Real Estate Management News

May 7, 2020

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IREM ® headlines

IREM’s Call to Action in the Face of COVID-19

“We urge you to support the issues that point toward the goals of protecting our tenants and residents during this time of crisis, and ensuring the stability of our businesses.”

That was IREM President Cheryl Gray, CPM®, reaching out to the Institute’s global membership in her latest column for NREI. “The real estate industry as a major economic force must continue to make its voice heard at all levels,” she writes, “not solely in the U.S., but around the world. With that in mind, we urge property managers everywhere to become an active part of the advocacy initiatives IREM continues to mount on behalf of our profession.”

She goes on to enumerate just some of vital initiatives for which the industry needs membership backing, for which she calls for “membership to add its voice in active solidarity:

  • Eviction moratoriums: In the U.S. there is need for clarification on the blanket application of eviction moratoriums for 120 days. As IREM Government Affairs Director Ted Thurn explains, ‘We fully understand the hardships being caused by the pandemic, but does a blanket moratorium preclude an owner or manager from evictions due to non-pandemic causes, such as criminal activity or other situations that endanger the community? These need to be clarified.’
  • Support and relief for real estate businesses: Property owners and managers may face problems much like those of our residents and tenants. As we stated in a letter to the U.S. Congress, ‘If residents cannot pay their full rent obligations, housing providers will be at risk of not meeting their financial obligations as well.’ With that in mind, we’re calling for greater clarity on the apparent disconnect between the 120-day eviction moratorium and the 90-day mortgage forbearance, which currently consists of a 30-day forbearance with two potential extensions.
  • Emergency Rental Assistance Program: This is designed, ‘for those who are impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and struggle to cover housing expenses.’ While the CARES Act includes a number of provisions for individuals and businesses, these funds are not tied to housing obligations and will not be sufficient to address the financial challenges that both renters and the rental industry are now facing.”

How can membership get involved? Gray points to the pertinent resources of education and action: “Members can stay on top of the latest developments by visiting the COVID-19 ‘Resources for Property Managers’ page on irem.org. You can also reach out to your legislators by visiting IREM’s Advocacy Action Center and choosing ‘Coronavirus Relief – Add Your Voice.’

“There’s an irony in the nature of the coronavirus pandemic in that, while it calls for social distancing, there has rarely been a stronger need for all of us to come together,” Gray states. “We urge our members, and in fact all of us involved in the real estate industry, to lend your voices to these efforts and stay top-of-mind to your local, state and national representatives.”

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Comprehensive Income and Expense Analysis to Help You Manage Your Condo, Co-op or PUD

If you manage a condominium building, a cooperative or a planned unit development (PUD), it’s important for you to have the data you need to make smart decisions. IREM’s Income/Expense Analysis reports on condos, co-ops and PUDs fill that gap.

IREM’s analysis not only presents data collected from 2,516 properties representing 328, 941 units, we break it down for you to use effectively, especially if you want to:

  • Build realistic operating budgets
  • Identify ways to trim waste and address inefficiencies
  • Uncover emerging shifts in the market
  • Prepare feasibility studies, appraisals, and financing requests
  • Understand property operating activity in new markets

Get the answers you need for appraisals, operating comparisons, feasibility studies, loan requests, preparation and evaluation of acquisitions, and sale proposals. This report also includes a chart of accounts that provides nearly 100 line items and over 40 expense items. Special reports include leasing fees, expansion, tenant turnover, type of ownership, and gross sales analysis.

Visit IREM’s 2019 Income/Expense Analysis Reports to learn more about your property’s operating expenses, and how our analyses can help you budget better.

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South Africa Gauteng Chapter Grows in 2020

IREM South Africa Gauteng Chapter is proud to announce the swearing-in of 22 CPMs, ringing the chapter’s CPM tally to 39 and CPM Candidates to 43. This is the largest group to get sworn in at one time for IREM’s first chapter on the African continent. “I am so proud of all the chapter has accomplished in a relatively short period of time,” says Saul Gumede, CPM®, president of the chapter. “We plan to only continue growing.”

As part of this plan, representatives of IREM and the South Africa Gauteng Chapter met with the University of Cape Town about entering into a potential agreement in which the chapter would mentor students from Cape Town through the CPM program, currently being hosted by Wits University in Johannesburg. Extending into Cape Town is a natural progression for this program, as the University of Cape Town also has a property studies degree program with a strong property management component.

