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Battered Calgary office owners await 'new normal' fallout – Real Estate News EXchange

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Todd Throndson is a principal, and the managing director of Avison Young’s Calgary office. (Courtesy Avison Young)

As office buildings in Canada are prepared for workers to return, the big question is how much space companies will need in the new reality with COVID-19 impacting revenues, and the potential increase in remote work.

That question is even more significant for the beleaguered Calgary downtown office market which continues to see an elevated vacancy rate due to persistent low oil prices.

Todd Throndson, managing director and principal of commercial real estate firm Avison Young and a member of BOMA Calgary’s board of directors, said change is inevitable, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“Every organization is re-looking at how they use their office space and most organizations that we have talked to have found that they’ve been able to operate their business with their people at home in a reasonable fashion, if not a good fashion,” he said.

As a result, he expects more people to be able to work from home.

“That doesn’t mean that they’re not going to continue to need space,” he said. “Most organizations will still define that they need most of their people to be able to come into the office. Let’s say two-thirds of an operation will stay structured in a downtown buns-and-seats type of environment.

“A third of the office is going to be a floating group. That could mean they’re permanently off-site working from home or working out of their car or working from hotels.

“Or it could mean an organization is rotating people around to get some connectivity still in their office space for different business lines.”

Office workspaces to be adapted

While there might be fewer employees, he expects companies will adapt their workspaces to allow individuals more space. He also expects more personal work areas to be created.

Another factor to consider is whether business will want to be downtown, because public transportation will become a bigger issue.

At the end of Q1 2020, Calgary’s downtown vacancy rate was 24.7 per cent with an additional 225,000 square feet on the market, according to Avison Young.

Net absorption for the last 12 months is 316,000 square feet, but the five-year average annual absorption for office space in downtown Calgary is -897,000 square feet/year.

There are many questions right now.

How many businesses will survive the pandemic? How will tenants use their space when they return? What will be the impact to vacancy and occupancy costs? What type of market will there be for office lease transactions?

How will landlords approach deals when tenants’ financial covenants are strained due to reduced revenues? What will Calgary’s CRE industry look like in a year’s time?

“It is unlikely we will see much impact from the COVID pandemic on the office market until the third quarter of 2020. Calgary’s unemployment rate increased to 8.6 per cent in March 2020, up from 7.4 per cent just one month prior,” said the Avison Young report. “How high it will reach is anyone’s guess, but the reporting we have so far is just the tip of the iceberg.

IMAGE: How much space will office tenants want as they rethink their requirements in the post-COVID era? It's a question which is doubly important in Calgary, which has already been impacted by an ongoing downturn in the oil and gas sector. (Google Street View)

How much space will office tenants want as they rethink their requirements in the post-COVID era? It’s a question which is doubly important in Calgary, which has already been impacted by an ongoing downturn in the oil and gas sector. (Google Street View)

“The good news is landlords and building owners are already making changes to their buildings to keep their tenants safe, preparing for the eventual return-to-office timeframe. Cleaning and sanitation schedules will be increased. HVAC systems will be modified or improved.

“Population densities in common areas such as lobbies and elevators will be regulated. Changes to office layouts will be made to accommodate social distancing. In a very short period of time, the experience of going to an office will be much different for the foreseeable future.”

BOMA Canada’s Pathway Back to Work

BOMA Canada recently released its Pathway Back to Work guide to help building owners and property managers provide a safe return for building personnel, visitors, vendors, contractors and others to commercial real estate across Canada.

“No two properties are alike, so we cannot recommend a single one-size-fits-all approach nor can the approach . . . capture every single consideration. Instead, we have prepared a framework which individual property managers can both adapt and adopt,” said the report.

Benjamin Shinewald, president and CEO of BOMA Canada, said the guide’s key message is one of hope.

“There may be ups and downs and there may be timing issues, but we will get back to normal. We will be at a point where COVID is behind us. We are at the earliest stages of that process right now and now is the time to start to prepare for re-entry, staggered or otherwise, into our assets,” said Shinewald.

“We exist for our tenants and they’ve got to be able to enjoy their space, but it’s a weird moment and it’s hard. It’s complicated, but let’s start now with that process.”

Lloyd Suchet, executive director of BOMA Calgary, said the one other characteristic of Calgary’s office market is the extensive Plus-15 walkway network connecting downtown buildings. That will have to be taken into consideration for health and safety protocols during the reopening of towers in the core.

Suchet said the economic downturn caused by COVID and lower oil prices will continue to weigh on the downtown office market in Calgary.

“It was a challenging market prior to COVID and this is only going to make it even more challenging,” he said.

“Real challenges lie ahead and (when) you look at the role commercial real estate plays in our society and in our market in a lot of public pensions, there is significant concern out there.”

BOMA Canada has about 3,500 members spread across 11 regional chapters. It focuses on asset management, property management, building operations and associated vendors, suppliers and partners.

