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[1]28 days later – What to expect for the future of commercial real estate transactions.

Last month Orbital Witness hosted an interactive roundtable with 4 industry leaders across Law, Finance, Agency and Insurance to discuss the future of commercial real estate transactions.

  • Ryan Tholet, Head of Private Bank at Investec,
  • Matt Taylor, Partner and Head of UK Proptech at Clifford Chance,
  • Toni Longman, Senior Vice President Global Real Estate & Construction at Lockton; and 
  • Tom Bennett, COO, UK Agency at JLL, 

were joined by Aisha Tummon, Lawyer and BD Director at Orbital Witness to share their individual experiences and views of commercial real estate transactions since lockdown. This allowed for an interesting conversation with lots of differing opinions and experiences.


What did we learn?

1. The ‘obvious’

65% of people that did not previously want to work remotely now want to work 2-3 days a week from home*. This means we will see the greatest shift in the underlying operational mechanics of how we conduct real estate transactions. Social behaviours and working styles have changed akin to the industrial revolution. 

Two fundamental themes are emerging (a) OpTech: where and how people work and (b) Risk and RegTech: how we work, what we do when we work and how we govern this. The big question has been, can we deliver the same kind of client service?  Surprisingly, the answer across the board is –  we can and we have, with a caveat “we’re all at risk if we don’t deploy and adopt tech sensibly”.

“We‘re all at risk if we don’t deploy and adopt tech sensibly

2. Client Expectations have changed 

But it’s not what they want from us but how they want products and services from us that has shifted. Clients are demanding flexibility and a higher level of bespokeness from their service providers. There is a much higher demand for advice. Intelligence and advice is what you are adding to the equation  as a service provider and it is what people are looking for in the current climate.


3. The genie is out of the bottle

(And you can’t push it back in!) with regards to the adoption of PropTech. Your competitors may have caught up. The pandemic has made us focus on the areas that are most important to our business. We need to be thinking about what we are going to invest in to create differentiation in the market. 

With the increased use of tech we will have a much better idea and understanding of “big data”. We probably won’t see one source of truth, but there will be a definite shift towards linking different sources of data more efficiently.  If you don’t have the resources to be able to implement digital tools well, it is a difficult world to be in.

Your competitors may have caught up, now what are you going to do and what are you going to invest in, to create a new advantage?


4. Property is less predictable 

There has been a shift towards the need to be a much more active owner of real estate. Property has traditionally attracted fixed income yields. People are now demanding shorter rents and more flexible terms which is making it a lot less predictable as an investment asset class.

The expression ‘safe as houses’, won’t make sense in the future”


Panellist predictions for the next 5 years:

  • 80% of real estate transactions will start & renew through digital platforms
  • The end of upward-only rent
  • New types of pandemic insurance emerging with more restrictive terms and conditions
  • The tenant rep experience will drive the pricing of property in real time, a live value will be recognised on the open market


If you’d like to listen back to the roundtable discussion held on 23 July, it can be found here

Orbital Witness helps leading law firms and their clients significantly accelerate their diligence process, identify issues and improve turnaround times across the full spectrum of commercial real estate work. For more information please reach out to the team.

*JLL 2020 Occupier Survey