Remote Work Cited as Top Concern in Commercial Real Estate: Report

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The uncertain future of office space from increased remote-working trends ranked as the most pressing issue affecting commercial real estate professionals globally in the near future, based on the results of a new survey released by the Counselors of Real Estate, Commercial Observer can first report.

Remote work and mobility were voted No. 1 by the trade group in its ‘Top Ten Issues Affecting Real Estate” report released Wednesday, followed by technology acceleration and innovation at No. 2.

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“Remote working and mobility is something that is quite concerning to the real estate industry as to what behaviors, and to what extent, remote working will stick, and time will tell,” said Michel Couillard, the Counselors of Real Estate’s CRE 2021 global chair. “COVID really impacted human behavior in terms of where and how space will be used, and there will probably be a need for commercial properties to reposition in order to meet that changing demand.”

Couillard, who is also president and CEO of BUSAC Real Estate in Montreal, added that all real estate sectors will be closely monitoring whether population migration and work-from-home habits will persist post-pandemic. He stressed that flexibility from landlords will be crucial going forward  to shore up building occupancy levels as employers seek more adaptable and shareable spaces for their workforce.

The acceleration and adoption of technology, such as video conferencing, was voted as having the second-greatest impact on the commercial real estate industry, with the pandemic forcing companies to adopt changes more quickly, according to Couillard. He noted that innovations gaining more acceptance during the past year — such as e-commerce, proptech and artificial intelligence — will force more adjustments for real estate professionals.

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives rose to third place this year, among issues at the forefront of real estate, fueled largely by shifts in consumer preferences, regulatory requirements and wealth transfers to younger generations who are more committed to social causes.

Supply chain logistics, infrastructure, housing supply and affordability, political polarization, economic change, adaptive reuse and the bifurcation of capital markets rounded out the fourth through 10th place rankings, respectively. Couillard said the group plans to hold at least one webinar per month on each of the 10 issues during the next year, along with hosting podcasts on them.

“The common and unifying theme with each of these issues is the acceleration of trends and changes,” Couillard said. “Some of those trends and changes will remain permanent, and to what extent remains to be seen, and that is what we are going to be looking at over the next few months.”