The coronavirus pandemic is set to have lasting implications on the real estate sector, particularly in the Middle East where uncertainty in the markets has resulted in a wave of delayed projects, government bailouts and restructuring of some of the major developers in the region. As we take a glance at the challenges and opportunities in the sector just beyond the immediate crisis, how will real estate consultants, in particular, adapt to the behavioral shifts in consumer appetite? Are digital tools enough to get the market back to full capacity or will we need to go as far as re-thinking the basics of selling a property?
According to Ihsan Kharouf, who is the head of Savills in Oman, while naturally there have been many changes in line with government requirements, the main change is all about digitization, which was the obvious winner over the past year.
“While online and digital were already the standard in several areas such as listing and marketing, in many other aspects, historically, the first preference was for face-to-face meetings, business cards, printed property brochures, as well as mortgage and registration documentation,” he explains. “We are currently seeing a major shift towards digital alternatives to all of the above.”
When it comes to challenges in real estate consultancy during pandemic conditions such as COVID-19, Kharouf believes the most critical challenge we are witnessing is uncertainty. “Most individuals and companies can deal with bad news but are perhaps less adept at dealing with a constant stream of bad surprises. Today, we constantly have to face with fears about new waves of the pandemic, new restrictions, or potentially totally unforeseen consequences to all the recent changes.”
In terms of opportunities, the key is flexibility and adaptability and the ability to be open to supply a specialty or skill in a way that bypasses the problems and hurdles posed by the current market. “While real estate, for the most part, is an essential requirement rather than an option, and one has to assume that reasonable levels of demand will still exist, the key is delivery,” Kharouf says.
The most important tool for closing sales during these challenging times remains human intuition and understanding. According to Kharouf, a good consultant should be able to read their client and understand their requirements and distil these in a way that offers solutions.
“We have recently noted that the change in office attendance and prolonged confinement has created a change in home and work routines, and potentially even a change in key priorities,” he highlights. “Identification of these changes and the ability to offer residential or commercial spaces that meet these new requirements is the key to be a successful consultant.”