Overcoming COVID-19 Inefficiencies, Exploring the Digital World and MORE: Succeeding as a Realtor in 2021

It started off with January, February, quarantine and DECEMBER. Though we certainly managed to control the spread of COVID-19 better than most countries, us Sri Lankans also experienced ad hoc visits to the outdoors during the mid months of last year. In July it appeared we had made a breakthrough in eliminating COVID given the low number of cases, but the 2nd wave struck harder than anything we imagined.

Still, amidst all of this, real estate continues to grow and experience a positive upward trend. This is because of the rising need for housing that is growing despite the virus spread and people’s interest in real estate investments. So here is our outlook of a few real estate trends expected to make revolutionary changes in the industry for 2021. 

Online real estate purchasing and virtual tours

Due to COVID-19, many businesses shifted to operating over the internet through different online platforms. Some changed their entire business models while others created a new wing for online operations or thrived with their already established online presence. 

For real estate, this pandemic meant reaching property for people who are looking for them, without being able to visit in person. This led to virtual reality tours being created. Through these tours, people can now visit properties virtually and witness what they would’ve seen if they had been in person. They can travel through VR designed rooms, engage with interactive images, and get an overall virtual feel of the property. 

This trend is expected to continue even in the upcoming years, despite overcoming COVID. The reason for this is that it has shown high potential in increasing sales and conducting transactions without boundaries between buyers and sellers. Through this method there is no geographical restriction that limits buyers, and sellers can continue to expand their market reach within the real estate industry. 

Many businesses have also combined these tours with facilitating the online purchase of real estate. And so, now you can purchase or reserve a property over the internet just by inputting your credit card details. Years ago, online transactions were frowned upon because of the reliability issues with the method and other issues. However, now just like luxury brands have moved from the typical in-person sales only, real estate is also expected to gain high returns through online transactions. Online purchasing because of COVID-19 in fact has removed many limits to what we thought, can and cannot be sold over the internet. 

LankaPropertyWeb also joined in on this trend and launched Sri Lanka’s first ever virtual real estate expo last year. The event saw the participation of over 6000 users and 15,000 page visits from countries around the world including USA, UK, UAE and Australia. With this success, the annual property show is scheduled to be held online and offline this year, catering to the extensive property buying base across the globe and locally. 

Growing online media revolution 

Images and videos have always been a big part of real estate marketing and advertising. But with the pandemic, they have become even more important. In fact, social distancing and lockdowns have led to the growing popularity of interactive 360 images and detailed videos that provide realistic views of a property. 

People now prefer to view and interact with property images, just like they would when buying a product over Amazon or Alibaba. This has led to advanced image designs with different software being used in the process to give an even more realistic feel of the property. 

People are also taking to viral social media platforms like TikTok and YouTube to give buyers an actual picture of the property. 

Work from home trend and commercial property 

Because of the pandemic, countries across the globe are still under lockdowns or are functioning with ad hoc curfews. Social distancing has become essential and businesses that operate only offline have experienced huge losses. These changes have also created a ripple effect on the way people work these days. 

To control costs of maintenance while ensuring their employees’ safety, many businesses are encouraging work from home policies. In fact, huge companies like Twitter have decided to continue working from home permanently, while employees from Google will work remotely until mid 2021. The pandemic has also created a shift in working trends, that now many businesses are positively viewing the potential of working from home and fostering further work-life balance. 

For commercial real estate, this has resulted in an increasing number of properties going up on sale or rent. With businesses moving towards working remotely, there is no longer a need for a set physical location to operate. But, this trend has also converted many commercial properties into shared coworking spaces. 

These coworking spaces are now being designed and equipped with all the facilities an individual or a business would need for a short period or temporarily. For businesses this eliminates the need to spend on rent and maintenance, and for the individual this helps him save money and time, travelling back and forth from work. 

The rising move to the suburbs

Since last year there has been a rising number of people moving towards the suburbs in search of more affordable and spacious homes for sale. This trend is expected to continue next year as well, especially because of the congested main cities that have become a hub for COVID-19. 

The official reports have also shown that in Sri Lanka, Colombo is the primary spreading spot for the coronavirus. Most of the clusters have arisen from this city and continue to spread rapidly amongst many, bringing the death toll to over 200. 

Colombo is the metropolitan city of Sri Lanka, and it is one of the most developed when compared with others. Because of this, the number of people moving into the city has continued to increase since the past. But with the virus spread, now many are seeking for their homes located outside of the Western Province and even considering moving back permanently. Along with the facilitation of working from home in Sri Lanka, this trend of moving to the suburbs is only expected to continue increasing. The spacious homes and the outdoor gardening space are further motivators for people looking for homes in the serene suburban cities over the concrete skyline in the city. 

Government policy changes and rising housing demand

The pandemic has resulted in high percentages of unemployment as well. People have lost their jobs with businesses shutting down, and others have found their jobs to become redundant or replaced by machines. For Sri Lankans who migrated abroad and had families depending on their income, this meant they would have to be brought back home. 

Many countries are striving even today to bring back their expats, who have been left deserted in a foreign country with no means of income or a place to live. As such, through governmental procedures repatriation to Sri Lanka from countries including Dubai is taking place even now. This has created a high demand for housing that is expected to continue throughout this year as well. 

The recent budget proposal facilitating expats to buy luxury apartments in Sri Lanka is another effect that is expected to cause a shift in the housing market. With withholding tax on rent being abolished and non-resident Sri Lankans being able to purchase property through a loan obtained from a foreign bank or through their own foreign currency earnings, the demand for housing is expected to increase further. To cater to this, many developers are offering discounts and offers to facilitate the purchase of luxury condominium units. 

Despite the negative effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it has also opened many avenues for businesses to thrive in and explore the digital world. For real estate developers, agents, investors, and sellers, the pandemic has given them an opportunity to look beyond geographical boundaries and test out new technologies. For buyers, this year is one of the biggest to look out for in real estate.  

So while you continue maintaining social distancing and staying safe, look out for these trends and make the most out of them! 

Posted Date: 27th January 2021

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