Real Estate Management News

April 1, 2020

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Upcoming Events and Deadlines

IREM Student of the Year
Submission deadline is April 15, 2020

Income/Expense 2019 Data Submission
Submission deadline extended to May 1, 2020

Accelerators: Live Webinars

Fair Housing: Understanding Reasonable Requests

Affordable Housing – Rent Control

Introduction to Excel Pivot Tables

Understanding Leverage and Debt Structure

IREM ® headlines

IREM Earns 2020 ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year—Sustained Excellence Award

REM has been honored, once again, with the 2020 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Sustained Excellence Award. It’s the highest honor among ENERGY STAR awards, and is only awarded to businesses and organizations that have already received ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year recognition for a minimum of two consecutive years.

ENERGY STAR Award Winners lead their industries in the development and adoption of strategies that provide substantial energy savings in the built environment, and contribute to reduced emissions and a healthy environment. Winners are selected from the thousands of companies in the ENERGY STAR network.

The breadth and diversity of businesses and organizations considered for this honor is reflected in the list of ENERGY STAR Award Winners each year, which spans home builders and developers, contractors and utilities to hospitals, school districts and even commercial lenders. IREM was recognized this year for advancements in the IREM Certified Sustainable Property (CSP) program and for real estate management education that includes instruction on the effective use of ENERGY STAR tools and resources.

For a complete list of 2020 winners and more information about ENERGY STAR’s awards program, visit energystar.gov/awardwinners.

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NREI Publishes New Article by 2020 IREM President Cheryl Ann Gray, CPM®

A new article in National Real Estate Investor (NREI) by 2020 IREM President Cheryl Gray, CPM®, addresses the key issues property managers should be thinking about now. We’ve learned more in the past few weeks about coronavirus and the economic impact the virus may have on the real estate industry. With this knowledge, Cheryl shares updated best practices to protect occupants and staff, while also protecting the interests of property owners.

Life has changed for all of us, so quickly, and IREM is there to provide leadership and support to our community. It’s important to recognize that the real estate management profession has never mattered more – IREM will continue to share resources as we continue to face new challenges. Read the full article.

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New COVID-19 Resources Available from IREM

We continue to monitor the situation surrounding the Coronavirus and its impact on property managers and have developed resources for members and property managers around the world to use as necessary in supporting tenants and residents in these uncertain times. New resources added this week include:

  • Message from 2020 IREM President, Cheryl Gray, CPM®
  • New From the Front Lines segments on employee morale, the CARES Act, and virtual tours and rent collection
  • Resources on SBA 7(a) loans
  • Additional advocacy initiatives
  • New on-demand courses open for free enrollment

For continued updates from IREM, bookmark the Coronavirus updates page for IREM’s official statement and new information about COVID-19.

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Industry headlines

Apartment Owners Turn to Virtual Tours, Lease Extensions in New Stay-at-Home World
Milwaukee Business Journal (03/24/20) Ryan, Sean

As COVID-19 upends industries across the board, real estate firms are quickly finding alternatives to the traditional apartment tours. In Milwaukee, Monica Maas-Skellie and her team at the Element 84 development debated letting prospective residents tour themselves through available units, but Wisconsin's stay-at-home order scuttled that. With self-guided tours no longer an option, property managers are instead turning to virtual tours to allow prospective renters a glimpse at units and amenities. In Maas-Skellie's case, the virtual tours consist of a team member using an iPhone to connect with prospective renters and walk them through various apartment layouts.

Element 84 is opening in the middle of the pandemic that has chased people into their own homes and restricted public social activity. Maas-Skellie said 60 of the 102 apartments in Element 84's first building have already been leased, and a second building is under construction and set to open in June. As of now, communal amenities have been closed to minimize the spread of the virus, and the pool that is also scheduled to open this summer will be opened when health conditions permit. Element 84 is adjusting the move-in process to comply with social distancing requests from public health officials, meaning lease signings are done electronically and keys are left for new residents without a face-to-face meeting.

