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Your Competitive Edge: Reframing the Impact of Technology on CRE

Change Is On the Horizon for Commercial Real Estate

The digital revolution of the last decade has left no industry untouched. Companies across all sectors are leveraging advanced technologies — artificial intelligence (AI), mobile platforms, data analytics — to engineer innovative products, services, and customer experiences. The rapid and continual advancement of technology has ensured that it plays an integral role in our lives. 

We are entering an era of “data ubiquity,” one in which a new generation of nimble, data-centric apps exploit massive data sets generated by both enterprises and consumers.1 In 2021, data is central to our existence — whether you’re a giant enterprise or an individual person.

These significant large-scale advancements have entirely reshaped consumer behavior. The proliferation of data sources, and the explosion of user data they generate, has created an environment in which consumers are more educated and savvy than ever before. As the table stakes rise across markets everywhere, consumer demands change, and service providers have to adapt in order to meet their expectations.

Adapting to ubiquitous digital connectivity is now essential to competitiveness in most sectors of our economy.2 Both established and start-up players in every industry are being forced to compete in new ways.

We hear it all the time: while the commercial real estate (CRE) industry has been slower than other industries to adapt to change, conditions are ripe for disruption. We’ve already seen the far-reaching impact of technology on residential real estate. Before the rise of IDX websites, home buyers relied on real estate agents to identify available properties. Today, 89% of people begin their search online.3 Database sites like Zillow and Trulia have enabled buyers and sellers to access market data instantly, with the click of a button.

The evolution of residential agents foreshadows the changes to come in CRE. Already, tenants and buyers are able to access commercial listings and data through free websites such as Crexi, and property owners can utilize these same websites to list properties without the help of a broker.

Although innovation has already begun to alter the role brokers play in CRE transactions, the ripples of change should not be feared. In fact, industry leaders are now face-to-face with immense opportunity: brokerages that choose to lean in and embrace technological advancement are sure to gain a sharp competitive edge through more efficient operating and delivering higher levels of client service.

Using Technology & Automation to Create Efficiencies

“Time is money,” they say, an old adage that certainly rings true for CRE.

Utilizing tech and automation streamlines operations and increasingly enables brokers and brokerage firms to eliminate the manual administrative tasks that typically slow processes down. Leveraging technology to work smarter, faster, and leaner allows brokers to focus their time on building strong client relationships, winning more listings, and maximizing their success. 

In order to understand how CRE tech can and will pull us into the future of the industry, let’s discuss some of the common inefficiencies found within brokerage models today.

On the marketing side, creating and maintaining multiple pieces of marketing collateral, listings, and websites fosters data duplication and increases the odds of human error. When listing data changes, each piece of collateral must be individually updated and possibly reformatted.

Ensuring cohesive branding across all collateral and platforms is another vital yet time-consuming task for brokers. Simply put, a consistent brand is a recognizable brand. Greater brand recognition boosts credibility, creates a sense of reliability, and improves client loyalty. Creating, implementing, and maintaining templates for property flyers, offering memorandums, and personalized proposals for potential clients often requires a dedicated staff member with specialized training. For brokers who produce their own materials, these administrative tasks cut down on the time they have available to spend building the essential one-on-one relationships that close deals.

Long recognized as an early tech adopter, SVN has positioned the brand to be on the bleeding edge of CRE technology for over 30 years. SVN co-developed the industry’s first online publishing platform, Buildout. Available to all SVN offices, Buildout’s best-in-class software technology provides database management, pipeline reporting, back-office tools and more, enhancing your entire deal cycle in a single platform.

Buildout eliminates redundant administrative processes and increases productivity by automating and updating listing data across all marketing channels with one single click. SVN Advisors are able to utilize professionally designed templates to generate a wide range of marketing pieces and proposals so they can secure a listing more quickly and sell faster. In short, efficient and cohesive marketing technology effectively streamlines backend work and, in turn, generates more listings.

Buildout also streamlines back-office operations. Advisors can efficiently generate commission vouchers and track payable/receivable invoices and deposits. The platform also features a deal pipeline management dashboard with the ability to share listing activity reports with clients directly.

Much of the technology being used in CRE today streamlines the tedious back-and-forth of buying and selling of commercial real estate. Models like SVN, which leverage tech and automation to streamline operations, are able to provide greater value for their clients than competing firms operating under traditional methods.

Tapping Into Tech for Advisor Insights

Commercial real estate data is an enormously powerful resource. Ownership, transaction details, and the financials surrounding a property listing offer an endless number of insights that brokers can leverage to advise clients and win listings. However, curating data into meaningful reports manually is a time-consuming endeavor.

Real Capital Analytics (RCA) is the leading supplier and authority on data that drives commercial real estate. All SVN Advisors have access to the entire U.S. Portal (including Canada) to use RCA’s unique knowledge and perspective coupled with timely transaction data. This includes access to their 100,000+ detailed investor bios and their valuable intelligence on marketing and pricing, capital flows, and investment trends. Additionally, RCA regularly provides informative newsletters and bulletins which can be used to support marketing efforts.

Collaborative data exchange services, such as CompStak, are quickly gaining popularity in CRE. Compstak is a free broker-focused platform that compiles lease comparables and allows users to filter by submarket, base and effective rent, asset class, transaction size, and more. Brokers are able to exchange comps for credits and redeem those credits for other comps when needed.

Ultimately, brokers who tap into the sophisticated data tools available in the market today will continue to differentiate themselves from the competition and bring greater value to their clients.

Staying Ahead of the Curve

Executives in every industry are keeping a close eye on emerging technologies and the correlation to their business, from impact to leverage. For CRE, evolving tech and automation trigger fundamental shifts in client demands, expectations, and behaviors. SVN is positioned on the forefront of these industry changes, continually adapting to remain ahead of the curve in order to provide value for our clients and communities.

Clients today expect a fast, seamless experience from start to finish — powerful search capabilities, a transparent brokerage process, on-demand flexibility at every stage. SVN utilizes emerging tech and automation in its platforms to provide clients with analyses of current market conditions, investments, future opportunities, and new projects. SVN uses new tools and technologies to analyze information from multiple data sources, inclusive of the valuable data clients already have, and then provide actionable insight to clients that goes way beyond the transaction.

The effects of tech and automation in the industry won’t negate the need for experienced and knowledgeable CRE professionals. Rather, brokerage models like SVN understand that technology could be a key enabler for talent transformation, allowing companies to streamline existing talent systems and processes, drive efficiencies, and make more informed and effective decisions.4

Models like SVN, which embrace automation, collaboration and cooperation, are uniquely positioned to take market share in this era of change, as client behaviors and expectations evolve.

For CRE professionals, leaning into the adoption of new technologies will enhance the selling and buying experience for clients now and in the future. Companies that move to embrace these changes in technology will find that both they and their clients benefit from it. Those who choose to embrace collaboration and harness innovative technologies are the ones who will bring the future forward, make real change, and help to redefine the CRE industry.

