While continuing to march forward in response to the unprecedented changes in the business climate amid the Coronavirus woes, Invest-Gate hosted its second virtual roundtable on June 15, titled the “New Real Estate Product,” aiming to open up new doors for investments in a bid to prepare the industry for a strong comeback.

Based on the recommendations from the “Smart Real Estate Market Amid COVID-19” previous virtual roundtable, and given the bumpy road ahead for the property sector, Invest-Gate attempted to put an end to some obstacles and harvest the full potential of real estate investments through its consequent discussion. Indeed, we managed to mark a new era of bulletproof development, fully responding to consumer needs and, most importantly, laying out the ultimate “new normal” playbook on leading brick-and-mortar businesses through the crisis and beyond.

Moderated by Mena Group Founder Fathallah Fawzy and co-moderated by Invest-Gate’s Managing Partner Mohamed Fouad, the fruitful event saw the participation of Mountain View Chairman Amr Soliman, Rooya Chairman Hisham Shoukri, Tatweer Misr CEO Ahmed Shalaby, Iwan Developments CEO Waleed Mokhtar, Al Futtaim Group Real Estate Managing Director Ashraf Ezz El-Din, Vantage Developments Chairman Mohamed Abdel Gawad, and Castle Development for Real Estate CEO Ahmed Mansour, who pulled together a myriad of diversified new real estate products.

At the outset, Shoukri stressed that the nature of the real estate product in Egypt will witness a series of changes in the coming period in the wake of the Coronavirus disruption, which is already driving the acceleration of digital transformation throughout the industry.

For houses on the primary and secondary markets, there is an urgent need for new layouts in residential units to reconfigure the spaces that will feel more convenient for those working from home, in addition to incorporating a strong technological infrastructure to facilitate and stimulate work performance, he added.

“As for administrative projects, the design and use of such products will definitely reshape to reduce workspaces. Accordingly, an elevated reliance on online meetings and remote work policy will be witnessed. In the same vein, e-commerce is forging ahead, hence an adverse impact on commercial/retail establishments. Therefore, developers must tailor new recreational activities to lure more clients and fill in the gap,” Shourki stated.

Correspondingly, real estate companies shall foresee that the Coronavirus-driven shifts will spur warehouse demand, as the rising online sales will absolutely necessitate bigger inventories to meet consumer markets, the CEO further highlighted.

In the same vein, Al Futtaim Group’s managing director said the pandemic has already affected the real estate product, and this is evident by the fluctuating sales of commercial centers in Egypt, which stands between 25-50% over the Internet. He also pointed to the demand for delivery services within malls, which has been booming since the outbreak, driving the real estate developer to keep pace with this trend for stores to remain operating.

Commenting on his company’s ongoing efforts to sustain productivity among its various malls in Egypt during the crisis, Ezz El-Din underscored, “Al Futtaim Group has applied new services to cope with the new world order of real estate such as the drive-thru service to lessen physical contact and provide efficient services for all retailers. Similarly, we will soon feature concierge services for all food and beverage (F&B) outlets.”

Meanwhile, Mokhtar believes that some commercial and retail stores, especially those of large areas, will tend to shut down and go online instead. “From an economic level, we need to diversify the business. Home features, for example, need to change to be more complete as our living nature and habits have also changed. So whether residential or non-residential, the product has to be more functional to accommodate for our new lifestyle,” he justified.

Shalaby also highlighted that developers need to make proper use of architectural spaces, especially after the crisis recedes, making room for a study or home office within residential properties.

“There are new innovative/creative ideas that can help developers meet the new consumer preferences and provide flexible options to home buyers, including cloud kitchen and flex buildings for businesses to share spaces and have proper storage,” Tatweer Misr’s CEO was quoted as saying.

Along the same lines, Soliman stated that as customer behavior changes in light of the current emergency situation, many adjustments must be applied accordingly. “In the post-COVID-19 world, real estate products have to feature efficiency in space design, whether small or large units; think of Uber when producing property by bringing all the multi-functional amenities to clients at their convenience,” the chairman continued.

Similarly, Abdel Gawad underlined that the real estate product must turn into a financial instrument that attracts investment flows such as bonds, noting that many customers are currently in wary of investing in the property sector.

However, Mansour reckoned that the purchasing power issue has been present in Egypt for four years now. “But, after the COVID-19 outbreak, we cannot be certain on whether affordability is a matter of liquidity constraints among clients or they are in a state of anticipation due to price hikes, especially that bank deposits rose by over EGP 1 trn since 2016,” he further highlighted.

The virtual event was sponsored by Mountain View, Rooya Group, Tatweer Misr, Vantage Developments, and Castle Development for Real Estate, along with several media partners including Economy Plus, Habi Newspaper, Alaqaria Newspaper, Daily News Egypt, Al Borsa Newspaper, and Al-Masdar News.