The “Experts” Don’t Always Know
Remember…the “experts might know more than the average bear” but they don’t know everything. Recent news about Talcott Financial Group moving its Windsor offices to 52,000 square feet in downtown Hartford made me think…wasn’t it just two years ago that everyone (including me) was telling you all it was likely that companies would move OUT of the cities and into the tranquil suburbs (moving closer to its employees and having more elbow room)? Hub & Spoke at the very least. OK, you can’t paint everything with one brush BUT theory number 2 is that companies move INTO the city where their employees have stuff to do and places to go (lunch and after work). (not to mention new offices and cooler space!).
Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same.
One Year Later – Grateful & Thankful
Amazingly, it’s been a year since the pandemic began. I remember closing our offices on March 12th, one day prior to the very apropos Friday the 13th! Just as amazingly, the clock and the calendar simultaneously and equally slowed to a tedious crawl and sped to an unsustainable blur. March 12, 2020 put us on a path of the unknown and required all of us to test our limits, physically and mentally. It required us all to deal with the present and the future, personally and professionally, while navigating the incredible challenges and toll the pandemic was taking on our family, our community, our country and our world.
Today I am taking a moment to reflect on the enormity of the past year. The enormity of the challenges, the losses and the sacrifice. Equally, the enormity of the response to those challenges. The positivity, the dedication, and the American spirit of moving forward, while navigating our daily challenges. As I reflect I want to thank all of our Sentry Commercial family, our clients, our colleagues and our community for the monumental effort you have given over the past year. I am grateful and thankful for all you have done. I know it was, and is, not easy. I equally realize that we have a ways to go to end this pandemic, so I thank you for the same effort and spirit as we navigate out of these challenging times.
We are most definitely headed for better times. Thank you all for providing us that opportunity.
Grateful & Thankful,
How Strong Is Industrial Real Estate?
Wondering just how strong industrial real estate is nationally? Take a look at this article from Commercial Property Executive Excellent overview by CP Executive and JLL’s Trent Agnew. Quick takeaways:
- Due to capital market sales, $20B less traded in 2020 than 2019.
- 524M square feet leased in Q4 20 alone!
- 5.4% national vacancy rate.
- 327M SF of new construction in 2020.
- Cap rates on investment sales continue to decrease.
- More of the same expected in 2021.
- Class B market continues to be highly sought (in attractive markets).
- More e-commerce expansion.
Additional personal opinion in southern New England for 2021…
- Lack of inventory could squeeze 2021 results.
- e-commerce, while still active, might be less so in 2021 (warehouse slack, alternative solutions).
See full Commercial Property Executive article: Just How Strong Is Industrial Real Estate?
Last Mile Continues to Evolve
Customers have become accustom to curbside pickup. Bricks & Mortar retailers continue to offer it, but admittedly it challenges profit margins. In fact, in Costco’s case, already tight margins might not allow it! (Costco is starting to beta test curbside in a couple of locations in New Mexico – See recent RetailDive.com article Costco is testing curbside pickup). Efficiency then is paramount. Retail behemoth Walmart is starting to utilize robotics in the warehouse section of its stores to maximize efficiencies and margins. See recent Connect Media article, Walmart Bringing Robot-Filled Warehouse to DFW
Listen to the Experts…But Not Too Closely
One thing I have learned in my 34 years in the business? Listen to the experts…but don’t believe everything you hear. Using a black jack term, “the books says…”. The book says there aren’t any office leases being signed. Reality says otherwise, as evidenced by this most recent westfaironline.com article. 220,000 SF office lease signed at The Summit at Danbury
JLL Survey Results Support Hybrid Office Theory
- Increase from average of 1.2 days per week at home to 2.4 days per week.
- 72% of employees want some level of work from home. 66% want at least 2 days per week.
- Only 26% want full time work from home.
- 50% want a hybrid approach while 24% want to work exclusively from home.
- 76% want access to the traditional office.
See GlobeSt.com article: Workers Signal They Want a Hybrid Approach
Port Imports At Record Peaks
New import stats out as of 10/10/20 – More and more imports coming into the US due to replenishing of inventories, stocking up for holiday season and overstocking to insure the supply chain. October imports up 6.5% year over year, fourth highest month on record!
Back to Work
If people aren’t coming back to work then why am I progressively parking higher and higher in the parking garage!!?? #backtowork #returntooffice.
