Tracking the great return: Real estate and the investment case in late 2021.

News broke in late July that Apple was pushing back its ‘return to the office’ expectations by at least a month. CEO Tim Cook had previously flagged September as a likely date for the majority of its office-based staff to resume in-person, on-site work – based largely on the availability of the vaccinations.

Now Bloomberg – citing unnamed sources – says the technology giant is feeling less confident in this push to return as many in the US remain unvaccinated and new variants continue to plague health services.

This is a blow to the “return to the office” rhetoric which has dominated the news in recent months and may have knock-on effects for the commercial real estate (CRE) industry – in terms of development planning, new builds, and investor sentiment.

Mask up orders

This decision is informed by government mandates, according to the sources. Drawing from the New York Times stats, Bisnow writes: “The average number of new daily coronavirus cases in California, where Apple is headquartered, has tripled in the past two weeks”. In addition, they report, Cupertino – Apple’s ‘home city’ – and the Santa Clara County in which it sits has issued a statement calling for the return to mandatory mask-wearing.

The county’s collective statement reads: “[we] recommend that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors in public places as an extra precautionary measure for those who are fully vaccinated, and to ensure easy verification that all unvaccinated people are masked in those settings.”

Markets react

This, as well as news on the effect of the Delta variant of Covid-19, has seemingly subdued sentiment on the markets, with the S&P500 taking a knock – dropping the most it has in two months, according to an additional Bloomberg report.

Despite this, many real estate investment trusts (REITs) and related investment vehicles are rallying. A contributor on the Nasdaq website takes a look at this counter-intuitive trend, pointing out that: “Vanguard Real Estate Index Fund ETF Shares (VNQ) added about 24.1% this year compared with 16.1% gains in the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY)”.  They argue that inflation, housing price increases, “booming cloud business” are among the factors underpinning this resilience.

High yields

Finally, the relatively high yields of real estate are setting them apart from other investments, writing: “The benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury yield was 1.38% on Jul 1. Against such a low-yield backdrop, dividends offered by real estate ETFs are quite sturdy.”

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Green down under: Sydney’s ambitious eco targets

Australia is certainly feeling the effects of the global climate crisis in recent years. The sensitive and beautiful ecosystem enjoyed by the “Aussies” has been ravaged by heat waves and wildfires and drowned in record-breaking floods – not to mention the tragedy that is the widespread bleaching of corals on the Great Barrier Reef, the result of rising ocean temperatures.

Perhaps this is why Australians are getting serious about cracking down on common pollutants and regulating the ecological impact of the industry. The latest news in this regard is the tough energy standards introduced by the City of Sydney (the government of Australia’s most populous city), and support for these coming from the leading property companies in the region.

Zero net emissions

Commercial Real Estate Australia published an article in late May 2021 detailing how the commercial real estate (CRE) and property leaders in the city have come out in support of the tough new energy standards that will apply to all development applications – from as early as the start of 2023. Specifically, the City[MOU1]  is targeting zero net emissions for the entire local government area by 2035.

The report reads: “For the first time, City of Sydney is proposing that DAs to build or redevelop hotels and shopping centers must achieve a minimum National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) environmental rating, in this case, four stars. It also wants to increase the existing NABERS rating for office buildings from five stars to 5.5 stars by the start of 2023.”

Sydney Mayor Clover Moore says this makes economic sense, as well as environmental, and will help “save more than $ 1.3 billion on energy bills for investors, businesses and occupants between 2023 and 2040”.

Lead by the people

What’s particularly interesting about this, and other eco-friendly news emanating from Down Under, is that these gains appear to be driven at a regional and personal level, more than from the incumbent government which has been described as “one of the most climate-skeptical political groups in the developed world”.

For example, green energy is a big talking point in residential and commercial real estate (CRE) spheres, with considerable demand from consumers. One in four Australian homes now have rooftop solar energy supplies, says Recharge News. Clean energy is now almost a third of the power mix in the country.

Demand-side driven

The real estate industry is considered a thought leader in this space in Australia and has been recognized by bodies like the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB), in which they have topped the charts for a decade.

Australia’s Green Building Council calls GRESB “the global benchmark for environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance of real assets, defining and measuring standards for sustainability performance”, explaining that this assessment metric includes not just property, but also real estate investment trusts (REITs), funds, and developers – representing assets in excess of AUD $6 trillion.

Australian companies are also prominent in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index – another indicator, perhaps, of how the [professional and personal] tail can wag [government] dog in pursuing greener CRE.


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!

Making Your Real Estate Portfolio Green

Commercial real estate has long been striving to become a more environmentally-friendly industry. Sustainability concerns and CRE go hand in hand, and green-minded strategies continue to play a noteworthy role in this business.

