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Some (But Not All) Houston Brokers Are Basking In Texas Reopening Glory


Texas’ speedy reopening has garnered both criticism and praise, but early feedback indicates that for some commercial real estate brokers, inquiries and requests for tours have received a boost.

Stream Realty Partners Managing Director Ryan Barbles said that the combination of the coronavirus pandemic and an election year caused many executives to “kick the can down the road” and avoid making any major real estate commitments in 2020.

However, it appears that Abbott’s executive order gave local Houston businesses the green light to start making decisions again. Barbles said that the number of office inquiries almost tripled in March compared with February, and his team has gone from conducting office tours once or twice a week to every day.

“It was like overnight, that we saw all the activities pick up,” Barbles said. “All these companies that have been just putting a Band-Aid on things are now starting to make longer-term decisions.”

Retail brokers told Bisnow in March that the number of tours requested by out-of-state restaurateurs and brands has shot up, particularly in the Montrose area, as several large mixed-use developments creep toward completion.

“We've seen a huge uptick of people from all over saying, look, moving forward, this is where we want to be, you guys seem very pro-business,” Transwestern Managing Director Crystal Allen said. “As a piece of that, we've seen a very, very large uptick in people coming in from out of state.”

However, not all firms have seen such a steep change. CBRE Senior Vice President Jessica Ochoa said that she has not seen any change in office inquiry volumes or tours as a result of Abbott’s executive order, but that the numbers were already improving before the announcement.

“I can say our team saw tour activity increase starting in February from the very low levels we were experiencing before (March ’20 to January ‘21) but we believe this is due to people getting vaccinations, gaining comfortability with that, and thus companies are starting to make plans for long-term leasing decisions,” Ochoa said.

The decision to return to 100% maximum capacity and lift the mask mandate hasn’t been met with enthusiasm by everyone. Several well-known Houston restaurateurs told Bisnow that despite Abbott’s executive order, they had no intention of raising occupancy or ditching masks until health officials said it was safe.

Conversely, hotel owners and developers said that hotel room bookings surged during March in the wake of the executive order, and are continuing to strengthen ahead of the summer months.

For Barbles, the sharp increase in inquiries and tours is proof that the market is biting at the bit to return to doing business the way that CRE has always favored — in person.

“Abbott’s announcement has been fantastic for the office market in Houston,” Barbles said. “It seems us Texans are tired of all the mandates and business owners are ready to start transacting again.”