Endnotes

  1. https://www.informationweek.com/big-data/big-data-analytics/the-age-of-data-ubiquity-sensors-spread/d/d-id/1109327?
  2. https://hbr.org/2014/11/digital-ubiquity-how-connections-sensors-and-data-are-revolutionizing-business#:~:text=Adapting%20to%20ubiquitous%20digital%20connectivity,most%20sectors%20of%20our%20economy.&text=We%20have%20seen%20that%20digital,replacement%20but%20connectivity%20and%20recombination
  3. https://ipropertymanagement.com/research/zillow-statistics
  4. https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/industry/financial-services/future-of-commercial-real-estate-talent.html

Planning for Post-Pandemic Success: Preparing for Commercial Real Estate’s “Next Normal”

With the global vaccine rollout now underway, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about an economic rebound ahead. As lockdowns end, restrictions lift, and new COVID-19 cases continue on a downswing trend, the commercial real estate industry can certainly expect some relief as we enter into the “Next-Normal.”

The CDC COVID Data Tracker (below) tracks daily trends in the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. as reported to the CDC by state and territory. As the below Data Tracker illustrates, the COVID-19 surge trend appears to be behind us.

Source: CDC COVID Data Tracker

While we aren’t completely out of the woods yet, things are looking up for industry recovery. And although we still have many unanswered questions, we also now have the forward momentum we lacked for so long, which allows for the big-picture planning needed for success in a post-pandemic world.

The global pandemic upended daily life for more than a year. It has changed how we live, where we work, even what we wear on our faces. As a result, we are seeing major shifts in consumer behavior, consumption, and lifestyle, among other things. Data collected during 2020 and currently in 2021 shows that several sectors of the commercial real industry are certainly still feeling the weight of these shifts.

Sectoral Impact

RETAIL

The Retail sector took a significant blow as the pandemic made nonessential in-person shopping quite literally illegal for a period. As Americans sheltered indoors, everyday activities such as going to the grocery store were now weighed under a contagion risk analysis. Consumption that would have normally been completed in-person has quickly flowed into online orders. The e-commerce share of retail consumption has steadily risen for more than two decades, reaching 11.8% in Q1 20201, but as the full effect of the lockdown reached a fever pitch in Q2, the share ballooned to 16.1%. While the share came down to 14.0% through Q4 2020, reflecting some natural reversion, the familiarity gained by consumers cannot be undone, and the pandemic has permanently accelerated some retail activity away from brick-and-mortar.

At the same time, manufacturers don’t have the same options they once did: As governments enacted state-wide lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders to limit the spread of COVID-19, manufacturers across the globe — which typically operate with long lead times — were brought to a complete halt. The manufacturing sub-sector has since been fighting an uphill battle, but as market conditions continue to improve, there is hope that factories will have the capacity to gain back some of the productions they lost in 2020.

INDUSTRIAL

For the Industrial sector, particularly warehouse spaces, there was a period in 2020 just ahead of the pandemic and the rapid shift to record levels of online shopping when rent growth for the overall Industrial sector was pacing ahead of cold storage. (A cold storage warehouse is used to store fresh and/or frozen perishable fruits or vegetables, or any combination thereof, at the desired temperature to maintain the quality of the product.) Cold storage rent growth has been rising since the start of the pandemic in 2020. Prior to the pandemic, rent for cold storage space averaged around $10 per square foot; currently, that number could vault to as much as $30 per square foot.2

As of February 2021, the Industrial sector has seen production drop by nearly 5%, compared to a year prior, while retail sales have increased by over 6%.3

HOSPITALITY

Hospitality was, and continues to be, among the hardest-hit industries during the pandemic. Some research suggests that recovery to pre-COVID-19 levels for the industry could take until 2023 or later. However, things already seem to be looking up for Hospitality: For the week ending March 13, 2021, U.S. hotel industry RevPAR was $53.45 — a decline of only 15.8% from the same week in 2020, which is mostly a function of easier comparisons, according to data from STR, CoStar’s hospitality analytics firm.4

Looking Ahead: The Road To Recovery

Economic recovery in a post-pandemic world depends on several factors. The economic impact of COVID-19 is being felt on a global scale, and with specific sectors more severely impacted, some may experience a quicker rebound than others once the crisis is behind us. Given the universal lifestyle changes people have had to make, and their subsequent effects on the economy, the COVID-19 crisis has pushed many industries to adjust rapidly… and continuously.

The recovery rate of various sectors will have a massive impact regionally over the next two years, according to a report by KPMG. And not all industries are equally affected: certain sectors of the economy will thrive once the pandemic is over, while others will face a seemingly endless headwind.

The Industrial sector seems poised for post-pandemic growth. A few sub-sectors are already beginning to see significant recovery:

  • Warehouses underlying e-commerce, such as cold storage space
  • Big-box retail selling essential goods, such as Walmart and Target
  • Office space in certain locations, such as suburban areas

In the long run, the Retail sector is likely to be the biggest casualty as we exit the pandemic. This sector was already struggling before COVID-19, with vacant suburban shopping malls and big retailers shuttering stores across the country. Since the pandemic hit, many well-known brands have all filed for bankruptcy. The weakness of the retailers themselves, the accelerated growth of e-commerce, and questions about how quickly shoppers will head back to the stores all weigh against a strong recovery.

If the laws of physics extend to commercial real estate, then 2021 should be a year of recovery in the Retail sector, especially as restrictions on density are further relaxed and the resumption of normalcy gains steam. Notwithstanding the short-term recovery, Retail remains in a period of secular reorganization, and the sector remains open to disruption for the foreseeable future.5

Like so many industries, Hospitality will also see both subtle and substantial shifts in the post-pandemic era. Oxford Economics reports that gross domestic product grew by 9% in the first quarter of 2021, which has positive implications for the American travel industry. Jan Freitag, National Director for Hospitality Analytics at CoStar, reported that the March 2021 revenue per available room percentage change was “very positive” at 34%.6

We are still far off from “normal,” though an accelerating vaccination rollout brings the promise of a more rapid return to normalcy. As the economy recovers, leaders in the commercial real estate industry must begin to turn their attention to preparing for opportunities presented in the post-pandemic world.

Seizing Our Opportunity

The Census Bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey (SBPS) measures the effect of changing business conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic on our nation’s small businesses. According to the SBPS, companies are consistently marking up when they expect conditions to normalize. As leaders in the industry, we now have clear opportunities to re-strategize asset attribution and ultimately redefine what post-pandemic success means for commercial real estate.

Source: CoStar7

Looking at history, other crises and external events show that generally, the CRE industry tends to lag the trajectory of the larger economy. But with the far-reaching effects of this pandemic, the CRE industry has felt the effects much earlier. In many ways, the pandemic has accelerated trends already occurring. While there is no specific answer or one-size-fits-all solution at this time, organizations that are able to move nimbly through the phases of recovery and embrace the “next normal” will thrive post-pandemic.

