Real Estate Management News

April 22, 2020

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IREM ® headlines

IREM Celebrates Earth Day with CSP Properties

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. The participation of 20 million people in 1970 has turned into billions over those fifty years. This year’s theme: climate action.

This Earth Day, IREM would like to acknowledge the many property managers who’ve worked to achieve sustainable operations through the IREM Certified Sustainable Property (CSP) program. Their dedication to maintaining environmentally friendly building operations is more important now than ever, as we all become increasingly aware of the impact of climate change.
Here’s a quick rundown of CSP program participation.

  • 505+ IREM CSPs in 33 U.S. states
  • 278 multifamily and 121 shopping center IREM CSPs—these property types are underserved by other sustainability programs
  • 95+ property management companies that have participated by certifying properties on behalf of their companies and clients
  • 20 CSP Volume Program participants, owners and property managers committed to greening their portfolios and certifying at least 10 properties

Our gratitude goes out to these companies, properties and teams for acting to improve resource efficiency and committing to continuous improvement in sustainable operations.

We’d also like to take this opportunity to provide some CSP program updates:

  • IREM has established a deadline of November 1, 2020, to ensure 2020 application review and certifications. Be sure to get your applications in by November 1!
  • Have you logged into the CSP application platform? Complete all your applications for new, original certification, and recertifications on this platform.

Get started this Earth Day on your IREM CSP at irem.org/gogreen.

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Celebrating Diversity and Inclusion—IREM Announces 2020 DISI Leaders

We know that diversity in the workplace improves competitive positioning through increased creativity and performance. Inclusive behaviors support the differences among us, make us feel comfortable and empowered to share opinions and ideas. Inclusion allows all voices to be heard.

The business case for establishing a diverse and inclusive work environment grows stronger every day and is supported by countless studies. IREM honors members who’ve captured the spirit of celebrating our differences, leaders who’ve successfully built engagement with people from all backgrounds, with IREM’s DISI Leader program.

We’re honored to present this year’s 2020 DISI Leaders. These are IREM members from underrepresented groups who’ve demonstrated leadership in their local IREM chapters, have an interest in advancing their leadership skills nationally, and are interested in enhancing their knowledge and skills through IREM education. They’re already making a positive impact on our profession and in their communities. As DISI Leaders, they’ll benefit from professional mentoring and receive training and education at the 2020 IREM Global Summit.

Who are IREM’s 2020 DISI leaders?

  • Jacqueline Knight, CPM®, with Ackerberg in Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Whitney Lane with Weingarten Realty in Phoenix, Arizona
  • Kandace Massenburg with Jones Lang LaSalle in Washington D.C.
  • Chianon Mutsiwegota with Texas Capital Partners in Phoenix, Arizona
  • Khanyisile Nene, CPM®, with Airports Company South Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Karoline Peralta, ARM®, with Virtue Properties in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Michiko Sanchez, ARM®, with Denver Housing Authority, AMO®, in Denver, Colorado
  • Sarah Shezi, CPM®, with Broll Property Group in Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Shanicka Sudler with PropertyWize in Lutherville-Timonium, Maryland
  • Dee Wilson with Freeman Webb, AMO®, in Nashville, Tennessee

These extraordinary professionals make a difference in the lives of so many, every day. Learn more about IREM’s diversity outreach programs.

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2020 Income/Expense Data Submission Deadline is May 1

IREM’s Income and Expense Analysis Reports set the standard for property operations benchmarking data. These comprehensive reports are used to:

  • Prepare realistic operating budgets
  • Identify ways to trim waste and address operational inefficiencies
  • Reveal emerging trends in property operations
  • Prepare feasibility studies, appraisals and financing requests
  • Understand how property operating activity differs in markets across the U.S.

To build these reports, IREM welcomes data on:

  • Conventional apartment buildings
  • Federally assisted apartments
  • Condominiums
  • Office buildings
  • Shopping centers

We accept data for apartments and condos with 12 or more units, office properties of 5,000 square feet or more and retail properties with 20,000 square feet or more. All data is strictly confidential and presented in aggregate.
Best of all, contributors receive a free digital copy of the 2020 Income/Expense Analysis Report—valued at over $565—and a free, customized building report. You don’t need to be an IREM Member to participate, receive a free copy and benefit from these analyses. Submit your data today.

