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Tech will cause a real estate crash

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Jakob Nielsen: "Overall, the balance between remote regions and the center will change in favor of a more distributed lifestyle."

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(CNN) -- Web usability expert Jakob Nielsen predicts that more people will live in rural settings, with technology enabling them to do almost anything they like, be it work or play, without leaving their homes.

He told CNN that demand for real estate in big cities like Manhattan, Silicon Valley, London and Tokyo will have decreased by the year 2020.

The effect will be a drop in the price of real estate in densely populated areas as people choose to live in small towns, causing the population of big cities to decline.

Given the nature of real estate, he warned that even a drop in demand by 20 percent could cause prices to be cut in half.

Nielsen said that technology would make it ever more attractive to live in small towns and rural areas, which would undermine many of the advantages currently held by big cities, including:

Jobs and business
The Web and e-mail already make it possible for workers to do a job without sitting at a desk in company headquarters. Advances in collaboration software will make distributed teams as effective as centralized ones, and companies will hire the best people -- no matter where they live -- and save on office costs.

Entertainment and culture
A 60-inch high-definition TV with 5.1 channel surround sound can't beat a live performance, but advances in technology makes it much closer to the real thing than traditional television. Your home theater will get any broadcast or performance in the world via the Internet, on demand, any time you want.

Shopping
E-commerce and express shipping allow you to buy almost anything and get it delivered anywhere the next day.

Healthcare
Small hospitals will have the world's greatest medical specialists on standby to diagnose patients through remote sensing.

Despite these lifestyle trends, it will still be necessary to travel to central cities occasionally, and some people will continue to prefer urban life. But overall, the balance between remote regions and the center will change in favor of a more distributed lifestyle, resulting in a real estate crash.

Dr. Jakob Nielsen is an expert on human use of technology. He is principal of Nielsen Norman Group, a usability research company

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