BOMA Canada is an affiliated member of BOMA International, a federation of 93 BOMA U.S. associations and 16 international affiliates.

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* COVID-19’s potential impact on CRE valuations, by asset class

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Commercial real estate won’t be a distressed asset: Marcus & Millichap CEO – Yahoo Canada Finance

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<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The novel coronavirus pandemic forced offices and retailers to shift operations online over the past three months — leading some to speculate that demand for commercial real estate will drop, sending prices plummeting.” data-reactid=”16″>The novel coronavirus pandemic forced offices and retailers to shift operations online over the past three months — leading some to speculate that demand for commercial real estate will drop, sending prices plummeting.

But most commercial properties will not be selling for massive discounts, according to Hessam Nadji, CEO of Marcus & Millichap, a California-based national commercial real estate brokerage.

“There’s a broad brush sentiment that commercial real estate is going to get distressed pricing across the board and that is just not the case,” Nadji told Yahoo Finance. Apartments and warehouses, in particular, are performing “very well.” 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="As Americans shelter in place, demand for apartments and condos have remained stable. Some 41.4% of investors reported multifamily acquisitions in their market in May compared to 33.6% in April, according to a monthly survey of almost 500 members in the NAIOP (National Association of Industrial and Office Properties) Commercial Real Estate Development Association conducted May 18-20.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”19″>As Americans shelter in place, demand for apartments and condos have remained stable. Some 41.4% of investors reported multifamily acquisitions in their market in May compared to 33.6% in April, according to a monthly survey of almost 500 members in the NAIOP (National Association of Industrial and Office Properties) Commercial Real Estate Development Association conducted May 18-20. 

And a surge in online shopping during the pandemic has upped warehouse demand for last-mile delivery. Warehouse acquisitions increased to 58.7% in May from 54% in April, according to the NAIOP.

Commercial real estate has a history of resilience, said Nadji. The commercial market suffered for 18-24 months after September 11, 2001, as employers feared bringing employees into central business locations. But within a few years, office leasing behavior returned to normal, said Nadji, who expects the same resilience within two to three years, depending on the degree of economic growth.

Workstations in empty office
Workstations in empty office

“We’ve seen from many companies, including IBM, that experimented heavily with telecommuting, that they eventually want to bring people back at least a few times a week to work in groups and be in person and have collaborative functions that bring people together in office locations,” said Nadji.

<h3 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Hospitality and retail underperform” data-reactid=”34″>Hospitality and retail underperform

But properties that house hospitality or retail are a “whole different story,”  he said, and could offer some “opportunistic investment situations.” Led by a few of these underperforming asset classes, commercial real estate properties had a 2.29% delinquency rate on mortgage loans in April, up from 2.07% March — its largest jump in three years, according to New York-based Trepp Research’s CMBS Delinquency Rate, which measures mortgage ayments that are late for more than 30 days. 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="With the country under lockdown, traveling virtually ceased during the pandemic. Hotel demand was down 42% in April compared to last year, prompting some 2.71% of hotels and motels to default on their loans in April, compared to only 1.53% in March. Commercial real estate suffered its highest jump in delinquencies in three years, but lodging had the highest uptick of all property types, according to Trepp Research.” data-reactid=”36″>With the country under lockdown, traveling virtually ceased during the pandemic. Hotel demand was down 42% in April compared to last year, prompting some 2.71% of hotels and motels to default on their loans in April, compared to only 1.53% in March. Commercial real estate suffered its highest jump in delinquencies in three years, but lodging had the highest uptick of all property types, according to Trepp Research.

The cities where commercial real estate will take the biggest hit are service-based hospitality economies, including Atlantic City, N.J., Myrtle Beach, S.C., Las Vegas, Nev., Fort Walton Beach, Fla. and Wilmington, N.C., according to MillionAcres, a real estate investing branch of the Motley Fool, an investing advice company based in Alexandria, Va. 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="With less investor demand for retail space, opportunistic investors could also find deals on vacant storefronts. Some 13.4% of NAIOP members said they had witnessed retail deal activity in May, unchanged from activity in April but significantly down from before the pandemic, according to the NAIOP. Notably, retail spaces with grocery stores are proving resilient, according to CrowdStreet, a Portland, Ore.-based investing platform.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”38″>With less investor demand for retail space, opportunistic investors could also find deals on vacant storefronts. Some 13.4% of NAIOP members said they had witnessed retail deal activity in May, unchanged from activity in April but significantly down from before the pandemic, according to the NAIOP. Notably, retail spaces with grocery stores are proving resilient, according to CrowdStreet, a Portland, Ore.-based investing platform. 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="While there will also be a short-term reduction in interest in city-based offices, suburban satellite offices may become more popular, said Nadji. Long-term, experts expect the office to remain an attractive investment.” data-reactid=”39″>While there will also be a short-term reduction in interest in city-based offices, suburban satellite offices may become more popular, said Nadji. Long-term, experts expect the office to remain an attractive investment.