CoStar sues CREXi
The battle for, and protection of, CRE property data continues with @CoStar’s most recent suit against @CREXi. Interesting bit of history between CREXi, CoStar and @TenX. CREXi CEO, Michael DeGiorgio, is a former executive at TenX (and of course TenX was recently acquired by CoStar!).
These battles continue to hold the CRE services industry interest and concerns. @Sentry Commercial continues to use CoStar as a part of our Tech Stack. Information and data that, in part, supports our services to our clients and associates.
Never a dull moment!!
Balancing the Supply Chain
The supply chain has had many challenges over the last 6 months. Shipping lines almost entirely shut down early in the crisis causing huge disruptions to supplies around the world. Shipping company solvency was at risk. Interestingly enough, shipping companies have actually re-tooled the way they approach their business and are making money! See the @WSJ article explaining just how! (Hint: profitability v volume).
Construction Costs Decline in Q2 2020
The effect of the COVID crisis has had varying effects on the real estate industry. Some surprising. This would be one of them! Turner Construction Co. cost index shows that construction costs for Q2 2020 actually declined! One would’ve thought the opposite (with costs of materials increasing and PPE/social distancing/sanitation precautions) but it appears competition has created an aggressive price war. However, July shows signs that trend might change. See GlobeSt.com article below:
Broker Confidence Rises in New SIOR Survey
This article is from Connect Media and has been republished with permission from Connect Media. View the article here.
June 5, 2020
Confidence in experiencing favorable market conditions six months from now is up slightly in SIOR’s second monthly survey of members, rising from 6.04 for the April survey to 6.22 in May. However, the organization’s office brokers have less confidence than their industrial counterparts, according to SIOR’s May 2020 Sentiment Survey.
Focusing on current conditions, the newly-released survey results charted significant changes in the overall status of current transactions. There was just over a 5% increase in transactions progressing on schedule and a 3% decrease in the number of transactions on hold by clients.
“There has been a lot of speculation and discussion about what might be or could be taking shape, but this is the first time the best brokers in the business have weighed in to share what’s really happening and the confidence our professionals have for the industry several months from now,” said SIOR president Mark Duclos.
US Manufacturers Reshoring
More US manufacturers than ever are considering reshoring. Unreliable supply chains, as evidenced by the recent crisis, is the latest reason but that is only one of the many reasons. Companies have been reshoring for years but look for that trend to accelerate. According to this recent article by Thomas.net, more than two thirds of US manufacturers surveyed are considering bringing parts of their supply chain back to the US and closer to their factories. This will likely provide a major boost to the industrial real estate markets in North America.
See attached Bisnow article: Reshoring Likely to Boost Industrial CRE
CoreNet Releases Corporate CRE Pros Survey for Returning Employees
We are all now in the phase of re-emerging from isolation and, with it, understanding the “new norm”. Sentry Commercial is here to help you. This was just released by CoreNet Global. It is a survey of corporate real estate professionals at large global corporations. This is a great reference (early in the game) for all who have offices (That includes you industrial companies – You have offices too!!).
Let us know if you have any questions. We will continue to keep you posted on this ever-evolving situation.
COVID and the CRE Tenant Response
This article is from the SIOR Thought Leadership Series and has been republished with permission from SIOR.
As COVID-19 Forces Business Closures, SIOR Tenant Advisory Steps Up
As the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on the world’s population and the global economy, the commercial real estate industry faces its most daunting challenges since the Great Recession. One of the most pressing issues for CRE professionals is the ripple effect occurring as companies leasing commercial space can no longer pay their rent. Not only will landlords be unable to meet mortgage obligations, but repercussions will be felt throughout the entire real estate financial structure.
With the announcement by the Trump administration that the voluntary national shutdown would be extended until April 30 to slow the spread of the virus, restaurants, non-essential retail, and many other industries already crippled by the pandemic are unable to generate income to pay employees or rent. Although the need for rent relief solutions vary by tenant, the prevailing wisdom from the SIOR brokerage community is to encourage tenants to seek rent abatements for 90 days, with payback distributed throughout the length of the lease.
“At our firm we are actively negotiating resolutions to lease and purchase issues as a result of the coronavirus, as well as preparing for loan modifications or workouts, which will be the next phase for our clients,” says Louis Archambault, SIOR, partner and commercial real estate attorney for the Miami office of Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr, LLP. “These are on a case-by-case basis, but the easiest negotiation is to abate rent for 2-3 months and add it on to the end of the term for a lease, or to extend a closing date 60-90 days for a purchase.”
