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.

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.

Using Technology to Keep Packages Organized During the Holidays

It’s that time of year again…

The holiday season is upon us and the madness will be kicking off sooner than you think. Everyone needs to start preparing – especially CRE’s multifamily sector. We all know how crazy the mail gets when this festive season rolls around.

If you thought last year was bad, think again. 2019 is gearing up to outdo anything we’ve seen before. Not only is this year’s holiday season shorter, but with all the latest developments in e-commerce, the mailrooms are going to be stocked to the ceilings.

Multifamily property managers who want to get a handle on the situation before it erupts should start preparing now. Fortunately, technology is here to lend a hand.

Here’s how you can keep the mail organized this season.

Automated Package Lockers

Multifamily is home to many residents, all of which are bound to be receiving mail in November and December. Having all of the different packages jumbled together only creates a confusing mess.

The contemporary solution to this issue is to employ automated package lockers in the mailroom. Automated package lockers are a tech-powered resource that can help alleviate the heavy load on staff members. These lockers offer 24/7 access and provide a safe and secure holding place for packages.

Always Play It Safe 

Things aren’t all fun and games simply because the holidays are around the corner. In reality, this season usually sees a spark in theft and loss of property. As multifamily managers, it’s imperative that you protect your residents’ belongings.

To do so, try employing additional security during this season. Take a step beyond manpower and utilize the tech-based solutions available on the market. Smart Building devices like highly sensitive cameras and alarms will establish a full-time watch to help ward off crime.

Make It Clear

When the pace begins to pick up, it’s important to make sure that everyone understands the rules. Every multifamily building has its own mail regulations. Even if they’re relaxed most of the year, the holiday is a good time to crack down on the process.

Using a property management app or an email system, send a mass message to all of the community’s tenants and team members. This is an effective way to get the point across and help everyone know what’s expected of them. The entire community needs to play their part to help the holiday season go smoothly.

Do Your Best to Keep Things Clean

Packages inevitably mean boxes, packing peanuts, tissue paper, plastic – the list goes on! Garbage and trash are rampant during the holidays. In a multifamily property with a large number of tenants, the garbage system can easily become overwhelmed.

If possible, it’s a good idea to increase the frequency that the dumpsters get emptied. Otherwise, at least try to uphold the building’s garbage regulations as best as possible.

In order to combat the mess, take time daily to inspect the building and make sure no packages are left in hallways or in common areas. Use cameras to streamline the process. If anything is amiss, send the tenant or group a kind email reminding them to keep their space clear.

How are you preparing? For more commercial real estate tips, check out our blog.