From restaurants to logistics to accounting, almost all industries have in some way been impacted by COVID-19. While the disruptions vary from sector to sector, a common theme emerges: companies that are able to see the future, and make a strategic pivot to get there, put themselves in the best position to survive and thrive. Construction is certainly no exception. In a previous post we examined the way that construction companies have utilized technology to adapt to new safety protocols. Today, we’ll look at two other evolutions in progress; the ways in which homebuilders and other construction companies are profiling and selling their projects, as well as innovative design revamps being created to address shifting consumer lifestyles during this unprecedented time.
Selling Homes and Condos Online
Using the internet to showcase homes and condos is nothing new but, necessity being the mother of invention, 2020 has seen creativity kick into overdrive. Video tours hosted in various languages, Zoom open houses and online chat services are replacing sales centres, show homes and social events with agencies.
“Gone are the days (at least for now) of the broker happy hour or sales launch event, forcing residential and commercial developers to come up with creative ways to pique agents’ interest,” writes Katherine Kallergis for the Real Deal.1
Codina Partners, USAA Real Estate and leasing partners Fairchild Partners recently showcased a new industrial development in Florida by leading a caravan tour, allowing brokers to view the facilities without leaving their own vehicles. Codina Partners CEO Ana-Marie Codina Barlick says that she had the idea after seeing children participate in caravan birthday parties during the lockdown. “If the kids can do that, why can’t we do that?” she said.1
Meanwhile, Montreal based developer Broccolini streamlined a ‘virtual ground-breaking’ to draw attention to a new condo tower project they are building in Toronto.2
Of course interested agents or buyers are not going to want to put their names on the dotted lines without stepping foot in their potential new digs. To this end, appointment viewings have been made available, albeit with some extra protocol.
In Calgary, homebuilder Brookfield Residential widened the availability of self-service show homes, allowing would-be buyers to book a time online, receive a key code, tour by themselves and consult with sales staff afterwards.3
In BC, “It’s taking longer,” admits Kush Panatch of efforts to sell his condo project in Port Moody. “There’s a lot of exchanging information. You have to go into detail about every little thing.”
According to Panatch, there is a silver lining to the extra effort involved in the sales process. “You’re not getting many looky-loos,” he says. “They’re pretty serious about buying a home in the current environment.”4
Changing Consumer Trends in Real Estate
If COVID-19 is sparking change in the way that construction projects are showcased and sold, it’s also a driving force behind innovations in design. Health concerns and social distancing efforts have led developer Sam Mizrahi, president of Mizrahi Developments, to implement practical design changes to a pair of Ottawa projects. Among the innovations are plastic barriers dividing exercise equipment in the gym, wider sidewalks, and elevator apps which negate the need to touch buttons. Increased storage and pantry space, lockers for parcel delivery, and greater numbers of bathrooms per unit are other trends which make sense as people’s lifestyles shift in response to the virus.5
Working from home is becoming a more viable long-term possibility for greater numbers of people, which is also altering preferred home designs and even locations.
“People now view their homes as more than just a place to sleep but also their office and workout area so design will be about making spaces more friendly for people to spend a lot more time in.” says Diana Petramala, a senior researcher with the Centre for Urban Research and Land Development at Ryerson University.5
As a result of the work from home trend, dens and home offices have become more valued, while sliding partitions allow for flexibility. With many people no longer tied to a physical office, suburban or rural properties have become an attractive alternative to inner-city living.
According to real estate expert Odeen Eccleston “The pandemic has created additional motivation for people living in pricier and more population dense areas to perhaps move further away from the hustle and bustle because they’ve been given permission to spend less time commuting and more time with family by working from home.”6
Recruiting Construction Executives
With such change being ushered in, a premium has been placed upon leadership that understands the importance of dynamic decision making and possesses an intuitive ability to harness technology strategically. While nobody possesses a crystal ball, it is this type of forward thinking leadership that will help construction companies react to whatever regulatory and societal shifts that the future has in store.