2 minute read 14 Apr 2020
Trees Growing At Park By Buildings In City

Seven likely implications of COVID-19 for real estate

By Michael Hasbani

EY Global Consulting Real Estate, Hospitality and Construction Leader

Real estate advisor to prominent global organizations and governments and an ardent proponent of socioeconomic development.

2 minute read 14 Apr 2020

With investment horizons stretching out five years and more, the real estate industry looks ahead for how it will change post COVID-19.

It’s not yet the end of the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis but some of our real estate clients are thinking ahead to the lasting implications. With investment horizons stretching out five years and beyond, they’re anticipating how this might fundamentally change the sector.

Evidently, economies everywhere will see a wave of bailouts, restructurings, and nationalizations. Some leading property entrepreneurs in Dubai, where I am based, and in other parts of the world have been discussing the implications with me. Looking past the immediate crisis, what will its legacy be for real estate models and what does this mean for REITs, developers, operators, funds and contractors?

Even before the virus outbreak, behavioral shifts such as shopping online and working from home were challenging traditional real estate models.

But “social distancing” has accelerated and aggravated that challenge. Once the epidemic is over, it’s likely that some element of social distancing will remain. Below are seven of the possible implications that have emerged from my conversations.

1. It’s now officially open house for online tools

As people around the world have been forced to work from home, many have turned to digital and online tools for remote working and entertainment. As we all get used to online services to connect, it has the potential to change our culture and the way we engage in many new ways. The impact on real estate and how we design, build, operate and use buildings in the future will be a permanent challenge.

2. Purchasing real estate

Currently, it’s not possible to purchase property without physical engagement of some sort, but regulators may see advantages for using online tools – for example allowing documents to be signed electronically. This will speed up the process of buying and selling real estate, and has the power to disrupt, displace and eliminate traditional service providers in the transaction life-cycle.

3. There will be a boom in virtual reality

People will continue to be sociable but will communicate more than ever through virtual reality platforms rather than in person. Virtual reality will be used increasingly to maintain both psychological (i.e. communicating) and physical well-being (i.e. exercise classes).

4. Society is likely to reassess how it spends its leisure time

Going to a green park will gain favor at the expense of the mall. The value accorded to wide open spaces will grow.

5. Supply chain re-evaluation will affect warehousing and retail

The crisis has reminded national governments of the importance of keeping critical supplies within their borders. Companies, too, will weigh up the costs and benefits of complex global supply chains, relying more on local suppliers. This will affect the type of industrial and retail real estate that’s needed.

6. Slow the tide of urbanization

The migration to the cities has seemed unstoppable for the past few decades, especially in developing countries. However, government’s role in society is growing in this crisis, and it is likely to take measures to slow the move.

7. A new family structure emerges, and this will change housing needs

Society is likely to get better once more at caring for its elderly, young and sick. This will change the type of houses and apartments that people will aspire to live in.

It’s clear that real estate is on the brink of a new paradigm. In addition to the clash between the digital versus physical space, we now have the confluence of changing social behaviors that will reset the industry. The precise shape is yet to be defined, but these themes may reveal the direction of travel.


The real estate industry is experiencing changes to how it does business post COVID-19. As our behaviors and expectations evolve in the current environment, real estate will be reshaped by changing societal trends.

Read more insights from EY to help you navigate through the COVID-19 crisis.

About this article

By Michael Hasbani

EY Global Consulting Real Estate, Hospitality and Construction Leader

Real estate advisor to prominent global organizations and governments and an ardent proponent of socioeconomic development.