3 ways COVID-19 has affected the property investment market

Massive disruptions and behavior shifts are opening doors for proptech

Two in five people would never invest their money — but those who would are most likely to invest in properties. This is the conclusion of a recent survey by Hargreaves Lansdown, and it shows that unless you invested in the stocks of a few companies like Amazon, PayPal, Apple or Nvidia, real estate has proven to be one of the most reliable investment options.

The last months have seen a global outpouring of cash deposits estimated at around $2 trillion and savvy investors are eager to score the best opportunities. However, is the real estate market well equipped to capture a substantial part of this sum, considering the current context of the pandemic?

The truth is, that COVID-19 has stirred up the long-settled dust on real estate investing. This could paint a bright future with promising – yet different – projects for developers, startups and investors.

1. Tech is giving property investment a new façade

When it comes to digitization, real estate certainly hasn’t been one of the frontrunners. However, this could all change now. COVID-19 has brought novel challenges, and technology has stepped up to offer the solutions.

Yet, in a sense, innovation is competing with time. The longer the pandemic drags on, the higher the chance that digitization initiatives will stick around for the long run. After all, it’s one thing to make short-term fixes by substituting a home viewing with a detailed video, and quite another rolling out an entirely new process that uses drone-supported imagery, satellite viewings and virtual tools to promote an entire portfolio. Either way, it’s clear that the pandemic has pushed real estate toward a cultural change centered around a greater reliance on technology.

This is great news for proptech, a sector that seeks to disrupt and improve the way we buy, rent, sell, design, construct, manage and invest in residential and commercial property. Since 2013, annual investment in U.S. proptech companies has grown at a rate five times that of investment in all U.S. businesses. So, being one of the fastest developing business sectors, proptech will maintain a strong momentum throughout COVID-19, especially when prioritizing products and services that save people time and money.

Along the way, it’s turning to the major technologies of the fourth industrial revolution, including the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), blockchain, virtual and augmented reality, and much more. So, how specifically are property investment processes being affected by this trend?

House viewing and communication

According to João Richard Costa, the director of sales and marketing in a resort in the popular Portuguese region of Algarve, there was an initial bump in sales at the beginning of Q2, but the situation normalized fast — partially thanks to virtual viewings. “We’ve done some sales for people who haven’t even visited. They were happy to move forward on the basis of virtual tours and videos,” he said.

For some realtors, the pandemic was therefore not all that bad. House-bound investors had more time to interact, be it through emails and calls or by consuming content and attending webinars. In such a context, virtual viewings became well-received, inspiring realtors and different platforms to further improve their capabilities and champion seamless user experience.