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COVID-19 Resources and Information for Property Managers

IREM remains dedicated to helping real estate industry professionals navigate these changing circumstances. The COVID-19 resources page has been updated with a new layout to help you find the content you most need. New resources added to the coronavirus updates page this week include:

  • New From the Front Lines segments on application of the CARES Act and commercial cleaning and hygiene. Follow IREM on Spotify and Apple Podcasts for new episodes
  • New advocacy resources including a reports on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and need for renter relief, results from an NAR flash survey, and a new letter IREM signed onto asking for additional funding to the PPP
  • 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

Why Empty Office Buildings Still Consume Lots of Power During a Global Pandemic
Green Tech Media (04/14/20) St. John, Jeff

As people across the country work from home in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for electricity has waned in traditional commercial centers like New York City and the San Francisco area. By some projections, commercial energy usage across the country will drop 4.7 percent this year. In spite of those projections, office buildings are still using significant amounts of energy. Essential building systems like heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) must be kept on to avoid unhealthy air or corrosion in boilers and chillers. While traffic in the buildings may be down considerably, elevator systems and emergency lighting must remain on, and all servers supporting the vast remote workload must also be kept on.

Hatch Data found that office building energy consumption fell steadily throughout March. There was a 5 percent dropoff from the first week of the month to the second, and consumption continued to decrease week by week until it was 25 percent lower by early April. Hatch co-founder and COO Ben Mendelson said regional disparities in the consumption decreases were due to varying dates of stay-at-home orders across different states. Mendelson said he was not surprised by the energy consumption dropoff. In fact, "it was a bit surprising, looking at the data, that these reductions weren’t larger," he concluded.

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U.S. Retail Sales Plunged 8.7 Percent in March, Deepest Drop on Record
CNN (04/15/20) Tappe, Anneken; Meyersohn, Nathaniel

U.S. retail sales plunged 8.7 percent last month, their worst monthly decline since the Census Bureau began compiling such data back in 1992. Not surprisingly, one category stood out: grocery store sales soared 26.7 percent during March. Meanwhile, sales at non-store retailers -- a category that would include such e-commerce sites as Amazon -- rose 3.1 percent. However, sales plummeted 50.5 percent at clothing and accessories stores, 26.8 percent at furniture and home furnishing stores, 23.3 percent at sporting goods stores, and 15.1 percent at electronics and appliance sales. Except for supermarkets and other "essential" retailers, companies have shuttered stores and either furloughed or laid off workers.

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Landlords, Companies Clash Over Rent Payments During Coronavirus
Wall Street Journal (04/14/20) Fung, Esther

As the pandemic continues to roil the retail sector, a number of large, usually financially stable tenants are not paying their rent, prompting shopping mall owners and operators to compile lists of large delinquent tenants. Burlington Stores, Dick's Sporting Goods, LVMH, PetCo, and Staples are just a handful of the large retailers that have not yet paid April rent. Landlords have said they're willing to work with smaller businesses that have limited cash and plummeting business amid the COVID-19 shutdown, but they have generally been more confrontational with large delinquent tenants. Landlords believe some large retailers have the means to pay rent but have chosen not to.

But there are mixed opinions. Property owners with smaller portfolios are less likely to fight for the missing rent. Meanwhile, some large retailers serve as anchors for shopping centers and malls, giving them added influence over the landlords. Most retail property owners, though, said that the current crisis does not qualify as a "force majeure event" and that tenants still have to pay rent even if they are recording fewer or even no sales. "The retailers think they have leverage here and they’re trying to use it," concludes Green Street Advisors analyst Vince Tibone. "I see it potentially becoming a fight and going into litigation."

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Apartments Making Homes for Four-Legged Friends
Times Union (04/14/20) Rao, Taylor

Prospective apartment renters look for a number of elements and consider a number of factors when making their choices. But for a certain subset of renters, one consideration trumps all others. Pet owners only consider pet-friendly buildings, with features like hardwood floors and easy outdoor access among the most desired. The 2019-20 National Pet Owners Survey found that 67 percent of U.S. households have pets, a significant increase from the 56 percent recorded in the survey's first year back in 1988. The rising popularity of pet ownership has meant that apartment owners and managers have had to cater to pet owners.

