Pants on Fire

by Alec Pacella for February 2021, Properties Magazine, Financial Strategies

The 2020 election will long be remembered for a host of reasons. If you can put aside all of the noise and focus specifically on the numbers, an interesting thing occurred. The Republican candidate garnered over 72 million votes, which is the most votes ever cast in the history of the U.S. election. Except, of course, for the Democratic candidate in this year’s election, who garnered over 81 million votes.

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Eye of the beholder: Tapping into the art of CRE photography

Commercial real estate (CRE) comes alive with compelling photography, and this has never been truer than in this age where most prospective tenants and clients begin and end their search for property online.

Of course, there are some things a great photo can’t do: it can’t negotiate rates, or check leases, and it certainly doesn’t have the connections that a broker has. Thankfully, they are not competing. In CRE, a great photograph (several actually) and a great broker are a killer combo.

Here’s how to get the best visuals of your listings:

  1. Work with the professionals: If you are selling your own home, you might – we repeat, MIGHT – just get away with taking your own pictures. For a serious CRE listing, however, you need seriously great photographs that can capture a sense of place and project the potential of a site.
  • Collaborate with creative: A CRE broker may want to identify a small pool of tried-and-trusted photographers and freelancers who they can turn to as listings come up. Then they know the quality they can expect, and the photographers know the kind of photos a broker is after. Look for photographers specializing in real estate and architectural photography specifically; they come with a wealth of insight and tricks up their sleeves.

Also on this point, one must give clear briefs to the photographer, especially if there is a particular market or prospective client they want the photos to appeal to – such as startups or ‘blue chips’, niche or volume audiences, and so on.

  • Look local (and timing is critical): Knowing the area – its rhythms and moods – can mitigate some of the challenges an outsider might be faced with when capturing an office space or retail park. A local photographer can advise on what time is best for the lighting you need and want, which is one of the most critical decisions that you will make before a shoot.

A golden reflection, deep color saturation, or the sparkling backdrop of a city at night can all make the difference between a photo that shouts out to a viewer and a site that looks lifeless and cold.

  • Landscape, landscape, landscape… except when not: Almost exclusively, the landscape orientation lends itself best to CRE photography, and it is the most versatile for listings online and the types of standard content management systems many listing sites use.

There are, however, a handful of excellent reasons to break from this, such as drawing attention to an architectural feature or making a splash with printed peripherals. This “standard” operating procedure is shifting, especially as more listings are being viewed on mobile sites and apps (more directly below) in square and portrait form.

  • Tech-led: Fancy a 3D rendering or a sweeping drone shot? These kinds of photography are becoming cheaper and more accessible every day, and a professional CRE photographer will likely offer these extras or be able to recommend another service provider. Not every listing needs this, so be discerning.

Got a photography tip to share with your colleagues or an example of great real estate photography, from your listings or archives? Share this article, with your photography tip, and be sure to tag us on social media!

Click-to-collect and e-commerce: a windfall for CRE

Pivoting from in-store sales to tech-enabled sales was one of the saving graces of retail in 2020 when stores emptied out, and shelter-at-home orders dragged one. The data now shows that companies and markets better positioned to shift to e-commerce fared better than those that didn’t. 

The upside to shifting sales online, though, was that it contributed to a longer holiday shopping season, and drove record-breaking extension in e-commerce market penetration, with some reporting as much as 70% e-commerce sales growth last year. 

When a door closes…

On the commercial real estate (CRE) side of the retail coin, it has also driven demand for warehousing, fulfillment, and shipping spaces – a shift that creates an opportunity for a savvy agent or broker. 

…A warehouse opens

The World Property Journal, for example, reports that 99.2 million square footage of industrial space was taken up in the last quarter of 2020, making it the strongest quarter on record. Some 203.7 million square feet were absorbed during the course of the year, which is 27% up on 2019’s net growth.  

This overview perspective echoes the reports coming from regional data, such as in Wisconsin, as well as abroad in the UK and Europe, and Australia. According to Bizjournals.com, in Southeast Wisconsin, the industrial property market in 2020 took up square footage equal to that of all the new builds coming to construction completion in the area. 

In the UK, FM Magazine reports, that available space is outpaced by demand, and this is tricky at a time when companies will have to manage their supply chain very carefully due to Covid-19 and ‘Brexit’. 

Standing out

This kind of growth is a beacon of light in the otherwise dismal statistics of 2020, where economies around the world took huge strain – but it also draws attention to itself, which means more competition too. 

“Just because you have industrial or warehousing space on your books, don’t assume it’s a done deal,” cautions Jay Olshonsky, President and CEO of NAI Global. “Some companies are also cautious and risk-averse at the moment, so you’ll have discerning clients looking for only places that fit their needs and not every warehouse building will do that.”

