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Opportunities Ahead As Rental Assistance, Working From Home Look Set To Continue – Survey

A new survey suggests commercial property investors see plenty of opportunity in the months ahead, despite ongoing uncertainty around the impact of Covid-19.

Colliers International’s latest investor and occupier sentiment survey sheds some light on how landlords, tenants and investors have reacted to Covid-19 and their expectations for the future.

Ian Little, Associate Director of Research at Colliers, says about half the survey’s respondents believe economic conditions will stabilise within a year.

“Many potential purchasers see the year ahead providing new opportunities with 58 per cent of respondents indicating that they would like to make their next acquisition within the year.

“Creating some potential imbalance is that vendors are choosing to delay divestment until the second half of 2021.”

Little says enthusiasm amongst purchasers has clearly been bolstered due to a general belief that values could ease over the short term from the peaks apparent over the latter part of 2019.

“Approximately 80 per cent of respondents are picking a decline in values, but some may be disappointed as transactional evidence to date suggests that high-quality properties with premier tenant covenants remain in demand with limited shifts in pricing.”

The survey suggests rental relief was common during lockdown and is likely to continue.

Some 80 per cent of landlords and 55 per cent of occupiers confirmed that rental assistance packages had been agreed.

In April, 84 per cent of respondents to the occupier survey reported paying at least half of their rent. It is likely that the May statistics will be similar with 67 per cent of landlords and 76 per cent of tenants expecting rental payments to be the same as they were in April.

“With lockdown restrictions eased and a move to Level 1 being touted, this could also assist with a greater proportion of tenants capturing higher cashflows enabling a resumption of full rental contract payments in the future,” says Little.

“Smaller companies experiencing ongoing cashflow constraints that have been unable to negotiate what is a ‘fair and reasonable’ amount of rent and outgoings to pay, will now be able to access arbitration services via a government-subsidised scheme announced on 4 June.”

The survey also shed some light on working from home, suggesting it has been popular for many but not all.

“The lockdown has enforced a massive change in working habits with a vast majority of office workers conducting business from home,” says Little.

“Survey results show that the move has proved popular, with many employees indicating that they would like to have working from home as part of their future working arrangements.

“But the question as to whether productivity can be maintained while working at home remains unresolved, with opinions split almost down the middle.

“Almost half the respondents felt productivity was unchanged or had increased, at 41 per cent and 8 per cent respectively, while 51 per cent indicated that productivity had declined.”

Chris Dibble, Colliers’ Director of Partnerships, Research and Communications, says working from home is likely to be an ongoing topic of discussion.

“What is clear is that a majority of respondents would prefer a more flexible approach to working remotely.

“Approximately 77 per cent of respondents indicated that they would like to work from home for one or two days per week.

“However, this may not necessarily translate into a reduction in office space with changes to hot-desking and appropriate floor space ratios potentially counterbalancing the situation.

“It was also interesting to note that 75 per cent of occupiers indicated that they would retain the same footprint or increase it over the next 12 months.”

Dibble adds that the traditional office setting continues to offer many advantages.

According to respondents, being able to collaborate with colleagues in person (34 per cent), bumping into co-workers (13 per cent) and the ability to have spontaneous meetings (12 per cent) were rated as key benefits.

Another common view was that working from the office made it easier to separate work and home life balance (19 per cent).

The survey, conducted between 21 May and 4 June, drew on just over 4,000 responses to create the results.

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