Every generation thinks it invented sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll.
But eventually, every generation evolves from rebel to authority, from revolutionary to reactionary. And in the process, every generation gives birth to the next wave of brats who believe they invented sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll.
It’s an endless circle, a timeless dance.
And there’s a wonderful and criminally underused word to describe this egotism, this belief that one’s generation is poised on the very cusp of history: “chronocentrism,” from the Greek “chrono,” meaning “time.” At one time or another, all of us have suffered from this delusion.
It’s incredibly difficult to transcend that prejudice, to defamiliarize the commonplace, to raise your head above the fray and imagine a future that doesn’t resemble the present. Think about all those 1950s-era science fiction movies and you’ll see what I mean—the spaceships had tail fins, and the astronauts wore pompadours.
Usually, the only cure for “chronocentrism” is the perspective that comes with age—to live long enough to hear your favorite childhood TV shows and music nostalgically referred to as “classic.”
But sometimes, you’re offered a fleeting glimpse of tomorrow in the nascent innovations of the here and now. And data mining and predictive analytics certainly fit that bill. The industry’s largest firms, like Equity Residential, Greystar, and UDR, are already digging in the data mines and unearthing some early gems, taking a sample of a much larger mother lode to come, as you’ll see in “Miners, Keepers.”
The only constant, in the world of technology and otherwise, is change. The not-too-distant future isn’t any easier to predict, but some of today’s assumptions can be extrapolated out to forecast what awaits the industry in 2014.
Where are we in the current market cycle? Ask a dozen multifamily pros and you’ll likely get a dozen different answers. The optimistic believe we’re still in the early innings of this upturn, maybe the bottom of the third. The pessimistic say it’s about time to call in a closer, or at least a setup man—that we’re at least in the seventh-inning stretch.
Regardless of where you fall in this baseball analogy time line, I think it’s safe to say that 2014 will be a seller’s market, characterized by cap rates that make buyers think twice, and more new construction coming on line every day, as you’ll see in our cover story.
But extrapolation has its own problems—you’re only viewing the future based on the trends of the present, not accounting for all the inevitable, unpredictable variables that can scuttle any prediction.
If history has taught us anything, it’s that history can turn on a dime. So, as you plan for the future, a word of caution is always in order.
After all, when you’re smack-dab in the middle of an upturn, sometimes it’s difficult to imagine anything different. It’s like standing on a mountaintop and seeing nothing but other mountaintops because the valleys are obscured by clouds.
And that’s positively chronocentric.