Blog December 2, 2020

2021 real estate technology trends

By Brian Zrimsek

Predicting real estate technology trends for 2021 may seem like an impossible task, but in many ways, the economic uncertainty of 2020 was the catalyst that accelerated trends already in place. The shift to remote working and the need to keep one’s distance from others sped up technology adoption in unprecedented ways across the commercial and multifamily sectors.

It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that there’s no going back. In 2021, we will continue to see reliance on digital tools to help real estate businesses increase agility, leverage operational efficiencies and embrace flexibility like never before.

Here are a few Proptech trends that we expect to see in 2021.

Landlord/tenant relationships remain vital

At the start of 2020, the commercial real estate industry was already cognizant of the value of relationships and the connections between people and property. The events of 2020 tested those relationships as commercial and retail tenants struggled to pay their rent and negotiated with landlords for lease concessions, rent deferments and abatements. Looking ahead to 2021, these relationships will be essential to weather the storm and ensure success for all parties.

Rethinking use of office space

Even pre-pandemic, real estate occupiers were increasingly focused on space planning as part of a portfolio strategy, and the events of 2020 only accelerated this trend. If fewer people will physically work in an office, then less space will be required. But if a business thrives on in-person collaboration, then they may need more space per employee. Will these requirements balance out? As building owners and operators adapt their processes to meet new tenant requirements, space management software will be an important tool to create a clearer picture of how to optimize your space and leverage it as part of a lease management strategy.

Proactive communications

Improved tenant and resident communications practices will be essential to maintain the strong relationships forged with landlords in 2020. Reliable communication plays a big part in making them feel comfortable in their living and workspaces, and it helps property managers and building operators gauge the effectiveness of their new processes and activities. Keeping tenants and residents engaged and aware of regular cleaning protocols, visitor management practices, and other maintenance updates can help them feel safe in your properties.

Multifamily goes digital

We’ve been tracking the impact of COVID-19 on the multifamily, affordable and public housing sectors in our Market Insights reports since March 2020. While digital services and amenities were already considered table stakes pre-pandemic, we’ve seen a surge in electronic payments, online maintenance requests and online applications during 2020. Initially, these may have been short-term solutions to meet social distancing requirements, but they’re here to stay. In 2021, multifamily properties have an opportunity to reevaluate the role of the leasing office and shift from centralized operations to a distributed model – in fact, many new properties have been developed without a physical leasing office, relying completely on online services.

Fraud is on the rise

The flipside of an increase in online transactions associated with digital services is that fraud triggers have increased significantly since the onset of the pandemic. Savvy property managers would be wise to invest in fraud prevention technology to ward off this significant business threat. Multiple layers of fraud protection and screening, combined with up-to-date knowledge of local and federal regulations, will be essential to identify potential fraud before it impacts your community.

Bottom line: Flexibility is key

The best thing that your real estate business can do to prepare for 2021 is get agile. Recovery is coming but it will be uneven throughout 2021, by both geography and sector. Commercial firms should understand the degree of flexibility they have with commercial tenants, gauging their health and offering terms that are mutually beneficial. Residential businesses need to stay focused on converting leads with flexibility in price and term in order to maintain occupancy through the first half of 2021.

In times of uncertainty, flexibility is key and technology offers a path forward. 2020 was a wild card. Here’s hoping that 2021 will be somewhat more predictable.

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