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New Must-Haves For Real Estate? Touchless Access, Turbo WiFi And Virtual Reality.

Virtual reality tours, supercharged WiFi and touchless access in buildings are among several tech features that will be more prominent in a post-coronavirus environment, experts say.

Brookfield's Bank of America Plaza in downtown Los Angeles

As property owners grapple with how to do business with shelter-in-place orders, social distancing requirements and other health guidelines, technology is being seen as the amenity that can set a property owner’s building apart.

“We’re heading into a new world,” Bel Air Internet President and CEO Terry Koosed said during a Bisnow webinar, Connectivity Post Coronavirus: How Is Technology Empowering Market Leaders In The New Normal, Thursday. “The post-virus reality is going to be significantly different from what we’ve endured and lived in the past …Technologies utilized in properties that help manage them, that help rent them, there’s going to be an acceleration on the tech side of that.”

More than 350 people registered for the webinar on coronavirus and tech featuring Koosed and Brookfield Properties Vice President of Mixed-Use Development Patrick Rhodes and moderated by RealtyCom Partners President Rush Blakely.

The trio were unanimous that technology is going to shape building design in a post-pandemic world. Pre-coronavirus, remote work was a luxury. Only a few property owners offered virtual tours on their websites or did any kind of leasing agreements online. Touchless access control doors? Forget it, that feature was seen as too expensive. 

The pandemic has changed all of that. 

With so many people required to work from home as part of an effort to not catch and spread the virus, having a stable and reliable WiFi network in multifamily buildings has become a necessity. Residents now may decide what apartment building they live in by the quality of its WiFi, Koosed said.

That emphasis has happened quickly. More than 50% of webinar viewers polled said they were currently experiencing issues with residents’ bandwidth requirements as their tenants worked from home.

Clockwise from left: RealtyCom Partners President Rush Blakely, Bel Air Internet President and CEO Terry Koosed and Brookfield Properties Vice President of Mixed-Use Development Patrick Rhodes

Virtual tours have also become crucial in the current environment.

With so many states instituting shelter-in-place orders and social distancing requirements, many prospective tenants will not be able to meet in a traditional setting with a leasing agent showing them around a building. Being able to see a property online will be a key first step in an important chain to whet a prospective tenants' appetite for the unit. 

Touchless access control is also becoming critical to workers and visitors who are wary of touching doors or stairwells in buildings.

Rhodes said adding touchless access control features to a building will be asset class- and building type-dependent. For example, he said some tenants in luxury high-rise buildings may expect touchless access, while other tenants in boutique apartments will want a traditional set-up. 

Rhodes said Brookfield is looking into all types of technology to incorporate in its buildings as it navigates through a new environment. 

"For us, nothing is off the table," Rhodes said. "We're looking at all of those tools and brainstorming how far the pendulum actually swings when it comes to touch-free buildings."

For Koosed, whose company specializes in managed WiFi, one thing remains clear: The types of technology in buildings is going to separate the haves and the have nots.   

"With so much uncertainty and negative cash flow, building owners need to be proactive and make the investments into the technology," Koosed said. "If you didn’t make the investment before, you need to double and triple down."