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.
Head of UK strategy & research, CBRE GI
I hope that we take away some positives from the pandemic. Technology and collaboration have helped vaccines to be developed in under a year; if we could approach tackling climate change with similar levels of focus, we could make a huge difference.
The adoption of more flexible ways of working also has the potential to improve wellness and work-life balance. The loosening of social distancing measures should provide a real feel-good factor and we’re likely to see a strong rebound in GDP and activity data, yet a rise in unemployment and business insolvencies.
Occupier markets still face headwinds, but investment markets will begin to look towards better times. This means a difficult year for asset managers but a really exciting one for investment and transaction teams as interesting opportunities start to emerge.
Shifts in working practices and occupier preferences will provide challenges, but also opportunities for those in the offices sector. Residential will remain stable and investors will increasingly be attracted by the sector’s potential to offer strong returns alongside positive social outcomes.
Partner, Winckworth Sherwood
Few sectors have been as affected by the pandemic as retail, and further store closures are unfortunately inevitable.
However, there remains a future for bricks-and-mortar retail. After months at home, customers remain on the look-out for attractive – and convenient – shopping and leisure destinations.
But the makeup of those destinations is set to change in line with post-pandemic priorities. In city centres, for example, we’re anticipating a rebalancing of retail space towards workplaces, leisure businesses and hospitality.
In more suburban areas, on the other hand, independent retailers are thriving as remote working has given them a captive audience. Smaller high streets may expect a rush on boutique and indie operators.
We also expect sales in the supermarket sector – a standout of the early lockdown – to remain strong, and for those stores to become a renewed focal point of the retail ecosystem. That may bring with it an increase of in-store concessions, like the roll out of Specsavers in Sainsbury’s over the past two years, or EG Group’s recent bid for Caffè Nero.
MD, commercial and mixed-use development, Native Land
Four hundred years of capitalism has shown that choice is a powerful thing. Most sectors have long grappled with this, but in 2020 many discovered that leaving home for work or leisure was no longer essential.
We now need to deliver spaces that compete. Native Land’s roots are in creating homes desired by the heart as well as the head. A penthouse is a discretionary purchase, but now too is time in the office or a visit to a favourite shop or restaurant.
How does this colour our thinking for 2021 and beyond? Product will be key, we can’t shy away from a commitment to quality, innovation and sustainability. It will be essential to push, to redesign multiple times and refuse to rehash old thinking.
To succeed we need to provide the unique. Our newest office delivers epic volume, a triple height reception and multiple six-metre-high collaboration areas; civic-scale spaces filled with light in which people dream, feel ambitious and forward thinking.
No company can thrive without these qualities and physical spaces to support them, but they need to become the norm and not the exception if we are to triumph over that pokey, if convenient, spare room.
Chief executive, Winkworth
With 2020 finishing strongly, we expect activity to continue briskly at the start of the new year. At the end of 2020, we saw that despite two lockdowns, the momentum of the property market barely slowed, with activity tracking ahead of 2019.
The market was exceptionally busy at the start of 2020 and while it did slow down during the first lockdown, it bounced back and was incredibly strong.
As we emerged from the second lockdown, demand pushed further ahead even with Brexit on the horizon. We saw activity focused on the house market and driven by the new trend of those looking to make a lifestyle change, made possible by Covid measures influencing where people want to live.
This bodes well for 2021, as the desire to complete deals before the end of the stamp duty holiday remains strong.
While we expect the market for flats to soften after the stamp duty holiday deadline, the indications are that momentum will continue, as indeed it did before the incentive was created.
We expect a balance to remain between supply and demand and, with an economy still recovering from Covid, we envisage that prices will remain static as buyers refuse to pay premiums, reflecting continued uncertainty.
EVP operations, LeadingRE
The preamble to the National Association of Realtors’ code of ethics opens with the words “Under all is the land.” This encapsulates the soul of our work in the real estate arena.
Property is a connector and no matter where we are in the world, there are common denominators among the people in this industry. We are sanity keepers, advisors, consultants and match-makers. Following the uncertainty and devastation of 2020, these traits will be even more valuable in 2021.
The much-discussed expansion of the home to office, gym, school and entertainment centre is here to stay, making our work more critical than ever. In addition, as people are less geographically-tied to a specific location for their jobs and mobility expands, the demand for informed local real estate expertise is critical.
Finally, and most importantly, as it relates to greater awareness surrounding the inequities in our society, we hold an important position that allows us help break down barriers and foster communities that welcome all.
Those who truly understand and embrace diversity and inclusivity will rise to the top. It goes along with being part of a global community and serving a broader audience, which is vital for us all.
Forecast for 2021: looking ahead with hope
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Forecast for 2021: looking ahead with hope (part 38)