Insider Today: A new era of homebuying

Plus: Pathological friendliness and a data-center invasion.

December 24, 2023 • 4 min read

Welcome back to our Sunday edition, a roundup of some of our top stories. I hope you all get the chance to enjoy the next few days celebrating the holidays with your loved ones.

What's on deck

But first: The vibecession is over.

Jerome Powell speaking.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Dispatch

Vibes meet reality

The striking disconnect between the performance of the economy and how people feel about it has been one of the biggest stories of 2023.

The data has been pointing toward a soft landing, wherein the Federal Reserve manages to get inflation under control without a recession or sharp spike in unemployment, for some time now

Inflation has fallen, gas prices have dropped, unemployment is at historically low levels, consumer spending has stayed resilient, and the economy has kept growing. Oh, and stocks just hit a record high, largely because investors have baked in a soft landing.

And yet, throughout the year, whenever Americans have been asked about how they feel about the economy, well, they’ve said it sucks.

Maybe it’s the cost of groceries. Maybe it’s having to pay off their student loans again. Maybe it’s the housing market. Maybe it’s just the vibes.

But as we prepare to start a new year, there’s evidence that perception is starting to catch up to reality. 

A consumer sentiment indicator increased sharply last month, while a closely watched measure of inflation showed a month-on-month decline, the first since the earliest months of the pandemic.

The economy still has its challenges. There are still lots of Americans struggling. And there’s still lots that could go wrong, starting with continued weakness in China.

But for now, it seems many US consumers will start 2024 starting to feel a little bit better about the future.

An illustration of a gavel hitting a house.

Peter Dazeley/Getty Images; Jenny Chang-Rodriguez/BI

The future of homebuying is near

Things could start to look a little bit better for the average American homebuyer thanks to a mounting wave of class-action lawsuits.

The lawsuits accuse the National Association of Realtors, as well as some of the nation’s top real-estate brokerages, of ripping off consumers by keeping agents’ commissions unfairly high. Billions of dollars are hanging in the balance — and homebuying is about to get weird.

Say goodbye to the old way of buying and selling homes.

Also read:

An illustration of a person in a suit falling into a casket.

iStock; Rebecca Zisser/BI

Private equity’s comedown

In the years following the financial crisis, private equity was one of the few places on Wall Street that guaranteed investors yield.

But after a decade of success, the industry’s fortunes are running out. PE’s debt-laden business model is having to navigate a high-interest rate environment.

Why private equity is staring down a messy future.

A man sitting on his couch, holding his iPad.

Jackie Molloy for Business Insider

Living with Williams syndrome

Tobi Akbas, a 22-year-old living in New York, has been called “the Mayor” of his hometown since he was 5. As a child, he’d say hi to every person in the supermarket. As a teen, he’d wait outside his high school, greeting other students as they arrived.

Tobi is diagnosed with Williams syndrome, a rare genetic condition associated with pathological friendliness. Those who have it may treat strangers as if they were old friends. But it can also be exceptionally lonely.

The joy and sadness of loving strangers.

A massive box sitting in the middle of a rural field.

Tyler Le/BI

The AI data centers are coming

Chatbots may live in the cloud, but they’re controlled by gigantic concrete data centers — and they may be coming to a town near you.

Prince William County, Virginia, located outside of Washington, D.C., is grappling with the data centers’ invasion. QTS and Compass, two well-funded tech companies, are looking to plop 23 million square feet of data centers onto about 2,100 acres of rural land. If it happened, it would be one of the largest such developments in the world. 

But some locals are pushing back.

Inside the tsunami of AI data centers

Also read:

More of this weeks top reads

The Insider Today Sunday team

Matt Turner, editor in chief of business, in New York. Jordan Parker Erb, editor, in New York. Dan DeFrancesco, deputy editor and anchor, in New York City. Diamond Naga Siu, senior reporter, in San Diego. Hallam Bullock, editor, in London. Hayley Hudson, director, in Edinburgh. Lisa Ryan, executive editor, in New York.

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