After a tumultuous 2020, property’s leading figures share their hopes and expectations for 2021 as the year gets off to a rocky start with yet another lockdown.

Oliver Knight

Oliver Knight

Head of offices, Landsec

This year provides an opportunity to make positive changes to all aspects our lives. Covid-19 has given greater focus to the meaning of health, wellbeing and self-care.

From a working perspective, it’s hit home how important it is to have a good work/life balance, autonomy over your working day and the chance to collaborate professionally with your colleagues and build relationships with clients face-to-face.

Offices for forward-thinking businesses will be reimagined to provide choice for employees and embrace a hybrid working future to maximise the productivity of their teams.

At Landsec, we will continue to embrace change, with sustainable building practices showcased at our Timber Square development, to health-focused office design at our new Myo location in Liverpool Street, which is the first flexible office in the City of London to be accredited by the WELL Building Gold Standard.

Nevertheless, 2021 is likely to offer a very different working world to that we are used to. Every business leader will have a different approach on how best to manage remote and office working, based on the needs of its staff and business.

Delivering to the needs of our customers has been at the forefront for us for some time but for 2021 delivering a choice of products, services and flexibility will be more crucial than ever. For the industry, purely transactional relationships with office occupiers will rightly be consigned to history.

Peter Ferrari

Peter Ferrari

Chief executive, Ashby Capital

My hope is for the smooth rollout of vaccines, enabling a return to normal and helping the economy to recover.

Video conferencing has been great for keeping people in touch but it is a poor substitute for in-person meetings, brainstorming ideas with colleagues, or having a meal or drinks together.

Assuming we can conquer Covid-19, I expect to see property markets start to recover. On the offices front, we’re likely to see developers adapting their offer to reflect increased flexible working practices and the subtly changing priorities of occupiers.

Tech-enabled spaces and healthy buildings offering good air quality, for example, will command a premium. I expect growing demand for these higher quality offerings, while secondary spaces may struggle.

Ayesha Ofori

Ayesha Ofori

Managing director, Axion Property Partners

Where to start? 2020 was a year none of us will forget. But, in the midst of all the lockdowns and darkness, there have been moments of light. I’ve seen many examples of the strength of human character and our ability to care for strangers shine through.

I’ve heard of neighbourhoods returning to the ‘olden days’, where neighbours look out for each other and there was a renewed sense of community. There have also been moments of learning – we saw corporates and individuals looking into racism in their organisations and around them, arguably in a way that has never happened before.

We saw a vaccine created in just 10 months (instead of 10 years). We saw a world embrace technology like never before. We saw pollution levels drop and bluer skies. On the UK property front we’ve seen a buoyed market. I’d like that to continue into 2021 but much will depend on the role government plays with regards to tax relief and supporting the property market.

James Sparrow

James Sparrow

Chief executive, Savills UK and EMEA

We believe that 2021 will be recognisable as a recovery in line with other recessions, due to the performance evident in the commercial occupational and investment markets. But we will continue to see the acceleration of trends that were already present pre-Covid-19, including the growth of data centres, health and science sectors and multi-family housing.

A divergence between logistics and retail yields is expected and record high levels of logistics leasing activity will put further downward pressure on pricing. Offices are likely to see the majority of workers return for most of the week but this will not occur until a vaccine has been fully rolled out.

We look forward to an end to Brexit-related uncertainty. This will encourage non-domestic investors back as pricing looks attractive and income is seen to be secure.

The residential markets, which have rebounded strongly since first lockdown, will continue into the first quarter of the year as people rush to beat the tax deadline, followed by a lull in the middle part of the year as the economic realities set in. However, after that, the rollout of the vaccine will spark a return of buyer confidence.

Continue to part seven here

Forecast for 2021: looking ahead with hope