Skate to where the puck is going, not where it’s been: 8 real estate trends to watch

One of the most interesting pieces of content we’ve ever done was back in 2015 – a round table with some extraordinarily smart people. 

Out of it, we delivered a detailed thought-leadership piece that no one was really ready for at the time called,  “Are you ready for 2020?”

I just laughed out loud as I typed that… for two reasons:

  1. Who (other than Nostradamus, perhaps!) could have predicted what we were going to go through in 2020, and
  2. In 2015, 2020 seemed so far away, like light years into the future, so how could anything we were talking about be remotely relevant to where we are now?

And yet, here we are halfway through 2022, and the seven years since that round table have flown by. Just around the corner now is 2025. And not too far beyond that is 2030.  

To be ready for the future, you really do need to make like Wayne Gretzky and “skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” 

Underpinning Elite Retreat this year are the themes of culture, innovation and strategy. 

So I thought it might be fun to have a look at the predictions that came out of 2020 – and how close we actually were.

You’ll see below our 2015 predictions for 2020, what’s happening now in 2022, and where that puck might be heading in 2025.

Let’s go.

2020 prediction #1: Types of jobs required by the property industry will change as small business adapts to meet current and ongoing productivity challenges

This prediction was about salespeople not “doing it all themselves” – being home stagers, ad creators, customer service managers, video editors and so on, particularly as things like marketing were getting so technical. 

Our panellists thought that to be truly productive, everyone would be much better off sticking to ‘listing and selling’ and outsourcing the other jobs.

2022 reality: True. We have seen plenty of new mainstream roles in real estate businesses; it’s not uncommon now to have not just have an IT manager but a marketing manager, a photographer, a wellness expert, a COVID marshall, a copywriter and a videographer… the list goes on. 

If you don’t hire those people yourself, and you’re a sole trader or agent-preneur, you can quasi-hire them by being a part of an umbrella group, like The Agent’s Agency, UrbanX, Area Specialist and even the traditional franchises now are doing a similar thing. And you can now hire PM as a service who will do all the legwork for you when it comes to your rent roll. 

And let’s not forget offshoring from industry specialist companies like PMVA to non-specialist outsourcers like Fiverr and Upwork.

2025 and beyond: I think the industry will see another role become mainstream in the coming years: CEO. It’s a solid pillar of succession planning, and hiring specialist CEOs has happened at a few businesses I know about, including Ray White Surfers Paradise. 

As for working together, conjunction is not a new thing in the real estate industry, but there will likely be more cooperation and co-opetition when it comes to the younger generations at work. Nigel Dalton wrote this great article entitled How Fortnite is creating the next generation of workers

“You can’t win Fortnite without a squad; the same fundamentals will apply to work squads,” says Nigel.

2020 prediction #2: Disruption will be more likely to come from outside the industry, with a different revenue model that includes selling or providing horizontal and vertical adjacencies.

I recall a bit of a mike drop when Rob Marston suggested selling a home for zero per cent commission but charging for a whole lot of other adjacent services, such as removalists, storage, decluttering for downsizers, and the list goes on.

Obviously, the real estate people in the room didn’t like that one, and personal confirmation biases all around the room said it would never happen.

2022 reality: True, but not yet in real estate. What was actually being described here is what we now know as the ‘platform model’. For example, Facebook is free, but they earn revenue from advertising – and also from adjacent services like Marketplace.

The local library might still be free, but they make their money from the adjacent coffee shop. Scott Bateman from Kolmeo explored many of these possibilities in Transform 2021. 

2025 and beyond:  While we might have been a bit ahead of ourselves in 2020 talking about this stuff relating to the real estate industry – it is not out of the question in the future – especially when you think about things as “jobs to be done” in a Clayton Christenson kind of way. 

2020 prediction #3: Disruption could also be ‘born’ out of the need for increased urbanisation (apartment dwellings) due to the desire to remain close to major town centres to take advantage of things like share cars, food delivery, concierge services and other conveniences. Crowdfunding real estate developments may add to this disruption.

