5 big questions real estate is asking in 2024

Amid ongoing disruption, industry experts examine what the future holds

December 20, 2023

Navigating disruption and uncertainty are now standard in a world that continues to face economic and political challenges.

From concerns over the productivity of a hybrid workforce and how to gain an edge with artificial intelligence, to the ongoing conundrum of what to do with office buildings that are heading for obsolescence, investors and corporate occupiers have a lot on their minds.

Join us in diving into some of the biggest issues facing the commercial real estate industry in 2024.

1. Is hybrid really working?

Years into the great hybrid work experiment, many firms worry it just isn’t delivering the goods.

Boosting productivity is one of the top three reasons employers are encouraging people to work from the office, recent JLL research found. They feel it’s needed to maximize collaboration and innovation.

Employers associate on-site work with major benefits such as social connection and cultural bonds,” says Flore Pradere, Global Work Dynamics Research Director. “They see it as a significant contributor to employee performance.”

But there are conflicting issues from an employee standpoint. Almost half the workforce believes they’re more productive at home.

“Office noise and lack of privacy are significant problems, discouraging many employees from returning,” says Pradere. “People say they simply can’t concentrate and it’s affecting their work.”

The answer, then, is that more work is needed to bring expectations closer together. A big part of it will be creating offices that deliver what’s needed for a hybrid workforce. Pradere suggests office use data and human-centred design are key to cracking the performance code.


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2. Will AI go from hype to habit?

AI, and the future it has come to represent, has taken the world by storm. It’s creating a job boom for related skills. Property industries such as data centres have expanded on the back of growth expectations.

But as the initial excitement wears off, organizations are grappling with how to fully harness the technology to fuel their future goals.

There’s no lack of conviction from investors, developers, and occupiers, who agree it’s among the top three game-changing technologies for real estate in coming years, not least for decarbonizing real estate.

“It’s becoming the norm to use AI to make light work of complex data, whether financial, contractual, or the vast datasets generated by smart buildings,” says Yao Morin, Chief Technology Officer, JLLT. “Companies across all sectors are exploring how AI can drive efficiency.”

However, she cautions that as the use of AI becomes more common place, businesses should be mindful of the various AI regulations that continue to emerge across the world, concerning data quality, IP rights, privacy and data security.

3. Will there be enough net zero offices?

Demand is on the rise for real estate that helps organizations meet their net zero carbon (NZC) goals. But for now, there’s just not enough space, particularly in the office sector, to accommodate everyone.

In the U.S., the supply of low-carbon workspaces will be 57 million square feet short by 2030, while no cities in the Asia Pacific region have adequate supply. In Europe, low NZC building demand is outstripping supply by a factor of three to one. 

“The gap between supply and demand is only set to widen,” says Guy Grainger, Global Head of Sustainability Services and ESG at JLL. “It’s creating opportunities for forward-thinking developers and investors to consider retrofitting existing office buildings with the prospect of higher rents in the short-term and protecting value in the long-term.” 

Grainger points out the commercial case for sustainable buildings has never been stronger.

“Mounting costs from climate risk, increased tenant demand, tougher regulation and restrictive finance all point to investment in decarbonization as the smart long-term strategy” he says. 

4. What next for real estate investment?

Commercial real estate investment is in the early stages of a significant reallocation of capital.

“Depending on location, it’s fair to say that diversification will take different forms," says Sean Coghlan, Global Head of Capital Markets. “And even for those sectors which are currently out of favor, we still see a place for global, diversified portfolios.”

For new strategies, Coghlan says deployment will be a hurdle, given varied degrees of barriers to entry, competition and crowding-in strategies. “That really reinforces the need for investors to act with agility and have real-time market connectivity.”

As a clearer picture emerges, investors’ existing holdings will need to be assessed, he adds.

5. Will investors become conversion converts?

While office vacancy rates hit an all-time high, and housing shortages abound, investors and landlords are questioning what to do with buildings past their prime. Converting these spaces into apartments, life-science labs, luxury hotels, data centres or even vertical farms are becoming increasingly attractive options.

“With many buildings now out of date – if not yet out of use – and others simply failing to generate suitable yields, conversions are increasingly on the cards,” says Walid Goudiard, Head of Project and Development Services, EMEA.

He adds that as more repurposing projects are finished, developers are gaining valuable experience. Financing is also becoming more readily available.

“The environmental and social benefits are now clear, while future financial rewards are boosting investor confidence in the emerging business case for adaptive reuse strategies,” says Goudiard.

Contact Flore Pradere

Global Work Dynamics Research Director

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