Real Estate Management News

April 8, 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

Affordable Housing – Rent Control

Introduction to Excel Pivot Tables

Listen, Ask, Communicate

IREM ® headlines

Join the IREM Community Room—Online Forum for Real Estate Managers

Real estate professionals have been dealing with a lot the past few weeks and are in need of a way to share experiences and learn from others how to handle the changing situation each day. Who better to provide that advice than your fellow property managers across the globe? That’s why we’re launching IREM’s Community Room, an online forum with a goal of virtually connecting real estate professionals with each other.

The buildings in which we all live and work—and which you manage—provide a common space for tenants and residents to gather and converse with others they may not normally have the opportunity to meet. This Community Room has the same purpose—to provide you with a space to meet others, share ideas, build best practices and solve problems.

The Community Room is open! And we invite you to join us—all are welcome to join the conversation. Simply sign up and jump into the discussion! Sign up today!

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IREM Introduces Mixed-Use Property Management Education

Managing, leasing and marketing a mixed-use property can be complex, and the person managing these properties must have specialized knowledge and experience. To remain competitive, property managers need comprehensive training from seasoned mixed-use practitioners.

IREM can help you master the complexities of managing mixed-use developments with a new, online course covering the following topics:

  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Leasing
  • Operations
  • Human resources

Available online, this course takes approximately 12-16 hours to complete. IREM's mixed-used education will prepare property managers to learn more and do more for themselves, their employers, owners and investors. Register now.

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What Might be Next for Affordable Housing and Rent Control

There was a time when people were advised to budget 30% of their income for their mortgage or rent payments. However, since the 80s, incomes and home and rent prices have not increased at the same rates, with the increase in incomes falling behind. Particularly in the 2000s when the housing market surged, the gap between them widened significantly and continued to expand afterward. By 2017, many households could no longer adhere to the 30% affordability guide. The gap made finding affordable housing more of a challenge, and that year more than 18 million Americans spent more than half of their incomes on rents and housing payments. A lack of affordable housing places burdens on individuals and real estate markets.

Learn more about the rise of housing affordability issues, as well the growing discussion about associated rent control measures, in the upcoming IREM Affordable Housing – Rent Control webinar, taking place April 14th at 1PM CST. In addition to discussing housing affordability challenges, IREM Director of Government Affairs Ted Thurn will share insights about ways the results of the 2020 election could affect the real estate industry, and state legislation proposals that address rent control.

Go here for more information and to register.

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Continuing Updates on COVID-19

As the situation surrounding the coronavirus continues to evolve, IREM is continuing to provide content and other helpful information to members. New resources added to the IREM coronavirus updates page this week include:

  • New From the Front Lines segments on exceptional customer service and business interruption insurance
  • Updates on advocacy initiatives and actions
  • New on-demand courses open for free enrollment
  • Information on small business loans as part of the Paycheck Protection Program

IREM’s From the Front Lines segments are also available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. Subscribe today to get the latest content delivered to your devices.

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

Texas Apartment Company Offering Renters $2,000 in Aid During COVID-19 Pandemic
Dallas Morning News (04/03/20) DiFurio, Dom

Camden Property Trust has established a $5 million relief fund to help residents of its apartment buildings who are struggling to cover their expenses because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Camden's Resident Relief Fund will be distributed to renters impacted by the coronavirus outbreak in amounts up to $2,000. Camden Chairman and CEO Richard Campo said the fund will help residents struggling to make ends meet because of sweeping business closures and social distancing mandates that have dramatically altered the work landscape.

Renters who receive money from the fund can put it towards food, utility bills, medical expenses, insurance payments, child care, or transportation, Camden announced. Any resident of a Camden apartment property who is in good standing with the company is eligible for a payment. The only disqualifying factor would be if a resident has received a notice to vacate for any reason. Houston-based Camden manages apartment communities nationwide, including more than a dozen properties in the Dallas-Fort Worth market.

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How Pandemic-Surviving Shopping Malls Could Thrive
Herald-Mail Media (03/31/20)

Across the country, shopping malls have shut down in a bid to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Jie Zhang, a professor of marketing at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, said malls may end up looking drastically different once the crisis eases. Zhang said that is not necessarily a negative prediction. The pandemic occurred at a time when many malls were struggling to thrive because of the rise of e-commerce. Looking ahead, the pandemic could spur a renaissance of sorts for malls acting as a "catalyst."

With consumers currently cooped up in their residences, there is likely to be a big rebound for some retail and entertainment services, especially those in open air settings, when states of emergency are lifted and social interaction is permitted. For traditional, enclosed malls, there may not be as immediate a recovery. That, in turn, could spur mall operators to "work harder to improve their amenities," Zhang remarked. Over time, the mall landscape in the United States may change, so that there are fewer malls with better amenities.

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Solving Key Washroom Design Issues
Buildings (04/01/20) Alderson, Kris

Restrooms and washrooms are an essential part of any commercial design. When considering washroom design, there are several trends and issues to take into account. First, designers should consider incorporating touch-free technology whenever possible to cut down on germ touchpoints, as well as installing large containers of soap to minimize the amount of refills needed. Another key issue in restrooms is the potential of a visitor slipping and falling. But there are sinks and basins available on the market that incorporate technology to contain water, limiting any drips or splashes on floors that can later be the catalyst for a slip-and-fall accident.

A third key issue for restroom design is accessibility. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some 39.8 percent of American adults are obese, and another 32 percent are overweight. Meanwhile, older adults and persons with disabilities may have mobility restrictions that can impose limitations on their use of restroom facilities. Restrooms and washrooms should therefore be designed to accommodate all people, with grab bars and shower seats available for those in need.

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Hourly Amazon Workers, Fearing Coronavirus Risks, Wonder Why They Must Staff Empty Office Buildings
Seattle Times (04/01/20) Romano, Benjamin

As of early April, hourly Amazon workers have been told to continue commuting into empty company office buildings in spite of the risks associated with the novel coronavirus. Many employees at Amazon's corporate headquarters have pivoted to working remotely. But numerous receptionists, janitors, security guards, and other contractors are still going to the office every day. One receptionist said she resorts to completing busywork while stationed uncomfortably close to a colleague in violation of social distancing guidelines. [After this story's publication, Amazon said it reduced its receptionist requirement to one per building to allow receptionists to adhere to social distancing standards.]

Amazon issued a work-from-home order in early March and pledged to continue paying hourly workers. According to the company, the hourly workers it deems essential and requires to be physically present at the office are needed in order to provide site security and safety. Amazon argued that the workers are essential because they can receive and distribute mail, as well as stock and clean buildings for the limited number of Amazon employees who have to be on-site to work on home delivery, cloud computing, and other services. Janitors at Amazon's corporate headquarters have been tasked with completing hourly cleanings of hand rails, elevator buttons, and security gates.

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Publix Offers Free Rent to Tenants in Shopping Centers It Owns
Naples Daily News (03/30/20) Ostrowski, Jeff

Publix is offering rent relief to tenants in its shopping centers. Publix has a robust shopping center property portfolio nationwide. Under the terms of its relief package, the supermarket operator is offering free rent for two months and waiving payments for the maintenance and upkeep of common areas. The relief package extends to all tenants regardless of their ability to secure other assistance. Over the past few years, Publix has sought to acquire a number of shopping centers where its grocery stores are anchor tenants. For example, the chain recently spent $52.8 million on the Courtyard Shops on Wellington Trace shopping center in Palm Beach County, Fla.

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No Need to Tip. A Robot Will Park Your Car for You at This Fort Worth Office Building
Fort Worth Star-Telegram (04/01/20) Ranker, Luke

The Triune Centre office building in Fort Worth, Texas, will include robot valet service. Cornerstone Projects Group, Trident Structures, and Stream Realty Partners late last month announced the plans for the luxury office building, which will be located just south of Fort Worth's Cultural District. According to the developers, Triune Centre will be the first office building to include a robotic valet system. When workers arrive on site, they will park their car on a pallet. A robotic system then transports the car through the garage to an empty space. When it is time to leave, the driver can summon the car for curbside-style delivery by using a kiosk or app.

Automated parking systems are rare, but gaining traction. Luxury apartment buildings in Seattle and Los Angeles are set to include similar robot valet services, and a Seattle cancer clinic is also planning to include an underground automated parking service. Trident Structures President Ben Trantham said the robot valet "will offer future tenants unrivaled convenience and flexibility."

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Walmart to Check Temperatures of Store Workers Amid Coronavirus Crisis
Wall Street Journal (03/31/20) Nassauer, Sarah

Walmart Inc. last week pledged to start taking temperatures of U.S. store employees at the beginning of each shift and offering masks for those workers who want to wear them. The retail giant announced in a blog post: "We are in the process of sending infrared thermometers to all locations, which could take up to three weeks." Staffers with a temperature of 100 degrees or higher will be sent home with pay and will not be permitted to return to work until fever free for three days. Walmart expects it will take one to two weeks for the masks to arrive at its stores. The blog stated: "They will be high-quality masks, but not N95 respirators -- which should be reserved for at-risk health-care workers." Walmart ranks as America's biggest private employer with nearly 1.5 million workers, and most of its stores have remained open during the pandemic.

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How Condo and Apartment Buildings Are Encouraging Social Distancing
Globe and Mail (03/19/20) Stueck, Wendy

With the spread of the coronavirus, managers at apartment buildings and condominiums are scrambling to find ways to encourage social distancing at their properties. Tony Gioventu, executive director of the Condominium Home Owners Association of British Columbia (CHOA), said most officials have not considered the difficulties of social distancing in crowded buildings, pointing out that multiple residents use the same elevators, walkways, and public spaces. The CHOA has issued a guidance for property managers, telling them to hold meetings electronically whenever possible and increase the amount of times elevator buttons and other commonly-touched places are cleaned and sanitized per day.

Meanwhile, at least one unnamed property manager in Vancouver has asked residents for a notification if they test positive for COVID-19. The manager vowed that the information would be kept confidential, adding that giving the notification would help building staff better protect all residents. Legal experts said buildings should probably disclose the existence of positive COVID-19 patients, but not identify the stricken by name. If a positive case is confirmed, residents of that particular apartment or condo should practice social distancing within their unit as much as possible. If it is not feasible to completely separate into different areas of the unit, residents can take precautions by staggering meal times and cleaning surfaces multiple times per day.

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Qarnot Computing Raises $6.5 Million to Heat Buildings With Wasted Energy from Cloud Computing
Venture Beat (03/31/20) O'Brien, Chris

Qarnot Computing has raised $6.5 million for its system that converts heat from computers into energy for residential and business climate systems. Qarnot's innovation takes the form of small processing machines resembling radiators that can be placed unobtrusively into homes. As computers provide high-powered cloud computing powers, the heat they generate can be used to warm apartments. Industry experts have lauded Paris-based Qarnot for its invention, which came as more services migrate online and the number of super-powerful datacenters continues to grow.

The Qarnot processing machines are sold to apartment buildings and placed inside each unit. Residents of those units have control over the heat, as they would with any traditional heating system. Qarnot said the cloud-computing heating system now warms more than 1,000 rental units in France, including an entire building in Bordeaux. The company is now expanding to industrial versions that are capable of heating commercial buildings. Casino, a French grocery store chain, is already using this version to heat one of its warehouses.

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Largest US Mall Owner, Simon Property, Furloughs 30 Percent of Workforce
CNBC News (03/31/20) Thomas, Lauren

Simon Property Group, America's largest shopping mall owner, this past week furloughed nearly 30 percent of its labor force as the company copes with all of its properties being temporarily closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The furloughs impact both full- and part-time employees at its Indianapolis headquarters and at its malls and outlet centers nationwide. There have also been an undisclosed number of permanent layoffs, although no officials figures were known as of press time. Simon Property CEO David Simon is taking a 100 percent cut in his salary for the duration of the crisis. Meanwhile, upper-level managers at the company are going to see a reduction of up to 30 percent in their salaries. As of the end of last year, Simon had roughly 4,500 employees, of which 1,500 were part time. Around 1,000 of those people worked from Simon's Indianapolis headquarters.

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Could New York's Work From Home Moment Fuel Office-to-Residential Conversions?
The Real Deal (03/27/20) Small, Eddie

As public health officials continue to urge people to shelter in place and work from home whenever possible to slow the spread of the coronavirus, some real estate experts have begun wondering whether this mass work-from-home movement will have lasting effects on the New York office market. Opinions on the matter have been mixed, with some people predicting that employees will be eager to return to the office when quarantine restrictions have been lifted. Others warn of a lasting decline in demand for office space.

In the event that office space loses its appeal, real estate experts said commercial landlords can convert their buildings to residential. Ingrid Gould Ellen, director of the NYU Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, said the office-to-residential shift was happening even before the pandemic hit. "In recent years, we've seen a number of office-to-residential conversions in Lower Manhattan and other parts of the city," she remarked. Converting office space into residential units can be a quicker route to expanding housing in New York City than building from the ground up, Gould observed, pointing out that there should be little community resistance because there will be few drastic adjustments to the skyline or neighborhood. Robin Hacke of the Center for Community Investment said shifting from office to residential could also help the city's affordability problem, although she cautioned it would not be a cure-all.

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From Skyscrapers to Office Blocks, These Award-Winning Buildings Use Sustainable Ideas and Tech
CNBC (03/30/20) Frangoul, Anmar

Sophisticated, advanced technologies are increasingly becoming commonplace in the buildings where people live and work. Intelligent air-conditioning systems, smart energy consumption meters, and automatic lighting systems boost convenience in everyday life. But they also have another major benefit: they are good for environmental sustainability. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which is part of the World Bank Group, projected significant potential for green buildings. Such structures represent "one of the biggest investment opportunities of the next decade," according to IFC Director of Climate Business Alzbeta Klein.

There is a wide variety of improvement options available to make buildings green. For example, London's Centre Point Tower underwent a major renovation in 2015. The refurbishment involved low nitrogen-oxide boilers, water-source heat pumps, automatic controls within each unit, and a new glazing. Meanwhile, the COFCO Landmark in China includes automated monitoring systems to prevent wasteful energy consumption. COFCO elevators remain in standby mode when they are not being used, and water use and energy are monitored in real time. Finally, the Centre Building at the London School of Economics is capable of harvesting rainwater and converting light into electricity.

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