To commemorate the new members, and to advance the mission of the chapter to spread the word about IREM and advance the local property management industry, the chapter held a number of other events including a special breakfast for CEOs and other influential property players, a full day conference on property management best practices, a gala dinner held at the Sandton Convention Centre, and visits to the Department of Public Works—a big supporter of IREM and the chapter in South Africa—Growth Point Properties, WITS University, Attaq and the Airport Company of South Africa (ACSA).

While the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in worldwide shutdowns, Cheryl Gray, CPM®, 2020 IREM president, was able to attend these events, which took place right before South Africa implemented these safety measures in early March. In addition to chapter-hosted events, Gray conducted corporate outreach visits and toured Attaq’s Waterfall Park Mixed Use Development and Growth Point’s Discovery Building, an innovative green office building and one of the largest sustainable projects in Africa, with state of the art amenities that recognize the importance of employee health and wellbeing.

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New Resources for Reopening Your Property – IREM COVID-19 Update

As some states, cities and others start to reopen, IREM continues to provide updates and resources necessary for real estate managers to do business. New COVID-19 resources added to irem.org this week include:

  • New From the Front Lines segments on medical office buildings and unconscious bias in a pandemic. Follow IREM on Spotify and Apple Podcasts to ensure you get all new episodes
  • Launch of the COVID-19 Relief Fund from the IREM Foundation
  • New on-demand courses open for free enrollment through Friday, May 22

For continued updates from IREM, bookmark the coronavirus updates page for the latest information about COVID-19.

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Industry headlines

Welcome Back to the Office. Your Every Move Will Be Watched
Wall Street Journal (05/05/20) Putzier, Konrad; Cutter, Chip

When workers return to the office as the COVID-19 pandemic eases, many will notice enhanced surveillance and tracking measures in the workplace. At a 32-story office tower in Manhattan's Rockefeller Center, for example, thermal cameras will measure body temperatures of the workers arriving each morning, and mobile apps will monitor and analyze how well tenants are abiding by social distancing rules. Similarly, more than 50 companies have expressed interest in a forthcoming PricewaterhouseCoopers phone app for employers to analyze worker interactions in the office and trace contact between individuals. Elsewhere, the advertising giant Interpublic Group is mulling over dividing its workforce into three groups based on perceived health risks.

Office workers across the country are accustomed to physical security measures, like security cameras and keycards to log entrances and exits throughout the day. But the pandemic is poised to bringing security and surveillance to new levels, spurring a debate over privacy rights in the workplace. Building owners have alleged that implementing such measures is the only way to safely reopen offices until a vaccine is developed. Jason Schultz, a professor of clinical law at New York University, warns there is little incentive for employers to remove surveillance tools after they have been introduced.

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The Biggest U.S. Mall Owner Plans to Have 50 Percent of Its Centers Reopened This Week
CNBC (05/11/20) Thomas, Lauren

Simon Property Group has announced its intention to have 50 percent of its shopping centers reopen by mid-May. The company announced its plan Monday while reporting its quarterly earnings. As the COVID-19 pandemic prompted lockdowns across the country, malls closed down, meaning that Simon's quarterly profits fell 20.2 percent during the first quarter. Chief Executive David Simon told analysts on a conference call that the company is "now leading the effort for these local economies to get back to business." Simon owns some 200 malls in the United States, including such landmark properties as Boston's Copley Place and Seattle's Northgate Mall.

Simon closed its malls on March 18 amid the crisis, but began reopening them in states like South Carolina and Georgia on May 1. The reopened malls are operating under altered rules, including limited hours and reduced capacity. There are fewer chairs and tables in food court areas to minimize the risk of crowds congregating, and some malls are handing out masks to visitors who need them. But even though Simon is starting to open its malls again, the individual retailers still have control over when they reopen, and some major chains have announced plans to reopen in phases.

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Buffalo Startup Creates Augmented Reality Experience for Post-Pandemic Office Life
WGRZ (NY) (05/05/20) Benson, Nate

The Buffalo, N.Y.-based startup Twisted Rope has created an augmented reality service to help ease the transition back to office life when remote work ends and people head back to the workplace. Greg Norton, president of Twisted Rope, said his company's augmented reality tool is designed to help workers maintain social distancing when they return to their offices. "We could allow visitors to get information off of their phone from signs placed in strategic locations within the building, prior to entering, also while they're in the building, thereby maintaining social distancing during their entire experience within the building," Norton explained.

