For Sale: the Empire State Building

New York’s famous landmark, the Empire State Building, is for sale … for $1,000. Or, more accurately, virtual ownership of the building is for sale at a new website called Weblo, which launched on Wednesday.

If Weblo succeeds, it could rewrite economics textbooks, but that’s a big "if". The company’s audacious business plan depends on the virtual sale of real assets, like the Empire State Building and California (sold), to get the online community started.

While virtual assets have gained real value in online game communities like Second Life, Weblo is the first I’ve heard of to test demand for virtual ownership of real assets. The site’s virtual real estate investors can buy properties from buildings to cities (and even states). Also for sale are virtual ownership of domain names and celebrity brands — management of Angelina Jolie is not for sale according to current owner, TRUMP$, whose status on the site is "Governor, Mayor, Airport Owner". TRUMP$ also owns www.donaldtrump.com.

Should it work, the motives to participate in Weblo are not that dissimilar from those of "real" real estate investors: owners can earn both equity appreciation and an income. Income is earned by attracting an audience to Web sites dedicated to each of your assets. Weblo supplies Web site building tools and adds adverts to the owners’ pages. Owners contribute content and do their own marketing. Some of the ad revenue is paid to the owners and this income will surely factor into any future resale value of the Weblo assets. Just like "real" real estate investing, making money on Weblo will take hard work and require the investor to take on some risk. Unlike "real" real estate, you won’t get a great 30 year loan for a Weblo property.

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Full disclosure: I own no assets on Weblo; the Empire State Building is all yours. Hat Tip to Drew Meyers.