Even With A Vaccine, Experts Say CRE Won't Magically Recover In 2021
U.S. commercial real estate companies have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic this year, according to a new report by Deloitte. An effective COVID-19 vaccine won't necessarily mean a quick recovery for the industry sectors hurt the most.
In North America, 36% of CRE respondents surveyed for the report said they have suffered a financial impact because of the current economic environment. That compares with 25% of respondents in Europe and 23% in the Asia-Pacific region who said so.
Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has disrupted the office, retail and hotel sectors of the business the most, Deloitte says, while industrial, health care, data centers and cell towers have been "positively disrupted" as demand for those kinds of assets has increased.
A post-vaccine recovery will probably be as uneven.
"CRE companies had generally strong financials at the start of the pandemic and debt markets remain sufficiently liquid," the report notes. "Yet, troubled loans are rising; banks, fearing higher delinquencies, are tightening lending standards. In several sectors, rent collections have remained healthy, but largely because of higher tenant incentives and leasing concessions."
The pandemic has affected commercial real estate beyond its immediate economic impact, but the most lasting might be the acceleration of the digital transformation of the business and tenant experience, according to the report.
Yet CRE might not be ready for the full implications of a post-pandemic, highly digital business environment in which remote work or virtual meetings or tech-based communication with tenants endures to a greater extent than before, among other digital transformations.
Just a third of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they have the skills in-house to operate a digitally transformed business, and only 41% of respondents said their company has "stepped up efforts to redefine business processes, job roles, and skill requirements to include the use of technology and tools."
Deloitte isn't the only organization to come to the conclusion that 2021 will continue to be a slog for some parts of the industry.
In an October report, CBRE predicted that it will be at least the second half of 2021 before the office sector will be able to return to some normalcy, and the U.S. retail footprint will continue to contract in 2021, though the retailers who survive will probably be stronger. The hotel sector might not fully recover until 2022 as business travel finally picks up.
Overall, CRE's recovery will lag that of the wider economy next year, CBRE predicts, because real estate is often a lagging indicator.