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Protective Barriers Being Installed at Supermarket Registers
Fox 5 NY (03/25/20) Das, Arun Kristian

Supermarket chains and big-box retailers in New York and elsewhere are installing barriers to maximize protection and minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Walmart, Stew Leonard's, Kroger, Publix, and other grocery retailers have put barriers up to encourage social distancing within their stores. A Stew Leonard's spokesperson confirmed that Plexiglas barriers will be installed at all seven of its locations in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey "at every other check out lane plus at our customer service desk." Stew Leonard's has also instituted a policy mandating that every other checkout lane be closed to minimize the amount of people standing close together.

Walmart, meanwhile, confirmed that similar barriers have started going up in its pharmacy aisles nationwide, with plans to install them at regular checkout aisles in the coming weeks. The Arkansas-based retail giant is also placing decals on its floors to help people maintain safe distances from one another while in line to check out. Finally, Kroger is also turning to floor decals and barriers to minimize the spread of the virus.

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How Fire Causes Office Building Floors to Collapse
ScienceDaily (03/24/20)

Engineers and technicians recently completed an experiment to study the effect of fires on office building floors. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) conducted the experiment, recreating the conditions found in many high-rise office buildings. The engineers and technicians spent months constructing long concrete floors supported by steel beams to get as close as possible to a traditional office structure. They then lit the floors on fire. The blaze cracked the concrete floor and contorted the steel beams. The researchers concluded that even structures built to fire codes cannot always withstand extreme temperature changes.

The study's results indicate that current fire safety measures are sufficient for most fires, but a devastating and uncontrollable blaze in a high-rise office tower could overwhelm fireproofing defenses. Steel beams are typically bound at their ends to support columns, meaning they don't have room to expand in extreme temperatures. Instead, the beams will slowly warp and, in the worst case scenario, snap thus causing floors to collapse. Lisa Choe, the study's lead author, said the results show fireproofing measures can be improved to maximize protection in the event of a significant fire. She hopes other engineers can use the data from the experiment to build computer modeling systems that will shed light on the best ways to maximize protection.

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H&M Threatens to Exit UK Leases Early Without Sales Revival
Financial Times (03/27/20) Hammond, George; Eley, Jonathan

Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) is pressuring its U.K. landlords to allow early exits from leases if sales do not rebound in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing the strain on shopping center landlords already reeling from the impact of the virus. The retailer made its request in a letter sent to its landlords, writing that it wanted to be able to break leases with one month's notice "subject to trading conditions not returned to pre-COVID-19 levels by 24 June 2020." Meanwhile, H&M is also pressing its landlords for second-quarter waivers on rent and service charges.

Jonathan de Mello, the director of retail consultancy at Harper Dennis Hobbs, said landlords would find themselves on "a slippery slope" if they acquiesce to H&M's demand. "Other shops in the same area as an H&M will ask for the same [treatment], de Mello predicted. Landlords and retailers are already locked in a debate over how to proceed as the virus forces people to shelter in place, sending sales plummeting at shopping centers. A number of mall managers have waived rent for small businesses or otherwise offered to defer rent payments. But in some cases, as with H&M, retailers are asking for more relief than landlords have so far offered to give.

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Loss Rate on Banks' Real-Estate Loans Expected to Soar
Wall Street Journal (03/24/20) Grant, Peter

A new Trepp LLC analysis indicates that U.S. banks face sizable losses from commercial real-estate loans due to the coronavirus outbreak, but the damage might not be as great as in the years following the 2008 crash. Commercial real-estate loans made by banks will suffer as much as a 2.5 percent loss rate over the next five years, according to the analysis of 12,500 loans now on the books of banks ranging in size from small community banks to the nation's largest lenders. Trepp said if that were applied to the $2.3 trillion of outstanding commercial real-estate bank loans, losses would amount to $57.5 billion. By comparison, loss rates last year were less than 0.1 percent. The hardest-hit property types likely will be hotels and shopping centers, with cumulative default rates over five years of 34.8 percent and 16 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, the analysis forecasts that apartment buildings and industrial property will be the least affected, with default rates of 3.3 percent and 3.0 percent, respectively.

