Technology is hurtling us into an era in which most people will rent their homes, housing will be an asset—like pork bellies—that gets bought and sold by hedge fund computers executing high-speed trades, and looking for a place to live will be more like searching Airbnb for a two-night stay in Borneo.
Cloud computing, the Internet of Things, mobile technology, the sharing economy, micro-entrepreneurship—these trends add up to a giant shift in the way we think about “home.” Pile on economic effects like the student loan debt most young Americans will finish paying about the time they get their first colonoscopies, and it seems as if fewer and fewer families will buy a home in the coming decades.
The shift to renting is already under way. A new Harvard University study says the number of rental households grew by more than 1 million annually from 2005 to 2013, while U.S. home ownership rates dropped for the ninth consecutive year in 2013. Analysts tend to blame that slide on a slow economy, but technology is permanently changing society in ways that will work against home ownership.