“Those kinds of things [a shift toward decentralized locations], I think, will last, and will have a residual effect, but the demise of office space used as kind of a broad statement, I think, is over-exaggerated,” said Nadji.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Sarah Paynter is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter&nbsp;@sarahapaynter” data-reactid=”45″>Sarah Paynter is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @sarahapaynter

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Read the latest financial and business news from Yahoo Finance” data-reactid=”46″>Read the latest financial and business news from Yahoo Finance

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Follow Yahoo Finance on&nbsp;Twitter,&nbsp;Facebook,&nbsp;Instagram,&nbsp;Flipboard,&nbsp;SmartNews,&nbsp;LinkedIn,&nbsp;YouTube, and&nbsp;reddit.” data-reactid=”47″>Follow Yahoo Finance on TwitterFacebookInstagramFlipboardSmartNewsLinkedInYouTube, and reddit.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="More from Sarah:” data-reactid=”48″>More from Sarah:

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The office apocalypse is not here, yet” data-reactid=”49″>The office apocalypse is not here, yet

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="People are still paying rent during the coronavirus pandemic” data-reactid=”50″>People are still paying rent during the coronavirus pandemic

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Bidding wars start to heat up in some states as coronavirus lockdown eases” data-reactid=”51″>Bidding wars start to heat up in some states as coronavirus lockdown eases

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Real estate sales show signs of 'uptick' – Times Colonist

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The province’s phased-in approach to restarting the provincial economy seems to have had an effect on the Victoria real estate market.

Figures released Monday by the Victoria Real Estate Board show sales, inventory and some prices rose in conjunction with the second phase of the provincial restart plan.

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Last month, 457 properties changed hands in the region, and while that’s a 46 per cent drop from May of last year, it’s a big jump from the 287 homes sold in April.

“We are still down in terms of sales [year-over-year], but we were up from April, and we saw a real uptick after May 19, when Phase 2 was implemented,” said Sandi-Jo Ayers, president of the board. “We are feeling cautiously optimistic based on the numbers from last month. And our home prices have seen a slight increase from last month as well.”

There were 2,544 active listings for sale at the end of May, up from the 2,305 available at the end of April. That is still well off the more than 3,000 available in May last year.

The benchmark price of a single-family home in the Victoria core last month was $885,400, up from $884,600 in April. Year-over-year, however, the price was down from $863,000. The benchmark condominium price in the core last month was $534,300, up from $533,600 in April, and $516,400 in May 2019.

“I’d say we have seen a trickle of activity, not a tsunami. People are being cautious,” said Ayers, who noted buyers want to ensure they are employed and that they can qualify for the kinds of homes they want.

Indications are Victoria’s real estate market could avoid some of the pain other markets in Canada will face this year, she said. “We believe the way B.C., the Island and the community have responded to the health crisis and our market being local, [real estate] has responded in a healthy way as well here,” she said. “Victoria is such an attractive place to live, it’s safe and the way we responded to this health crisis is catching people’s eye and they may start to think this is a good place to retire or move.

“We firmly believe we are on the radar now.”

The short-term outlook is likely to remain cautious, but Ayers said they expect to see a lot of local movement ahead of the fall school opening, and with local buyers moving up and down in the market.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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Dramatic drop in Greater Victoria real estate sales in May

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There aren’t as many for sale signs up and far fewer properties are selling, as the Greater Victoria real estate market sees the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our real estate market is responding to the health crisis,” says Victoria Real Estate Board (VREB) president Sandi-Jo Ayers. “For the month of May, that was a very tough month and April was as well.”
May saw a dramatic drop in the number of sales, down a whopping 46 per cent from last May, with just 457 properties selling.
“It’s surprising it’s only 46 per cent,” says Tony Joe of RE/MAX Camosun. “That sounds strange but when you think about it, we were a 58 per cent reduction in the month of April and I think many people sort of wondered if real estate would go to zero or close to zero.”
Inventory was down 15.7 per cent compared to last May, but that had prices holding steady.
Condo prices only dipped 3.7 per cent, with an average price of just over $453,000.
Single-family home prices were actually up 2.3 per cent to almost $876,000.
“The other surprising thing too is we’re seeing cases of multiple offers or bidding wars out there, which you would never expect in a time like this,” says Joe.
With restrictions easing in the last two weeks, agents say viewing requests are increasing and they’re actually getting lots of interest from Lower Mainland and Toronto buyers.
“We really are trying to be optimistic,” Ayers says. “We see we have a lot of people that want to move here, they want to sell, they want to buy and realtors on the street are talking about how busy they are getting.”
If you’re buying or selling, it will look different in phase three, with more virtual open houses, online tours, and masks and gloves for in-person showings, as well as minimizing the surfaces that are touched as real estate tries to rebound.

Source: – CHEK

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Edited By Harry Miller

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