Because of the pandemic, a once-in-a-lifetime paradigm shift is happening right now.
Businesses are starting to realize they are still severely underutilizing technology in traditional industries, despite its rapid advancement in recent years. Now, they are considering digitizing entire sectors.
Real estate is a conservative sector; historically, it has been unresponsive to modern transformations. However, recent events have made the innovation an urgent matter. Irreversible changes in its processes, systems, and transactions are bound to happen.
The ongoing health crisis has also brought about challenges at the individual level. With increased connectivity, families are losing touch with the very people they live with. Employees and students, meanwhile, are struggling to do things remotely.
The health crisis has indeed been a catalyst for both positive and negative changes, Katherine Huh observes. Katherine works at PwC, in a role pushing initiatives to digitize real estate. Specifically, she is in occupier services, which means she handles corporate clients in various industries that occupy a significant area of real estate. Thus, she understands the need for innovation in the industry.
Aside from her work at PwC, she has another job to take care of: being a mother of two children. She has to face the struggles brought about by the pandemic on her children, her family, and her well-being. From her experience, we will see the two sides to the shifts forced onto us by the crisis.
There has also been a shift in how organizations view their employees. “Companies have really started to see what the value of the human is and which activities you would want to have human touch on and which ones you don’t,” says Katherine. This newfound value has changed their priorities in terms of hiring and what they look for in candidates.
Katherine believes “there is a strong drive toward employees that are very technologically enabled and digitally upskilled.” However, there is still a high demand for employees with the necessary soft skills and people skills to foster empathy in the workplace. After all, there will always be a need for employees who can lead teams and inspire the people around them.
Should existing real estate employees adapt to technological innovations or be replaced by new digitally fluent and technically proficient candidates? The answer is not so simple. Even though the digitization of industries makes technological literacy an attractive skill for workers, there are still areas of work that can't be digitized. Some employee traits remain relevant amid substantial technological shifts. With this, one possible outcome is that some components of employees’ roles would merely be enhanced.
Workers have to realize that we are in a completely unfamiliar situation at the moment. The best we could do is not to let stress and anxiety overwhelm us. Prioritize, reframe your day, and take it one step at a time until your productivity picks up.
One practical tip that would allow us to work better is setting up a routine even if we are at home. This way, we can balance working, playing, and resting and achieve our goals one at a time.
Nonetheless, the most important thing to remember is that we should not expect our productivity to be as it was before the pandemic. Katherine recounts a call with her mentor, who told her people should not try to operate at the same level they did before COVID-19 struck. Even before the pandemic, we didn't have the same hours, network, and support. So now we must remind ourselves that things can’t go back to the way they were before.
“Never in the history of humans has a group of students has had to learn in this way,” Katherine tells her five-year-old child. She also believes embracing the change is already an achievement for students in itself, considering the unchartered waters they are in right now.
The goal for students at the moment is merely to adjust better to homeschooling and online lectures. The short-term disruption brought by the ongoing crisis will inevitably lead to slower skill growth and learning.
Also, we should not forget the other pressing concerns arising due to the lack of school, such as loss of socialization and declining mental health. The educational system is a central part of students' lives, for most of their experiences, adventures, and friends come from school. Suddenly, these were taken away from them, and it may lead to undesirable consequences, especially since there is no certainty when the children will get those experiences back.
Katherine is a mom of two, and the first weeks of the health crisis have truly been a struggle for her. She is a working mom, and she believes the parents, as the primary caregivers of the family, should try to split the role and help each other. Furthermore, they should always be a present guide for the family. She says parents should do the best they can, even with the issues around them.
Each family’s dynamic is different. Any parent must understand this dynamic to adequately care for the family, especially in this crucial time. Her advice to working mothers is not to set pre-COVID expectations on their families and themselves.
The need to digitize real estate has never been more critical than it is now. The pandemic has only accelerated the initiatives to digitize real estate.
Katherine says digitizing real estate means taking advantage of “any opportunity to use technology or automation, AI, to achieve tasks or activities within real estate.” She herself promotes this method to their clients, and they now have larger systems in place to implement this digitization.
The benefits of digitizing real estate are two-fold. The first and more apparent effect would be the innovations and upgrades brought about by technology: new marketing platforms, inclusive investment opportunities, and better real estate management are some examples. Secondly, digitizing real estate eliminates the monotonous and redundant practices traditionally implemented in the industry. It also lowers energy and operating costs.
In essence, digitizing the industry optimizes the job for everyone involved.
Here are some aspects of real estate that could change when the industry is digitized:
• Virtual reality
• Building information modeling
• Digital documentation
• Online selling
Before, one must endure a long and inconvenient travel to visit the property grounds. Although nothing compares to the real thing, virtual and augmented reality can offer a 360-degree tour of a particular property without taking time off our busy schedules to be there physically.
Building information modeling relates to the construction and architecture of real estate properties. Based on intelligent 3D modeling software, it allows the completion of an entire project through digital representations of physical locations. It also aids in the optimization of space and making sure it is functional. The planning and management of an infrastructure's life cycle have never been this easy.
Everyone knows real estate transactions take an unpleasant amount of paperwork. Furthermore, manual documentation is prone to human error, which could result in legal repercussions. Thus, automating the documentation processes of real estate transactions makes paperwork seamless and convenient.
Before the existence of platforms where people could buy and sell real estate, there was an inherent lack of communication between customers and brokers in every step of the transaction. Now, online real estate applications have allowed them not only to negotiate better but also to increase satisfaction on both sides. Buyers can now do more research and compare existing choices, while sellers can now easily advertise their properties through the listing platforms.
Many people are itching to return to the way things were, but it only sets us up for disappointment and anxiety. We shouldn't forget that there is still a virus spreading around, and we have no idea when the entire crisis will be over.
Katherine says she will first wait for schools to open before considering returning to the city. Right now, schools have mixed-learning curriculums; even if they start to open soon, she would be hesitant to go back to the way things were.
Routine is the key to adapting to the current situation. Katherine believes it would be difficult to go back once you have started to adapt to a routine during the pandemic. Therefore, people shouldn’t be in such a rush to go back to pre-pandemic conditions. Setting reasonable expectations on yourself, your family, and your work is a good practice to implement in these trying times.
The pandemic has indeed forced transformations to happen, whether positive or negative. On the one hand, the digitization of real estate would immensely benefit stakeholders and boost the industry's innovation process. On the other hand, individuals, from parents to their children, will have to struggle to adapt to the numerous changes in the workplace and the educational system. Katherine believes everyone is struggling, but we will get through it somehow.
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