As the economy gains momentum, we will begin to see a split: organizations built to last, and those that are not. Those built to last, like SVN, are using this time to not only learn and emerge stronger, but also to prepare for and shape the future of commercial real estate.

Catalysts to Recovery: The SVN Difference

There are several components of SVN’s DNA working together to pull the future forward. For example:

  • A strong and established brand, foundation, and community backing Advisors, attracting new talent and supporting local independent ownership
  • Information & Fee Sharing: Every Monday, SVN Advisors present new and featured commercial real estate property listings on SVN | Live®. This live property broadcast is open to everyone in the industry.
  • Product Council meetings and collaboration tools for all asset classes such as Industrial, Office, Self Storage, and Healthcare
  • Online and scalable training to expand teams quickly, such as our SVN System for Growth courses and digital onboarding support
  • Advanced digital recruiting tools, such as Mike Lipsey’s System for Success online training for Advisors
  • Consultation support for asset attribution to establish team development

SVN was built to be future-proofed. That’s why, from 2019 through 2020, SVN’s gross commission income grew 3.1%… when everyone else was down. When all publicly traded CRE brokerages were up against double-digit declines — some facing 30% or more in lost revenue — SVN had its best year in company history. Models like SVN, which embrace automation, collaboration and cooperation, are uniquely positioned to take market share in this era of change, as client behaviors and expectations evolve.

The SVN brand offers something completely different from what any local, regional, or national firm is offering. This is the SVN Difference. And this difference is what ultimately creates 9.6% more value for our clients.

The Future Is Now

There is significant hope that 2021 will be a year of earnest recovery. As of the March WSJ Economic Forecasting Survey, on average, leading economists expect the US economy to grow by 6.0%. If reality ends up matching expectations, 2021 will mark the fastest annual growth since 1984.

SVN Advisors are leading the way into the “Next-Normal,” pulling the future forward, enacting change where and when it matters most.

The future is here. Are you ready?

 

 

Endnotes

  1. Census Bureau; through Q4 2020
  2. https://product.costar.com/home/news/19461
  3. https://product.costar.com/home/news/848506453
  4. https://product.costar.com/home/news/1802437521
  5. SVN Asset Class Report, Retail, 2021
  6. https://www.costar.com/article/1537124142/recovery-of-us-hotel-industry-is-firmly-underway
  7. https://product.costar.com/home/news/848506453

Looking to the Future: The Disruption of COVID-19 and the Transition into the Next-Normal

Exactly one year ago, eight governors across the US took the initial move to close bars and restaurants, and the Dow Jones posted its largest one-day drop ever, finishing down a record 2,997 points. The world as we knew it was hitting the proverbial fan. New incoming information —none of which was encouraging — came across our screens at a frantic pace, causing our stomachs and portfolios to drop in tandem. 

With a full year now passed by in the COVID economy, the universe of uncertainty has thankfully compressed. While it was not an advanced degree that any of us had applied for, the pandemic has imparted a lifetime of lessons, offering clear clues about the future of commercial space demand and the ways we as humans interact with the built environment.   

Macroeconomy

Starting first with the economy as a whole, I know we have all become a bit numb to sideways numbers during the past year, but to dig ourselves out of this hole, it is important to understand just how deep we are. Early last year, while we were all still finishing our champagne and settling in after the holiday season, the Congressional Budget Office released its estimates of 2020 economic growth, serving as a reliable benchmark of where the economy would have stood without the pandemic. Actual output last year fell short of the CBO’s early 2020 forecast by $1.2 Trillion Dollars, good for an average loss of $3,560.06 for every American.

More workers filed for initial unemployment claims in the first nine weeks of this crisis than during the entirety of the 2007-2009 recession, and the unemployment rate hit a stratospheric high of 14.8% last April. Through the most recent Jobs report, it looks like we are once again starting to see some positive momentum toward an eventual recovery. The civilian unemployment rate ticked down 6.2% through February as the economy added back 379,000 jobs. We remain a long way to go, but between vaccination rollout and the onset of warmer weather, the W-shaped recession we have seen so far should have enough fuel in the tank to prevent another near-term downturn.   

Multifamily

An often-peddled refrain during the early days of the pandemic was that the multifamily, and apartment sector as a whole, would maintain its stability by the simple fact that people will always need somewhere to live. If anything, the same optimists argued that the resiliency of cashflows could actually improve as renters were spending more time in their homes due to involuntary quarantines. With a year of data available now supplanting conjecture, we find that residential rentals have indeed performed up to expectations. No, conditions have not been ideal, and distress is not too hard to find, especially in gateway markets. However, compared to worst-case scenarios, the apartment sector has lived up to its reliable bedrock status. According to the National Multifamily Housing Council’s rent tracker, which follows the performance of more than 11 million professionally managed apartments, 93.5% of renter households paid rent in February— only a 1.6% drop off from the same month last year. These data may, however, likely understate some sector-level underperformance, as they do not include vacant units or self-managed “mom-and-pop” properties. According to Freddie Mac’s latest forbearance report, we know that small balance originations, which tend to cater to the “mom-and-pop” investor class, make up 75% of loans in forbearance.1 

The CDC’s eviction moratorium remains a pressing challenge for the industry and an impediment to its return to pre-pandemic health. The market for rental housing is a circular flowing ecosystem between lenders, investors, and renters. There is no net-positive corrective policy that achieves more benefit than harm by breaking the symbiotic process, much as the moratoriums have.  The NMHC offers that moratoriums “fail in their purpose of addressing renters’ underlying financial distress” and “jeopardize the stability of housing providers and the broader housing market.” Despite two different federal judges ruling against the CDC policy in the past month, the ban remains in place. There are, however, green shoots forming, which could signal a return to more normal conditions in the near future. At the end of this month, the moratorium is scheduled to expire— a deadline that we should accept with a coarse-grained piece of salt. Nevertheless, the appropriations bill passed at the end of the year, and the American Rescue Plan of 2021 passed last week collectively set aside $46.6B for rental assistance programs. A CPPB analysis of Census Bureau survey data finds that roughly one-in-five renter households are behind on rent— a crisis that should see meaningful relief as funds are released.2

The permanence of COVID-induced migration will be a hot-button topic as more jabs land in arms. Taken together, the trifecta of New York, California, and Illinois, the states that are home to the three largest US cities, collectively lost more than 275,000 residents in 2020. The human density that has historically attracted demand toward superstar cities has had the complete opposite effect in the past year. Without accessible cultural amenities or the need to be in an office Monday through Friday, a significant share of the workforce became untethered to their home cities and have made their way toward the exit. According to CoStar, New York, LA, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Boston, and Washington DC are all among the list of cities to post year-over-year declines in asking rents through Q4 2020. 