Elizabeth Young Jojo, vice president of Redburn Development Partners, said she estimates that 50 percent of the residents at Redburn's portfolio are pet owners. "The demand is so high, we now allow pets on all floors of our buildings, replacing our designated pet-friendly and pet-free floors of the past," she noted. While pet-friendly buildings welcome four-legged companions, pet owners often have to pay a larger security deposit. While some buildings institute weight, age, and breed restrictions on pets, the Humane Society is urging apartment properties to remove those rules. Some buildings have meet-and-greet policies so that building staff can interact with a prospective resident's dog and decide whether it is a good match.

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Our Offices Will Never Be the Same After COVID-19. Here's What They Could Look Like
Fast Company (04/13/20) Wilson, Mark

As workers continue their work-from-home routines amid the COVID-19 crisis, questions loom about what offices will look like when it is safe to return to them. Cushman & Wakefield has already started to address some of the uncertainty, as it has helped approximately 10,000 organizations in China transition back to work over the past month. In total, Cushman & Wakefield has helped coordinate a return to the office for nearly one million people across China. The firm used its experiences there and the recommendations of public health officials to craft a new concept within its Amsterdam headquarters. The concept, dubbed Six Feet Office, shows how people can safely return to their offices.

Under the new concept, workers remain at least six feet away from others at all times, thereby maintaining social distancing while also working from the office. In the Six Feet Office plan, desks are spaced to provide appropriate distance between workers, and visual symbols have been incorporated into carpets and walls to alert people when they are too close to a colleague's workspace. Arrows on the floor facilitate one-way traffic patterns through the office, and beacons and sensors track movement through the workspace and provide feedback on the success of the design. In addition to altering the physical design of an office space, experts said attention must be paid to HVAC systems.

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Walmart to Require All Employees Wear Face Masks Starting Monday as Part of Coronavirus Response
USA Today (04/18/20) Tyko, Kelly

To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Walmart and Sam's Club began requiring all employees to wear masks or other face coverings as of Monday, April 20. In addition, shoppers will be encouraged to wear face masks as part of the retailers' updated pandemic response. The Arkansas-based retail giant announced the changes in a letter sent to employees that has since been posted on Walmart.com. The employee policy is for all U.S. stores, clubs, distribution and fulfillment centers, and corporate offices, the letter written by Walmart U.S. President and CEO John Furner and Sam's Club CEO Kath McLay reads. They further stated: "We have evolved our policy on face coverings from optional to mandatory as public health guidance has shifted."

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A New Live/Work Development Fits the Coronavirus Work-From-Home Lifestyle
Forbes (04/19/20) Williams, Dima

The new Mission Lofts development in Falls Church, Va., has embraced a mixed-use vision that allows occupants to choose whether they use their units as residential or work space or both. Developer Robert Seldin, CEO of Highland Square Holdings, said Mission Lofts' approach to filling units is unique and gives the building a special boost. "The combined live/work space winds up with the net result of having a 300 percent potential utility in a 100 percent physical class," he explained. Mission Lofts recently obtained its final certificate of occupancy and has already reached lease agreements with a company in need of offices, a residential renter, and two tenants planning to both live and work in their units.

Highland Square Holdings first started on the Mission Lofts project three years ago. The building is preparing to accept tenants at a unique time when people across the country are working where they live in an attempt to slow the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak. Mission Lofts blends such aspects of commercial office buildings as fiber-optic lines and the power capacity to support business functions, with popular residential elements like large windows and high ceilings. Building amenities are available to both residential and office renters and include a fitness center, clubhouse, and sun deck.

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Why Simon Property Malls Will Be a Long-Term Coronavirus Winner
Motley Fool (04/02/20) Kline, Daniel B.

While the coronavirus pandemic has temporarily shuttered shopping malls across the country, there are indications that a silver lining could emerge for Simon Property Group when the world returns to normal. This is mainly because Simon tends to operate higher-end and open-air malls, giving it an edge over those competitors with portfolios that skew more heavily towards enclosed spaces. Enclosed malls may be slower to entice germ-conscious consumers back. With the pandemic dealing a death blow to some struggling malls, the ones that do survive will be in a stronger position with fewer competitors. And Simon has already invested in some of the high-end and luxury services and amenities that University of Maryland marketing professor Jie Zhang predicts will be most appealing to shoppers, meaning the malls in its portfolios are ready to hit the ground running.

