Aussie landmarks among ‘virtual properties’ up for grabs

Some of Australia’s most prestigious addresses and landmarks are for sale at rock-bottom prices.

But there is a catch. You won’t get to move in, or even get VIP access – at least yet.

Forty-seven Aussie addresses are currently listed for sale on one virtual marketplace where you can “buy” property, or rather non-fungible tokens (NFTs), based on the real world rather just random pixels in the metaverse.

And those listings are down from over 60 just a week ago.

Brisbane’s iconic The Gabba has already sold for $1768.72, while the MCG was recently snapped up for a staggering $6078.90.

And while that might sound cheap by traditional bricks and mortar standards, remember, you don’t actually own the real deal.

Optus Stadium in Western Australia is currently listed for $4777.42, while Rod Laver Arena could be yours for $3326.05.

In Sydney, you can buy everything from Westfield Sydney to the NSW Crime Commission.

You can even stake your spot in the NSW seat of power, with Parliament listed for just $634.63.

But it is not just stadiums and government buildings that are finding their way on to virtual property portals.

There is even the odd residential offering.

A riverfront property at St Lucia in Brisbane, where the real-life median house price is $1.62 million, could be yours for just $469.03 in the virtual world, or about the median weekly rent for an apartment in the sought-after suburb.

Australia’s prestigious addresses and landmarks

This St Lucia property is for sale in the virtual world. Picture: Richard Walker

Over in Western Australia, an off-market house in South Perth is the cheapest offering at $321.83.

Property records show that house sold for $400,000 back in 1991.

QUT senior lecturer in architecture Simone Brott, who is also the author of Digital Monuments, said new platforms selling virtual real estate were popping up every day.

“When you buy a virtual piece of real estate, you’re buying an asset just as if you were buying a bricks and mortar building,” Dr Brott said.

“If that asset appreciates, you can sell it for a profit and so on.

“But unlike the real world where you can only profit once, when you sell a real estate NFT to a second buyer who then eventually sells it to a third buyer, depending on how the NFT was set up, you could also earn royalties every time the NFT sells.”

Australia’s most prestigious addresses and landmarks

Waterfront Place, Eagle Street, Brisbane could also be in your virtual portfolio – Picture: Richard Walker

Dr Brott said you are buying the virtual NFT only, without any link to the real asset.

But she said owning that NFT might one day come with some real-life perks, like VIP access to special events, or even some equity in a constructed building.

Australia’s most prestigious addresses and landmarks

Aerial View of Optus Stadium, who could be all yours – in the metaverse.

Special counsel Graeme Fearon of Moulis Legal, which has offices in Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne, was equal parts intrigued and cynical.

An expert in blockchain technologies and intellectual property rights, Mr Fearon said buying virtual property was “largely a novelty”, likening it to buying Scottish nobility or a star in space.

“It’s currently like a virtual land grab but how valuable that virtual land will be, if at all, will depend on there being others who see value in buying into the metaverse alongside you, the quality of the interaction and the community,” he said.

“You are basically buying an entry on a database someone’s created, but there is really nothing stopping you from creating your own, in theory, and owning or selling that. How do you value something when there’s potentially an unlimited supply?”

Mr Fearon said that homeowners who found their own bricks and mortar listed on virtual sales platforms had nothing to worry about, adding that the metaverse owner would have no claim over real-life property. But he warned that people should be aware of scammers.

“Just like anything else, scammers will target vulnerable people, perhaps telling them they need to buy “their” property before someone else does. We’ve seen that happen with things like domain names,” he said.

He said the other issue was the lack of transparency and understanding, making it difficult to tell legitimate offers from scams.

“Sure you might make some money, but it is a huge risk,” he said. “You really have to understand what it is you are buying, and what you are getting.

“If it is for fun, and you have a spare few hundred bucks, fill your boots.

“But if anyone tries to sell you something on-chain and you don’t know what they’re talking about, or you don’t understand the risks, tell ‘em they’re dreaming.”

According to Canstar, virtual property buying is also volatile – just like the real deal.

“The Everyrealm Metaverse Index, which tracks virtual property across 14 different metaverses, recorded a 1400 per cent gain in average prices in the second half of 2021,” the comparison website said.

“However, during the first quarter of 2022, the index had dropped 35.3 per cent.”

Canstar personal finance writer Nicola Field said that some virtual property owners may have made big gains.

“But, as is often the case with anything crypto-related, it’s a fair bet plenty have lost money on virtual property,” she wrote.

Real estate agent and coach Tom Panos said the irony was that virtual property was “pretty much the opposite of traditional real estate”.

“Which is bricks and mortar that you can actually touch,” he said.

“I don’t think it has widespread appeal, and I would agree, it is very much a novel idea.”

But there are some pros and cons to the craze, according to Dr Brott.

“Cons are, it is seen as a risky investment,” Dr Brott said.

“Pros, early entry and significant market opportunity.

“The metaverse is simply the next iteration of social media.

“But unlike Facebook which is owned by a CEO, the metaverse is owned collectively by those who own the real estate.”

A spokesman for ScamWatch said virtual property sales were represented by an NFT, a “financial asset”.

“Where third parties are offering, promoting or providing advice about the purchase of NFTs, that may raise concerns under financial advice regulations and is a matter for ASIC,” he said.



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