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Is This Trend a Bad Omen for Office REITs?

Nov 28, 2020 by Matthew DiLallo

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It's always sort of right around the corner. We're hearing in August, it will be right after Labor Day and Labor Day, it's October. So it feels imminent, and yet the numbers don't bear that out. We're still, as a portfolio, right around the city average of probably 15% to 20% back to office work. And that's out of 1.5 million office workers. So that means 80%, 85% of the people that work in office buildings are still home, and that's frustrating. And I think they will be back. The reality, whether they're back next month, December, or Jan, Feb, March, that doesn't, in our estimation, affect any of the long-term fundamentals of the things we look at. I mean the sooner, the better, and I would expect by December to see those numbers be somewhere between 20% and 30%, up from 15% to 20% today. And then, hopefully, it just grows from there.
While we anticipate a vaccine will likely become available by year-end, it is unlikely to be a magic bullet that immediately eliminates the pandemic, given broad deployment will face issues around manufacturing, distribution, uptake, and efficacy. Though difficult to assess, we think economic conditions for the first half of 2021 will remain sluggish but expect a more pronounced reopening of the economy and return to the office in the second half of 2021 due to distribution of a vaccine, better therapeutics, and more individual adoption of health and safety protocols, as we all learn how to combat and live with COVID-19.

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