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Global Property Forecasts and Trends for 2020

Looking into 2020, the real estate industry is caught up in the broad social and economic transformation that’s changing the built environment.

While a lot of the trends discussed here are already evident today, there’s a danger of buyers, sellers and real estate investors underestimating the implications in 2020 and beyond.

image - Global Property Forecasts and Trends for 2020
Global Property Forecasts and Trends for 2020

Real estate sellers, buyers, managers, and investors will have to contend with greater risks, new value drivers and a broader range of opportunities.

Since the property is a business with long cycles where the timeline from design to construction completion could take several years, recognizing and aligning with these trends now is vital.


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  1. Huge Expansion in Urban Real Estate Driven by Emerging Markets

The 21st century’s massive wave of rural-urban migration will continue in earnest in 2020 as millions rush to the cities in search of a better life. This will primarily be propelled by rapid urbanization in emerging markets across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America.

Highly developed Western cities will also be urbanizing except they’ll be doing so at a considerably slower pace.

Nevertheless, urbanization will not lead to broadly desirable outcomes in all cities. Some emerging cities will rise to become new centers of wealth in a multipolar world.

Others, however, will descend into chaos, dysfunction, and failure precipitated by weak governance, poor infrastructure, rampant crime, and slums.

The philosophy of ‘build it and they will come‘ will certainly not be universally successful. Some will end up as ghost towns plagued by unusually high vacancy rates. In successful cities, the cost of real estate will continue to rise to lead to the denser design and the deployment of lower-cost construction techniques such as prefabs.

  1. New Emerging Markets Giants Drive Competition for Real Estate Assets Globally

image - New Emerging Markets Giants Drive Competition for Real Estate Assets Globally

The emerging markets growth phenomenon has a strong real estate component. China has been the most prominent accounting for about half of global cement consumption. But it’s a fairly similar (albeit smaller scale) upward trajectory in other emerging economies such as India, Indonesia, Mexico, and Russia.

Emerging Asia will continue to dominate construction in volume and growth but growth rates in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East won’t be far behind.

The real estate growth in developing countries is creating formidable new real estate players and asset managers. This is intensifying competition for prime global real estate assets as well as increasing the battle for real estate asset management.

Sovereign wealth funds from the Middle East and Asia have already been snapping prime assets in the world’s major cities. Some emerging market players will grow large enough to acquire their rivals in North America and Western Europe.

It’s already fairly common now for Chinese companies to acquire Western businesses in other industries so this will just be an extension of an existing trend.

  1. Sustainable Building Design

Cities occupy just 2% of the earth’s land area but are estimated to contribute 70% of all energy-related greenhouse gases. Many of the world’s largest cities are located in low-elevation coastal areas and are therefore particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change such as global warming and rising sea levels.

As the world urbanizes, there’ll be growing pressure on building property that’s eco-friendly. The scale of this pressure will depend on how much extreme weather disrupts everyday life.

Fires, floods, heatwaves and failed crops are headline-grabbing events that will influence how much the average prospective buyer and real estate investor think about sustainability in their everyday decisions.

Advanced economies will likely lead the charge in green building design and there is a good chance sustainability rating will eventually become mandatory even if not in 2020.

New property development projects will emphasize green spaces, natural lighting, renewable energy, waste reduction, social amenities and more. The ‘green premium’ is already a factor in the California housing market and it’s only a matter of time before this spreads around the world.

  1. Technology Disrupts Commercial Real Estate

image - Commercial Real Estate

The Internet has been a great force for the property market. Platforms like ISoldMyHouse.com make it easier for sellers to find the buyers they want. Nevertheless, technology is altering the entire subsectors of real estate and changing how investors perceive the property market.

The Internet has seen the need for physical shop space shrink. Certain retailers such as books, music, and video stores have disappeared from high streets as customers move online.

Online shopping delivery times are falling which is diminishing the amount of warehouse storage required. Office space occupancy is declining with telecommuting likely to grow massively in the next couple of years given that digital natives will be taking on more leadership roles in the workplace.

The real estate industry is constantly changing. If you don’t keep track of current trends as an investor or potential homebuyer, you could make mistakes that will cost you. Real estate trends have long cycle times and it can take time for the effects to really settle in. Nevertheless, the earlier you recognize looming market changes, the better prepared you will be to profit from them.


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