CRE in the Time of COVID-19: 5 Questions Lee NYC Brokers Can Answer for Tenants

As COVID-19 continues to spread across our country it has left us all with fear, uncertainty, and many questions. Lee & Associates remains committed to our clients during this time, and want to provide as many answers and as much information as we can. In order to do so, we’ve spoken with two of our office brokers, Justin Myers and Conor Krup, to help guide tenants through this time. Below they’ve answered the most frequent questions they’ve received these past few weeks.

1) How can I get a rent reduction?

Right now, tenants may be forced to temporarily close operations, and with that comes the potential loss of revenue and jobs (see recent statistics here). With this change in circumstance, many tenants may want to seek a rent reduction. A rent reduction can be determined on a case-by-case basis, and will depend on the financial strength of the company and the existing lease between the landlord and the tenant. We recommend you contact that your Lee & Associates broker to help begin the process.

Once you get in touch, your broker will contact the landlord to let them know about your request, and attempt to create a flexible plan. Tenants should make sure they have all updated financials ready, and be able to articulate why they need rent relief. It’s important to remember that landlords also have bills and expenses, and it will take creativity and teamwork to reach a deal that works for everyone.

For additional information, please check out our COVID-19 relief resource document here, or contact one of our brokers.

2) What else can my broker do right now?

Even though brokers aren’t in the office right now, it doesn’t mean they’re not continuing to work tirelessly on their clients’ behalf. Our brokers are making a point to call industry leaders including attorneys, landlords, and other brokers every single day to get information that will be helpful to their clientele. Everyone is looking for answers right now, and it’s important to get different perspectives and keep tenants informed. Brokers can also review and analyze leases in order to help plan exit strategies, like a subleasing assignment, or potentially extending leases in exchange for rent credit. Our brokers will be ready to hit the ground running as soon as measures in NYC are lifted and life gets back to normal.

3) Is working from home the future of business?

 While we’re in the middle of this pandemic and doing our best to flatten the curve, most employees are working from home. Prior to COVID-19, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only 29 percent of Americans had the ability to work from home. So, this situation is new to many employees, and they may be experiencing a honeymoon phase. But, we predict that for many people, working from home will get old quickly. In our business, and in many businesses, it’s important to interact in person. Human beings are social creatures. Working in-office also makes it easier to get things done, and allows for a more collaborative business.

We do believe that as a result of COVID-19, companies will experience a shift with more employees working from home, and it will also benefit businesses in a different way. Working from home requires companies have better technology to collaborate with clients. The technology will help lead businesses to a more efficient period of time where we they can still interact face-to-face but also be able to collaborate and close transactions via technology. So, working from home will have its advantages, but entire work force that is remote is not realistic for most companies, and will not be the future for most companies.

4) How will COVID-19 affect office leasing moving forward?

COVID-19 has forced everyone to take a long, hard look at how they do business, and there is no doubt that this will affect how companies lease office space moving forward.

Wellness is going to become a buzzword, and leaders are going to be more cognizant of the overall health of the company and making decisions with this pandemic in mind. As we mentioned, there will be more employees working from home, so companies will rethink the way they layout and operate their space. There’s going to be pushback against the open floor plan that many companies have embraced in recent years. Instead of packing as many employees into a floor as possible, it’s going to be more about personal space. This is going to have a major effect on the co-working sector that has sprung up over the last few years, with people wary of sharing spaces. Many co-working companies have already seen an impact, with Convene closing all 17 locations and laying off 18% of their workforce, The Wing closing all 12 locations, Knotel cutting its staff by 50%, and WeWork, which has 739 locations, laying off at least 1,000 employees.

COVID-19 isn’t going to just affect office leasing. Property Management is going to be more important than ever, with maintaining the cleanliness of space on the top of everyone’s mind. Industrial leasing is going to accelerate as more consumers look toward direct delivery as opposed to shopping in stores, where they’re more vulnerable to health concerns. Many sectors of our industry will experience change, and these are just a few ways we predict it happening.

5) What is Lee & Associates NYC doing as a company during this time?

Our president, James Wacht, has been incredibly hands on. Not only does he own this brokerage, but he is a landlord and a tenant. His perspective right now is incredibly valuable, and he is willing to get on the phone with brokers and clients to counsel as much as needed.

Lee & Associates was founded with an entrepreneurial spirit, and is the largest broker-owned commercial real estate firm in the country. We have over 64 offices in North America, so no matter where you are located, we are here to help.