Commercial property investor? Think like a futurist

CommercialTuesday 13 October 2015

Being a futurist is based on the premise that the future is determined by the decisions we make now.

The term is defined by Craig Rispin in this way: “Futurists are reverse historians. We try to peer over the horizon so we can make better decisions today. We analyse trends, anticipate significant changes and help people create preferable futures.”

Thinking like a futurist can be of benefit in all kinds of decisions we make in our lives, including when it comes to investment property.

So what does it involve? To think like futurists, we need to step back and take a look at the big picture, check for emerging trends and signs of change in the landscape, and create likely scenarios so that we can come up with good solutions and ideas.

The importance of thinking like a futurist

Humans differ from other animals in that we have this ability to think ahead and plan strategically. Even a chess game involves looking ahead, considering likely scenarios, and strategically planning moves to topple an opponent. This is something a pet dog cannot do – he might bury bones to dig up later but this is something he does largely on instinct rather than by strategic planning.

While we humans have this capacity to look into the future and plan and act accordingly, too often we don’t but instead rely on a kind of instinct – which largely leaves things up to chance. During property booms for instance everyone gets busy building and developing, which can tend to result in oversupply, and property bubbles that eventually have to burst.

But everyone can benefit from thinking like a futurist – after all, many a fortune has been won or lost on the basis of emerging trends. Think Borders for instance – that giant book company that continued to invest in physical megastores rather than embrace the online and ebook trends, which in the end led to its demise.

How to be a futuristic commercial property investor

With emerging technologies and shifts in the way we live, buy and do our work, it pays to be on the ball. This includes considering the quite profound changes that are starting to occur in the commercial sector, such as:

  • – Commercial offices – a number of trends are emerging in this sphere that are leading to the shrinking of the traditional commercial office, including online work and collaboration in the cloud, job and / or desk sharing, self-employment, contracting and co-working in hubs or shared spaces. It’s important to consider how these trends could impact on commercial property investment. What type of commercial spaces might increase in demand?
  • – Retail – we’ve already seen the way the shift towards online purchasing has affected the retail sector. Investing in a retail property entails ensuring it is one where it is essential for customers to actually go into the store to buy. This also requires considering popular trends (the interest in health self-management for instance) and demographics (e.g. an ageing population), and how these patterns will affect the future of retail.
  • – Childcare – the high numbers of parents with young children deciding to remain in paid work means that the demand for childcare places is high, which may make investing in a childcare centre property a worthy consideration.

Another issue to consider is that of our low interest rates. They can only go so low and eventually will need to rise. Investors need to consider how they will guard against interest rate hikes when they do occur. Other matters to consider include government regulations, new technological trends, inflation, and regional demographics.

Remember that the decisions you make today form your future tomorrow. For professional advice regarding real estate investment, our property consultants at Burgess Rawson can assist.