Remote work: How does it affect multifamily real estate

05/21/2021   |   By Chahinez Dib

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant increase in remote work since March 2020. With millions of Americans moving to work from home, the work landscape has changed, even for multifamily real estate professionals.

More than 4.3 million people in the U.S. work from home, which is 3.2 percent of the workforce. But even before the pandemic began, remote work was already widespread throughout the U.S. Statistics on working from home, show that the number of Americans working remotely has increased by 140 percent since 2005. 

Most people working remotely appreciate this growing trend. According to a FlexJobs survey, 65 percent of respondents say they want to be full-time remote workers post-pandemic. Moreover, 31 percent of them want a hybrid remote work environment. 

While many careers already allowed for remote work before the pandemic, real estate professionals were among the few that rarely had to work from home. But with new COVID-19 restrictions put in place in the U.S. and Canada, multifamily professionals had to turn to technology to continue doing their work.

“[Technology] helped multifamily professional investors a lot because many people realized meetings can be done through zoom,” says Nikolaï Ray, CEO of the MREX. “They also have to learn how to better structure their organization through communication processes.” 

The evolution of technology is incredible. If you think about it, people were only getting to know about computers 30 years ago and few people had Internet access 10 years ago.

In 2010, only 1.8 billion people had access to high-speed internet whereas this number almost doubled by 2016 where 3 billion people had access to it. 

The pandemic has forced businesses over the past year to develop ways of operating contactless. It may be difficult to think that real estate professionals could do that as their job mostly required them to be onsite. But thanks to the technology which has helped this industry doing the shift to the digital world. 

“It will help the real estate industry become much more up to date,” adds Ray. 

Now that the pandemic has shed light on the convenience of technology and how it has enabled people to work remotely, it also sheds light on new digital innovations for multifamily professionals, including moving the entire leasing process online.

What is virtual leasing?

This process allows multifamily professionals to do their job from the comfort of their homes. Virtual leasing digitalizes the leasing process, meaning it moves it entirely online. 

According to Forbes, multifamily owners and managers realized that having fewer leasing professionals onsite with additional staff off-site provided ample coverage.

Will the demand for specific housing features change? 

Before the pandemic started, remote work was a normal way of life for many professionals. Now, people have to adhere to many restrictions, including social distancing restrictions. Today, most bedrooms have become new office spaces. 

Even if many people call working remotely the “new normal,” Ray thinks this alternative way of living mostly changed the way people do things but they still need human contact. 

“I don’t think it would be as extreme as what we’ve gone through during covid. I think people still need to see each other, need to see units, need to see properties,” he says.

Most people are used to the standard rental advertisement language: “Beautiful 2-bedroom apartment close to everything.” Now, the new normal will be: “Quiet 2-bedroom apartment with one home office—perfect to work from home.”

This change in our way of living will have people look for specific housing features, especially apartment buildings.

“I think people would want more creature comforts, maybe a little more space because people will now work a couple of days from home,” he says. High-quality internet, that’s something very important.”

Remote work is convenient for many people as they do not have to commute or drive to the downtown area. It can also lead people to move to more affordable areas. But, that does not mean this is the end of the demand for downtown living.