Realty - wide range of topics and a question mark.

Tim Harrup

The second and final day of Realty provided those attending with another wide variety of conferences in which to participate. It was also the occasion for Pro-realestate to ask organizer Mathieu Van Marcke (for Easyfairs) for his thoughts on the success of this first event to take place in the Gare Maritime.

Among the conferences to be held on the second day of Realty were, for example, the Rise of Asset Management’, hosted by Expertise News, and an opportunity for students to make a pitch to potential employers. Co-living, c-working… many of the hot topics of the day were all covered. There was also a look at ‘The Workplace after Covid’. This, inasmuch as it impacts Belgium, will be the subject of a separate article on this website in the coming days.

One of the other conferences involved a subject which does not normally appear on this website, but which did reveal some wider ranging trends which are of interest to all. The topic was ‘The Rental Market Shift’ which looked at how the private rental market for apartments and houses is evolving. The balance between rental and acquisition shifts according to which part of the country you are in, and according to age range. The younger generation are seeking a higher degree of flexibility, and are therefore not necessarily willing to be tied to the ownership of a house – rental is a much more flexible option. This trend almost exactly mirrors what has been emerging in the automotive industry for the past few years – it is frequently stated that: ‘The youngest generation no longer wants to own a car, but to use one when required’. This is what has led to the surge in car-sharing schemes such as Cambio. A home cannot be quite as flexible, but the trend is there to be seen.

Where the professional side of home rental is concerned, few are as knowledgeable as panel member Sophie Lambrighs, CEO of Eaglestone Belgium and formerly CEO of Home Invest Belgium. She stated that there may appear to be more major investors (and professional investors normally means rental by the end users) in the city centres now, because there are more projects – around the canal for example. But statistics surrounding acquisition for own occupancy or for rental are difficult to obtain, so it is not possible to be precise. In fact, she said, there have always been investors in the city centre, because it is very much oriented towards rental.

Realty 2022 – same again?

Realty organizer Mathieu Van Marcke took the event to Knokke the last time it was able to be held (2019) and has now brought it back to Brussels and to Tour & Taxis. It was therefore pertinent to ask him about these decisions and about the success of this year’s event.

Pro-realestate: In the Realty newspaper you state that the Gare Maritime is the place which corresponds ideally to the values you wish to put over. But you also state that Realty could be itinerant and take place almost anywhere… Mathieu Van Marcke: First of all, we have developed a concept that can be replicated anywhere. As you can see, it is very easily put together – all we need is a roof and a car park, and preferably to be close to a railway station. So it is today in Brussels, but we are not married to Brussels and we could even operate in other cities if certain cities propose that we do it there. It is a challenge to be outside of Brussels, to be honest, but cities such as Antwerp, Ghent, Liège… could be possibilities.

PRE: One other question: there is not much talk of international investors this year. Why?

MVM: This is related to the post-Covid period we’re living in. It’s a very busy time for international investors, and let’s be honest, Brussels and Belgian cities are not on the prime list they are looking at for new investments. So I guess they are focusing on markets which are at the top of their lists and we have to wait a little bit before their interest comes round to us.