The future of real estate in a post Covid-19 economy

COVID-19 has negatively impacted business across sectors. One such sector is real estate. Fast Company (SA) asked real estate mogul Shaun Toweel about the COVID-19 impact in the real estate business sector and how it can survive the current onslaught.

While the markets for realtors and developers are changing dramatically amid the coronavirus, those who are able to adapt will thrive.

Shaun Toweel believes that the effects on real estate will vary by sector and market, and the extent of the effects will depend upon the duration of the economic shutdown.

IMPACT

‘The sectors of real estate that have been hit hardest so far are hotels, restaurants, bars and other entertainment retail, particularly in tourist-driven areas, followed closely by retail and housing, particularly second-home and luxury homes. Supplies that the builders and developers need are being interrupted more and more as workers stay home, and due to business shutdowns, quarantines and curfews. Huge numbers of layoffs will lead to further contraction in consumer spending, starting a downward spiral of economic activity,’ he says.

He indicated that while the markets for realtors and developers are changing dramatically amid the coronavirus, those who are able to adapt will thrive.

‘The COVID-19 pandemic has become a humanitarian challenge, which will have a protracted effect on how people live, work and play. By mitigating such challenge today, real estate leaders can best serve end-users and protect their own viability,’ he says.

Toweel says developers are by nature intuitive and innovative and this is exactly the challenge COVID-19 poses to the industry. He says current challenges require an adaptive approach to future-focused planning of the built environment.

PIVOT

‘Projects under construction may even need to be re-planned or re-designed to accommodate and anticipate current and emerging challenges. This top-down revisioning of real estate will have an outsized, trickle-down impact on how we build, the materials we use, how we move and interact with one another in public and private places, and what ultimately “space” should be for months and years to come.  I believe developers need to set out a new standard in what I call ‘ROL’: Return Of Lifestyle.  Staying relevant and being responsive will set you apart from your competitors. The essential premise has never been more actionable than it is now. COVID-19 must be a reminder to stay consistent on the things we always try to incorporate into everything we build,’ he explains.

Adopting new ways to do things is nothing new within the real estate sphere says Toweel, as businesses have already been adopting agile processes with the advent of technology and the property sector is no different.

‘In many ways, we are already ahead of the curve of technology and delivering amenities that add value to residents in the comfort of their living space. As a developer, I’m always conscious about adapting our projects, as we design them to our prospective buyer’s need at any given time, the forms and the functions of our designs, the amenities we incorporate, and even the way our building gets cleaned and how we deliver fresh air and water.’

FUTURE

Toweel says it is critical for real estate brokers and architects to future proof their businesses.

‘The process of staying cognizant of developments within the real estate market – particularly now at the wake of a global pandemic inevitably sets new global design paradigms into motion which will become a benchmark. Real estate developers need to future-proof their businesses and do more pivoting, re-evaluation and re-aligning in their businesses. Real estate brokers and architects need to follow suit in order to remain competitive. Almost universally, all developers will attest to the fact that health and wellness will now be at the very top of buyers wish lists. Health is now the new wealth.’

PROFILE

Toweel is a familiar face on the local and international real estate development scene. He is a seven times international property award winner who sees an opportunity and creates viable markets where none existed before.

He has completed over a billion dollars’ worth of real estate and is currently involved in large mix-use development including residential, retail and commercial components in, and around South Africa as well as abroad.

For the foreseeable future Toweel would like to focus on creating luxurious self-sustainable communities in countries like Mauritius and the USA, where there is a huge demand for mixed use development based around contemporary farming life.

In 2002 he grew his company into a multimillion-dollar property portfolio and he is the current founder and CEO of a number of real estate companies including Extra Dimensions Property Group based in South Africa, One Luxury Ltd on the Island of Mauritius and Toweel Property Developments and Investments LLC based in the USA.

 

Feature published in partnership with Toweel Property Developments and Investments LCC. 

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