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Have Our Workspaces Evolved Into Incubators?
Providence Journal (04/04/20) Kamin, Blair

Open offices remain in vogue in many U.S. workplaces. However, critics have blasted open-plan layouts for being noisy and distracting, as well as not living up to their own hype. And in the age of COVID-19, there are new concerns over pitfalls in such offices. When social distancing restrictions are eased enough to permit workers to return to their offices, crowds of people will have to find a way to be productive in their workspaces while still adhering to all guidelines about staying away from one another to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. Some may have become too germophobic to want to work in such environments. Consequently, the pandemic may end up altering office layouts permanently.

Some companies have already embraced wellness features built into open offices, including incorporating internal staircases to dissuade employees from taking the elevator from floor to floor. It is likely that in the aftermath of the pandemic, more companies will look into promoting wellness within the confines of their open-office plans. Companies will also likely eschew the practice of "hoteling," whereby employees rotate from desk to desk on a daily basis, instead giving each employee a designated workspace to minimize the spread of germs. Meanwhile, companies may alter communal spaces and take out couches to encourage social distancing and minimize the number of objects that can transmit germs. And building managers will likely redouble their efforts behind ensuring proper ventilation and scheduling thorough cleanings. "I think the open-plan office is not dead. It will continue to evolve," concluded sociologist Tracy Brower.

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Mall Owner Washington Prime Group Helps Launch Small Business Support Initiative
News Herald (OH) (04/07/20)

Washington Prime Group (WPG) is collaborating on an initiative to assist small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The shopping mall owner has teamed up with the University of Chicago and the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship to launch the Open for Small Business Initiative. This program provides an easy-to-use lease modification template allowing for the deferral of payments until business operators can get back on their feet. In addition, Open for Small Business is hosting educational webcast seminars with private sector experts and government officials to discuss how to access Small Business Administration-guaranteed loans and other programs. "While the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been dramatic, to say the least, there will be a return to normalcy," assured WPG Chief Executive Lou Conforti. "And when things settle down, we all better make sure small business owners are indeed ready to open for business."

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Tips for Using Digital Marketing Wisely in Commercial Real Estate Right Now
Forbes (04/10/20) Malcolm, Sarah

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the foundations of commercial real estate by taking away human engagement. With social distancing guidelines and widespread lockdowns prompting people to spend most of their time indoors, commercial real estate properties ranging from shopping centers and office complexes to hotels and entertainment venues have been left almost entirely empty. But with people across the country eager to return to a sense of normalcy when the pandemic wanes, commercial building owners and operators would be wise to look into digital marketing as a way to pitch their properties and help their business navigate the slow stretch.

First, owners and management staff should frame their digital marketing outreach carefully. Instead of selling a product, the marketing should highlight how the commercial real estate firm can help. In supporting struggling employees and communities, commercial real estate firms can earn a positive reputation that will follow them through the end of the pandemic. As part of that effort, such businesses should use social media to connect with their communities, find out what is needed, and provide a personalized touch to reassure people there are real humans on the other end. Digital marketing should incorporate high-value content, highlighting the information people need to know both now and in the near future. Finally, commercial real estate businesses should aggressively target and tailor their content.

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Inpixon Wins Contract to Supply Indoor Mapping Platform for Dozens of Shopping Centers in Europe and Asia
MarTech Series (04/15/20)

The indoor data company Inpixon has signed a contract to create indoor maps for more than two dozen shopping centers throughout Europe and Asia. Inpixon said the contract would lead to revenue for the up-front professional services, as well as recurring revenue for the use of licensed software. Inpixon's maps will allow consumers at the various shopping centers to find specific locations within the malls, including certain stores and parking garages. The maps will be tailored to specific viewers, so that shoppers are able to see the public parts of the mall and workers will be able to see the entire mall property. Inpixon COO Soumya Das believes Inpixon won the contract because of its ability to meet the specifications of a large company, guessing that the firm's competitors were better-suited for smaller organizations. With the Inpixon system, its new customer "will be able to manage all of their mapped venues through a single, browser-based content management system," Das said.

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