“Imagine ahead – plan backwards” has long been my idiosyncratic mantra for exploring the future horizons facing global real estate; in contrast, conceptually, to the more traditional conjecture regarding industry vogues and emerging business trends. Ever-changing landscapes in this ‘age of acceleration’ nowadays, indeed, demand that all agencies and organisations competing in a worldwide economy, including those in the transnational property industry, must address some critical overarching questions so as to prepare for the future ahead. These clearly concern such universal issues and challenges as:
- Geopolitical stability and the macro-economic environment.
- Disruption, dislocation and disaffection caused by artificial intelligence.
- The demographics of migration, urbanisation and agelessness.
- Connectivity, collaboration and creativity from globalisation.
- Responsible behaviour, sustainable strategies and well-being.
Moving more specifically to the role of real estate, is it time to rethink the part it plays in our societies and cultures, and how might it change in terms of expectations, obligations and performance in the future? Is there a seismic shift in the centre of gravity for the property markets of the world, from the situation of experiencing real estate as simply a financial asset, to a setting of not only viewing it as a product, but, even more significantly, seeing it as a service? Given an increasingly ‘collaborative economy’ at all scales, it could be argued that real estate leaders should generally be seeking greater engagement with politics and governance, and more formal involvement in advising, influencing and determining central and local government policy-making to facilitate the implementation of civic plans and major development projects.
At a more operational level, it is possible to pose a number of questions regarding the way in which the ‘functional activities’ of ‘property actors’ will be affected. Some of those most immediately coming to mind include: