Wednesday evening, my wife and I pondered the fascinating county-by-county maps provided by the Denver Post of what had happened in this election. We were the proverbial Monday morning quarterbacks to the weekend’s slate of important football games…and, as we worked our way through the maps, we realized just how much the task resembled the analysis of a sport.
Indeed, Moneyball—the book and film—came to mind, with its assertion that you can put together the right factors and come out, predictably, with wins. In that respect, Obama’s campaign was a huge success, and Romney’s was somewhat out of synch the times.
What I found staring me in the face, embodied in these maps, was a partial refutation of most of the assumptions I had built up around this election. And, the more I looked, the more I found a great deal of relevance to the real estate industry—the kinds of homes being built, the neighborhoods being developed, the needs of the buyers in particular areas. The kinds of homes and neighborhoods and community services desired and needed by people in certain areas differ in ways we’ve been overlooking at our peril from current assumptions, I increasingly believe.
Okay. Let’s sweep aside my faulty assumptions. I had developed the idea that broad, sweeping views of how the world, our society and our economy work were being distilled into a few important themes. As several commentators suggested, we had, on the one side, people who believe that innovation and economic opportunity are stoked by giving people the broadest array of openings in developing their new business ideas, and we have, on the other side, people who strongly believe that business should be regulated by the government for the protection of our people.
It’s intriguing to me that we feel the one has to be sacrificed for the other. I could go on and on about that, as could anyone in real estate. (One of the thoughts that has been crossing my mind is what a mess we would have in the real estate trade if the activities of real estate professionals were more regulated…simply because real estate remains one of the few “jobs” in which people are willing to work outrageously hard, not just putting in hours, because the potential rewards are so great.)
Anyway, what my wife and I kept noticing as we looked at and compared the blue counties and the red counties. We live in Washington State, and it is split rather neatly up the middle by a mountain range. One side, the east, is red; the other, is blue for the most part (except for the few counties where livings are made primarily in the lumber business).
My wife commented on how, by living in modern cities with uncertain jobs, the people in the blue counties had sets of needs that differed from those in red counties. If you’re living in an agricultural setting, after all, what you need from government differs greatly from the needs expressed by city folk. We think of agricultural populations as feisty, independent, very traditional. These aren’t people who need government officers poking into their business. The city dwellers, on the other hand, need the constant present of police and other services to get safely through the day and night.
Obviously, there isn’t room here to dwell on this adequately. Suffice to say that, without getting to the discussion of personal philosophies, we’ve seen in this election that there are viable generalizations to be made based on where people choose to—or must—live.
And those generalizations spill over into the needs those people have when it comes to their housing. If demographics are changing, as they most definitely are, then the votes move in certain predictable directions—but so do the needs of homebuyers. Their sense of home needs to be answered to, their sense of comfort and safety needs to be served by home and neighborhood designs, and the services offered to city dwellers should be paramount on our minds as we develop new towns and neighborhoods.
We should be studying this election for years, not just for what it tells us about politics but, even more important, for what it tells us about how to design homes and neighborhoods that meet changing needs…and sell like hotcakes.
[P.S.—The markets are taking the election hard, it seems. We’ll get to that next time.]