Sam Marrazzo, chief innovation officer at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, recently asked Twisted Rope to develop an augmented reality guide for staffers' return to the office. Twisted Rope spent several days developing a prototype for the campus' Innovation Center. Norton said he envisions the augmented reality tool expanding across the rest of the campus and perhaps even beyond. "I can see the experience of augmented reality being used in outside locations, as well," Norton remarked, "giving people information where they need it, when they need it."

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Are People Who Live in Dog-Friendly Buildings Happier?
New York Times (04/24/20) Lehman, Susan

Stewart House, a Greenwich Village residential building that for years refused to allow pets, changed its policy two years ago. For the first time since it opened in 1960, the building permitted certain breeds of dog, as well as a variety of other pets to appeal to a wider range of renters. The change was also inspired by the need to accommodate service dogs, which are protected by New York housing law. There are still restrictions on certain breeds and sizes, with dogs over 30 pounds not allowed. Breeds considered prone to barking or aggression are also not permitted. Stewart House's decision comes as some renters argue dog-friendly buildings in major metro areas are more appealing. According to some residents, there is a comfortable, more social atmosphere in dog-friendly buildings. Throughout Manhattan, building owners and operators are jumping at the chance to attract pet owners by putting in pet-themed amenities.

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Kimco Delivers Curbside Pickup for Retail Center Tenants
HomeWorld Business (05/04/20) Duff, Mike

Kimco Realty Corp., an owner and operator of grocery store-anchored shopping centers and mixed-use properties nationwide, is rolling out a new program designed to help shoppers in the age of the pandemic. Kimco's new curbside pickup program will initially roll out in Texas before expanding nationwide. The company is setting aside parking space at its shopping centers for tenants and customers to participate in the program, which Kimco developed out of a desire to help ease consumers back toward regular shopping habits while maintaining safe, appropriate social distancing measures.

The curbside pickup program first launched at the Grand Parkway Marketplace in Spring, Texas, where 60 parking spots were reserved for shoppers picking up their purchases on the fly. Kimco CEO Conor Flynn is hopeful the initiative will prove popular nationwide, stating, "Our curbside pickup program takes the best practices we have learned from our large national players and shares them with our small business owners, while also adding a level of convenience and comfort for customers who are still eager to support their favorite local establishments."

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New Buildings Code Could Give States, Cities Big Opportunity to Cut Carbon Emissions
GreenBiz.com (05/07/20) Perry, Christopher

The board of the International Code Council recently approved a new model building code that give U.S. states and cities a better opportunity to cut energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions. States that adopt the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) will be required to lower energy use by more than 10 percent compared to buildings complying with the previous code. Updates in the 2021 IECC include: provisions requiring high-efficiency water heating, pre-wiring buildings to be ready for electric car charging stations, and electric circuits to allow future conversions to highly efficient electrified equipment. Over 2,000 state and city officials from 641 jurisdictions nationwide participated in the process of updating the code.

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Kohl's CEO: Our Real Estate Is an Asset Emerging from the Coronavirus Pandemic
CNBC (05/07/20) Thomas, Lauren

Kohl's CEO Michelle Gass recently revealed that she believes her company is better-positioned than its mall-based department store rivals to emerge from the pandemic in a strong position. Gass said Kohl's has long considered its commercial real estate portfolio to be a strength, and the post-coronavirus rebound will highlight its benefits. Kohl's has more than 1,100 locations, many of which are located in open-air shopping centers alongside grocery stores, restaurants, and other big-box retailers. Experts have predicted that consumers could be hesitant to return to enclosed shopping malls in the aftermath of the virus crisis, but that they would be more willing to visit retailers easily accessible by car -- like Kohl's.

Kohl's had started reopening stores in 14 states as of press time, including Alaska, Arkansas, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. Stores are operating under reduced hours, generally between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Gass said there will be designated shopping hours for high-risk individuals, like pregnant women and senior adults, several days a week. Kohl's will also continue to offer curbside pickup for online orders, a program that started amid widespread shutdowns in April.

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The Good News About the Rent Might Not Be So Good
CityLab (05/08/20) Capps, Kriston

The National Multifamily Housing Council found that most renters managed to pay May rent despite widespread job losses across the country. By May 6, only 19.8 percent of renters nationwide had failed to pay rent, a number roughly in line with May 2019's tally. Doug Bibby, president of the National Multifamily Housing Council, said many renters and apartment owners are working together on "flexible options" for rent, like payment plans. "But a key question is how long will renters be able to continue to rely on unemployment insurance, draw upon savings, or utilize credit cards," Bibby warned, going on to suggest that Congress should include rent relief in the next COVID-19 stimulus package.

