COVID-19 will forever change the landscape of CRE (Commercial Real Estate), especially for firms who are used to operating almost exclusively in a brick and mortar, office environment. The aftermath of COVID-19 will almost undoubtedly include more “smart” CRE. To put it another way, as software like Zoom has become a household name – whereas prior to COVID-19 it was largely known to the white-collar working class – you can expect firms to invest less in physical property. Consequently, the data shows that in every sector, at least in the short-term, PropTech investment has slowed down (Abuelsamid, Forbes).
Intuitively, successful long-term investors tend to be heavily data driven, which has been a big reason for the slowdown in PropTech. Investors within the real estate sector are exercising caution with regards to their portfolios, as well as towards new deals for CRE projects. A great deal of this is attributed to the initial concept of this piece (which Forbes agrees with): corporations and startup firms alike are showing an increased interest in technology, which allowed them to work “smart” (i.e. Zoom) despite the pandemic (Abuelsamid, Forbes). With decreased overhead being a large incentive for startups and pressure from shareholders to cut costs being a large incentive for big corporations, many are realizing that the way they were forced to do business is perhaps a more efficient way than they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With that being said, as we mentioned in a previous piece, PropTech is still a relatively new field to most investors. The CRE investing subsector of PropTech is even smaller, so there’s definitely still plenty of opportunity for successful PropTech investment vehicles. Even with the current data showing there’s slowed growth in the PropTech CRE subsector, that’s not to say you shouldn’t keep an eye out for solid investment opportunities, as they are still out there and can definitely be lucrative. This is the main reason you’ll typically find seasoned, experienced investors in the CRE PropTech space. There is opportunity for large returns, but it is definitely slim.
In the longer-term, there’s no reason right now to believe firms will switch back to investment in more physical property, especially when that money can be spent on human capital. Therefore, if you’re interested in PropTech investment strategies, you should not expect to see consistent positive performance from PropTech CRE investments. On the other hand – while this subject deserves a complete discussion on its own – residential PropTech is definitely on the rise (Aramati, Forbes). With a major push coming from cloud technologies and digital transformation, there’s a lot more investment in “smart” residential real estate as opposed to commercial real estate. Generally speaking, investments in “smart” technology have gained a tremendous amount of traction and thereby very large returns for earlier stage investors. Again, as we discussed in a previous article regarding PropTech, technological advancement is the future and investors who are looking for the next Amazon or Google in the real estate market ought to look into residential PropTech options with a more favorable outlook than commercial PropTech.