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RTO Trends Upward As Over 80% Of Landlords See Uptick In Office Lease Renewals

Nationwide office visits in March were at some of the highest levels since the onset of the pandemic, according to a new report that coincides with fresh data indicating the vast majority of office landlords are seeing more lease renewals.

Compared to March 2019, Miami had an office visit gap of just 14.1%.

March office visits were down just 32.7% compared to March 2019, according to a new report. Only August 2023, which included two more working days than March, and October 2023 featured higher visitation rates, with 31% and 32.2% drop-offs from the March 2019 baseline, respectively.

Miami and New York retained leads in office visit recovery, with respective visit gaps of 14.1% and 17.2% compared to the baseline. The national visit gap year-over-year dropped slightly, from a 36.3% decline in March 2023 to a 32.7% drop in March 2024. 

A slight uptick in workers returning to offices pairs with what landlords are experiencing as they engage in leasing activity. 82% of landlords are already seeing the length of renewals increasing or holding steady, according to a 2024 VTS Global Landlord report

Landlords are shifting priorities to tenant retention, with 57% of surveyed landlords saying it was a top priority, compared to 41% who said leasing vacant space was a top priority, according to VTS. To retain tenants, 56% of surveyed landlords said they planned to enhance property management and tenant experience.

To be clear, there is still a sizable gap between current visitation patterns and pre-pandemic trends that indicate the staying power of hybrid and work-from-home models, noted.

San Francisco office visits were down 50.1% in March compared to a pre-pandemic baseline, trailing all other metros tracks in its office index. Los Angeles and Houston rounded out the bottom three in office visits, down 40.7% and 40.6%, respectively. 

But one Wall Street analyst believes a CRE comeback is looming. 

Jefferies Equity Research analyzed and evaluated JLL and Cushman & Wakefield data and gave both companies a buy rating, predicting that leasing and sales activity will soon increase, Seeking Alpha reports.

Jefferies' Peter Abramowitz told the outlet that Wall Street is underestimating the magnitude of a capital markets recovery in the second half of 2024 and into 2025.