The New Commercial Real Estate Reality

July 20, 2020

- By Paul Yorkis

When I was installed as President of the REALTORS® Commercial Alliance of Massachusetts (RCAMA) in December, I outlined an ambitious list of objectives for myself, the leadership team, and our membership. None of the objectives included dealing with and responding to the challenges presented by the Covid-19 virus because I, like most other people, had no idea that it even existed.

The hurdles presented by Covid-19 to Massachusetts local real estate boards as well as the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® (MAR) have been challenging to say the least as we all have previously conducted association business face to face or by conference calls. No more. At least not for the foreseeable future.

At RCAMA we are retooling using Zoom meetings and preparing to offer continuing education courses online. We, like the other local boards, MAR, and the National Association of REALTORS®  are in the process of further using technology to keep our members involved and informed.

What no one knows is what will the new normal be. Residential and Commercial REALTORS® are now using virtual tours to market properties. Will this become the new standard? Will REALTORS® include more details about their listings in the state’s three multiple listing services so fellow REALTORS® and consumers will have a better understanding of the property? It is frustrating when I look at a property in MLS PIN and the listing agent has not supplied the relevant information. My hope, as it relates to MLS PIN, is that the changes to the commercial platform, that have been delayed but will take place in the future, will make it easier and more accurate for subscribers to provide the necessary information. I understand the MLS PIN is making adjustments to its platform relative to marketing and open house features to address the impact of Covid-19 delaying some of the commercial changes.

But there may be a much more profound change in the future of commercial real estate market that no one could have predicted. It is a basic fundamental change.

With companies realizing the productivity of their workforce has remained relatively high during the work-from-home era, and with companies laying off some of their workforce, what will the impact on commercial office buildings? Do companies really need all that office space? Will the technology, medical and bio-pharma industries in Massachusetts downsize their office workspace while keeping their laboratory and manufacturing spaces?

Is the day of the large commercial or residential real estate office over?

I have seen large shopping centers add apartment complexes to their mix of tenants and have seen grocery stores being added where big-box retailers closed.

Will property owners seek zoning changes that don’t just allow but encourage the transformation of office buildings to mixed-use buildings providing housing, basic retail services, and offices in buildings that were exclusively for corporate offices? How well will REALTORS® advocate for these kinds of changes at the local level?

The challenges our clients, fellow REALTORS®, and communities face are still unchartered.

I am confident that the problem-solving skills we each possess and the advocacy skills we use on a day to day basis will help us succeed in the coming months of challenge.  Our industry has overcome great challenges in the past. We will overcome the Covid-19 challenge too.

Be smart. Be safe. Be well.