Saul Ewing is adhering to the guidance provided by David Zimmer, SIOR, and his partners, who are extending the same to their tenants. Zimmer is principal of Newmark Grubb Zimmer in Kansas City, Mo., a brokerage firm that operates ten million square feet of industrial and office buildings as well as a retail center. Qualified tenants—not in default or with past due accounts—will be offered abatement on base rent for the months of April, May and June, and beginning July 1 can repay the rent—interest free—over the remaining term of their lease. Tenants also have the option to extend their lease for 12 months, with the abatement spread out over the amended lease. For Zimmer, it’s not only the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense.
“Whether the tenant repays [the abatement] over the remaining term of the lease or takes advantage of extending the term, it provides us with a benefit, because it affords us longer occupancy in our buildings without having to go to the market, renegotiate a lease, or face a vacancy,” says Zimmer. “I’m all about cash flow, about keeping my buildings occupied—not facing a vacancy, and having to retrofit a building and spend money on tenant improvements. As long as your building stays occupied, you avoid those expenditures.”
Because he carries little debt on his properties, Zimmer acknowledges that he is in a “fortunate” position with regards to his ability to offer rent abatements, unlike many of his counterparts that are more heavily leveraged. However, there are still lender obligations, taxes, insurance premiums, common area maintenance (CAM) charges, utilities, and vendors that still need to be paid. “So even if I abate rent for tenants, I still have financial obligations that I need to meet.”
“We also understand that this is a short-term crisis,” Duclos continues. “It seems long-term now, but we’re hoping that by say, late summer, this all clears out. And how do you want that to look? It’s either going to be carnage or we’re all going to work together and handle it with a united sense of purpose.
– Mark Duclos, SIOR
As a result, he is evaluating some lease modification requests with a degree of skepticism. While his local retail and small business tenants are struggling to remain afloat, there are some more resilient professional services businesses he feels are seeking to “game the system,” given the extraordinary circumstances. “I try very hard not to judge. I want to be a straight shooter and I would hope that the majority—if not all—of the tenants are straight shooters with me, but there are some that have left a sour taste in my mouth [with demands]” says Zimmer.
His skepticism is well-founded, as some tenants—particularly national chains—have launched preemptive strikes against property owners by withholding or reducing rent payments. Last week, the national restaurant chain Cheesecake Factory announced they would not pay April rent for their 300 locations due to the business shutdown. Sandwich chain Subway and retailer Mattress Firm also announced that they would suspend or reduce payments to property owners. Mattress Firm is citing the coronavirus as a force majeure (unforeseeable event) that “will prevent or prohibit us” from paying rent, and Subway issued a letter to landlords stating that the company reserves its right to “abatement or postponement of rental payments.”
In Europe, the prospects for landlords collecting rent are even dimmer, according to Charles Tatham, SIOR, of Tatham Property Solutions in Paris. The coronavirus has hit Western Europe especially hard, with a mortality rate three and a half to six times higher in Italy, Spain, France, and the U.K. than the U.S. is currently experiencing, necessitating varying degrees of lockdown in each of those countries. He says major landlord groups in France have preemptively suspended rents, or are billing on a monthly—as opposed to a quarterly—basis, and not pursuing non-payers. “The usual fabric of commercial life has effectively broken down,” says Tatham.
The French government has taken extraordinary measures to see that businesses do not fail, guaranteeing hundreds of billions worth of loans, delaying tax payments and suspending rent and utility bills for smaller firms. “And the private sector is trying to find appropriate measures to help out, so the more people talk, the better,” says Tatham. “But the savvy tenant is going to say, ‘If the government is letting me off of [my obligations], why would I cut a check to my landlord? Because there are no bailiffs to serve and no courts to judge.”
Back in the U.S., tenants may have a more difficult time getting out from under their obligations, according to Archambault, particularly those seeking to curtail paying rent through force majeure. “The force majeure provisions, for the most part, are more about landlord protection than the tenant’s ability to pay rent,” he opines. And he is not optimistic the concept of Force Majeure will be broadened in the future by the courts, as judicial appointments have recently trended toward strict constructionist judges, which typically stick to the plain language of a contract or statute.
