Thought leadership: How CRE fits into corporate strategy

The cliché of “Location, location, location” applies in commercial real estate (CRE) as much as residential, but what factors you bundle into that assessment are, naturally, vastly different and should be explicitly tied to corporate strategy. That’s the realm of corporate real estate management (CREM).

Corporate decisionmakers

A savvy corporate client on the hunt for premises will be asking whether a proposed site will support their corporate goals.

When considering a potential position for offices or logistics, for example, an assessor might ask about the transport links, the nearby shops and facilities. They may consider perception and whether the location is in keeping with brand identity.

They will need to understand the current and future demands the company will make of a location, and how the lease or sale terms will be perceived by a board or management team.

Access to (human) resources

There is another oft-overlooked location factor that NAI argues should form part of a CRE strategy: talent and access to the right people.

This is the nature of cities or areas that become hubs for specific industries and sectors: they have a rich pool of workers with the right mix of skills to draw from. If you’re looking for the top geologists in the world, you probably want to focus on an area associated with mining. Want people who are passionate and knowledgeable about the ocean? Try Hawaii. Silicon Valley, and increasingly Texas, are meccas for the technically minded.

There’s remote work and transferable skills to consider, of course, but generally speaking a talent pool linked to an area is self-sustaining, in the way that Silicon Valley and Stanford will always be linked in their mutual development paths.

What type of staff you envision filling your hallways and boardrooms will also inform other location considerations: like access to good schools, parks, or public transport.

Property as an asset

Last but definitely not least, the right property is an asset and an investment with future dividends. This is why a smart broker, or their corporate client isn’t just looking at what is now, but what could be, what’s on the horizon, and any prevailing trends that need to be considered.

A client with explicit return on investment (ROI) expectations or a particular appetite for risk – as just two examples – should place that information on the table from the get-go, as premises can be (and often are) serving the dual purposes of functional and financial.

Remember: business strategy should drive a real estate decision, not the other way round.

Prop trends: Sustainability is the new black

The Covid-19 pandemic might have been an unforeseen crisis that sent the world spinning but, general volatility and the incidence of global or major crises are expected to rise in the coming decades. This is the result of a complex matrix of overlapping issues, including climate change, globalization, population growth and urbanization, and migration.

Against this backdrop, analysts have been warning that companies need to relook at their plans and forecasts through an ESG criteria lens. ESG stands for environmental, social, and governance.

According to a McKinsey report on the topic (published in Nov 2019), “ESG-oriented investing has experienced a meteoric rise. Global sustainable investment now tops $30 trillion—up 68 percent since 2014…” They ascribe this sharp acceleration to “heightened social, governmental, and consumer attention on the broader impact of corporations, as well as by the investors and executives who realize that a strong ESG proposition can safeguard a company’s long-term success.”

ESG in CRE

ESG is a rising concern for all businesses, and commercial real estate (CRE) is not exempt. ESG within this context would include matters such as the energy footprint of a property or development, its carbon emissions, ethical and local supply chains, labor relations, diversity, and inclusivity, and then the governance procedures and controls in place to comply with the law and meet the needs and expectations of all stakeholders.

A solid ESG strategy creates opportunities for partnerships, strengthens ties with communities, and links back directly to things like corporate missions and visions, for the way you want to operate and the changes you want to make in the world. On the other hand, failing to account for ESG in your property or development plans can become a material risk for your business.

Competitive advantage

ESG platform Goby looks at these issues specifically within CRE, and they believe having an ESG strategy is a competitive advantage for CRE professionals and brokerages. There are, they say, many tangible benefits to this – such as lowering your energy costs – but moreover, emphasize the intangible benefits that flow from a solid ESG strategy.

Goby’s ESG in CRE report (hosted on HubSpot) argues: “Intangible benefits are harder to measure directly, and include metrics like tenant comfort, word-of-mouth advertising from tenants about building improvements, and a reduced environmental impact.

Attracting investment through ESG

Over and above “doing the right thing”, ESG advocates believe that these holistic sustainability matters can make a compelling investment case within CRE investing.

As the Goby report outlines, when asked what they considered essential and important elements of ESG investments some 79% of investors cited ethical parameters and values, 78% mentioned positive environmental and social impacts, and 77% reported that they believed ESG factors could play a critical role in broader financial performance.

This echoes the McKinsey investment growth story, and with those numbers, it’s not a leap to say that that’s the final word on the bottom line.

CRE Capital Markets: making money work for you

The capital markets function within commercial real estate (CRE) is such a huge part of the property industry these days but is still quite poorly understood by those on the outside. Yes, there is a certain magic to bringing all the right elements together to support a smart capital market deal, but that doesn’t mean it’s a mystery or unknowable. Conquering capital markets is a matter of strategy and value. You just need the right partners to guide you.

Course 101

Let’s get back to basics: If you are talking about capital markets as a general term (not necessarily within real estate), then you are describing a place for buying and selling stock, bonds, and debt instruments. A stock exchange, like the NASDAQ, is a type of capital market.

Zoom back into CRE

Within CRE then, you can see how capital markets are places for brokering financial deals specifically in property. When a brokerage, like ourselves, offers capital markets as a service this means we are providers of capital solutions relating to property. This can mean solutions for investors and for occupiers and may include advising on investments, recapitalizing, or debt placement – what’s on offer really depends on the brokerage and its own expertise in-house.

NAI Global’s capital market services include:

  • Investment sales
  • Note sales
  • Live and sealed bid auctions
  • Debt placement
  • Acquisition advisory

The right capital market partners

A capital markets service provider needs two overarching things for success: A depth of knowledge (expertise in the financial specifics and deal types), and a breadth of network (access to the right people and right primary and secondary markets).

Emerging trends

From crowdfunding to app-based finance, capital market professionals are also facing a wave of innovation and change, largely driven by factors like digitization and the fourth industrial revolution.

“Evolving technology means the barriers to entry are coming down, but expertise and experience continue to be what sets capital market service providers and consultants apart,” explains Jay Olshonsky, President & CEO of NAI Global. “That’s what you want on your side when you’re looking for the capital solution you need.”

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!

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.