Apr 282008
 
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Back in March, we reported that the prolonged housing decline hadn’t affected the popularity of home improvement shows–in fact, TLC was coming out with six new ones this season.

And now, the Chicago Tribune says that while consumers may not want to buy homes, we still want to play with them.

Take for example, "Build-a-lot," a video game that presents players with home-building challenges including balancing cash flow to meeting the mayor’s demands to ordering supplies.

Created for the Windows set by HipSoft, the game was released late last year–when the slump was in full effect. It has since been tweaked for Mac users like myself and has become one of the most downloaded games on Apple’s site, according to the Trib.

It’s funny. Last week, information from the National Association of Realtors indicated that we sure don’t want to buy homes–sales of condos and existing single-family homes fell by 2 percent in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.93 million units.

According to the Commerce Department, new home sales dropped to their lowest level in 16 years last month.

And we’re not building them either: U.S. homebuilder starts fell 11.9 percent to their lowest rate since 1991 in March, the Commerce Department said this month.

But that’s the real world. Give us a virtual version, and suddenly we’re all about building again. Does that imply we’re really land developer-lovers at heart?

Maybe; maybe not. Consider Hasbro, maker of the legendary property sale-and-swap game Monopoly. The company’s first-quarter net income increased 14 percent; revenue was up 13 percent to $704.2 million.

But, according to The Wall Street Journal, that’s due largely to Hasbro’s international market success; like much of the housing market, the company’s global operations have helped offset domestic losses.

U.S. and Canadian earnings, in fact, dropped 18 percent. Then again, Monopoly could be considered a commercial real estate-based game: But are high-priced residential property sites like Park Place feeling just a little too realistic for U.S. consumers right now? 

Perhaps that’s why they seem to prefer the physical task of constructing a residence, via virtual games like Build-a-lot, to the riskier prospect of snatching up investment property land …

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