Supply and Demand: The push to understand building energy use | EXPLORE→

The Commercial Real Estate Industry’s Reaction to the COVID-19 Threat

The coronavirus outbreak has turned the world upside down. In the United States, ordinary ways of life and daily routines have been obliterated, with many millions of workers either furloughed or working from home.

For all that we may know about the virus, many of the most important questions have gone unanswered. A specific treatment as yet eludes health professionals and a viable vaccine is a year or more away. Within the world of commercial real estate, it has remained unclear how long or how deeply the outbreak will affect property values, business activity and demand. However, analysts and commentators in numerous articles and conference calls have shared their expectations for what the coming months will bring.

We wanted to understand whether on-the-ground commercial real estate sentiment matches those opinions. To find out, we surveyed a large group of professionals in commercial real estate, between March 31 and April 5, to uncover their perspectives on the impacts of the new coronavirus on their markets and businesses. We started by identifying a number of COVID-19 general impacts, and then moved on to several focus areas. In each area we reviewed the existing research and analysis before adding our own quantitative sentiment data to gather a clear image of how the CRE businesses feels about the impacts of COVID-19.

Listen to the Propmodo Research Podcast

General Observations

Save report as a PDF

The outbreak of COVID-19 has brought multiple ups and downs, from governmental declarations of emergency and the beginning of stay-at-home orders to the passing of the largest stimulus package in U.S. history. Therefore, it is important to consider when our (and other) data on outbreak-related sentiment was captured.

Additionally, there is a clear consensus amongst the existing research and industry opinion pieces that the outbreak will not affect every property type the same way. Instead, the impacts of the virus more heavily focus on properties that generally necessitate a high occupant density or have an underlying transient nature. This includes retail properties (also hit by the non-essential business shutdowns hitting the world), healthcare facilities, hospitality properties, and student housing.

To provide some insight into both the time element and the property type question, we reviewed the performance of REITS focused on particular types of real estate. Charting the share prices of four benchmark REITs across multifamily, retail, industrial and office illustrates both comparative trends and industry sentiment over time.

The Timing Element

Investigating these four REITs between the start of March and April 9, the most recent trading day before publishing, we first see that values across the board dropped through the month of March (in particular, upon the national declaration of emergency on the 13th) before bumping back up around the passing of the CARES Act on March 27. Afterwards, all continued downward again before picking back up several days into April.

As this data indicates, there is a strong element of timeliness to the sentiment of the industry. Judging by our REIT data, opinions seem to have bottomed out around March 22, and are now higher than than CARES Act bump but still lower, in general, than the early part of the month. To expand on our understanding of timeliness, we also considered the Real Estate Board of New York’s Q1 2020 Real estate Broker Confidence Index. This indicated all-time lows amongst commercial broker opinion in the city, reaching a low after the State of New York imposed a stay-at-home order on non-essential businesses on March 20.

This lines up with our REIT data above, but our original survey data captures generally more positive perspectives. REBNY’s data was completely focused on brokers. Our data is mostly composed of brokers, but our survey collected responses from March 31 to April 5, after REBNY’s window. Going back to our REIT data, this corresponds to the most recent “uptick period” which continues through the time of writing. Alongside the fact that our respondent sample was spread throughout North America (86% of all respondents) and the rest of the world, as opposed to being concentrated solely in New York City, the hardest-hit part of the country, this explains the relative optimism of our figures.

Property Types

Looking back to our REIT timeline, we also see that industrial property values, observed through our indicator REIT Prologis, Inc, have been least affected by COVID-19, with an actual value increase of almost 4% over our time frame, while our retail indicator Simon Property Group has been hit the hardest, losing 46% of its value over the period. This resonates with the general perspectives being discussed right now, which point above all else to a weakness in the retail world as consumers are kept home and non-essential businesses shut down.

On the other hand, Prologis’s comparative success highlights the persistent need for logistics and distribution facilities even in the face of an outbreak. In an early-April conference call, Prologis chief investment officer Gene Reilly said that “In a summary of other data from just the month of March, while it’s too early for conclusions, there are interesting patterns. We have received over 94% of March rent, which is actually up year-over-year but basically in line with expectations.”

Market Responses

Through our survey questions, we wanted to gauge the sentiment of a sample of the commercial real estate world on a cross-section of COVID-19 impact areas: market responses, disaster preparation, firmwide responses, and the specific business activity of our respondents. Our first area of analysis is market responses to the outbreak. In general, commercial real estate has been widely seen as taking a massive hit from the new coronavirus, as shopping for non-essential goods declines, workers leave their offices and renters struggle to pay their rent.

However, amongst all of our surveyed professionals, the consensus is largely that capital markets activity will rebound at some point between summer 2020 and spring 2021. This seems to be at odds with the widely-held view within commercial real estate that the market, long due for a correction, has been deeply damaged by COVID-19. Our respondents as a whole were similarly confident that a return to pre-outbreak leasing activities would take only 90 days to a year.

Our respondents were primarily brokers (47% of total responses). This is relevant since by representing both buyers and sellers, investment sales professionals can stay busier during both market highs and lows compared to owners, who are comparatively less agile due to their equity stakes in properties. Additionally, the brokerage job can be done remotely without as much disruption as some other industry roles. It could be expected, then, that these respondents would have a more positive outlook about the outbreak on the whole. Nevertheless, non-brokers amongst our respondents matched overall sentiment. Respondents working with retail properties were surprisingly even more upbeat than the population as a whole, with most saying that sales (56%) and leasing (66%) activity would return to normal in the same summer 2020 to spring 2021 timeline.

Other surveys seem to come to the same, somewhat optimistic conclusion. A group of Wisconsin real estate industry organizations surveyed around 350 industry professionals, and found that 64% expected the serious impacts from the crisis to last for six months or less. These results, and the positive outlook amongst our retail respondents in particular, are surprising given the battering real estate and specifically retail property is taking due to the outbreak. Other segments of the business are already feeling this pressure. Amongst REITs, retail-heavy Brookfield’s market capitalization is down 50% since the start of the year while office-focused Boston Properties is down only 30% over the same timeframe. Fully understanding the answers to this question require diving into a discussion of expected property values, as well.

Out of all our respondents, 3% expected values to increase in their markets, likely the result of particularly strong underlying local characteristics. However, the remaining 97% of respondents indicated that they expect values to drop in their markets. 30% of participants expected value drops of 21% or more. This matches data coming out about REIT shares, which reflect real estate value drops of 24% between February and mid-March.

This leads to some interesting implications. First, the slowdown in property transactions our respondents noted above could result in less losses being realized even if values fall on paper. While value drops mean less opportunity to take advantage of a sale or refinance, there is a bright spot here: lower values could mean lower property taxes too. In Chicago’s Cook County, Illinois, local tax officials plan to reassess property values based on appeals submitted by property owners affected by the outbreak.

Second, another impact of this kind of across-the-board value drop could be a revision in the way properties are valued, at least by the commercial brokers who collectively set cap rates. As L.D. Salmanson, co-founder of real estate data platform Cherre, told us, “I think they are going to do what any good salesperson would do and call it a one-time event and ignore it for the purpose of valuations and only leave it in for the purpose of cash flow.” This may be the sort of pill that everyone wants to swallow, whether they are owners, brokers, or the service providers who rely on owners and brokers staying busy to remain in business.

“The big question is what happens financially after COVID19? If we weather the storm, then the market could recover quickly and have a sudden surge. However, if we do enter a recession, then we will likely see a similar impact as 2008.”

A multifamily property manager in the United Kingdom, at a firm with 1-10 employees

Third, the responses we see here could shed some understanding on the seemingly optimistic views on sales and leasing activity discussed above. That optimism could simply reflect wishful thinking, but it could also be indicative of a base of professionals who foresee high activity amongst opportunistic investors looking to place capital when values drop. Some retailers have also begun growing their footprints through pop-up operations amidst the COVID-19 crisis, so this perspective could apply to the leasing question, as well.

A Property Manager’s Perspective

Vicki O’Malley, Director of Property Management for Kessinger Hunter Commercial Real Estate, manages over 21 million square feet of commercial space centered around the Greater Kansas City metropolitan area. Her answers came in on April 10.

How has the pandemic and shutdown changed the way your property management team works?

We went to a “shelter at home” scenario mid-March. It is difficult to make up for the loss of camaraderie and collaboration, but I do my best to reach out team members both individually, as well as in bi-weekly group meetings, to ensure we can share successes and frustrations as a team. Communicate, communicate, communicate and sympathize as everyone also has different personal events happening to them during this time.

How much commercial space do you manage and how much of it is shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Locally, we manage approx 7 million square feet of industrial property, 6 million square feet of office property and 2 million square feet of retail space primarily in small neighborhood centers. Only a small handful of buildings are currently closed; the remaining have reduced staff to some extent and remain open.

Are tenants asking for rent assistance and if so how are owners responding?

It goes without saying, but retail is struggling significantly and then smaller multi tenant industrial buildings. Owners are urging tenants to apply for government assistance and in many cases will only work out some sort of blend and extend lease arrangement after an application and review of their financial documents. There are tenants that were not fiscally sound to begin with so owners are evaluating their contribution to the Centers and whether it makes good business sense to prolong the inevitable. Industrial owners are primarily working on blend and extend workouts. More medical users than office users are asking for assistance.

How has the shutdown affected your ability to effectively manage properties?

We have been strategic and forward-thinking about building expenses. We don’t want tenants second-guessing services that were performed during this timeframe and/or their absence from the property. So we’re diligently documenting what services were performed. Janitorial services, trash removal, and sweeping type services have been modified to some extent.

How has the shutdown affected your vendors and supply deliveries?

All of our vendors have been more than willing to work with us on modifications to existing services, as they are looking to the continuing relationship in the future. We have experienced delayed delivery of some supplies, like electrical and janitorial supplies. We are trying to be smart and not stockpile for future re-occupancy, but we are preparing appropriately for the future. Maintenance engineers have reduced tenant service requests, but this is allowing them the opportunity to get other tasks completed like extra cleaning to building systems.

Disaster Preparation

Another area that COVID-19 has highlighted is the quality or abject presence of disaster response plans amongst real estate companies.

Most of our respondents were unprepared for the disaster. In fact, 40% of our respondents had no disaster response plan whatsoever, while 33% had a disaster response plan but not one that included this kind of crisis. 21% of respondents said they had a disaster response plan that has so far worked, and 7% of respondents had a plan that included this kind of disaster but found it to be insufficient to respond to the scope of this crisis. This is notably less than the number the property management software company Appfolio found in their recent survey of 3,533 property managers, which found that amongst this specialized group of professionals, 71% of respondents had some sort of coronavirus response plan in place. It is likely that real estate professionals who don’t interact with occupiers have spent less time on disaster planning in general.

This is likely to be an area where we see deep, immediate change post-crisis. According to our results, the vast manority of respondents plan to expand their outbreak preparedness in the wake of this crisis. A notable minority of respondents said they wouldn’t know how to prepare more. This respondent group could include those professionals who already feel like their firm does enough, as well as ones who don’t have a good response plan and genuinely cannot see how to increase their effectiveness in the area. This is the kind of population that future government educational and business support programs would do well to address.

Firmwide Responses

Another area that has been increasingly discussed is how real estate firms expect to adapt to a world in which COVID-19 is a potentially recurring, persistent threat. The huge numbers of remote workers that the crisis have spawned, for instance, have cast some doubt on the future of the office.

A majority of respondents amongst firms of all sizes said that most of the staff of their firms are working remotely due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This consensus is concentrated amongst our respondents who work at smaller firms. Amongst companies with at least 51 employees, 88% of respondents commented that some staff are now working remotely but none in this size group selected “most staff working remotely.” This lower overall level of remote adoption within bigger firms could point towards the relative ease of sending a 5-person team to work from home, but it could also indicate that larger businesses may have more on-the-ground staff, such as maintenance professionals, who have no ability to work from home. It could also suggest some reluctance from larger companies to part with their physical workspaces, but the fact that the great majority of these firms are doing at least some remote work seems to indicate otherwise.

Our data also indicates a shift towards a number of adaptations that they expect to make in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis. The greatest portion (33%) said they will evaluate their leases for clarity on some of the questions that have persisted relating to force majeure, co-tenancy clauses and other details. 23% expect to use remote work arrangements more frequently. This is in line with what other surveys are capturing in non-industry specific research. For instance, Gartner’s survey on CFOs shows that around three quarters of these professionals will be switching at least 5% of their staff members to a full-time remote plan. This is one of the most potentially impactful trends to come out of our research. While 5% of a firm’s staff is not a lot of people, any permanent reduction in on-site staff will have a direct impact on demand for office space.

“[We need] clarity from policy leaders as to what are the most important industries to rebuild. Some sectors will simply shrink in size as they will not be deemed essential or consumers will realign their priorities as to where to spend their discretionary income. Also, re-assessment of supply chains that will help mitigate future shocks to healthcare and key industries in the event of another black swan scenario.”

An industrial broker in Tennessee, at a firm with 11-50 employees

Just under half of respondents (49%) expect government financial aid during this crisis. The 26% of respondents that said they don’t expect aid but wished they had it could speak to the relatively slow governmental response to the outbreak, or a potential need for even more aid down the road. Interestingly, 26% of respondents said they won’t get and probably won’t need government financial assistance. There seems to be no correlation between firm size and this answer. A more likely correlation from our data ties this answer to respondents who don’t work at property owners.

Something else that simply asking who needs money doesn’t quite capture is variations in how much individual companies need assistance. According to Thomas Bannon, CEO of the California Apartment Association, “We would have liked to have seen more, but it’s better than nothing. I just hope that Congress is focused on recognizing that this may not be the end for the needs for federal assistance. This is the foundation, and you’ve gotta build on it.” While policymakers are continuing to debate the need for additional aid, there is a time element to the crisis that more aid, later on may fail to address. Tenants who miss payments now could wind up evicted or with late fees, while their landlords may begin to miss mortgage payments almost immediately. An additional aid package that arrives in late April, May or beyond may be of little help to these individuals and businesses.

Business Activity

Lastly, we wanted to get a sense of how individual professionals and companies have been affected, within their pipelines and tenant relations, by the outbreak.

“Everything is linked here. The tenants need rent abatement/ reduction, landlords will need mortgage forbearance and so on down the chain. People are throwing out the phrase “we are all in this together,” and that attitude, if executed, will make the difference. Right now we are not seeing the fruit of that attitude but I hope and believe we will.”

An office broker in Texas, at a firm with 51-500 employees

When we realized that most of our respondents were brokers, after the first few days of running the survey, we added three additional questions particularly relevant to this group of professionals. We received a total of 125 responses for these questions.

45% of our respondents occupy roles that involve managing or executing property tours. Amongst these respondents, a substantial portion (44%) said they won’t be launching or expanding their virtual tour capabilities as a response to the COVID-19 outbreak. This could be explained by several factors. These respondents may already fully leverage virtual tours in their property leasing and sales efforts. If virtual tours are already the standard way of doing business, there may be no way for these companies to expand their offerings. Another explanation could be a perception amongst companies of prohibitive costs to establish virtual tour capabilities. Even if the respondents think that virtual tours are a good idea given the nature of the outbreak, if the technology is prohibitively expensive, it may not be an option.

Despite this lukewarm embracing of virtual tour tools by some respondents, more said they would be leveraging virtual tours as part of their response plans; either launching (27%) or expanding (29%) their efforts in the field. If the outbreak gets worse, many more real estate professionals may come to use this tactic. In New York, the hardest-hit state thus far, showings can now only take place virtually.

It is clear from our surveying that numerous real estate deals are already falling apart due to the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. 16% of our participants have already lost a deal to the outbreak, and 51% of respondents have seen this happen with multiple different deals. 25% haven’t yet suffered this outcome but expect to. Only 8% of participants haven’t and don’t expect to lose deals to the coronavirus outbreak. These deals could be ones with less leverage, shorter escrow periods or quicker lease executions. Additionally, deals with obstacles like easements or liens could be more likely to fall through as well. It is interesting to contrast this data with the earlier answers pointing to a return to pre-crisis sales and leasing figures between 90 days and one year from now. This could indicate that demand will persist and be funneled into easier, less-complicated deals.

The retail sector does appear to be harder hit than our population total in regards to this question. Only 6% of respondents haven’t and don’t expect to lose deals due to the outbreak, while 58% have already lost multiple deals.

Our respondents generally agreed that the outbreak has caused their sales and leasing pipelines to have shrunk. This fits with projections from around the business, and it could lead to different adaptations from the brokerage professionals and companies most exposed to this kind of downturn. Some companies may switch gears to offer more property and asset management or consulting services. Amongst CRE professionals themselves, some could begin to place their own capital in order to take advantage of lower buyer competition.

A Broker’s Perspective

Jonathan Wasserstrum is CEO and co-founder of SquareFoot, an NYC-based
commercial leasing marketplace and brokerage. His answers came in on April 14.

In NYC, how has the pandemic affected commercial leasing deal flow, and how are brokers and owners responding?

Deals that were at the finish line are pushing forward oftentimes with COVID-19-specific language around occupancy. We’re still getting a bunch of folks coming through the platform ready and willing to lease but at the moment we’re unable to tour so they are suspended in motion. Deals that are for Q3/Q4 occupancy are still moving forward albeit at a slower rate. Rates should start to come down, but since not much is crossing the finish line these days, it is still too soon to see how much.

How do you see leases adapting due to the outbreak?

With increased uncertainty comes an increased desire for flexibility. We’re already seeing it in the leads coming through our platform. Groups are looking for shorter-term space than two months ago. It may take a couple of minutes, but landlords will need to adapt to what tenants are looking for as it relates to terms. Banks will need to as well.

The only tenants that we see that dont want flexibility are some professional services firms that have been around forever and have been the same size forever. in addition to shorter terms, most tenants generally have a desire for plug-and-play space. Particularly if the term is shorter, they don’t want to have to worry about things like setting up internet and buying furniture.

Which property verticals are likely to be hardest hit in the long term by this shutdown?
Retail will be the hardest hit. Office space will see a blip for the next few months but assuming we don’t plunge into a recession, demand will still be there. Most people I talk to say they can’t wait to get back to the office” even if they say have the ability to work remotely sometimes.

How has technology and digital data played a role for brokers? Do you think this crisis leads to faster tech adoption and if so, in what specific areas?

Technology brings efficiency to a process. For the past 10+ years, we’ve been in a bull market where landlords haven’t had to think too much about whether there is a better way to do things because their buildings were generally filled. The pendulum is in the process of tilting. Whether it’s through marketing their space on platforms like ours or virtual tours or other technological solutions, landlords will be looking for ways to stay ahead of the pack.

How have you (and others) been changing the way that property tours are conducted?

We haven’t been able to tour for the last few weeks because of the lockdown. We are putting in place “SquareFoot Touring Guidelines” that we will be advocating for landlords to make sure our brokers and our clients are safe once this lockdown is lifted.

Other Viewpoints

We also asked our respondents to share their thoughts on the most important factors for an industry recovery. The responses we collected generally relate to a few themes: an overall short shutdown period tied with ending the huge spike in unemployment, the development of a vaccine or effective treatment, greater cooperation between landlords, tenants and lenders (or a moratorium on mortgage payments), and continued government stimulus.

More novel responses included a suggestion that lenders and insurers hold a stake in property losses. Several suggested that the economy was already due for a correction and that the COVID-19 outbreak was just the last straw. According to a leader at a retail property investor in Idaho, “My opinion is that commercial real estate is way overbuilt and overvalued. The industry was already in a position to take a huge hit, and Covid-19 was merely a trigger to start the slide downward. Multi-family prices do not even make sense, and rents will come down, along with property values. Defaults are going to hit the roof, and the whole commercial real estate business is in for a massive change, and it will never be the same.” This respondent was also amongst the minority who said retail and sales activity in their market would take over two years to return to pre-crisis levels.

While a minority, this kind of viewpoint is well-represented in our data. There is a real concern that we may never return to the way things were before this outbreak, not only within commercial real estate but throughout the economy more broadly. This perspective would posit that within real estate, the way we use space is fundamentally changing as a result of the social distancing measures now impacting much of the world as well as the fact that, right now, direct human contact is inherently dangerous.

A response in a similar vein came from a leader at an office landlord in Turkey. This respondent said that “I don’t think the commercial real estate industry will recover to pre-crisis levels since both employers and employees will be accustomed to new business processes which make use of less office time. People will not change their habits.” This lines up well with what we found regarding the intentions amongst many businesses to set more workers to permanent remote work plans.

An Asset Manager’s Perspective

Kent Tarrach is a New York City-based commercial real estate asset manager. He specializes in large redevelopment projects and complicated lease transactions, as well as implementing innovative technologies. He has held executive roles at Brookfield Properties and Preston Scheffenacker Properties. His answers came in on April 14.

How badly do you think property values will be hurt and why?

Over the mid to long term, I don’t believe there will be a severe negative impact to real estate values. Going into this crisis, market fundamentals were extremely strong. The downfall we are now seeing can be wholly attributed to COVID-19 and, once an effective treatment plan is identified for it which will allow people to return to work, I believe you will see economic activity return to pre-crisis levels very quickly. Real estate will lag a bit behind other indicators because that is typical for our industry, but I don’t envision it being a prolonged downturn.

In the short term, would-be sellers who are in a position where they do not have to sell will look to delay planned dispositions rather than have to recognize reduced property values. Those that are forced to sell will, unfortunately, take a loss but I think those situations will be limited when compared against previous downturns. Owners have been more responsible with leverage since the last downturn and, hopefully, lenders, possibly in partnership with the federal government, will be able to work with struggling owners to navigate through this difficult time.

Which property verticals are likely to be hardest hit in the long term by this shutdown?

Retail and hospitality are going to be the hardest hit by this in the near-term. I believe hospitality will come back once a treatment plan, and better yet, a vaccine, for COVID-19 is identified and available so people will feel safe traveling again. I believe the epidemic will have a long-term and lasting impact on retail and will be yet another incentive/driver for retailers to figure out ways to tightly align their physical locations with their online sale strategies and push owners to continue to incorporate more dining, service and other experiential retail into their projects. Retail will not be killed by this, it will just need to continue to evolve.

How do models need to improve to account for sudden, massive shifts like this? Is it possible for a large property firm to be fully prepared?

I don’t think anyone can be fully prepared for a black swan-type event like this. However, it will likely prompt investors, asset managers, and lenders to run additional sensitivity analyses to understand the impact that a “worst-case” scenario like this will have on a property and to examine what safety nets they can reasonably put in place to prepare for them.

How has technology played a role? Do you think this crisis leads to faster tech adoption and if so, in what specific areas?

If an epidemic like this doesn’t show the need for property owners, operators, and other third parties to have faster access to information, as well as the ability to efficiently analyze it, I really don’t know what will. Some of the main functions that are either being benefited by technology right now or could be benefited by it include:

  • Tracking and sharing the latest dialogue with in-place and prospective tenants (are prospective deals being put on hold, are requirements changing, are tenants reaching out about rent restructures/abatement/terminations/etc, what concessions are being given to tenants?)
  • Having efficient valuation platforms in place to stress test assets and portfolios and run sensitivity analyses
  • Getting real-time insight into quickly changing market dynamics so more accurate forecasts can be created – simply analyzing historic lease comps where terms were agreed to six months ago is not sufficient in this environment
  • Operating buildings remotely and understanding the real-time impact that having a vastly reduced building population is having on building systems so they can be adjusted and optimized
  • Digital tenant engagement/communication platforms so information can easily be shared with and received from building occupants
  • Technology to allow for virtual tours of space and to manage the entire lease transaction process online, from tour to document creation and execution.
  • Highly effective communication tools to manage and track discussions and interaction between colleagues, partners, customers, third-parties, etc. I think it will be demonstrated that companies who have started embracing technologies like the ones above (and others) will be best positioned to manage through this epidemic and successfully emerge from it

What have been the biggest hurdles for owners and lenders to overcome together and how do you see that playing out?

Perhaps this is an overly obvious response, but the biggest hurdle that owners and lenders will have to overcome together is determining what to do in situations where rent payments received along with owner reserves are not sufficient to cover mortgage payments. Lenders will, presumably, not want to take back properties en masse and become responsible for operating them. They would rather have experienced operators, familiar with the properties and their tenants continue to run the building during this time.

Can mortgage payments potentially be deferred or restructured in some fashion as a stop-gap solution until some level of normalcy returns? Will there need to be some level of government intervention/ support to allow for this? I don’t know how this will play out, but the need to come up with a strategy for this will become more critical the longer we go without a treatment plan for COVID-19 being identified and the economy restarting.

Conclusion

Reviewing our survey results in the context of the existing, broader understanding of the impacts of COVID-19 yields fascinating results. Most notably, our survey responses indicate a relative positivity despite the severity of the otubreak and its impacts on both life and the economy. The perspective that sales and leasing activity will return to pre-crisis levels before within a year from now seems particularly noteworthy. This could be for several reasons. For one, our survey responses were collected relatively late compared to much of the other research out there now. Our respondents would have had more certainty as to April rent collected than had they been asked a week or two earlier, and they would have seen the first stimulus of the CARES Act begin to roll out.

Our other responses reflect the wide range of approaches the industry is taking to stay safe and busy throughout the outbreak. Most of our respondents noted their firms are not only already sending more staff to work from home, and many of them also indicated that remote work will be more common for their firms even in the aftermath of COVID-19. More concerning are the expected value drops most of our respondent foresee coming to the industry. Nevertheless, hits to value are as much an opportunity as they are a challenge. With the experience of the 2008 recession still fresh in many investors’ and brokers’ minds, our survey results confirm that for many firms, the period after the outbreak is brought to heel could represent a uniquely opportune chance to place capital.

Appendix: Respondent characteristics

  • Total responses: 226
  • Roles: brokers & agents (47%), owners, investors and developers (30%), property managers (8%), other (15%)
  • Property types: office (31%), retail (26%), multifamily (24%) and industrial (16%)
  • Seniority: C-suite or owner (50%), senior (34%), mid-level and junior (16%)
  • Firm size: 1-10 employees (50%), 11-50 employees (19%), 51+ employees (31%)
  • Location: United States (79%), Canada (7%), other (14%)
  • U.S. state locations: 35 total states. Top four: California (13%), New York (8%), Florida (7%) and Texas (7%)
Image - Design