2021 Outlook

By on Jan 12, 2021 in Matrix, News

For more than 40 years, PwC and the Urban Land Institute have produced a trends and forecast publication. The 2021 edition of Emerging Trends in Real Estate summarizes views gathered in interviews and surveys of more than 2,950 property owners, investors, fund managers, brokers and others in the U.S. and Canada.

COVID-19 dominates virtually every examination of real estate, and Emerging Trends is no exception. Yardi Matrix reported, for example, that multifamily property sales through the third quarter were down more than 41% from the same period the previous year. Meanwhile, 33% of office-space decision-makers participating in a study sponsored by BOMA International, Yardi and Brightline Strategies reported experiencing at least a 25% revenue decline since the pandemic’s onset.

Here are some highlights from the 111-page PwC/Urban Land Institute report:

“COVID-19 has kicked real estate certainty to the ground,” the publication says, with confidence in future demand for many property types having dropped precipitously in 2020. But technology has eased adaptation to the drastic measures prompted by the pandemic. Millions of office workers successfully transferred to remote environments, for example. The report notes, “The WFH experiment has gone better than most managers and employees had expected, since new teleconference tools and advanced information technology systems have allowed for effective communication and collaboration.”

Many who contributed to the report predict that measures adopted during the pandemic will continue when workers return to the office, including flexible hours, reduced shared spaces, ongoing enhancement of building environmental systems, and physical barriers. The report also speculates that some companies might consider abandoning the consolidated model of leasing and using office space in favor of a hub-and-spoke system with satellite offices.

And, the report notes, “Significant opportunities to operate and manage buildings more efficiently are ahead as well,” as property management technology providers deliver solutions that “gather, organize, and use data to reduce costs, identify risks, and more proactively operate buildings; identify appropriate investment strategies; and better serve tenants.”

Property owners are also likely to continue making investments in technologies that strengthen cybersecurity, ensure business continuity and assess a building’s compliance with heightened health standards. With companies increasingly focused on controlling costs, those investment will most likely target immediate critical necessities.

Tech is also driving profound changes in the multifamily sector. The report quotes an unidentified major apartment landlord: “The pandemic changed how people lease apartments. Online tours and processes are now preferable, and while some reversion to in-person tours may occur, we believe that online interaction will be acceptable in most cases. Reluctance to adopt technology is a key challenge, and COVID has been an opportunity to change that.”

Demand for smart-home technology such as touchless controls on sinks, motion sensor lights and voice commands also figures to increase, the report says.

Yardi continues to dedicate special resources to help clients, employees and communities weather the COVID-19 pandemic.