Apartment residents and landlords alike fretted over financial security and the ability to make rent as the country went into a lockdown to impede the spread of the novel coronavirus. Now, after two months, areas of the country are slowly starting to reopen, creating new questions. Workers in some states, including Georgia, are being told to return to work or else lose their unemployment benefits. But many lower-income workers, including gig workers, are facing a drastically different reality and will be unable to return to their normal financial situation until life returns to normal across the country. As a result, lawmakers are considering a bill that would give $100 billion in rental aid to low-income households.

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Brookfield Aims to Invest $5 Billion to Shore Up Troubled Retailers
Wall Street Journal (05/08/20) Gottfried, Miriam

Brookfield Asset Management Inc. last week announced plans to devote $5 billion to shoring up retailers hit by the pandemic, a wager on a besieged sector that could also help keep its rent payments rolling in. The initiative will be aimed at taking non-controlling ownership interests in retail businesses with pre-outbreak revenue of $250 million or more whose sales have plunged due to imposed lockdowns. The Canadian investment giant expects to finance the program using a combination of funds from its balance sheet and investment strategies. The investment program will be headed by Ron Bloom, vice chair of the company's private-equity group. Bloom is a former restructuring banker at Lazard Ltd. Being a tenant of a Brookfield mall will not be a requirement for investment.

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LoopNet Launches CoTour to Conduct Virtual Tours in Real Time
Valdosta Daily Times (05/04/20)

LoopNet, an online commercial real estate marketplace, has launched a new virtual browsing program to help building tenants, owners, and brokers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The program, dubbed CoTour, helps facilitate business at a time when in-person tours cannot happen due to health and safety concerns. Through CoTour, key decision makers like prospective tenants and commercial landlords can meet and tour properties in real time rather than watching a pre-recorded video tour. The service is enhanced with strong video and audio connections, allowing conversations to flow naturally despite the social distance between participants.

Registered LoopNet users can invite up to 20 guests to view a property in real time. The co-browsing technology supplements the existing 3D virtual tours, HD video tours, aerial drone videography, and architectural photography that already exists on LoopNet listings. LoopNet's marketplace covers a variety of spaces, including office, retail, and multifamily housing. The company is seeking to take advantage of the shift to conducting real estate business remotely. Even before the pandemic, 88 percent of potential tenants and investors searched for commercial real estate space online.

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Here's What San Antonio Apartment Complexes Told Us About Reopening Their Pools
My San Antonio (05/08/20) Aguirre, Priscilla

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's state executive order related to permissible activities during the COVID-19 crisis provided some guidance on swimming pools as the summer months near. Abbott's order allows for pools to be open at 25 percent capacity if permitted by the local government. By the end of the month, that number will jump to 50 percent capacity. While public pools in San Antonio will remain closed until further notice, some residential complexes in the city are reopening. Unlike public pools, residential pools are governed by property managers.

NRP Group said buildings in its portfolio are allowed to reopen pools at 25 percent capacity. The company has 58 apartment buildings across the Lone Star State, including more than 20 in San Antonio. NRP said that while pools are allowed to open, they are not required to open, and the final decision rests with individual property managers. Contrastingly, Roscoe Properties said it would not immediately reopen its buildings' pools, and would follow guidance from the local San Antonio government instead. LYND, another property management firm, said it would not open pools until later in May, given that building staff will not be able to enforce social distancing after hours if residents have late-night swims.

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Nordstrom Announces Store Closures, Coronavirus Cutbacks
Patch.com (05/06/20) Woodman, Charles

Nordstrom last week announced store closures and budget cutbacks as the department-store giant attempts to adapt to business lost because of the coronavirus. Nordstrom is set to close a total of 16 full-line stores, but no specific locations had been disclosed as of press time. Nordstrom currently operates 116 such stores. Executives say the closures are due to both the pandemic and market trends pushing more customers online. The company is also touting a restructuring to its corporate organization, potentially saving around $150 million in expenses and allowing for "greater speed and flexibility." Nordstrom closed all of its retail locations on March 17. Reopenings will occur on a market-by-market basis with new precautions implemented to protect customers and employees from the virus. Among them: free face coverings for shoppers and employees, health screenings for employees, and limiting the number of visitors permitted in stores to maintain safe social distancing.

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