Back in 2020, the whole build to rent thing was kind of new, and there wasn’t a pandemic. We were all thinking along the lines of like-minded communities bunking in together in co-living type spaces as well, which would be managed on-site (and not by a traditional property manager).

2022 reality: Sort of true. We were a bit early on the crowdfunding thing. Build to rent, I would say, is now mainstream. The last two years of the pandemic have seen people want to leave built-up areas and town centres, but as we enter a new normal, will that continue? And does it apply to the younger generation? And how do we solve the current supply crisis?

2025 and beyond: Every property sale involves big money, and no two properties are exactly the same. 

Technology has come a long way in making advertising and searching for homes much easier, and now platforms like Market Buy, RESO, Openn, Propps, and others make it easy to make and close offers. 

But the reason people still buy groceries in the supermarket (even with the current threat of catching COVID) is because they want to press the avocado and eyeball the sliced ham before it gets packaged. 

Different parts of the transaction and the property journey will continue to be optimised by specialists in their chosen area who can make a portion of the transaction safer, easier and more enjoyable.

Watch the Fintech space; that will get interesting with affordability still being an issue and a heap of digital lenders and alternative financing solutions that are popping up. 

2020 prediction #4: A true industry disrupter would not include any of the current ‘self-titled’ disrupters.

Everyone at the table basically said that if you’re calling yourself a disrupter, you’re not a disrupter (see, I told you we hang out with smart people…) 

“Unbundling does not equal true disruption, as the current disrupters are just selling the same process, using the same language…”

2022 reality: All true. At the time of the round table, Purplebricks was the ‘disrupter’ everyone loved to hate. But at the end of the day, they really just were a discounter and not a true disrupter

2025 and beyond: I’m kind of glad as an industry, we’ve mostly dropped that narrative of ‘disruption’. I’d rather call it innovation; and we’re seeing all sorts of people thinking about problem-solving different parts of what I would softly call legacy processes (but really, you could say it’s also known as “the way we’ve always done things around here…”)

Here’s a recent example: An organisational psychologist creates a tool that cuts time in tenant selection with an easy to interpret report that compliments employment and rental history checks.

This report uses some smarts and is able to predict the future behaviour of the tenant. This helps reduce the risk of choosing a bad tenant while saving time and eliminating some of the usual confirmation bias that comes with traditional processes. So it’s replacing a complex and unreliable piece of the jigsaw puzzle with something smoother and more reliable.

2020 prediction #5: Your data and your CRM would hold the keys to future success; how good your data is and how well you are able to ‘mine’ this data and create opportunities could mean success or failure. 

“The challenge is not about creating the technology that allows you to know more; but about making sense of huge amounts of data, deciphering what is important and what isn’t.”

2022 reality: CoreLogic was first to market back in about 2018 with some predictive analytics to do with who’s going to sell next in the area and teamed up with some data scientists to create custom Facebook audiences (too bad all Facebook’s privacy dramas put an end to that!) 

We’ve seen other AI companies pop up like Propic, and RiTA, who are very good at mining sales databases based on certain time periods and events occurring.

I’ve been playing with an AI writing tool called, which does some things well, but still does not write anything like me.

2025 and beyond: What we call AI in real estate now will involve machine learning rather than the “if this, then that” kind of thing we are labelling as AI at the moment. The ability to nurture consumers at times they are not typically in the buying, selling or renting process will get better. Being able to match people with properties accurately will be an entry-level skill. 

2020 prediction #6: Niches and knowing who your ‘tribe’ really is will be crucial. You won’t be able to speak to all future customers in the same ‘voice’ but will need to adapt your approach. 

Obviously, one or more of our panellists had been on the receiving end of a few real estate emails that were all ‘just listed, just sold’, and had found it completely irrelevant to their situation at that point in time. 

