For the most part, the immediate impacts of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic are fairly clear. In some cities, entire central business districts (CBDs) were shut down as the virus spread. Acres of office space were put into hibernation. Retail space — malls, in particular — remained closed. As populations ‘sheltered in place’, entire districts fell silent.
Recent attempts to pull economies out of lockdown have faced challenges; already we have seen cities open up their retail spaces only to shut them weeks later as infection levels flare. The shape and strength of the recovery are uncertain.
Even in places where office and retail doors have reopened, all signs suggest a world re-oriented. Few ‘white collar’ workers will fully return to the traditional 9-to-5 day at a commercial office; many employers are using the opportunity to rethink their real estate footprint. At the same time, customers are also not returning to retail halls in the same way — in part due to ongoing fears about social interaction but also due to increasing preferences for online shopping. Retailers are in flux.
What is clear, however, is that this experience has forced many to reconsider the link between environment, society, good governance and profit (both financial and emotional). That has sharpened minds on the need for greater focus on ESG criteria and investments. Many now see the disruption as an opportunity to rebuild greener economies.
At the same time, two realities must be recognized. The first is that the recovery will likely be slow, uneven and erratic. A majority of the respondents of our poll during the virtual panel discussion expect it will take a few years before the global economy will recover to pre-pandemic levels.
The second reality is that there is still significant capital sitting on the sidelines waiting to be deployed. Real estate continues to prove itself a strong defensive move; margins may be down and risk may be up, but returns still outstrip those offered by government bonds or treasury bills. As this report highlights, certain sectors may see significant investment flows as a result.
Clearly, each of these trends will manifest differently across locations and sectors, depending on how the pandemic evolves. All signs suggest their impact will be felt by all players across the value chain in the real estate sector.
The excerpt was taken from KPMG Thought Leadership article, Real estate in the new reality.
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