Amazon has not yet announced the location for its controversial second headquarters, but investors are already buying up properties based on where they think the retail and cloud-computing giant will land.
A report in the Wall Street Journal says that speculators are buying shares of a real-estate investment trust that owns most of the real estate in the Northern Virginia neighborhood thought to be a leading contender. A landlord in Pittsburgh says he has received “many more calls” from buyers since Amazon announced its finalist list, and that the offers have never been higher.
Other investors are quietly gathering cash. Bryan Copley, co-founder of a real-estate startup, told the WSJ that he has “proprietary software” that can, he says, identify the most underutilized properties in any city in five minutes. Once Amazon announces a winning city, he’s going to make offers on as many multifamily properties as he can.
Meanwhile, the WSJ says, home prices among 10 of Amazon’s shortlist counties are rising faster in 2018 than they are in 2017. That by itself, however, doesn’t necessarily signify Amazon-related speculation; in its shortlist, Amazon clearly gravitated toward already pricey and desirable urban areas.
Or maybe the Amazon effect is real. The deal has the potential to affect the local housing market “for years,” according to an analysis by Realtor.com published in Forbes.
“We’ve seen prices rise and inventory shrink” in the cities where Amazon is a consideration, Javier Vivas, director of economic research at Realtor.com, told Forbes.
The HQ2 deal has galvanized city leaders into offering massive tax incentives in an effort to attract what Amazon says will be up to 50,000 tech jobs, and those incentives have led to backlash from residents in the finalist cities. Maryland approved a $5.6 billion package, the largest such in the state’s history, to lure Amazon to Montgomery County. New Jersey offered $7 billion to lure Amazon to Newark.
The company is expected to bring billions of dollars in economic activity to whatever location is chosen, but will also likely mean cities or counties will spend more on such necessities as infrastructure investments and school construction.
The Northern Virginia area — where investors are buying stock in JBG Smith Properties, the landlord of most of NoVa’s Crystal City neighborhood — is considered the “overwhelming” favorite by many; Amazon execs have made new visits in the last months to New York City, Newark, Chicago, Miami and the D.C. area, the WSJ reported. A decision is due by the end of this year.
Rachel Kaufman is Next City's senior editor, responsible for our daily journalism. She was a longtime Next City freelance writer and editor before coming on staff full-time. She has covered transportation, sustainability, science and tech. Her writing has appeared in Inc., National Geographic News, Scientific American and other outlets.