Pandemic forges desire for human connections, second homes, say experts

Among other themes uncovered during ‘Wellness & Real Estate’ webinar by PropertyGuru Asia Real Estate Summit

The drive to reconnect to nature and one another as well as the will for self-preservation and achieving top physical form during the pandemic were just some of the themes uncovered in the latest webinar organised by the team behind PropertyGuru Asia Real Estate Summit.

The Covid-19 outbreak has forced consumers and property seekers around the world to reassess the ways they live, work, play and exercise, according to the webinar titled “Wellness & Real Estate 2020: Fitness and leisure in the social distancing era.”

The online conference, which aired via Zoom on Thursday, 13 August, highlighted the new norms of maintaining health, fitness, wellness and ergonomics as fitness centres and offices closed worldwide while holiday home seekers shunned overseas markets.

Viewers from Botswana to the US logged on to the one-hour webinar to listen to speakers Tjeert Kwant, CEO, Banyan Group ThailandDustin Jefferson Onghanseng, CEO & Co-Founder, uHooMichael Jones, CEO & Founder, Pain-Free Me; and Richard Cohen, CEO & Founder, The Lab Bangkok, talk about the challenges of staying afloat as a business in the tenuously connected fields of vacation homes, hospitality, fitness and wellness amenities, physical therapy, and air quality during the pandemic.

Unlike certain property markets in Southeast Asia, Thailand has had a reliable fallback in its domestic market in terms of tourism and real estate demand amid the pandemic, according to Kwant.

“We have had to switch from international visitors and home buyers to the domestic market,” he said. “The domestic market began seeing increasing interest in having a house in areas outside Bangkok like Hua Hin. People want to escape to get back to nature with more social distancing opportunities. People can leave metropolitan Bangkok, enjoy golf and other activities, and also spend time in second homes in a more natural, relaxed environment.”

The lockdown measures caused by the outbreak have compelled a lot of people, especially foreigners stranded in the country, to leave the capital and work online from Banyan’s villas in the province, he added. This has translated to high occupancy rates for its villa rentals.

“The way Thailand has been able to handle Covid makes it a very safe environment, a safe haven for many people to travel to in the future and also buy their second homes,” Kwant said.

For his part, Cohen highlighted the all-too human need to bond with other people despite the rise of digital equipment and tools that facilitate solitary home workouts. This, he believes, places an enduring importance more than ever on gyms and fitness amenities that allow consumers to work out together.

“While we still embrace modern technology, we still believe in the need for human connection. One of the things that we will never be able to reproduce at home or onscreen is the experience – in a social sense. Human beings are actually quite sensory,” said Cohen.

As offices close indefinitely around the world, Jones has found himself at the receiving end of inquiries about the ergonomics of working from home. The session included practical tips and exercises from the physical therapy and rehabilitation expert on how to set up one’s home office.

“I’ve had a lot of my clients that send me snapshots of how they’re actually working from home. Our necks are slumped over the computer, we have forward rolled shoulders, our lower back is killing us – we’re not practicing proper ergonomics,” Jones said.

Fortunately, the pandemic has inspired plenty of residents to pay more attention to the quality of indoor air as they spend more and more time at home, according to Onghanseng.

“Prior to Covid-19, it has always been about energy efficiency, and the concept of health has always been low in priority. In the last two to four months, we have seen the concept of healthy buildings and healthy homes hit the top. That is already a priority right now, and we think that would continue,” Onghanseng said.

The entire session was moderated by Kristin Thorsteins, partner at Portman Investment and a member of the judging panel at the PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards (Singapore).

“Wellness & Real Estate 2020: Fitness and leisure in the social distancing era” is part of an ongoing series by PropertyGuru Asia Real Estate Summit, the tech and thought leadership platform of PropertyGuru, Southeast Asia’s leading property technology company. The webinar series is part of the proptech company’s ongoing efforts to provide post-pandemic insights and solutions for large-scale property investors, property developers, architects and designers. 

PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards, a co-located event of the PropertyGuru Asia Real Estate Summit, has expanded over recent years to represent niche segments in categories such as Best Wellness Development, Best Lifestyle Development, and Special Recognition for Public Facility. 

For more information, email [email protected].

You can view presentations from the speakers in the attachment below. Here’s a recording of the live webinar: