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Forecasting the Future: Covid-19 and Its Impact on the Real Estate Industry

12/15/2020 9:35 AM | Cinnamon Thompson (Administrator)

The Southern California Development Forum (SCDF), an organization that provides networking opportunities for those in the real estate community, hosted a virtual town hall with Dave Gilmore, President and CEO of DesignIntelligence and Design Futures Council, about the pandemic’s impact on the real estate industry and the economy. Here’s what Gilmore is expecting in 2021:

Consumers Driving Construction

Consumers will drive further declines in the construction of new retail, entertainment, commercial office, aviation and higher education spaces. People are not buying and consuming the way they used to and if the political and social conflicts continue in the United States, economic distress will remain.

“Ultimately, everything comes down to how consumers consume. So, if you and I are feeling good about ourselves, we spend. If we're not feeling good about ourselves, we pull back and the markets falter,” said Dave Gilmore.

Commercial Office May Not Grow   

The commercial office space will continue to see minimal activity for the first half of 2021. A study by Cisco Systems interviewed 1,500 executives across the United States and found that 90 percent of the companies would not bring back their employees into the office. Alternately, they are leaning toward a remote worker infrastructure.

Commercial real estate investor confidence continues to be subdued as well. People aren't paying their loans and the loans are defaulting. Institutional term loan defaults are estimated to exceed $100 billion through 2022. To make matters worse, the total commercial debt combined with multifamily debt has now approached $4 trillion at the end of the second quarter.

Residential Investments at Risk

The CARES Act placed a ban on all of the mortgage holders so that they could not take action on late payments, until August 31. 15 million residential mortgages are now at risk of foreclosure. Gilmore expects these homes to foreclose in the next 12 months.

Schools and University Cling to Safely Standards

K-12 schools and college universities need to standardize policies and processes to ensure the safety of those who are attending in-person classes. Higher education depends on the effectiveness of the vaccine and if people feel comfortable attending in-person classes. But many students are making the switch to online courses.

There will be an increase in K-12 construction with building designs that adapt to a pandemic. More kids will go back to school.

“We think that public bond money is going to be made available because people don't want their kids at home working from a screen, which is different than the higher education context,” said Gilmore.

Hospitality at Risk

Until the vaccine is distributed, the hospitality industry such as hotels and resorts will remain flat. 50 percent of current assets in the hotel market are now moving into default. There might be a series of fire sales of assets in 2021.

Healthcare Will Receive Funding

Hospitals and healthcare facilities will receive adequate financial support from both the state and federal sources to ensure their facilities are best provisioned for ongoing Covid-19 outbreaks. Nevertheless, many of the hospitals are radically under-optimized. There is an opportunity for those asset owners to improve their space.

Sports, Entertainment and Mass Transit in Danger

Even when the vaccine becomes available, will people be willing to sit close to one another? The pandemic has made it difficult for people to gather in large groups. The entertainment and sports industry are predicted to be flat for two years. Also, about 50 percent of the airport projects that were planned or started got postponed or canceled.

Key Takeaways for RE Leaders

Real estate leaders must refresh and transform their brand identity to create new value offerings and to initiate new financing structures. This is a period for redefinition since this is not a normal recession. We have been living through a series of crises and we are still in the middle of them. Healthcare, economic, political and social sectors are hitting us all at once.

Identify and secure the essential people in your organization that you depend on and will generate value for the firm. Invest in an authentic internal relationship. Consider getting creative about new models for recognition, rewards and compensation.

Reduce your physical footprint because you do not need it anymore. Adopt a mantra of less is more. If you're in charge of the money prioritize your top 10 spend and then reduce it to seven. Operate like every dollar counts because it does.

“It's time to reconsider the art and science of business development. If you've been doing business development based on the old paradigms and the world is radically shifted around you, maybe there is a new way to consider business development for the future of your firm,” stated Gilmore. “It is time to get crazy about environmental and social responsibilities. It's time to get crazy about doing the right thing for the good of all.”

Feel free to keep these helpful tips in mind to refresh your real estate firm to support the industry in 2021. 

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