We’re nearly halfway through 2020 and it is already promising to be a year for the history books. The country, the region, and the city of Boston have experienced unprecedented conditions imposed by the COVID-19 response and necessary safety measures. The conversation around racial injustice and the level of police power has taken to all forms of social media and has spilled onto the streets. And we are heading towards a presidential election in less than six months with uncertainty abound in the world, in the markets, and in our own lives. Most of us are taking one day at a time and even then, things are changing so quickly and dramatically, it is hard to keep up.
Real estate markets seem to be charging ahead. Office, retail, and hospitality are still reeling from the lockdown, but the stock market has had one of the strongest rallies in history and the ‘wait and see’ approach has been replaced with a search for opportunities in the market. On the residential side, rates are low, but the supply is very limited. Some markets are as hard to break into as ever before. The bid-ask spread is likely widening for most residential property types as owners see no need to sell during a pandemic and would likely have nowhere to go anyway, and buyers are looking for, and sometimes expecting a deal. It is unclear where the real opportunities are in the market. On the multifamily side, we are starting to see things pick back up and get unstuck from the uncertainty around COVID-19. Projects are moving along and the new normal is starting to become just plain normal. PPE and social distancing on job sites is becoming increasingly easier to administer and embrace. Education, planning, and persistence are driving success there. The real estate business, which has always been fairly nimble, is evolving and growing through this new reality.
While the world seems to be upside down and we’re all, mostly, working from home and taking a little pause here and there to observe, listen and engage, we should consider how we can be more responsive to issues of equality, justice, and fairness. Public policy is not just made at the Federal level. States and localities have huge responsibilities to get it right in order to serve the people. Real estate is not just a well-arranged pile of bricks, sticks, and glass but the built environment represents so much more. Homes, communities, places of worship and contemplation, buildings can represent a powerful opportunity for some while a source of struggle and pain for others. Real estate touches all of us, but in very different ways. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the entire country, that much is unmistakable, but what that impact looks like for some is significantly more profound than others. While markets continue to stabilize and stocks rebound and post gains, some of us have the luxury of working from home while others must face each working day with fear and caution, even still others have been left jobless and hopeless, with little in the way of a safety net to catch them and no clear path to prosperity.
2020 will live with each of us for years to come, but in very different ways. It is important to consider the inequality around us as we resume a more normal schedule and begin making decisions that impact people’s lives today and in years to come. As always, there is a lot to think about now and going forward. This is a time for self-reflection, self-motivation, and action. Take care of yourself, be helpful and kind always. Think about what you can do for others and what that means to them. They may be thinking the same thing about you.
Brett Pelletier is chief operating officer with Kirk&Company, Real Estate Counselors, Boston, Mass.