The impact of 'work from home' on Real Estate

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused profound changes in the way we think, act, shop, and work. We used to have meetings, go to conventions, and meet for cocktails.

But today we stay at home, engage in Zoom meetings, go to Zoom Conventions, and attend Zoom cocktail parties, all over the internet.

Yes, we are socially distant. But how is this impacting our view toward real estate, specifically our homes and our offices?

Here to help us see future trends is our own FOX 5 real estate expert John Adams, who, in full disclosure, is himself a homeowner, and has not had COVID-19.

Q:  John, how is it possible that we have become so dependent on the Internet and  Zoom platform in our lives?

A:  It’s all about COVID-19 and the fact that this virus spreads so easily.  The safest way to do business, and the number one way to prevent the spread of this virus is to stay home. The less personal interaction you have with others, the safer you will likely be and the less the virus will spread.

Q:  I think we all get that, but what about our lives? And what impact has this had on the world of real estate?

A:  Well, Let’s take a look at four common areas of our daily lives, how we have used technology to cope, and how that affects real estate.

1.  Shopping

America has embraced online shopping as the perfect solution to the pandemic restrictions.

COVID-19 has accelerated the transition to online shopping and that has forever changed the retail landscape. Look for retail malls and retail locations to convert to mixed use residential and office or light industrial (like an Amazon Delivery Hub) as retail moves inexorably online.

2. Business, Office Meetings

The ubiquitous meeting in a conference room is now an unacceptable health hazard.  Replaced by Zoom meetings and collaboration software like Google G-Suite, there appears to be no need to gather in the same room to hear the boss bore you to death.  He can now bore you while you stay at home!

The traditional office environment will continue to evolve. Employees who telecommute are happier and more productive if they don't have to come into the office. Forget the social distancing issue, this idea simply makes sense from an economic perspective.

IMPACT: Office buildings will continue to transition to mixed use, with residential, restaurants  and office.

3.  Travel & Conventions

The annual convention combining work, networking, and play requires travel laden with virus threats. Many of these objectives can be accomplished online with more or less the same outcome, at almost zero cost.

The convention industry, as we know it, is severely wounded, and may never fully regain its stature as an industry or company celebration tool. Same thing for cruises and perhaps for the hospitality industry as well.

IMPACT:  Convention facilities and services will have to evolve and adapt, finding new ways to keep people safe as well as to repurpose existing facilities, services, and staff.

4.  Social Interactions

Instead of meeting at the corner restaurant, or in our homes, we now invite friends and associates to a scheduled Zoom cocktail hour, or even a back yard or driveway party, complete with hors d’oeuvres and your favorite drink.

IMPACT:  Restaurants will add creative ways to adapt their existing infrastructure to provide appropriate protections (if they can survive). Commercial property owners and landlords will also have to adapt creatively.

THE BOTTOM LINE: New technology and an old fashioned virus have combined to hit the real estate industry with a powerful punch. Far from a knock-out, it is instead a shifting of real estate use from previous priorities to newer ones, fueled by Zoom and the internet. Evolve or become irrelevant.