Digital technology is transforming the housing industry and has also transformed the RESI Convention. Due to Covid-19, this year’s event is online-only, and delegates embraced the chance to network virtually, using RESI’s engagement platforms to connect with peers and view the innovations showcased by convention partners.
“Covid has accelerated us into the future,” said Daniel Hulme, CEO of AI technology provider Satalia during the first day’s RESI keynote address.
AI is aiding human decision making across the world of work and talent management, he said, helping businesses to become less hierarchical, more transparent and more agile. However, he added that new technology should come with a health warning, as the race to leverage AI may also have unforeseen and alarming, consequences.
“The battleground is not technology, but talent. Organisations have an incentive to utilise AI, particularly as competitors are doing the same. However, when thinking about these technologies, it’s about thinking holistically – we may not create a sustainable future for our species.”
Proptech is a more familiar concept and now a firm component in the vocabulary of real estate. There are more than 8,000 proptech businesses, according to James Dearsley, co-founder of proptech procurement platform Unissu, although he noted that funding for the sector had fallen this year due to Covid-19.
“What we are really seeing is a move to digital transformation,” he said. “This is driving a mentality change within the real estate industry, and among its consumers, regarding technology-driven innovation in data assembly, and the transacting and design of buildings and cities.”
Case studies shed light on the revolution that is under way. Developer London Square has used proptech platform Yourkeys to help streamline its customer journey, gathering the information needed to process a house sale in around 25 minutes.
Build-to-Rent operator Fizzy Living has embraced homeviews, which provides verified, in-depth reviews of properties in 11 UK cities, acting as a ‘Trip Adviser of residential developments’.
And developer Flamingo Investment Group has utilised Landtech’s LandInsight tool, which LandTech said can be used to assess the profitability of a development site, saving the average developer £34,000 a year.
The growth of non-traditional but now increasingly mainstream residential asset types provided a further insight into the future shape of towns and cities.
As predicted by many at RESI 2019, later living is seeing a wave of institutional investment, albeit - as with build-to-rent and co-living - one held back by a lack of understanding among planning authorities.
Osborne Clarke’s John Baird highlighted a recent decision by Elmbridge Borough Council to reject plans for hundreds of new retirement homes in Walton-on-Thames.
Eugene Marchese, co-founder of retirement community developer and operator Guild Living, which had sought permission for the Elmbridge scheme, said it was vital to explain the role of later living schemes and more broadly for the UK to address the way we plan and provide for old age. “There is a huge misconception about what later living can bring to a town or city,” he said.
Delegates were polled on how to encourage talent and entrepreneurship in their businesses. A greater focus on ‘diversity and inclusion’ won out with 82% of the vote, comfortably beating ‘research and development’ - an endorsement of recent efforts to make the sector more socially responsible, but perhaps also a sign that it is yet to appreciate the scale of technological change to come.
As for future generations, RESI continued to offer them a platform. Delegates heard updates from RESI 2019’s trailblazers and the day ended with Cluttons announcing the next cohort of RESI’s rising stars.