PHOTO: A plot of land in the Sandbox metaverse recently sold for US$4.3 million ($6 million).(Supplied: Sandbox)

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This week, Christie, a retired school teacher in Perth, paid a bit over $1,000 to buy a virtual penthouse in a place called Uphoria, one of the many metaverse worlds that are being launched this year.

“The vision for this penthouse is rather than me hosting Zoom calls, I can send out my link to people to join me there,” she said.

“If we’re going to do Zoom calls anyway, we might as well do it in style.”

A glamorous looking apartment with mood lighting
Christie hopes to be able to rent out the penthouse apartment.(Supplied: Christie/Uphoria)

Virtual real estate is booming, with sales topping $US500 million ($700 million) last year and predicted to double again in 2022.

Within a few years, the market size of the metaverse could be valued in the trillions, according to investment banks like Morgan Stanley.

But as the hype goes into overdrive, some are warning that virtual land is just another pyramid scheme, driven by baseless speculation, and when it fails many will lose their money.

So what is virtual land, what are the risks for potential buyers, and who’s actually buying it?

The Sydney family ‘buying plots for our children’



Lisa, who runs a consultancy business in Sydney, and her husband, a federal public servant, have spent a “significant amount” on several plots of virtual land in a metaverse called TCG World.

They’ve also invested their time, spending up to 10 hours a week volunteering as virtual real estate agents and forum moderators.

“We’ve bought a number of [large, premium-location] plots and a number of virtual farms,” she said.

A woman and a boy smiling at the camera
Lisa, pictured with her son, has bought virtual land in the metaverse.(Supplied: Lisa)

To understand what Lisa is talking about, we need to rewind a little.

Metaverses like TCG World are designed to be c