It’s Business as Usual. Or so they Say.
The other day, I was reading (yet another) “Office of the Future” report. This edition was published by one the real estate industry’s oldest and largest brokerage organizations.
Not surprisingly, the company was waxing enthusiastically about the rising demand for office space now that the worst (hopefully) of the pandemic appears to be behind us. To ensure the firm’s credibility, proof of this recent office upswing was supported by an array of nicely designed bar graphs and pie charts.
The problem however was that the charts only went back twelve months. So yeah, by that measure, demand for office space is trending upward. What they failed to show was a comparison of office occupancy from back in Q1 of 2020 when COVID-19 became all too real and rocked nearly every aspect of our personal and business lives.
The same graph looked far different and back then. And whole lot stronger.
But that’s what brokerage firms typically do – especially those that represent landlords and lease space on their behalf. i.e., they create a sense of urgency so prospective tenants will feel compelled to make decisions as quickly as possible and potentially lease more space than necessary in the process.
In other words, never let a questionable recommendation get in the way of a nice commission. Some things never change, even though nearly everything has.
It’s Safe to be Skeptical
To their credit, the firm’s report did go on to discuss myriad changes in the workplace, including the “new normal” of remote and hybrid workforces. But once again, those topics aren’t new. I know this, you know this, and everyone in the credit union industry knows this. But the report’s sub-text was that workers were coming back and it was time to secure new space or renew existing leases.
I agree and I don’t.
While people are certainly returning to their offices, they are not yet doing it en masse or full-time. Like many office-based companies, the majority of our credit union clients have put hybrid work plans in place and are doing their diligence to determine what is working and what is not for their staffs and members alike.
To that end, we are not advocating that our clients make significant real estate decisions based on one quarter of anecdotal results. It’s simply too soon know what kind and amount of space will ultimately be optimal.
Don’t get me wrong, we are hoping for “normal” as they were in the “before times.” But – also as in the “before times,” we are going to continue relying on well-informed research from both inside and outside the financial services industry to advise our credit union clients.
Call us contrarians, but unless we have information that is clear and highly defendable, Rubicon will always resist the typical real estate broker agendas that put deal volume and commissions ahead of client commitment and quality results.
That may not be “business as usual” for much of the real estate industry, but it is for us.
Post Script: On the topic of research, Rubicon is proud to announce the latest edition of our proprietary market research and analytics platform curated expressly to meet the real estate needs of the credit union industry. It’s called Rubicon Reveal.
Please feel free to contact us about it.
Corey A. Waite is a leading commercial real estate advisor to the financial services industry. As Founder and CEO of Rubicon Concierge Real Estate Services, Corey works directly with senior executives coast-to-coast to deliver strategic plans and transactional services focused on optimizing the needs of employees, clients and members.
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