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45 Money-Saving Products for Facilities Management 2020
Buildings (03/25/20) Penny, Janelle

Buildings Magazine's editors have highlighted 45 products designed to take the time, expense, and worry out of various aspects of property management. From out of those 45, the staff chose three products to receive their Editors’ Choice distinction for making an especially clear case for how they can save managers and the facilities they serve money. The first is InformaCast Fusion, a cloud-based emergency notification system that sends text, audio, and images to devices on the premises, including desk phones, computers, and digital signage. The second is Thermoformed Drop-Out Ceiling Panels, which drop out when sprinklers are activated and are impervious to water damage. The third is the interlaced micro-channel heat exchanger, which integrates multiple circuits from a chiller or rooftop unit into one coil with a shared heat transfer area.

The publication's editors highlighted such other products as: Schneider Electric's EcoStruxure Workplace Advisor, a suite of digital services that enables facilities managers to optimize space in flexible work environments; The Garland Company's LiquiTec, a fluid-applied waterproofing system that extends the life of bitumen, metal, and single-ply roofing systems; and Tubelite's ForceFront Storm hurricane and impact resistant entrances, which help protect property interiors from windborne debris and rain. Other products that made the list range from Armstrong Ceiling & Wall Solutions' SimpleCurve Molding to Rubbermaid Commercial Products' AutoFoam touchless foam soap dispenser and its Microburst 3000 automatic air freshener. Both use Lumecel, a rechargeable energy system that transforms indoor light into power.

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Bedrock Gives Three Months' Free Rent to Help Small Tenants
Detroit Free Press (03/23/20) Reindl, JC

Bedrock is waiving all rent, building expenses, and parking fees for its Detroit-based small business tenants throughout the spring and early summer. Bedrock ranks as downtown Detroit's biggest landlord. The firm is giving free rent to all small businesses for the months of April, May, and, in some cases, through the end of June. The firm's offer, one of the most generous COVID-19 assistance programs in the city, aims to help keep small businesses afloat as the coronavirus wreaks havoc on sales and profits. Bedrock CEO Matt Cullen said the is looking out for its portfolio's "most vulnerable businesses."

Restaurants and retailers with under $100 million in annual sales automatically qualify for the two months of free rent under Bedrock's program. Any business with $80,000 or less in monthly sales will receive a third month of assistance from Bedrock. Cullen said Bedrock would lose millions in foregone revenue and rent payments, but said it was worth it to help struggling businesses weather the pandemic.

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CBL Draws Down Credit Line to Maintain Liquidity After Malls Close Due to Coronavirus
Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee) (03/25/20) Flessner, Dave

CBL Properties this past week tapped almost all of its available credit line to preserve its liquidity. The move came after the coronavirus pandemic shut down many of its shopping malls. Government orders across the country have shuttered shopping centers to minimize the spread of the virus, forcing mall operators to scramble together responses. The Tennessee-based mall operator confirmed that it drew down the $280 million available balance on its credit line to ensure it can continue to pay its bills. CBL President and CEO Stephen Lebovitz said the "action serves to maximize our financial flexibility during this period of uncertainty." According to Lebovitz, CBL is also preserving liquidity through suspending its preferred and common stock dividends indefinitely. The mall operator said it has no unsecured debt maturities until 2023.

CBL has struggled over the past year. Its shares are down 72 percent so far in 2020, and are down 84 percent over the past 12 months. Still, Lebovitz said he was "proud of the CBL organization's commitment and response as we face this unprecedented situation," and affirmed that the safety and health of mall staff and shoppers remain the company's top priority.

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A New Fix for the Ancient Problem of Imbalanced Heat
Habitat Magazine (03/27/20) Lovece, Frank

Imbalanced heat is a perennial issue in older apartment buildings with old-fashioned, cast-iron steam radiators. But one Brooklyn property has found an innovative solution. The Radiator Cozy is a "smart radiator cover" that uses a small fan, insulation, and computer-regulated temperature controls to keep too much steam out of hot apartments and to send more steam to cold ones. Cost can be an issue as each Cozy has to be custom-manufactured and installed. Also, the payback in terms of lower energy bills can take up to seven years. But there has been an immediate payoff for Clinton Hill, a 12-building complex of 1,200 apartments located close to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. "Our complex had been experiencing incredible overheating and underheating for decades," reports resident Timo Lipping. "Some people were kind of pooh-poohing [the payback time] as not fast enough, but payback is not the only payoff. It's also people being comfortable in their apartments."

