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The broader impacts of the coronavirus on commercial real estate

The broader impacts of the coronavirus could present the perfect opportunity to review your current commercial real estate portfolio. Key things to consider and why it pays to work with an expert in the sector.

Greater Melbourne has hit the halfway mark on Stage 4 pandemic restrictions. At the same time, the State Government is seeking to extend its emergency powers while remaining non-committal about whether the middle of September will see an easing of restrictions. There is increasing concern being expressed by the business community – from small businesses to large corporates – about the likely impacts on business viability in the future. However, some obvious trends are emerging that are of real interest to commercial property portfolio owners, particularly in the south-eastern suburbs.

The broad economic uncertainties, combined with more specific economic trends that are already emerging from the restrictions in place, are clearly having an impact on the commercial property sector – a quick glance at the Financial Review and industry publications gives a clear indication of the upheaval that is occurring.

However, as in so many other situations, adversity creates opportunity and this current situation may be just the right time for many investors to review their existing portfolios in order to capitalize on some emerging trends.

In this article, we consider each of the core commercial property sectors – office, retail, and industrial, with a view to providing investors with some pointers to the opportunities and risks that are emerging.

Offices

CBD fringe and outer suburban office space look set to experience increased demand as employers look to relocate to reduce rent costs, improve employee amenity and get closer to more intensive economic activity such as manufacturing and logistics. This trend had been occurring even before the pandemic hit. However, the added pressures on CBD office spaces, where physical distancing is difficult to ensure and large-scale air-conditioning and ventilation systems may not be adequate for future needs, are likely to see this trend reinforced.

It may be that older and larger suburban office spaces also need to be updated to meet the surge in demand in new expectations with respect to the physical office environment – however, with an expected uptick in demand, this could well be an investment worth making in its own right.

Retail

Physical retail, particularly in shopping centers, has suffered significantly as a direct consequence of both lockdown periods. While the easing of lockdowns will bring some respite, the reality is that many businesses that previously relied on a physical retail presence will increase and, in some cases, exclusively move online.

However, with as with office real estate, changes in community behavior mean that there is likely to be a greater trend towards shopping locally and this may see a medium-term increase in suburban retail opportunities as the economy begins to return to normal. In particular, with people continuing to maintain caution about close physical interactions and crowds, there is a real emerging opportunity with respect to suburban strip shopping areas, which have slowly been declining over recent years.

Industrial

Industrial real estate presents a significant opportunity for investors – whether it’s rethinking existing industrial real estate and how it can be configured to suit the rapidly escalating demand for warehousing and logistics capacity and likely increases in local manufacturing, or looking at a new industrial investment, or capitalizing on a maturing investment and selling into a currently strong market with high demand.

Current and prospective commercial real estate investors in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs are perfectly placed to benefit from the significant changes in the economy at the moment. If you are considering a review of your commercial property portfolio, it makes sense to discuss the opportunities with an expert at Just Commercial.

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