“When the issues related to the pandemic inevitably hit the courts, our current expectation is the courts will hold that if a contract or statute does not specifically provide an issue is covered by the language of the respective contract or statute, the court will not broaden the language provided,” says Archambault. “However, this may change due to the magnitude of the pandemic.”
On a more optimistic note, Archambault says that most landlords are willing to work with tenants on modifications, simply because, “if before the pandemic you had a performing tenant, why would you want to go replace them?” Tenants should be prepared to produce supporting financial documentation, however, as landlords want to be sure that tenants are being truthful regarding their ability to pay. Landlords will also need that documentation to show lenders and/or investors, so “that they will understand that while [the landlords] were being proactive, they were also being diligent, and I think that’s a reasonable request,” says Archambault. He also reminds his clients that the CRE business is still about people, and business associates will long remember how individuals and firms conducted themselves during the crisis.
That sentiment is echoed by SIOR president Mark Duclos, SIOR, co-founder and president of Sentry Commercial in Hartford, Conn., who says that his clients—tenants, landlords, buyers, sellers, lenders—all understand that they’re part of the same food chain, and if one link is broken, it’s going to affect the entirety of the chain. “So landlords understand that if they absolutely crush the tenant, then you lose the tenant and the ability to pay your mortgage,” says Duclos.
“We also understand that this is a short-term crisis,” Duclos continues. “It seems long-term now, but we’re hoping that by say, late summer, this all clears out. And how do you want that to look? It’s either going to be carnage or we’re all going to work together and handle it with a united sense of purpose. The response of the landlords and lenders can greatly reduce the effects of the pandemic while maximizing and accelerating the recovery.”
About the Author: Michael Hoban is a Boston-based commercial real estate and construction writer and founder of Hoban Communications, which provides media advisory services to CRE and AEC firms. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
1031 Exchange & OZ Timelines Extended
Good news! The US Treasury and the IRS have extended the timelines for 1031 Exchanges and Opportunity Zones! See below:
1031 Like-kind exchanges. Specifically, if an investor has taken the first step of a like-kind exchange by selling the old property, and either the 45-day or the 180-day deadline falls between April 1 and July 15, the deadline has been extended to July 15.
Opportunity Zones. Specifically, if an investor who sold a capital asset planned to roll over the gain into an Opportunity Fund and the 180-day deadline to do so falls between April 1 and July 15, 2020, he or she can make the investment as late as July 15.
We will continue to keep you posted on any additional information.
Paycheck Protection Program
Allow us a moment to send an alert to many of our colleagues and other independent contractors out there! Companies are in the process of applying for Paycheck Protection Program benefits. Independent Contractors can also apply starting this Friday (April 10th). But YOU, like our small businesses, need to prepare PRIOR TO FRIDAY. Here’s a link to the Fact Sheet about the program. Bottom line…get in touch with your bank NOW! The application goes through your bank.
Mortgage Payment Relief – CT
We have received a number of questions from our CT-Based clients asking about mortgage payment relief – In case you did not receive Wednesday’s release from Commissioner David Lehman, see excerpt from link below and the link itself – Over 60 local banks and credit unions offering relief:
Mortgage relief. Over 60 banks and credit unions have agreed to offer mortgage relief to homeowners and businesses facing hardship caused by the pandemic. These institutions may offer:
- A 90-day grace period for all mortgage payments;
- Relief from fees and charges for 90 days;
- No new foreclosures for 60 days; and
- No credit-score changes for accessing relief.
Of course, you’ll want to contact your lender for more guidance on how this applies to your specific situation.
Property Tax Relief – CT
We have received a number of questions from our CT-Based clients asking about potential property tax relief (many town/city property taxes due on July 1) – In case you did not receive the latest release from Commissioner David Lehman, see excerpt from link below and the link itself.
Relief from municipal tax and fee deadlines and collections. Cities and towns are required to offer eligible taxpayers at least one of the following, and may offer both:
- A 90-day deferment for any taxes on real property, personal property or motor vehicles, or municipal water, sewer and electric rates, charges and assessments.
- Reduced interest on delinquent tax payments to property owners under certain conditions.
ALERT: Remote Notarization Approved in CT
Alert from CT Realtors – Tonight Governor Lamont issued Executive Order 7Q regarding Remote Notarization which among other things temporarily removes the two person witness requirement, except for wills. CTR worked with several industry groups/partners on these important changes to help keep real estate transactions moving forward. Thank you to the Lamont Administration and the Secretary of State.
Full Release: CT Realtors Full Press Release