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Overheard: Houston experts weigh in on the future of tech in real estate

What's the future of real estate — and how have technology and the pandemic affected its trajectory? A panel of experts discuss. Photo via Getty Images

The residential and commercial real estate industries have both evolved drastically as new technologies have emerged and in light of the pandemic. But where does that leave renters, homeowners, Realtors, brokers, and everyone else?

A panel of experts looked into their crystal balls and tried to answer this question at a panel for Houston Tech Rodeo last week. They discussed diversity and inclusion, home buying and rental trends, post-pandemic office design, and more on the virtual panel moderated by Allen Thornton, CEO of Money For Your Mission.

To hit the highlights from the virtual panel, check out some overheard moments below. To stream the full broadcast, click here.

“We’re dealing with a different consumer. When you look at the largest pool of buyers of residential real estate — it’s millennials.”

— Bobby Bryant, CEO of Ask Doss. Bryant says these buyers want information than just pictures, square footage, and the school it's zoned to. They want to know about the neighborhood they will be a part of.

“Folks are realizing how much waste comes from buildings — the buildings we spend 90 percent of our time in.”

Natalie Goodman, CEO of Incentifind. She adds that renters and homebuyers, as well as commercial tenants, are increasingly demanding more sustainable options. And the government will pay you to implement these things, Goodman says.

“Before the pandemic, there were already over 60 million freelancers across the country. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that a whole lot more people than just that 60 million are capable of doing a really fantastic job of powering the economy from home."

Reda Hicks, CEO of GotSpot. People are going to be using space differently, so it's about finding those needs and providing the right access to them.

“As human beings, we’ll be drawn to operating and cooperating with other people in environments that are conducive to collaborating and creativity. We’ll probably see innovation ecosystems transition their operational pieces to an online platform. … But we’ll just naturally want to engage with other humans again."

Alexander Gras, managing director of The Cannon. Gras adds that the opportunity for in-person collisions is too important to us as humans.

“People are getting educated and educating themselves, and there’s more inclusion. That means more opportunities for individuals of color to invest in or own residential or commercial real estate.”

— Mark Erogbogbo, influencer at 40 Acre Plan. These emerging opportunities, he adds, need to continue.

“When you don’t need to go to a specific office every day and you can work anywhere, well then you can live anywhere.”

— Sebastien Long, CEO of Lodgeur. The pandemic changed how people regarded their housing. Many opted for more spacious rentals with backyards in less crowded areas. Americans don't have a much time off as Europeans, he adds, so they are rethinking how they work remotely.

“Residential real estate has to be the only industry that sells a product that it doesn’t service.”

— Bryant says, explaining how homebuying is one of the most expensive purchases in people's lives that they use for 8 years on average, yet it's a one-time transaction that also spans across many platforms. "The future of real estate brings everything together in one place."

“What CRE needs to think about if they are going to attract and retain tenants … then they need to think about resilience and build for more extreme weather. And that’s where incentives are going to spike.”

— Goodman adds, referencing the winter storm and the hurricanes Houston gets every season.

“For a very long time, (commercial real estate) has been an industry based on a 10-year lease. There are few people who are willing to take on that kind of relationship because that’s a decade, and nobody knows what’s going to happen tomorrow.”

— Hicks says about the challenge CRE owners face with finding new tenants.

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Building Houston

 
 

Halliburton Labs has announced the addition of three clean energy tech companies. Photo courtesy of Halliburton

Halliburton has again added a handful of energy tech startups to its Houston-based incubator.

Three companies — Matrix Sensors, Renew Power Systems, and SunGreenH2 — have joined Halliburton Labs as its newest clean energy participants.

“Companies across the energy landscape are interested in scalable innovations that improve the cost, reliability, and sustainability of energy,” says Managing Director Dale Winger in the news release. “Our tailored program combines expert support, access to a global network, and the physical resources for participants to scale. We’re excited to help these companies accelerate their market traction.”

Halliburton, a provider of energy equipment and services, launched Halliburton Labs in 2020. Last September was the incubator's last cohort addition. The next Halliburton Labs Finalists Pitch Day is Friday, January 27, at the Ion. The event will include pitches from 10 innovative, early-stage energy tech companies. Registration is open for the event.

Here are details, according to Halliburton, about the three new startups at the incubator.

Matrix Sensors

Using a new class of gas-adsorbing materials known as metal-organic frameworks to develop the world’s first quantitative gas sensor on a chip, Matrix Sensors has created a touch-free technology that enables advancements in sensor size, power, cost, and performance to address limitations of current gas sensor technologies, which require manual calibration every six months. The company is based in San Diego, California.

“With Halliburton’s global reach, we can apply our technology to some of the biggest problems facing the energy sector today, including CO2 sensors for energy efficient buildings and methane sensors for leak detection,” says Matrix Sensors CEO Steve Yamamoto in the release.

Renew Power Systems

RPSi, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is a clean-tech company that develops hardware and software solutions that enable flexible and sustainable grid infrastructure. RPSi uses power electronics to connect renewable energy resources, such as wind and solar, with each other and the grid.

“Our mission is to help change the way the world generates and distributes energy,” says CEO Zach Emond in the release. “With RPSi technology, a diverse range of domestic and global communities will benefit from the acceleration of renewable energy resources that work with new and existing grid infrastructure and improve access to affordable, sustainable, and resilient electricity.”

SunGreenH2

Singapore-based SunGreenH2 builds high-performance hardware for electrolyzer cells, stacks, and systems that increase hydrogen production, decrease energy use, and reduce platinum group metals use. The company supplies hardware components for alkaline and proton-exchange membrane electrolyzers. Its modular, high-efficiency anion exchange membrane (AEM) electrolyzer stack, which is being commercialized, uses renewable power to produce low-cost green hydrogen for industries, transport, and energy storage.

“We are excited to unlock the future of green hydrogen production. With the help of Halliburton’s engineering and manufacturing expertise, we plan to commercialize and roll out our product in major international markets,” says Tulika Raj, co-founder and CEO of the company, in the release.

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