After almost a year of home working landlords, developers and managing agents alike are rightly concerned about the future for office space and whether the sector will ever fully recover to pre-covid levels of occupancy. With many in the workforce insisting they will never return to the office full time, it has been estimated that the average firm in London now has 20% more office space than it requires.
In times of economic downturn, experience shows that those who turn to innovation during a recession often outperform their peers. There is a real opportunity for those in the commercial office sector to drive innovation and more widespread technological adoption.
Faisal Butt, founder of PI Labs, is quoted in Property Week as suggesting that 'the emergence of user-focused, big data in the occupier markets, combined with the digitalisation of letting, financial and legal processes, will allow the new wave of proptech adoption to reshape the real estate industry with their innovative business models. There will also be a pressing importance for office owners and developers to stay ahead of the curve and understand the business value of the data generated in buying, renting or managing real estate. That will enable them to select the best technological solutions to ensure that they remain agile within this changing world.'
Even in the legal sector we have recently benefited from long overdue progress towards digitalisation in the form of Land Registry acceptance of electronic signatures. This step into the 21st century ensures that leases and other legal agreements can now be executed and completed within a matter of minutes.
So whilst this downturn may not be as short lived as many would have hoped, as has been shown many times before, those who are open to innovation and investment will find a way to survive.
Covid-19 will be for real estate what the Global Financial Crisis was for the financial services sector. There is a real opportunity to drive innovation and more widespread technological adoption