How innovation is transforming the property industry

A wave of innovation is transforming Britain’s property industry. A younger generation of motivated millennials in their early to mid 20s is coming in, looking at the traditional ways that companies have been doing things and recognising that demand has moved on and people want something different – and increasingly more social – from real estate.

Partly, the disruption is being driven by the cost of property, which has risen strongly over the past few years. Industry innovators are developing ways of delivering office space and housing for less, or making use of alternative techniques like modular construction to build at scale.

But there is also a recognition that patterns of demand are changing and the most forward-thinking companies and people in the industry are creating products that reflect this. Take the rise of micro apartments. A few years ago, especially in London, the industry was focused on providing large flats for foreign buyers. However, with the continued shift of (particularly young) people back to urban areas, property innovators are now delivering smaller spaces that have everything on the doorstep, but which don’t necessarily cost a fortune to buy or rent.

One of the key demands the innovators are responding to is a desire for sociability. This is playing out in a number of ways. Independent developers like The Collective, run by recent graduate Reza Merchant, are applying the principles of student living to young professionals, allowing individuals to rent out rooms in a co-living space and to continue to enjoy the excitement and idea-sharing of university life after they’ve graduated.

Companies like WeWork are taking serviced offices to the next level too, building sophisticated collaborative workspaces for entrepreneurs and professionals. They’ve understood that the shift of so much business online has not downgraded the importance of social interaction, but that there is massive demand among companies and individuals for environments in which they can talk to each other, generate ideas, and innovate. Alongside smaller independents, established firms like Derwent London are at the forefront of these developments, creating collaborate areas such as break-out spaces which are now commonplace in offices across the UK.

The real estate industry is experiencing a digital shake-up too. The most obvious facet of this is the growing importance of the online estate agent and property exchange. These have created new opportunities, for example, in the marketing of property, particularly to an international audience. A recent advertisement for a large home in Surrey included a video filmed by a drone, which flew over and inside the house.

The key thing, however, is that this innovation is enabling the property industry to make the most of one of its most important characteristics: that it is a people industry. New technology and disruption are not leading to a depersonalisation of real estate. Quite the opposite.

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