It is reasonable to presume that no South Florida business will emerge entirely unaffected by the pandemic and subsequent economic downturn.
As companies figure out how to get back on their feet, commercial real estate brokers and property managers are helping them adapt to the possibility of staff reductions and structural changes to their businesses. The big picture will be a mixed bag of positives and negatives for owners, investors and tenants.
On the positive side for owners, low-interest rates will mean an attractive environment for refinancing quality loans. For domestic and international investors who still consider America the world’s safest place to invest, the time will be right to return to the market in search of new buying opportunities. Tenants who are hit hard by months of interruption and serious revenue shortfalls will scrap plans to expand.
The commercial real estate sector as a whole is navigating this evolving crisis through uncharted waters. Tenants have reached out to us to report the early impact of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, on their businesses. We are sympathetic to the economic uncertainty they are facing and are pointing them toward the various federal, state and local programs being deployed to help businesses recover.
Facing immediate fiscal challenges, landlords are not in a position to extend financial relief. Some are offering hope that when the crisis ends a comprehensive review of tenants’ circumstances can be performed and a response provided in due course.
We also are urging tenants to examine their own resources, including the terms of their insurance policies. For example, if coronavirus losses are sufficient to trigger business interruption coverage according to the terms of their policy, some tenants may be covered for income losses resulting from disruption of their operations.
No one knows the timeline for recovery, so until the pandemic is under control and the economy recalibrates, my staff and I are focusing on the things we can control. We moved rapidly to transition our firm to remote mode and are proactively taking the following steps to keep our team engaged and our customers reassured:
- As the pandemic became imminent, we fast-tracked the companywide installation, training and roll-out of stay-at-home technologies. It was a substantial investment, but well worth the long-term benefits it will deliver to our business. We also made sure everyone had a laptop and video conferencing capabilities, and adapted our phone system for the seamless offsite handling of calls.
- We hold mandatory virtual staff meetings every day to talk shop, share news, observations and suggestions. We challenge everyone to present fresh ideas to benefit our company, our clients and our community. In addition, for as long as the health authorities permit, two people per day go to the office to support the stay-at-home team by forwarding mail and other documents, as needed.
- Each of us stays in touch with clients to share updates and assure them that we are taking care of everything in our power on their behalf. We visit their properties to make sure they are being properly maintained, and although we no longer can go inside tenant spaces, we make sure everything is being maintained as planned on the outside.
- Working from home can offer quiet periods during the day to sit and think about what we can be doing differently. We are encouraging our brokers, property managers and administrative staff to carve out time every day to think about challenges and opportunities for moving our business forward and ultimately making it more successful than ever before.
- Several members of our staff are using this time to hone their skills with online training
- Most of us have that folder full of miscellaneous notes that might be useful someday but never make it out of the pile. With some extra time temporarily on our hands, most of us are getting more organized, filing all those business cards we’ve collected or reading those industry articles we’ve meant to read for months. It’s time well spent.
Instead of wasting precious time worrying about how and when the commercial real estate market is going to recover from the impact of COVID-19, we are preparing to hit the ground running when it does.