For centuries, land has been the status symbol for wealth and power. In fact, it wasn't that long ago that you couldn't even vote without being a property owner. Of course in those days, just like today, certain locales were far more desirable than others.
When President Thomas Jefferson dispatched emissaries to France for negotiations in 1801, the resulting Louisiana Purchase treaty handed America 830,000 square miles, essentially doubling the size of the country. The $15 million purchase price netted down to just 3 cents per acre -- a bargain even back then.
France didn't know it at the time, but Jefferson would have paid $10 million for just one city, New Orleans. Control of the strategic port secured navigation and trade along the Mississippi river, which is what he was really after.
The world has changed immeasurably since then, but prized real estate certainly hasn't gone out of style.
One developer paid $25 million for a vacant 2.1-acre parcel on the Las Vegas strip last year, more than $11 million per acre. And that's nothing compared to some densely-populated locations.
High-end property commands an average rate of $1,700 per square foot in Rome, $2,160 in Manhattan, $2,960 in Hong Kong, and $4,534 in London.
The most expensive market? That honor belongs to Monte Carlo, where the jet-set elite are willing to pay $5,450 per square foot for luxury property.
But wait, you say, didn't land prices collapse in the wake of the housing crash? Yes, in some places (which only makes them better buys today). But other cities were dealt a glancing blow and have already fully recovered. And there wasn't even a ripple felt in many cosmopolitan markets overseas, where property values continue to march higher.
In Switzerland, for example, residential property values have climbed 27.5% over the past five years. They're up 28.5% in Malaysia, 30.1% in Taiwan and 54.5% in Israel.
Forget all the variables for a moment and just consider the two immutable facts below.
Real estate is a classic example of a scarce resource that will only grow more valuable over time.
1) There is a fixed amount of habitable land on the planet, even less with access to clean water and reliable infrastructure.
2) The world's population is growing by 200,000 people (births less deaths) each day.