2022 reality: Unfortunately, this hasn’t changed as much as we hoped it would. This is likely where a good course on segmentation or some AI (see above) would greatly assist.

2025 and beyond: A real estate agent is (still) perfectly positioned to be a media company for the local area. I wonder what might happen if a couple of clever agents in each area decided to create a local news service inspired by something like Axios Local

It would serve a few purposes, a) great way to build and nurture a database, b) people would actually read it, and c) gives you a sizeable audience there where there are lots of different revenue models, including platform type models to pick and choose from.

2020 prediction #7: The recruitment challenge and attracting people to the industry could be resolved by providing strong leadership and a clear and ethical sense of purpose, as well as truly meaningful work.

“The Real Estate Industry has a reputation for being fast-paced, and unfortunately, that’s even more so when it comes to turning over staff. Due to lack of onboarding, support and mentoring, the job can sometimes be a revolving door; and keeping the best talent is often a problem…”

2022 reality: We’re getting there. The first thing that sprang to my mind there is “Build your best life”, almost a slogan now from the one and only Sherrie Storor.

We’ve all woken up to the fact that being told working all the hours the almighty sends is not right for everyone, and we have seen in the past it’s led to wide-ranging stress and burnout. In PM, it’s getting even harder due to legislation changes which perpetuate the narrative of the ‘big bad landlord’ and the ‘poor defenceless tenant’.

Part of this is also the reason that traditional Mum and Dad investors are finding it all too hard, which is a factor leading us to the supply crisis we have now. 

2025 and beyond: It will get harder to attract people to the industry if leaders cannot adequately demonstrate balance in their own lives or be able to have a conversation about wellness that is deeper than a weekly fruit platter and an annual leave day on your birthday.

Leaders need to be able to ‘walk the walk’ on more specific topics that are important to high performers, such as psychological safety and financial well-being. And we still need to channel our inner Branson to find that higher sense of purpose or values (beyond profit) which will be the reason that people want to come and work with us.

2020 prediction #8: The ‘Internet of Things’ could be a catalyst for a different type of disruption, requiring agents to re-skill and adopt new technology.

How long has IoT been around? I remember it from the first ‘dot-bomb’ when I worked for Cisco back in 2001. We often took people for tours of an iHome in Glebe, where the fridge, the entertainment system, the security system and even the coffee pot were interconnected. So literally, each device could speak to the other via the Internet. The fridge could even ‘speak’ to Woolworths.

2022 reality: I think, like Bon Jovi, we are ‘halfway there’. You only have to look at all of our reports from CES over the years to see that everything is getting connected via the internet – from dog fences to airconditioning systems. Commercial real estate has seen the ‘digital twin evolve’, to a point where I think that’s pretty mainstream now too.

But I did think that by now, PMs might be seeing a dashboard of sorts that could track assets, appliances and utility usage and be able to predict when things would wear out or fail in some way – making more of their job proactive rather than reactive.

Also, the idea for measuring and managing the concept of energy efficiency and sustainability of a property and how that might add to capital value, and/or rental return was something that I thought we would be seeing more of by now.

2025 and beyond: As I write this, an email has landed in my inbox from a company called “MyDevices”. They want to know if I want a demo of their product which is looking to provide remote monitoring for property managers for things like electricity usage, water and gas leak detection, carbon monoxide detection, fire detection and an easy web/mobile application for easy data visualisation. 

What else?

Of course, there are so many more factors at play, and I’m just scratching the surface here – there is so much going on right now that has the potential to shape and change the real estate industry in the areas of both culture and innovation. 

Often everyone says “success leaves clues” when it comes to the real estate industry, and in some cases, indeed it does. 

But my question to you is – do you want to skate where the puck has been… or where the puck is going?

Is your business ready for 2025 (and beyond)?

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Samantha McLean

Samantha McLean is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Elite Agent and Host of the Elevate Podcast.