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Technology: The Message Heard ‘Round the World

During a single week in October, IREM took the stage on platforms around the world. And from Kazakhstan to Korea, from Guatemala to China, the seismic impact of technology on commercial real estate and its management was the common theme.

“Innovation in Real Estate Technology” was the session delivered in Shanghai by 2020 IREM President Cheryl Gray, CPM, of Toronto. She noted that technology has created a situation where “the tenant experience and how space is being used has become more important than the bricks and mortar.” At the same time, and as a byproduct, challenges are arising around all the data collected by property management firms and their third-party vendors, said Gray. Advancements in technology and increased business complexity brings with it heightened unease around information security and data privacy. This is pushing cybersecurity as a top concern among real estate companies around the world, said Gray, whose executives are paying attention to the increased liability they’re assuming.

Also in Shanghai was 2019 IREM President Don Wilkerson, CPM, of Reno, NV, where he joined a panel with a focus on retail real estate, and the blows it’s taken from technology, and specifically, from e-commerce. It was observed that when goods can be ordered online and delivered in 30 minutes, shopping center operators are finding their properties empty from Monday through Thursday. “The key is to be proactive to change rather than reactive,” said Wilkerson. “Consumers today have different behaviors. When we provide services, we need to innovate ourselves by responding to their behaviors.” In the retail sector, this may mean repositioning shopping centers as entertainment centers, said Wilkerson. 

Gray and Wilkerson shared these insights at the Asia Pacific Real Estate C2 Summit that drew more than 700 attendees and was organized by Leiden Business Academy, IREM’s education licensee in Shanghai.

Prior to the Shanghai event, Gray and Wilkerson were both in Seoul, Korea, where IREM has an active chapter, and where the two IREM leaders provided a glimpse into current trends, challenges, and opportunities in the North American real estate market. Again, technology was a topic of conversation that ranged from the so-called Amazon effect – characterized by a positive impact on the industrial market and a negative impact on the retail market – to WeWork and other co-working providers.

At the same time, Glenn Pelot, CPM, an IREM instructor from Detroit, MI, was participating in the Central Asian Forum on Commercial Real Estate in Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan, organized by IREM’s education licensee there, Kazakhstan Networking Partners. Speaking on trends in commercial real estate, Pelot noted that, “Today’s smart retail properties are fitted with sensors providing valuable information from pedestrian traffic to shopper activity.  Not only being able to access that data, but knowing how to use it to improve the asset,” he continued, “is critical to being a successful property manager today.”

On the other side of the world, in Guatemala, Brian Lozell, CPM, IREM’s director of corporate business development, led a seminar on “The Airbnb Effect on Multifamily Property” hosted by ADIG, the leading association for property management in Guatemala. Focusing on legal issues surrounding Airbnb and similar providers, he reported that 53 percent of local governments in the United States don’t have regulations on short-term rentals, but “those that do include many major U.S. cities, so it’s important to be familiar with the current trends in regulations that can put an asset at risk.” Lozell shared the stage with Anabel Miró, president of the Barcelona-based CAFBL property management organization, who presented insight on how Airbnb has affected the market in Spain and the European Union.

The seminar in Guatemala City was attended by over 200 participants and local experts who provided background on multifamily property, and the use of Airbnb in Guatemala.

About the Author
Nancye Kirk is chief strategy officer at IREM Headquarters in Chicago and supports both IREM’s international and technology initiatives.

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