Looking into the crystal ball of real estate investment

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Unlike other sectors, say banking or payments, real estate investment seems to have remained relatively isolated from the disruptive influences of start-up companies. Fintech innovators, crowdsourcing investors and sharing economy pioneers, for example Airbnb and Uber, are all laying assualt to industry incumbents. The median age rage across a multitude of business sectors is being dragged down as recent graduates enter the affray with an innovative idea, a bit of seed capital and not much more.

But what of real estate investment? The industry moguls remain the men in suits, averaging 60 years and above, sitting atop industry giants that appear to be in no danger of imminent demise. But there are one or two corners of the industry where change seems to be afoot. Property co-sharing is one such example. This idea puts to use the enormous spare capacity of offices that exists at one time and turns them over – often for a  reduced rate – to those in need of an affordable office, very often this means start-ups themselves.

Led by the likes of WeWork – a US co-sharing site that long ago attained ‘unicorn’ status – ie market valuation at over $US 1bn, Singapore now leads the pack amongst APAC nations in co-sharing – even though (or perhaps, as a result of) regulatory frameworks lagging far behind market developments.

Another noteworthy trend now emerging is investment crowd sourcing for real estate projects. Rather than take on whole projects – and therefore be limited to the ‘scrap’ deals considered unworthy of the big multinational developers and investors – new crowd sourcing ventures are buying debt or equity-driven entry into some of the largest real estate projects in the region. This opens access to more juicy deals, but also gives assurance to would-be investors.

Both these new business ideas remain relative footnotes in the grand scheme of things. Unlike in finance where banks are now setting up start-up incubators themselves to try and ride the wave of disruption or simply looking to acquire those businesses they might otherwise compete with, for the incumbents of the real estate world, it remains business as usual.

Nevertheless Real Estate Investment World Asia gives a voice to these young start-up businesses and dares to ask, could these guys one day unseat some of the key industry players? Our two fire-side chats present Julian Kwan, CEO and Founder of Investacrowd (Singapore’s first real estate based crowd-sourcing site) and Ben Gattie, Director and Co-Founder of the Working Capitol – one of Singapore’s few co-sharing sites.  Between them these sessions should bring a lively and challenging dynamic to this year’s edition of Real Estate Investment World 2016, and hopefully food for thought to a few of our audience members. Make sure you don’t miss out.

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