Angelica Krystle Donati, Real estate and construction entrepreneur, PropTech founder, investor, and expert
Though 2020 was an annus horriblis for the world economy and for certain sectors of real estate (retail and hospitality fared terribly, whilst logistics and, to a degree, residential thrived) PropTech and ConTech responded counter-cyclically and thrived. This is largely because the pandemic served as a forcing function to accelerate change that was already underway. In 2021, these technologies will continue to strengthen and become more mainstream. After all, investment to date is just a drop in the bucket compared to the size of the real estate market. Here are three of the key PropTech (and ConTech) trends you should watch for in 2021.
Trend #1: Construction technology
ConTech will pick up steam in 2021. During the lockdown, it became apparent to construction firms that a oneplatform approach is needed to effectively manage complex projects, especially when for safety reasons stakeholders cannot meet as freely. The industrialisation of the construction process, with efficient control of all its aspects, has become a pressing concern as it helps simplify on-site interactions, therefore, facilitating social distancing. As construction plays a huge role in CO2 emissions (buildings and construction together account for 40% of emissions), there will be a strong focus on tech which enables sustainable construction methods.
Trend #2: Flexible work
During the lockdown, many had to rapidly transition to remote work. Though I don’t agree with those who claim that the office is dead, the pandemic has changed the way employees, occupiers, and owners think of office space. Before COVID, “flex” was a fast-growing niche. It is now firmly in the mainstream, as the concept of working from home several days a week is no longer taboo and owners and occupiers alike are trying to make the most of their space for when employees do go into the office. Technology is central to this transition, ranging from portfolio management and optimization tools for owners (think sensors and analytics to determine what spaces are in use and when and maximise portfolio energy efficiency, as well as predictive maintenance, for example), access control, and workplace management software for occupiers (to know how and when space is used to manage it more efficiently) and user experience apps for employees.
Trend #3: Real estate FinTech
As the PropTech market matures, there will be more and more crossover with FinTech. This is already happening to a degree with start-ups that take the pain out of residential lettings deposits, for example. Expect FinTech applications for real estate to grow into 2021 and beyond, from landlord banking to multifamily payments and more.
Besides specific thematic trends, we can expect investment into PropTech and ConTech to grow in 2021. With VCs, private equity, and corporate investors betting big on the industry, there will be a cradle-to-grave availability of capital for star-ups to grow and thrive and, as certain sub-sectors mature, we can expect a significant amount of consolidation to occur as well.