Even in the face of the coronavirus crisis, commercial real estate did not lose its long-standing focus on creating greener portfolios. With environmental concerns on the rise, the trend of sustainability is gaining momentum. As a result, commercial real estate has slowly been shedding its wasteful habits and adopting new green models.

Moving forward, all signs point to a green commercial real estate industry. Is your portfolio prepared?

If you haven’t already been thinking sustainable, it’s time to start. Now is a good time to begin investing in green properties. Make “green investing” a part of your commercial real estate portfolio – here’s why:

Attract More Tenants

As global sentiments become more focused on sustainable development, going green can help your portfolio attract more tenants. Today’s companies are passionate about maintaining their commitment to going green – even when it comes to the place that they reside. A green asset can out beat comparable listings simply because it is eco-friendly.

Attracting environmentally-minded tenants to your commercial space is one tangible motivator to prompt investing in green spaces.

Stay Ahead of the Curve

Commercial real estate is set to become a green industry eventually. While the transition may seem slow, it’s steadily moving forward. There’s little to no chance for green efforts to revert on themselves and become obsolete. Instead, green investments in CRE will become a ubiquitous element of this business.

Getting involved with green investments early will put your portfolio ahead of the curve, helping you prepare for the future of CRE.

Gain Access to Financial Benefits

Sustainable investing can open the door to substantial savings. CRE investors with green portfolios gain access to grant programs, development support, and joint investment interests specializing in environmental efforts. Making green choices can improve your investment returns with key financial benefits.

Compete with Industry Leaders

When CRE giants make a move, the rest of the business takes notes.

Nearly all of the big names in commercial real estate are publicly dedicated to sustainability. Follow in their footsteps to keep pace with the best in this business. Going green will set your portfolio on the same foundations as industry leaders.

Modernize Your CRE Culture

Going green is the way of the future. The industry is slowly transforming – but once the change happens, sustainability will be the baseline of business. CRE investors don’t want to wait until it’s too late, when the competition for green assets is through the roof and prices are higher than ever.

Stay prepared by developing a green portfolio in advance. Right now, sustainability is a best practice for modernizing your commercial real estate culture. Your portfolio will be primed and ready for the increasingly eco-minded market of the future.

Creating a green portfolio will set up your investments for success and prepare you for the market’s next movements.

These Perks are Getting Employees Back into the Office

Over the past few months, office owners and team leaders have been doing everything they can to make their workspaces safe and healthy. Office buildings have undergone massive alterations to prepare for the full-scale return to the workspace… but when will that happen?

Changes to the Office Space

Today’s offices are contactless, tech-powered, and socially distant. Commercial property owners and residing tenants have teamed up to build an office space that does not put occupants at risk.

This required immense investment on the part of CRE and individual companies, but the result is an office that can accommodate workers safely. In these times, health and wellness are priceless.

Even though COVID-combatting protocols are being adopted across the sector, most workers are still yet to return to work. WFH remains as the primary professional landscape since COVID-combatting efforts did not convince workers to come back to the office.

If All Else Fails, Incentivize It

There’s something about amenities that wins people over.

Office tenants have taken this route to convince their teams to return to their workspaces. This new incentive-driven company culture trend is giving workers a reason to come back. But, beyond the attraction, office perks are also solving some of the key issues that today’s workforce has been dealing with since the pandemic.

For example, offices and schools closed at the same time earlier this year. Even though offices are slowly reopening, not all schools have welcomed students back again. As a result, workers with children cannot return to the office without paying for babysitters – which isn’t always feasible in these challenging financial times. Allowing team members to bring their children to the office with them is enough to solve one barrier keeping people away from the commercial workplace.

This is one example of how offices are adding perks to draw people back to work – but there’s more. Let’s look at 3 other benefits that are gaining momentum within the office scene as companies try to win back their teams:

Free Lunch

Free, pre-packed lunches are also becoming a norm for in-office employees. Companies are providing free meals for their workers who have come back to the office. Not only does this financially benefit team members, but it also mitigates the risks of having to enter and exit the office building to get lunch from external restaurants.

Learning Pods for Children

With workers bringing their children to the office, many companies are creating positive educational environments for the little ones. Companies are setting up learning pods for children – and they’re even hiring professional tutors to teach them.

Discounts on Parking

Parking at home is free, so offices needed to compete if they wanted to win workers back. Free or discounted parking is becoming another industry standard within the office sector as companies want to make the transition back to the office as smooth as possible.

Companies are heavily investing in their commercial operations to get their workers to return. Will these efforts introduce new amenities that expand the current workspace model?