Designed by Radiator Labs, each Radiator Cozy contains a thermostat, accessible via both a mobile app and a controller on the Cozy itself, so that each resident can set a desired temperature for their apartment. If the unit is too cold, a built-in fan turns on and pushes heat into the room. If an apartment is at the set temperature, the fan turns off. Steam that otherwise would have overheated the apartment gets directed to colder apartments in that steam-pipe line. "Rather than have a heating system with a single control that controls the heat for the whole building, it allows every radiator to have its own control," explains David Sachs, director of audits, design and implementation for energy consultant Bright Power. "So every apartment and every room is able to control its own heat."

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Grocery Stores Add Extra Security During Coronavirus Outbreak
Security Magazine (03/24/20)

More supermarkets are adding off-duty police officers and private security guards to help provide safety and protection in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak. Shoppers have in many cases resorted to panic buying, stocking up on food and household items to see them through a period of social distancing. High demand for products coupled with stress over the pandemic have led to crowded aisles, long lines, jammed parking lots, and even some fights between shoppers. David Levenberg, president of the retail security consulting firm Center Security Services, said short tempers are a "natural reaction" to such situations, but grocery stores can take steps to promote safety and security. "There needs to be some organization and a physical deterrent to aggressive behavior at these stores," he said. Walmart, Kroger, and ShopRite are just three of the retailers that have increased security presence through the use of off-duty cops and third-party security firms.

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Multifamily Communities Are Adapting to Social Distancing With an Array of Virtual Amenities
Forbes (03/23/20) Richardson, Brenda

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grip the country, public health officials are urging people to stay home, work from home, and practice social distancing. As a result, some apartment property managers have introduced more virtual amenities. For example, Chicago's The Cooper at Southbank residential tower has asked the instructors who normally teach fitness classes at the building's gym to start hosting workouts via Zoom, allowing residents to continue with their regular workout schedules even while social distancing. The building is also planning virtual trivia nights, cooking workshops, and more to allow residents a chance to socialize.

Michael Fazio, chief creative officer of LIVunLtd, New York City's largest luxury concierge and amenity management company, said his team is prioritizing virtual amenities for the properties in its portfolio. According to Fazio, there are a number of considerations apartment and condo managers should keep in mind. While entertainment and social experiences are much needed, Fazio said there could also be a need for virtual talks from psychologists, who can provide tips and tricks on how to stay patient with spouses and family members in the midst of the pandemic. It is also important to offer virtual sessions on productivity and fitness, allowing residents to pick and choose which sessions they need to hear in order to maximize motivation.

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How a Florida Shopping Center Saved Money and Energy by Upgrading to LED Lighting
South Florida Business Journal (03/27/20) Horswood, Bob

The Stuart Centre in Florida approached Florida Power & Light (FPL) last summer about finding a maintenance-free way to deploy LED lighting with minimal upfront costs. The 200,000-square-foot shopping mall faced the dual goal of controlling annual energy and maintenance costs while providing shoppers with a brighter, more uniformly lit, and secure parking environment. Building owner Konover South LLC eventually reached an accord with FPL, a major utility and supplier of turnkey LED lighting solutions. Its LT-1 Hybrid Program is designed to install new LED fixtures on existing light poles following a required site inspection.

Lighting specialist Christian Pruitt performed an analysis of the Stuart Centre's premises to identify the most efficient and cost-effective LED lighting solution. He settled on a uniquely designed FPL LED solution that replaced 100 metal halide fixtures (750-watt) with 49 FPL LED fixtures (445-watt) on the existing poles and installed five new 35-foot concrete light poles with 445-watt LED fixtures where no lighting had previously existed. The only upfront fee Stuart Centre paid was $50 for the removal of each existing fixture. The existing poles remained untouched throughout the renovation. After installation, Stuart Centre received a monthly bill for the associated FPL LT-1 Hybrid LED program costs. As of 2020, Stuart Centre has eliminated 65 metric tons of carbon dioxide and estimates an annual savings of 92,316 kWh.

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