While the outgoing flow of residents has been lumped together as one homogenous cohort, there appear to be at least two major groups leaving. The first group of COVID-nomads is defined by those that already had eyes towards more affordable and spacious housing options over the next couple of years. Given the urban context in 2020 and the attractively low borrowing costs, many of these renters simply said, “Hey, why not now?” and moved up their progression timeline. These are the types of households that are more likely to be buying baby carriages before the next time they step on a subway, and their transition out of major metros is probabilistically permanent. The second group contains those who are transient, often early into their careers, working remotely, and still seeking the lifestyle amenities they had enjoyed pre-covid. Watching how this group behaves as large companies start calling workers back into the Office and cities look more like their pre-pandemic selves will be telling.   

Office

Today, there is no property type subject to more speculation than the Office.

Unlike multifamily, Retail, and industrial, where COVID has mostly magnified pre-existing trends, the pandemic has led to rampant reimagination in the office sector. Our understanding of how both firms and workers interact with physical office space to optimize productivity is permanently changed. According to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, an estimated 38% of working American adults have transitioned to remote work in some capacity due to COVID. The share is even higher in large office markets like New York and Los Angeles, rising to 47% and 45%, respectively. En Masse, The American Workforce traded morning commutes for Zoom links, an illuminating natural experiment that has challenged the Office sector’s core-assumptions. When PwC launched its remote work survey in June, 44% of employers thought that the transition to remote work has allowed their teams to be more productive than before the pandemic.3 When the same employers were polled again in December, the share climbed to 52%, indicating that not only has a consensus emerged, but that efficiency has improved following the initial learning curve. The realization that companies can not only maintain but actually improve performance through a remote infrastructure is a ‘no turning back,’ Pandora’s box type of moment. It should therefore come as no surprise that, according to the same survey, only 21% Of US executives think that a full five days in the office every single week is the best setup to maintain a strong corporate culture. 

The likelihood that total office space demand will have a smaller footprint in the post-pandemic world is a consideration that we cannot afford to take lightly. A Fitch research report released just last week estimates that an additional 1.5 work-from-home days per worker would lead to a 15% reduction in property-level net cash flow— a development that would meaningfully recalibrate our understanding of risk and value. Given the long-dated lease structure common throughout the sector, it will take a few years for emerging preferences to filter through fully. Moody’s Analytics REIS forecasts that vacancy rates are likely to rise to near-record levels through 2023 before beginning a gradual recovery in 2024. 

Of course, not all metro-level office markets will move as one. Some of the migratory demand that is leaving large cities and contributing to localized weakness ahead will also lead to strength in other markets, particularly in major Metro adjacent suburbs. According to Real Capital Analytics, Central Business District-located Office properties posted a 0.2% decline in value for the year. On the other hand, suburban located office assets saw valuations continuing to grow at a healthy 6.6%.

Industrial

The industrial sector remained the undisputed top performer of commercial real estate through an otherwise challenging 2020. Secular tailwinds, such as e-commerce adoption, grew from a healthy gust to a sustained hurricane force. Over the past decade, online retail sales have increased by an average of 15.2% annually. Brick and mortar retail sales over the same period have only grown by an average of 3.4% per year. The share of total Retail sales satisfied by online orders has steadily risen, entering 2020 At 11.3%. In the second quarter, as nonessential retailers across the country closed their doors, this share skyrocketed above 16%. While the share has reverted down to 14%, the pandemic has permanently transitioned some in-person retailing onto online platforms. Online grocery delivery services, a concept that had faced greater consumer resistance than other E-platforms before 2020, stood uniquely positioned to benefit from the demands of a lockdown economy. According to grocery e-commerce specialist Mercatus and research firm Incisiv Projects, online grocers accounted for 3.4% of all US grocer sales in 2019, before swelling to 10.2% in 2020.4 Further, the same study estimates that online groceries will satisfy 21.5% of domestic demand by 2025. Surging demand for E-grocers also means an increased demand for distribution and fulfillment facilities in close proximity to consumers. In the most recent Emerging Trends in Real Estate report, fulfillment facilities ranked as the subsector with the best prospects for future investment and development opportunities. 

Another source of new industrial demand can be traced to the supply chain disruptions experienced this last year. The pandemic exposed critical sensitivities, and e-commerce retailers are looking to better safeguard their ability to match inventory supply with order demand. Doing so has meant a transition away from “just in time” distribution models in favor of “just in case” models instead. The latter requires excess warehousing space to stock contingent inventory. 

Retail

There was no shortage of pessimism surrounding the retail sector heading into 2020, even before there was a pandemic to contend with. Pre-pandemic, Retail was in the midst of what was widely expected to be a 10-year shakeout and a painful rightsizing process. As noted in the 2021 ULI / PwC Emerging Trends Report, the US retail sector had three major headwinds going into last year: the US has more retail square footage per capita than any other country in the world, an increasing share of core-retail activity has transitioned online, and domestic consumers have experienced a long-term stagnation of wages. Concepts that were on the path towards obsolescence, with hopes of maybe squeezing out a few more years of economic solvency, are those that have struggled the most during COVID— none more so than department store retailers.

While the outgoing companies will argue otherwise, a case can be made that 2020’s pain will help the retail sector pave a quicker path back to recovery. The sector has gone from Darwinism to ‘Darwinism on steroids.’ Though, before we can imagine a radical future where physical retail demand sits just a bit higher than supply, the existing glut of obsolescent space needs to find adaptive reuse. After all, not every struggling mall will be turned into an Amazon distribution center. Lifestyle centers, where fitness centers, housing units, and mixed Retail are blended together, are one of the leading concepts to aid in re-positioning and re-absorption. According to Real Capital Analytics, Lifestyle Centers have an average price per square foot that is almost three times higher than average assessed for Mall assets, reflecting some of the value that can be recaptured through re-positioning.  

As Retail continues to match physical footprints with the forward-looking consumer behavior, the short-term reversion back to normalcy will at least provide some much-needed relief. Cabin-fever-consumers armed with unspent stimulus checks should give Retailers a potent shot in the arm, even if the upside effects are only temporary.

Outlook

Whether it be the public health front, the economy, commercial real estate, our lives in general, or how all the above are inexorably linked, 2021 has all the makings of a year defined by recovery. The Federal government’s push to have vaccine availability for every US adult by May 1st means that herd immunity is not too far behind. 

Between the safe resumption of our pre-pandemic lives, the commitment by the Federal Reserve to maintain low interest rates even as inflation pressures rise, and the unprecedented level of stimulus in the hands of consumers, a perfect storm of economic momentum is brewing just offshore. If anything, there is increasing concern that the economy has the potential to overheat in the year ahead as too much fuel enters the fire all at once. According to the February and March iterations of the Wall Street Journal’s Economic Forecasting Survey, a majority of leading economists believe that this year will have more upside risk than downside risk, and more than 80% think that the newly passed stimulus will generate inflation higher than the Fed’s 2% target.

