Post-pandemic real estate: When executives and properties reinvent themselves

While all economic sectors have had to adapt since the pandemic, the real estate industry has been and continues to be particularly hard hit. In a matter of weeks, vacant and hybrid spaces became commonplace—shopping malls were deserted, office buildings stood empty, and travel restrictions left hotels gathering dust. Since then, what has become of this once-thriving industry and its executives? How can we rebuild? Read on for an elite recruiter’s perspective.


Paradigm shift

Although the mass movement toward hybrid working and online shopping was sudden and unforeseen, this new reality is clearly here to stay. Research by McKinsey Global suggests that overall demand for office and retail space in 2030 will be lower than in 2019, with significant differences between cities and markets.

It's no surprise, then, that real estate companies are looking for solutions to fill vacant spaces and make the most of digital technology.


Examples of renewal in the real estate industry

Converting space for new uses

Many real estate developers are rethinking the function of their now-underused skyscrapers to meet the growing demand for housing in areas where land is scarce.

In May 2023, the newspaper Les Affaires published an article on adaptation strategies in the real estate market, reporting on a number of promising projects in Canada, including the conversion of an office tower on L’Île-des-Sœurs into 142 rental units. Such projects may seem promising, but they face a number of physical, regulatory and financial obstacles.


Developing mixed-use real estate projects

In response to changing consumer habits, innovative, multi-functional real estate projects have emerged, combining residential, commercial and office space under one roof. One example is the Haleco real estate development project in Montreal, winner of the international C40 Reinventing Cities Competition. Haleco aims to create an ecosystem where people can live, work, collaborate, shop and have fun in a sustainable way.


Leveraging new real estate technologies

Many new technologies are emerging, including smart sensors that optimize energy management, virtual reality tours, chatbot concierge services, hybrid meeting spaces that enable immersive collaboration, and real-time business intelligence. With a growing number of technological solutions and real estate tech start-ups, standing out from the crowd requires companies to make critical choices and prioritize the most promising long-term solutions.


How have real estate executives been affected?

As specialized industries begin to find their new place, senior real estate executives are particularly in demand. Real estate players are looking to recruit managers with varied expertise and experience to diversify risk and drive growth.


Combining the virtual with the physical

Demand is high for executives with specific expertise in technologies such as cloud-based services and data analytics, as companies strive to create modern experiences that will appeal to renters, owners, businesses and consumers. Now it’s critical to make data-based decisions, optimize resources and understand customer and user needs and preferences by analyzing big data. However they do it, real estate managers need to be ready to embrace innovation. It is clear that executives who understand how technology is shaping the real estate industry will be highly sought after in coming years.


Success takes more than experience in real estate

Now more than ever, real estate executives must adapt to a changing macroeconomic environment, particularly with regard to rising vacancy rates and fluctuations in the housing market. Companies need to rethink their purpose and develop resilient strategies, and that means recruiting senior executives who can navigate those choppy waters. To do this, employers and recruiters know that a good track record is paramount. Executives who have successfully managed resources and maintained profitability in difficult times are more likely to be hired into management positions in the real estate industry.


Adapting to new market rules

At the same time, environmental, social and governance regulations are tightening, and the need to develop sustainable real estate projects requires managers who can adapt quickly to new constraints while creating real estate solutions that are efficient, innovative and scalable. This is another reason for real estate headhunters to look at each candidate’s career history and ask: Has this person shown resilience and adaptability in the past? 

There are many promising sustainable development opportunities, such as energy and water conservation, renewable energy, green building materials and community relations, but they all require real estate managers with vision.

Agility is vital for real estate managers and the industry itself

As offices and malls continue to reinvent themselves, the real estate industry is expressing a clear need for executives who can think strategically and look beyond short-term gains—people who understand today’s trends while remaining agile enough to adapt quickly tomorrow. Companies that succeed in recruiting senior executives from the cream of the crop will be able to weather the lasting impact of the pandemic on real estate more successfully than their competitors.

With changing interest rates, regulatory changes and rapid innovation, real estate companies need to recruit executives who understand the new reality and can look beyond the traditional use of space. At PIXCELL, we understand the challenges facing the industry and the job market. Our real estate headhunters know how to identify the skills and experience required in an executive to drive innovation, resilience and long-term success for real estate companies.

François Piché-Roy, President and Senior Consultant, PIXCELL


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