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REALX.Global: Seven key trends that will transform real estate

Sean Culey, Business Transformation Expert

Trends and changes that had been bubbling up for a while will come to the surface in 2021 and transform our lives, delegates heard at Real Asset Media’s Seven Key Trends for Real Estate presentation, which took place online yesterday on the REALX.Global platform.

“These trends feed on each other and they are all connected in a domino effect,” said Sean Culey, business transformation expert. “Together, they are setting the foundations for the working, living and retail environments of the future.”

The first trend is that hybrid working will become the norm and companies will downsize, opting for smaller and more cost-effective offices. Headquarters will become spaces to mix, with more amenities and more spacious environments that will allow for social distancing. This will have an impact on residential property, as people will move out of inner cities to more affordable locations where they can have an extra room for a home office.

The second trend is that omnichannel retail will become the new norm. The e-commerce trend will keep on growing as people continue to work from home and retail spaces will adapt by becoming multi-purpose hubs for collections and returns. “The market was $4.28 trillion last year and it’s expected to reach $4.89 trillion in 2021,” said Culey. “High streets will have to change, but it’s a great opportunity for them to become pedestrianised and offer more of an experience rather than just shopping.”

2021 will be the year of adoption for large scale logistics automation

The third trend is the march of the machines. “2020 was the year of experimentation, 2021 will be the year of adoption of large-scale automation in Logistics,” said Culey. “Real estate providers will have to include automation in the space.”

The use of robots and drones will drive down the cost of last mile delivery, the most expensive part of the process.

The fourth trend is autonomous vehicles, which will be a game changer. “They’ve been talked about for a while, but now they’re getting on to the road,” said Culey. “Rather than cars, we’re looking at shared transportation, like minibuses in cities.”

Research has shown an 84% reduction in fatal accidents, proving that autonomous vehicles are exponentially safer than human drivers. “Elevators were the first autonomous vehicles, revolutionising real estate by opening up vertical space,” he said. “Autonomous vehicles will do the same horizontally, allowing people to move further out.”

The fifth trend is electric vehicles going mainstream, thanks to a combination of carrot and stick, with incentives to use them but also tax and regulation penalising diesel and petrol cars and often barring them from city centres. “The demand is growing because there’s been a real mindshift on EVs, which have become cool,” said Culey. “Investments in all real estate sectors need to take into account renewable power and provide EV charging points.”

The sixth trend is 5G. Its rollout was slowed down last year but it will happen this year, and it must because there is a need for constant, uninterrupted connection and more data storage. With more efficient power and faster download times, “your autonomous vehicle could become your mobile office,” he said.

Following on from this, the seventh trend is the growth in data centres, as data storage needs explode. “Providers will have to supply the spaces but also the connectivity and sustainable power supply, which will be included in standard contracts,” Culey said. “Hyper data centres and data centre parks will become a thing, with solar panels and wind turbines on site, as Amazon is already doing in Italy.”