In many ways, we as an industry remain in wait-and-see mode, with questions over a return to the office timing and rightsizing are still swirling overhead. Although, overly conservative and reactive strategies rarely make winning formulas in Real Estate. Now is the time for landlords to engage tenants and companies to engage employees about emerging preferences, then execute on a strategy. If 2020 has taught us nothing else, it’s that the pace of change can accelerate quickly, and falling behind the curve of innovation is a costly and often un-correctable mistake.

 

Endnotes
1. https://mf.freddiemac.com/docs/January_forbearance_report.pdf
2. https://www.cbpp.org/research/housing/housing-assistance-in-american-rescue-plan-act-will-prevent-millions-of-evictions
3. https://www.pwc.com/us/en/library/covid-19/us-remote-work-survey.html
4. https://www.supermarketnews.com/online-retail/online-grocery-more-double-market-share-2025

Re-thinking Talent & Recruiting In Commercial Real Estate — And How To Do More Than Just Talk About It

SVN’s Leslie Bateman discusses how the talent and recruiting landscape in commercial real estate is changing, and how we can seize the opportunity it presents.

Rapid and continual advances in technology have been disrupting many of the sectors that anchor the U.S. economy, including the commercial real estate industry. However, the commercial real estate (CRE) industry has long been known to be slow to adapt, often “lagging behind” others when it comes to large-scale industry transformations. While other industries blaze forward to embrace technology and digital disruption, for the most part, CRE has only budged.

Experts suggest that this industry-wide delay in advancement is due in part to the age imbalance of the industry. This isn’t new information, as aging of the CRE industry is known and well documented: According to CIRE Reader Surveys and NAR Commercial Member Profiles, the average age of a CCIM member is 54 and the median age of a commercial Realtor is 60.1

In addition to age diversity, another area ripe for improvement lies in the adoption of new technologies. Much of the commercial real estate industry still relies on traditional methods of doing business, preferring the experienced and familiar over the new and risky. As a cyclical result, the industry has become less attractive to younger people, who often prefer organizations and job roles with a high degree of technology integration and support.2

What the CRE industry has now is an incredible opportunity — to harness new technologies, redefine its talent processes, and alter the trajectory for future success.

Digital Disruption, COVID-19, and CRE
Today, digital disruption is all-pervasive, leaving no industry untouched. Digital innovation has the power to change markets and economies, accelerate business operating models, and wholly reinvent the way business is done across the globe. While certain industries feel the profound influence of this digital transformation immediately, others – such as commercial real estate – are a little late to the game. With the surge of CREtech over the past two decades, CRE companies have begun building momentum by integrating technology with the built world and associated systems. However, at its slower pace and with nothing forcing it to move any faster, commercial real estate still largely remains behind.

Until the COVID-19 pandemic.

The global pandemic has changed the nature of office and work culture considerably, forcing all industries to adapt to remote work and rely on new methods and tools for virtual engagement and operations. Some companies (such as Spotify and Facebook) experienced cost-cutting epiphanies early in the pandemic, taking action after recognizing that the in-office concept simply won’t be necessary into the future.

While the pandemic has forced some CREtech innovations to flourish, it has also placed a magnifying glass on industry problems and shortcomings. For CRE, an industry still reliant on handshakes, years of experience and Rolodexes, the immediate shift to virtual work hasn’t been easy. The industry-wide disillusionment has accelerated the need for CRE companies to acknowledge, accept, and lean into major change. It’s not the catalyst we expected, but the pandemic has opened a large window of opportunity for the industry to make big strides toward a more prosperous future.

 

The Pre-Pandemic Talent Landscape
It’s becoming increasingly evident that, as CRE companies figure out the technologies required to support digitization shifts, they need to secure the right “talent” in order to accelerate the pace of adoption and implementation.

Prior to the pandemic, the talent landscape in CRE skewed heavily toward the Baby Boomer generation. There was little to no focus on recruiting Millennial and Gen-Z talent. In 2019, 45% of CRE employees were 55 or older compared to 4% in the 19–24 age range. In comparison, 24% of the workforce across all industries and 22% of the banking and insurance workforce were 55 years old or older.”2

This imbalance is both emphasized and continued as the industry prefers experienced hires, over-indexing on industry experience and comfort with traditional job roles. The outcome here is compounding: firms continue to contribute to the rift by favoring experienced hires and maintaining conventional practices; meanwhile, the industry becomes less attractive and less accessible to younger generations.

Preparing for the Workforce of the Future
To help companies attract and retain up-and-coming talent, reduce the demographic gap, and create a more fulfilling work environment, leaders will likely need to reexamine the talent function and its processes.2

As Deloitte Insights states: “The pandemic is expected to force a paradigm shift in the way the industry operates and how work is done. Digital transformation could play an important role as companies wrestle with liquidity and profitability in the near term and prepare for the post-crisis world. And so CRE companies should look at digital and talent transformation in tandem.”

While change is not easy and certainly not always comfortable, the sooner CRE companies understand and embrace the shifts they need to make, the better off they will be. Clearly, digital advancement is critical for CRE organizations’ success and relevance. The talent implications are vast.

CRE leaders must work to balance the talent landscape by rethinking and adapting to the way their employees work, embedding technology into their decision-making, and redefining skills, talent processes, and practices to meet new demands. The bottom line: Hiring younger talent is no longer optional, it’s essential.

At SVN, we often talk about “pulling the future forward.” This concept is so much more than a tagline. We live, breathe and practice this mentality daily through promoting a culture of learning, embracing remote work flexibility, hiring for location-agnostic roles, providing remote/online systematic training for new hires, and by believing in the powerful data on workplace diversity.

Diversity has long been a hallmark of the SVN brand and business model, and we strongly believe in the research proving that workplace diversity (e.g., gender, age, ethnic, cultural) leads to smarter teams and greater company success.3

Studies show that the most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability4, and we’ve seen this firsthand at SVN.

To further underscore our company-wide belief in the power of diversity, here’s an inside look at SVN’s employee base:
· 73% women
· 40% minorities
· 53% under the age of 45

 

The Opportunity of a Lifetime
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed unsustainable truths about the CRE industry’s approach to recruiting and retaining talent.

So now what?

If CRE firms want to find success in the future, many will need to step back to analyze and upgrade their current talent processes. Digitization, remote flexibility, and diversity should hold more weight in the talent landscape, and it’s time for us to do more than just acknowledge the known lags, more than just talk about where we can improve. It’s time for us to take action… to really make change.

In this challenge lies immense opportunity. For those in leadership positions, I challenge you to think about your own recruiting strategies, open roles, and growth goals. What adjustments can you make? Are some required skills now irrelevant with technology, and years of experience an arbitrary line in the sand? Are you willing to place your trust in the positive research on workplace diversity and prioritize it in your next hires? If these initiatives seem daunting, scary, overwhelming… you’re not alone. But just as we must trust in the data on diversity, we must also trust that great things rarely come from comfort zones.

