, there’s no 3-D format. You’re looking at your computer screen, it glitches a bunch, and you’re basically just typing to people. You can hear them if they have their microphones hooked up. But it’s really just … people have, like, the words above their head. It’s like The Sims.