ULI Germany News

Clicks vs. Bricks – Digitalization in Real Estate (English)

Real Estate is going digital – for a relatively short time now, the industry has been witnessing numerous “PropTechs” (“Property Technology” startups) coming up. PropTechs provide digital and scalable solutions for needs within or closely around the Real Estate industry. Compared to the FinTech cosmos, its “big brother”, the PropTech scene still appears a bit premature. According to the PropTech Accelerator blackprint booster, the community is still fairly young. Around 60 % of more than 200 PropTechs from the GSA-Region (Germany, Switzerland, Austria) were founded in 2014 or later.

Hence, PropTech workshops are very valuable for this strongly growing community as they provide public room to connect entrepreneurs and established Real Estate players. Throughout this discussion, the above-mentioned impression of still missing structure was supported by keywords such as “flexibility” and “restlessness”, both indicating the currently happening structuration. Meaning, it was very important that the moderators Enrico Kürtös (CEO at Inreal) and Marc Beermann (Co-Founder & COO at Allthings) actively guided through the very heterogeneous discussion, which brought up the following impulses:

  • Currently, the Real Estate industry gets mixed up with new players entering the market mainly from outside, such as PropTechs as well as Amazon and co., who bring along new use cases with solutions like echo.
  • New technologies promise an abundance of additional data. Meanwhile, the industry hardly takes use of the data already available. According to Enrico Kürtös, it is “often the lack of business models incentivising companies to track and process the data.”
  • Since no effective industry standard for data structures has yet been established, migrating data, for instance in the context of a transaction, requires many resources. The participants agreed this should be tackled soon, though many doubted it may be covered by a national initiative, but rather on smaller levels.
  • Digitalisation will not abolish jobs in sum, but relocate jobs towards more educated employees.
  • Green buildings are considered a huge trend. To make them a big success though, the split incentive conflict has to be solved first, as e.g. tenants usually profit when the property owner invests in energy-saving measures. Co-host Marc Beermann commented: “different players on the market have different interests, way beyond the financial ones. We trigger a large part of those.”

In the end, one could sense a lot of uncertainty about the focal points of PropTechs for the next couple of years, especially among the established players. The remaining questions will probably be answered by those players taking action. As for the next steps, it was doubted that innovation boards in big companies are a very effective way of shaping digitalization. It stays unclear, to what extent these solutions will be provided by the established players. In general, it would be wise for the various players to engage in collaboration. Prof. Pascal Gantenbein from University of Basel endorsed this point as real estate investors have a substantial interest in increasing information on real estate holdings with regard to benchmarking and better management of resources. Or like Enrico Kürtös said: “Not everyone has to wear sneakers. But the industry needs those who act. Google and amazon do not wait either.”

Author: Ralf Wasmuth, blackprint Booster GmbH

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