As Virginia Rometty so eloquently states: “Growth and comfort do not coexist.”

 

Endnotes
1. CCIM Institute, “The Millennial Way,” accessed March 4, 2021
2. Deloitte Insights, “Preparing for the future of commercial real estate,” accessed March 4, 2021
3. Harvard Business Review, “Why Diverse Teams Are Smarter,” accessed March 4, 2021
4. McKinsey & Company, “Diversity wins: How inclusion matters,” accessed March 4, 2021

The Abundance Economy is Coming. Is the #CRE Industry Ready?

The following is an excerpt from an article written by Diane Danielson, COO of SVN International Corp., as featured in NREI’s 2019 MidYear Outlook.


Stephen Covey defines the abundance mentality in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People as:

“[T]he paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. It results in sharing of prestige, of recognition, of profits, of decision making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity.”

Covey was speaking to the individual mindset. But what happens when abundance invades an industry? For taxis, abundance came in the form of Uber. For hotels, it was AirBnB. The music industry was hit with subscription models. And Amazon has created a platform disruptive of multiple industries. In all cases, technology was used to decimate scarcity.

In scarcity economies, supply is limited. If you control supply, you control pricing. In abundant economies, pricing is driven not only by supply but also by demand because presumably there is adequate supply to meet all demands. Economist Barbara Gray of Brady Capital Research, Inc. describes it as “The Long Tail meets The Blue Ocean.” If you want it, you can find it.

Artificial scarcity occurs when stakeholders place limitations on supply. In CRE, artificial scarcity exists through legacy systems of data/client hoarding, pocket listings, zoning and geographic licensing limitations. All are systems designed to keep competition out. However, abundance is still coming to CRE. How will this play out? CLICK HERE to read Diane Danielson’s full Midyear Outlook in NREIonline.com.

The US Economy Accelerates While Waiting for Washington to Finalize Deals

While the overall economy remains very healthy on a relative basis, and may in fact be finally showing signs of more robust growth, deal making in Washington will stand as a key influence in determining when – and if – such robust growth will come to fruition. The stock markets have set recent highs in part because Trump appears more willing to make “deals” with Democrats in order to get policies implemented. These deals historically lead to significant tax reform, something the market is already factoring into future expectations. While market analysts place expectations on the potential for a major boost in business investment, and even hiring, this will take time to come to fruition, if ever.

 

Economic Health

Overall estimates of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth for the third quarter of 2017 increased to 3%, a key level that is considered the minimal threshold for robust economic growth in the US. Whether this growth is sustainable, however, is yet to be determined.

 

The beginning of the third quarter saw slightly lower job growth in August, with 156,000 added jobs per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and a minor uptick in unemployment to 4.4%. While these shifts are slight, these numbers are representative of an overall tight labor market.

 

In 2016, median household income hit an all-time high at $59,039, according to the Census Bureau. These higher incomes are no doubt contributing to the still high and rising levels of consumer confidence, up to 122.9 in August of 2017, according to the Conference Board.

 

Third Quarter Impacts

Meanwhile, the third quarter will likely see distorted results in economic indicators due to the temporary effects of the hurricanes impacting the Southeastern US; a recent report by the Census Bureau showed monthly retails sales in August have gone down -0.2%, likely due to Hurricane Harvey. With Irma impacting Florida, there will be broader effects in the short run. In the long run, the rebuilding effort has the potential to have a positive impact on economic growth.

 

Commercial Real Estate on the Rise

Interestingly enough, what remains steady and more certain in these economic times is commercial real estate. CoStar reports continued growth in commercial real estate prices, up 1.2% in July. Also of note, REITs posted their largest gain in Funds From Operations (a measure of cash flow) in the second quarter of this year at 7.9%. By contrast, the many stock market indices appear highly valued on a relative basis.

 

If the economy does not grow at a more robust rate, a likely result if Washington remains in a stalemate, then stock prices could be negatively impacted. Commercial real estate, however, is generally showing signs of demand outpacing supply according to many data providers including REIS. In addition, new construction is flattening rather than accelerating; overall it was down 0.6% in July according to the Census Bureau and has remained mostly flat for all of 2017.

 

As a result, it is evident that the real estate sector is on far more solid footing than the broad stock markets. Investors should consider rebalancing from stocks and bonds and into real estate, especially while mortgage rates remain so low. In fact, research from the Mortgage Bankers Association shows availability of commercial real estate debt continues to increase in 2017 from 2016, thus it is actually getting easier to invest in real estate today.

Diane Danielson Talks with Michael Beckerman About Making CRE Cool Again and Diversity In the Workplace

Diane Danielson

Diane Danielson, Chief Operating Officer of SVN International Corp., recently sat down with Michael Beckerman, CEO of The News Funnel and commercial real estate expert, for what Beckerman calls “one of the most important interviews i have done in the real estate sector.”

During their Q&A, they discussed topics about making commercial real estate cool again, the role technology will play in the sector, and SVN’s diversity recruitment efforts. To read excerpts from their conversation featured on Beckerman’s blog, click here.

First Half 2017 Economic Data Points to Goldilocks Environment for Remainder of the Year

Labor Day not only marks the unofficial end of summer, but also brings a time when the industry homes in on market activity for the remainder of 2017. With this year nearing a close, it is timely to evaluate economic markers from the first half of 2017 for indications of activity through the remainder of the year and beyond.

 

Overall Economic Factors

After a slightly anemic first quarter, the US economy resumed a more robust growth posture with GDP growth being reported at a 2.6% annualized rate, which is close to the 3% level considered a target for long run economic prosperity. Hiring has also stayed near the 200,000 monthly job creation rate, bringing unemployment back down to 4.3%.

 

Overall, the economy appears very steady and growing. The underperformance of the first quarter was likely a simple aberration due to uncertainty of the new administration. As such, almost all discussion of a 2017 macroeconomic downturn has ended, and such risks now look to be closer to 2019, if at all.

 

Commercial Real Estate Market Health

Commercial real estate markets did not change much fundamentally in the second quarter of 2017, according to data providers such as REIS, Real Capital Analytics, and CoStar. However, the rise in economic activity suggests there may be more robust leasing activity to come in the second half of 2017.

 

Overall, industrial was the strongest sector as robust net absorption from expansion of tenants such as Amazon greatly exceeded new supply. Office grew only slightly, despite the continued strength in office-using employment sectors, suggesting higher demand is coming. Multifamily continued to push rents forward as vacancy rose very slightly. Although more markets are exhibiting early signs of oversupply (such as rising concessions), the bulk appear to be absorbing new supply at a steady clip as the continued pace of job gains create ongoing demand. Retail fundamentals finally showed a response to the rise of store closings announced at the beginning of the year with many markets seeing a rise in vacancies and negative net absorption. Notwithstanding, new retail properties have opened and filled successfully, showing that “new” is always in demand, especially for retail.