At this point, analysts generally expect this trend to continue into the second quarter of 2021, although the growth line may flatten out somewhat as we begin to see a stronger return to in-person shopping in Q3 2021.

Data demonstrates 2020’s brutal construction slump

The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) confirmed this week that construction activity on New York City’s Manhattan Island had – predictably – slumped in 2020, to almost its lowest level in a decade.

The World Property Journal detailed the findings of REBNY’s Q4 2020 New Building Construction Pipeline Report, highlighting that “new building filings in 2020 represented a proposed 42.67 million construction square feet, which is an approximately 28% decline compared to proposed construction square footage in 2019”. This was, the report said, the lowest total since 2012.

Residential units proposed for construction in 2020 declined by roughly 17% compared to 2019, the report found.

Promising plans

The study, however, is not all ‘doom and gloom’, stating: While this new analysis highlights the ongoing challenges faced by the construction industry due to the devastating impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, it also follows some promising recent infrastructure and construction plans being put forth.

Global effects

These sectors are important job creators around the world, and many states and countries are still counting the costs of the ongoing pandemic:

  • A new report by the Associated General Contractors of America shows that Texas had the sharpest construction jobs loss decline in the US shedding 33,600 building industry jobs in December, compared to the same period the year before, according to Dallas News.
  • In Northern Ireland, says the Irish Times, data indicates “firms reporting a deterioration in profit margins outnumbered those reporting an improvement by 11 to one”.
  • London’s Southwalk Council is calling on construction workers to participate in their rapid testing project, as the UK government begins rolling out vaccines to those that cannot work from home.
  • And ConstructionCanada.net is reporting that both construction jobs and the economic recovery of Ontario is at risk if their government doesn’t bed down the post-pandemic “restart” agreement and plans for financial assistance. This comes from the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario who say municipalities will have to scrap repair projects if funds aren’t forthcoming.

“The ramifications are ongoing,” says Jay Olshonsky, President and CEO of NAI Global, “A set-back like this is painful, but if we’re looking for silver-linings it does give the industry pause to consider how it can return stronger, in sustainable and greener ways.

3 Ways to Embrace Green Building

In contemporary developments, environmental building has gone from being a ‘nice touch’ to a nearly mandatory consideration. Today’s consumer culture is passionate about choosing brands and companies that make eco-conscious choices, which have put the pressure on professionals to take tangible (and marketable) steps towards going green.

Resultantly, this has fueled a major trend in the world of commercial real estate. As their clientele demand all things green, our tenants and investors are hitting the commercial markets with green building in mind.

With success on the line, CRE pros need to start incorporating the green building module into their strategies. Fortunately, there are tons of different ways this can be accomplished – many of which won’t break the bank.


Let’s take a deeper look at green building and review some tips that will help CRE embrace this lasting trend.

Green Building Defined

Green buildings place strong importance on sustainability, waste reduction, and lessening a property’s carbon footprint. Successful green buildings are given the official stamp of approval by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). There are more than 200,000 LEED-certified buildings globally and the trend is only growing.

It’s safe to say that nearly every commercial sector is taking steps to become more environmentally-friendly. Retail, multifamily, office, hospitality, and even industrial are all being pushed towards a greener outlook. This development is having a big impact on the physical spaces they inhabit.

The commercial industry is shifting its focus towards an eco-conscious building module. Data analysts anticipate that commercial property owners around the world will be spending $960 billion in eco-conscious investments by 2023.

However, that’s not to say that all green upgrades will rack up a big price tag. Here are a few great tips to help you achieve a building that’s good for both the planet and your bank accounts.

Keep Your Eyes on These 3 Trends

Apply these 3 environmentally-friendly tips to your commercial portfolio to seamlessly transition your buildings into a greener future. 

Include Green-Thinking In Daily Habits

Sometimes, it’s the little things that matter most.

It doesn’t always take a huge effort to cultivate a greener building. Instead, property owners can add a few easy-to-do daily habits to your regular maintenance routine. Get serious about recycling efforts, install a bike rack for tenants, and educate building users about cutting back on wasted water.

Green Leasing

Have you heard of the green leasing trend? If not, you’re missing out on an eco-friendly practice that’s not only helpful but also nearly cost-free. When writing the lease document, draft up energy-efficient reports, create recommended-use directions to reduce waste, and add in green requirements.

Energy-Efficient Everything

Whether it’s appliances, tools, or lighting; green buildings employ eco-efficient products as much as possible. A great way to get started at a low cost is by replacing the building’s older lights with LED lighting. LED lighting lets off more light and less heat, meaning less energy is being wasted.

Wasting less means spending less. Watch utility bills reduce after applying energy-saving tools throughout the commercial property.

Stay tuned for more CRE tips and news.