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Treasury Yields Drop, CRE: Focus on Office and Location Pandemic Trends

The 10 year Treasury was flirting with 0.80% last week about 15 bps above its recent average level. Interestingly, vaccine concerns led to a 5 bp drop to 0.72%. Reports from J&J and Eli Lilly regarding delays in progress on COVID vaccines and treatments reminded investors that the road to “normal” is bumpy. This leaves Pfizer and Moderna as the only two major vaccine candidates to have any chance at approval by year end. These developments remind us that regarding commercial real estate, any return to pre-pandemic normality will be well into 2021 and many changes may be permanent. A recent analysis by Cushman and Wakefield predict an increasing of office vacancies well into 2022 with a return to pre-COVID levels being achieved in 2025. The work-from-home movement has been accelerated by COVID: permanent at home workers increased from 5-6% pre-COVID to 10-11% today. The “hybrid” worker is on the rise. Pre-COVID hybrids accounted for 35% of office workers. Today this number is 50%. The hybrid worker splits working time between the office and home.

Another major trend is affecting the real estate mantra “location, location, location”. The pre-pandemic location trend was driven by urbanization and densification around downtown cores of major cites. As mentioned by Peter Grant in today’s WSJ, the urbanization trend is being reversed. Downtown offices and attractions are less alluring to residents today. This has led to a flight to the suburbs and other secondary locations, as residents seek more space. This is not expected to “snap back” with the availably of a vaccine. Stay tuned. By David R. Pascale, Jr. , Senior Vice President at George Smith Partners