 

In regard to pricing, both CoStar and Real Capital Analytics showed increases, once again setting record highs after brief declines earlier in the year. Additionally, lending activity increased 20% year over year and 28% quarter over quarter, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s survey of commercial and multifamily lenders.

 

While there does not appear to be a major shift in investor sentiment regarding commercial real estate – in fact, REIT returns suggest just the opposite – there is increasing concern by some about peak pricing. However, it’s interesting to note that the data does not yet support these fears. Inflation fell to near zero in the second quarter and the Fed signaled a willingness to go slower than previously anticipated in increasing rates.

 

The Goldilocks Environment Continues

Promising factors such as low inflation and steady economic growth indicate the “goldilocks” zone will continue. Unless one or both of these conditions change, there is no strong reason to believe commercial real estate prices will reverse. In fact, given rising level of global uncertainty, domestic commercial real estate may be one of the safest places to invest right now.

Confidence and Optimism in Today's Commercial Real Estate Industry

According to the most recent published reports by the Conference Board, CEO Confidence spiked a highly significant 15 points as of January and the Consumer Confidence Index sits at 114.8 as of February, making each measure sit at 6 year and 15 year highs respectively. Confidence at these levels, especially when true for both consumer and business segments, leads to increased levels of investment and spending, both critical for demand of real estate. To appreciate why confidence is so high, it is important to look at the underlying fundamentals of the macroeconomy in early 2017.

CONSUMERS CONTINUE TO DO WELL IN 2017

Job growth remains robust with multiple months of 200,000+ net new jobs, specifically 235,000 in February per the BLS, and a steady, low unemployment rate, presently 4.7%. This has led to continued wage growth and personal income growth, 0.4% in January alone. In addition, record high stock prices and growing home prices all add up to a (financially) happy household. Spending is up too with retail sales at a record high in the latest monthly reading and a 5.56% year over year growth rate as of January according to the Census Bureau. This has increased growth in manufactured goods order in the US, up 1.2% in January and up six out of the last seven months. In summary, the growing wave of positive news that began in the third quarter of 2016, appears to only have accelerated into the first quarter of 2017. Whether it’s due to raw macroeconomic fundamentals, or optimism following the election, the fact is, consumers are doing very well today.

The business sector still appears to be under investing, with only 0.04% growth in fixed investment in the 4Q2016 and there is a lot ground left to cover to get to full growth in the economy. If businesses invest more vigorously, as CEO confidence and stock market levels suggest could happen, GDP growth should easily exceed 2% and may even approach 3%. Despite all the recovery and improvement, the US economy only managed 1.6% growth in 2016. Regulatory rollback and reform is the one area of the new administration’s agenda most likely to advance in 2017, although not without controversy. These are the aspects President Trump can influence without needing Congressional approval, in many instances, and is more likely the most tangible, real, and immediate area that is causing the rise in business sector optimism. Even if there are small changes, the threat of sudden negative changes or complex new regulations is substantially reduced, such as the sudden change to the Department of Labor’s overtime compensation rules in 2016.

SMALLER DEALS AND OUTPERFORMING SECONDARY MARKETS TRENDS SET TO CONTINUE

A wide range of commercial real estate organizations have also begun intense lobbying on regulatory reforms due to the relaxed lending restrictions stemming from Dodd-Frank to energy use reporting provisions enacted by HUD in FHA multifamily lending. If these efforts are even somewhat successful, commercial property investors will have good reason to be optimistic. So far, commercial real estate has not yet felt the full impact of the Trump administration, rising stock prices and, even to some degree, long term interest rates. All evidence suggests that the commercial real estate industry is equally, if not more, optimistic than the general business community. CoStar, who issues monthly pricing indices for commercial real estate, reported that its value weighted index fell 0.9% in January, up 5.5% year over year, while its equally weighted index rose 1.4% that same month, up 7.5% year over year. The difference is due to the equally weighted index being more representative of secondary/tertiary markets and deals of smaller size. This trend of smaller deals and secondary markets outperforming core assets and primary markets looks highly likely to continue for 2017, especially if the confidence and optimism holds.

 

Commercial Real Estate Markets Expanding in 2017

Commercial real estate markets have been generally growing in terms of pricing, rental rates, and occupancies since approximately 2011 and many market participants are beginning to openly wonder where the market is in the “cycle”.

Since the topic of market cycles can be somewhat misunderstood, we want to offer some clarification before presenting our assessment. Some investors believe that markets experience cycles based on some uniform period of time; such as every “X” years. In reality, markets, such as those for commercial real estate, move from peaks to valleys based on changes in supply and demand and any observation of timing is purely coincidental. An asset will see a “peak” and then decline when supply exceeds demand and this is when investors should look at changes in fundamentals to determine the relative risks and rewards of their investment due to cyclical forces.

CRE Markets Remain Healthy in Early 2017

With data available through the end of 2016, it is easy to see that most commercial real estate asset types are in the middle of the expansion phase of the real estate cycle. These are periods of long term growth in rents and declines in vacancy. According to REIS, all four major real estate classes experienced rent growth in 2016; 3.6% for apartment, 2.0% for retail, 2.4% for office and 2.2% for industrial. Office and industrial markets are experiencing the most absorption and improvements in occupancies and thus appear “earliest” in the expansion phase with year-end vacancy rates of 15.8% and 10% respectively. Retail vacancy rates remained flat at 9.9%, which given the number of “big box” closures, is actually impressive and masks the reality that many retail properties are actually experiencing rental rate growth and near full occupancies. The apartment sector, which began 2016 as the most watched sector given its 1.8% increase in supply, ended at 4.2% vacancy which is unchanged from 2015. Early 2017 data from Yardi Matrix shows modest rent growth has resumed which when considered with the rate of job creation, actually suggests that the apartment sector is not anywhere near as oversupplied as some have feared. However, relatively speaking, it is certainly the “latest” in the expansion phase. Overall, in early 2017 the fundamentals of commercial real estate markets still appear to be relatively healthy. In addition, given the current growth and optimism in the economy, they have room left to run in most situations.

2016 Transaction Volume is 3rd for Highest Recorded CRE Sales Activity

Prices of commercial real estate are a result of interactions between space markets (supply and demand) and the capital markets (competition for investment dollars). According to Moody’s and Real Capital Analytics, commercial real estate prices grew 9% in 2016 for another record breaking year. However, transaction volume was down 11% in 2016, but the year still ranks third after 2015 and 2007 for highest recorded commercial real estate sales activity. Overall, increases in interest rates and the 2016 decline in sales volume suggest the capital markets may put less pressure on price growth in 2017 than in recent years. The question of what cap rates will do given recent rate rises remains open but early evidence suggests that spreads are compressing and cap rates have shown minimal increases, however, this is still “too early” to call.

