ROI Influencers: Real Estate 2020 (A year like no other — Part 1)

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted all business sectors in the country.
Real estate was no different. To get a snapshot of the impact, we asked
a dozen thought leaders across a variety of parts of the real estate economy
to offer an insight into COVID’s impact — in 100 words or less.

Here’s a look at their responses.

(Read Part 2 here.)

Capital markets

Jose Cruz
Senior managing director

“We have seen investors increase their demand to acquire credit and longer-term leases across product types, including industrial, retail and office, as capital sources sought out predictable and stable cash flow. Suburban multifamily, both core and core-plus product, is trading at a slight premium as compared to pre-COVID pricing. Development land for both rental housing and for-sale housing also has seen a marked increase in demand from the investment community. We are looking forward to a very active 2021, as there is still significant amounts of equity to put to work.”

Gretchen Wilcox
G.S. Wilcox & Co.

“The capital markets experienced a V-like effect during the pandemic. The immediate onslaught by COVID-19 put everything in the capital markets world on pause. Initially, both lenders and borrowers were forced out of the market, having to fully concentrate on their existing portfolios. However, with the implementation of PPP, both tenants and owners of real estate were able to resume business operations. This, coupled with historically low interest rates and lenders coming back into the market mid-summer, has led to a massive resurgence in the capital markets over the past four months, which should continue for the forceable future.”

Joseph Orefice
Head of commercial real estate lending
Investors Bank

“New Jersey’s multifamily housing market has remained resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are finding new opportunities in the multifamily lending space, and the market now has some different elements and shapes that we are exploring. Our lenders are finding plenty of activity in the multifamily financing space. While competition is stiff, we’ve watched as some banks have moved to the sidelines by pausing their multifamily lending. Our clients count on us for their financing, and the volume of new applications for multifamily loans is holding steady. Going into 2021, we anticipate increased volume of new multifamily loans into our pipeline.”


Marjorie Perry
MZM Construction & Management

“Construction was designated as essential, but many of our suppliers in the supply chain were not. For our custom cabinet and countertop makers, just getting lumber became a major challenge. This forced us to adapt and be very creative on our deliverables, and led to a number of issues at a time when the demand for projects to get done and completed increased by 60%. The good news: We were eligible for a (Paycheck Protection Program) loan, which made us fortunate enough to not have to lay off any workers or staff at a time our clients were struggling with cash flow.”

Director of business development

“Collaboration, flexibility and partnership between the public and private sectors took precedent. On a 21-story student housing project in New Brunswick, we were able to safely achieve occupancy despite averaging a 33% reduction in workforce during the COVID-19 peak and aftermath. This could not have been accomplished without commitment from entities such as PSE&G, the Governor’s Office, New Brunswick’s construction officials, our local trade contractors and numerous others. These lessons learned will aid the industry moving forward, where the residual effects of the pandemic are not likely to be realized until long into 2021 and potentially 2022.”

Kim Vierheilig
Vice president, managing principal, buildings and places

“The pandemic inevitably will have long-term effects on public projects. There are increasing demands for upgrades and expansion to our transportation infrastructure. With agencies trying just to operate, we are seeing clients struggling with how to finance projects, how to deliver projects cost-effectively, how to deliver projects to market faster and simultaneously how to drive innovation in a new landscape. Public agencies will need to explore alternative methods of financing in order for them to deliver for future generations.”


Jeff Milanaik
Bridge Development Partners

“The pandemic expedited e-commerce’s already rapid growth. As a result, we’re seeing consistently higher demand for industrial facilities than almost ever before. The sector is now shifting more toward onshoring, and we’re accommodating requests for increased vehicle and delivery truck parking to meet rising last-mile delivery demands. COVID-19 also will affect the design of our industrial developments — we’re separating different core components within warehousing spaces, reducing density and accommodating social distancing guidelines in the process. We could also begin to see more contactless doors being installed, as well as upgraded air filtration systems.”

Mindy Lissner
Executive vice president

“While COVID-19 has been devastating around the globe, it has been a boon for the industrial real estate market. E-commerce as a percentage of total retail sales has increased 25% in the last six months, creating an increased demand for warehouse and fulfillment space. The transaction volume is extremely robust in all size categories, and we’re seeing competition for space among end users, which is driving rental rates to an all-time high. The pandemic has forced us all to become online shoppers, and there is no end in sight for the need for fulfillment and distribution centers to meet the growing demand.”

Jason Pierson
Pierson Commercial Real Estate

“We are seeing increased deal velocity as we have learned to manage and adapt to the pandemic. Additionally, recent positive vaccination news, combined with lengthy transaction completion timeframes and creative deal structures, are enabling an uptick in market activity betting on mid- to late 2021 store openings. We are not out of the woods yet, but we are optimistic about 2021, as New Jersey’s retail market is always resilient due to our ambitious and tenacious nature, high income levels and strong population density.”

(Read Part 2 here.)

(Return to the main list here.)