As of mid-February 2017, the commercial real estate markets appear to remain in expansion mode and 2016 was by all measures, a great year. If growth sustains, as the stock market is suggesting with its setting of new record highs every so often, fundamentals of commercial real estate should keep on moving upward as well. Census Bureau data showed that 2016 was a year for growth in construction spending; up 7.8% for nonresidential (commercial) and up 4.5% for residential (includes apartments). Therefore, there is more new supply coming but all the data suggests there is more than sufficient demand to keep the market in balance and growing.

 

CRE is at a Crossroads by Diane K. Danielson, COO, SVN International Corp.

The commercial real estate industry enters 2017 at a crossroads. Baby boomer retirement will continue and may even accelerate due to economic headwinds, potential slowdowns in infrastructure projects, and the continued influx of new technologies and CRE challenges. As a result, our industry is facing a brain drain at the same time competing industries are embroiled in a war for talent. Yet, with every challenge comes opportunity.

In 2017, the CRE industry can rise to the challenge by becoming more proactive and inclusive of untraditional CRE professionals. Whether they are millennials, women or minorities, these professionals can bring with them a variety of background experiences, new and different job skills, expanded networks of influence, and a diverse array of leadership styles. Why is this important in 2017?

1. Major infrastructure improvements take long-term planning and patience.

As a nation, we need to focus on our infrastructure; but large-scale infrastructure projects take years to plan and complete. That process can last longer than any single economic cycle or government administration, and we need CRE professionals prepared to plan for them and see them through to completion.

Aerial view of fifth avenue2. Urbanization is happening across the country.

Our cities are experiencing unprecedented population growth. To handle this increase we are seeing a rise in place making, mixed-use, and urban infill developments that promote walkability and a live-work-play dynamic. The challenge is to resolve longstanding affordable housing and transportation issues. While we are also seeing a spillover urbanization effect in key suburbs, it’s this new group of urban professionals who are influencing the demographics and ultimately the design of our cities.

3. Smart buildings are evolving into smart cities.

This is the opportunity evolving out of the first two trends. Smart cities use digital technology to improve and sustain community life. Generally, smart city projects are very large, long-term investments that can help drive social change in an urban environment. This happens through the combination and the communication of data across the Internet of Things to improve efficiencies across power grids, transportation, and health and safety. The development and adaptation of buildings to support smart cities is going to be a key component of the CRE industry for years to come.

4. Climate change is already affecting CRE.

There is not a coastal municipality or Fortune 500 company that does not have a division focused on sustainability and the effects of climate change. This is especially a concern in cities like Boston where global headquarters are relocating into urban areas already marked as flood zones. Smart cities will need to incorporate innovative infrastructure design and the means to mitigate the effects of climate change. Existing buildings will have to be adapted not only to smart technology but to sustainability.

The combination of these four trends indicates the evolution of commercial real estate as an industry. CRE professionals today and in the future will draw upon a mix of STEM and social skills in order to best serve our clients and our communities. Our industry has a unique ability to impact the growth and development of our environments. As CRE professionals, we are the de facto stewards of our communities. As they change, we must change along with them.


Diane Danielson’s latest article, CRE is at a Crossroads, is featured in the special “2017 Outlook” section of the January 2017 digital edition of National Real Estate Investor®(NREI).

Stock Market Volatility and Commercial Real Estate

Stock Market Fluctuations

As you have probably noticed, the global financial markets have been going through a period of turmoil. The fundamental issues that underlie the stock market corrections haven’t changed and we shouldn’t be surprised with continued stock market swings.  The text that follows will provide a macroeconomic backdrop for these recent market fluctuations and will serve as a reminder of CRE’s importance as a long-term investment, the time for which could not be better.

crash-215512_1280The global economy has encountered powerful headwinds in recent months, buffeted by a wide-ranging onslaught of fiscal and geopolitical challenges. Drags on growth have extended from a near-collapse in Chinese stock markets to the question of a Greek exit from the Eurozone to recessions as far away as Russia and as near as Canada. The United States is hardly immune to these strains on stability and the American stock markets have been prone lately to exaggerated swings.  This is reflective of investors’ rapidly changing assessments of the global outlook and its implications for macroeconomic trends at home.

Popular discourse has credited the current bout of global volatility to the slowdown in the Chinese economy and the difficult correction in its stock markets. In the face of weaker Chinese demand, headwinds may strengthen well beyond its borders, reflecting the importance of the world’s now-largest economy for its trading partners. Concerns about the magnitude of these spillovers has acted as a drag on Asian, European, and North American markets. Even if China has served as the proximate cause, many investors see an overdue market correction at work. In both scenarios, continued uncertainty over the timing of the Federal Reserve’s first interest rate increase – the first such move in nearly nine years – remains an overarching source of uncertainty.

[bctt tweet=”Here’s a reminder of #CRE’s importance as a long-term investment.” @Maggiacomo #CREReport #StockMarket”]

The Long Term Role of Commercial Real Estate

Rather than undermine demand for real estate, the recent vagaries of the global market have largely reinforced the underlying thesis for property investment.  The persistence and stability of cash flow and long-term prospects for appreciation are both indelible characteristics of well-managed and well-tenanted commercial real estate. And while the role of commercial real estate as a defensive investment is highlighted during periods of market uncertainty, neither of these characteristics depends on continued instability or will reverse when conditions improve or nominal interest rates rise.  The long term role of CRE investment is rock solid.

[bctt tweet=”The long term role of #CRE investment is rock solid. @Maggiacomo #CREReport “]

San Francisco: 2015 Multifamily Markets to WatchThe fundamentals performance of real estate and its attractiveness to investors are both tied intrinsically to the health of the recovering American economy and the jobs market in particular. The momentum behind recent job gains in the United States is largely independent of the disruptive forces at work in global capital markets. And there is room for further improvement – a leading indicator of employment trends, there are more job openings in the United States today than we have ever seen. Heading into the Fall, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there are a record-high 5.8 million jobs now available.

As Advisors, we serve a critical role in guiding buyers and sellers when broader market conditions are in flux. Some clients will inevitably exhibit greater sensitivity to changes in the global context of US growth. By the same token, some investors will pare down their commercial real estate portfolios because its relative strength has left them overweighted to the sector. Advisors’ market- and asset-specific insights are essential to the success of our clients and partners as they navigate choppy waters. Understanding their needs and how real estate can support their investment objectives is the Sperry Van Ness difference.

In other words, it’s a great time to talk to your clients and to new prospects. In these uncertain times, they need the help and guidance that you, as a Sperry Van Ness Advisor, are so very qualified to provide.

[bctt tweet=”The role of #CRE as a defensive investment is highlighted during periods of market uncertainty.”]

For more strategic insight into office, multifamily, industrial and retail sectors including CRE economic forecasts from SVN’s exclusive relationship with Chandan Economics, see the latest SVN Industry Reports.