Immaculate Midcentury Modern for Under $1 Million in Minnesota


We’re suckers for a finely crafted midcentury modern home. Especially when the residence has been meticulously cared for, shows off the surrounding landscape, and offers distinctive amenities tailored perfectly to its particular climate.

Minnesota is a state of four true seasons—with particularly harsh winters. Taking a cue from its location, the home at 1808 Colvin Ave. in St. Paul, MN, was crafted in a way to take account of each season in turn.

On the market for $975,000, this Danish-influenced dwelling awaits a buyer who appreciates its cozy Atomic Age charms.

Designed by Jerome Robert Cerny at the height of midcentury style in 1955, this 3,500-square-foot dwelling is both functional and beautiful.

The windowed front door opens onto art and ambiance. A bench right off the entryway is demarcated by decorative metalwork, and the space makes taking off snow-covered boots easy and accessible. A large coat closet is within easy reach.

Exterior of home in  St. Paul, MN
Exterior of home in  St. Paul, MN

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Front entry
Front entry

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Living space
Living space

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Fireplace wall
Fireplace wall

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Kitchen
Kitchen

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Dining area
Dining area

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One of the most conspicuous features of the home is the wood paneling that graces every room. It’s not the weird, grainy wood paneling in your grandmother’s den. This is in remarkable shape and provides the home with a warm, nostalgic glow.

Each of the common spaces—from the living room to the dining area and the kitchen—flows into the next and provides the airy openness of an open-concept floor plan.

In the living space, the wall of floor-to-ceiling windows takes full advantage of the changing seasons. A brick wall that doubles as a fireplace separates the living space from the rest of the house.

The ceramic tile floors aren’t just aesthetically pleasing, they’re also heated—so there’ll be no cold feet in the middle of February.

Bedroom
Bedroom

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Bathroom
Bathroom

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Backyard
Backyard

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Storage space is in abundance, with closets, built-ins, and cabinets throughout the home. A separate den could easily be converted into an office space. The home also offers four spacious bedrooms and four bathrooms.

Every detail was painstakingly considered in designing this home. Deceptively simple, its storage and features make it easy to create a decluttered, intentional space. In the bathrooms, for example, water cup and toothbrush caddies ingeniously swivel into the wall. Brilliant!

The indoor-to-outdoor space is seamless, and the backyard includes a pool and mature trees. Oh, and if that’s not enough, there’s a finished basement with a wet bar and game area. It doesn’t get any better.



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11 million households fell behind on rent or mortgages in second quarter


In the second quarter of 2020 nearly 11 million households fell behind on their rent or mortgages – however nearly triple that number, approximately 30 million individuals, missed at least one student loan payment, according to a recent report from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Research Institute for Housing America.

The data compiled from the Understanding America Study was the result of a panel survey tailored to study the impact of the pandemic specifically on mortgagors, renters and student loan borrowers.

According to the survey, evidence suggests that student debt is affecting housing-market behavior, in particular, how rising student debt burdens may have crowded out first-time-home purchases among Millennials.

Every additional $1,000 of student debt lowers the homeownership rate by approximately 2% – a sizeable effect, according to the report. This bolsters the findings of other studies, including a 2017 study by the National Association of Realtors where more than 75% of respondents with student loans said their educational debt impacted their decision to purchase a home.

Over the span of the second quarter, 5% of mortgagors missed one payment, 2.8% missed two payments, and 3% missed all three payments. Student loan borrowers, however, struggled to make payments more than mortgagors and renters – while 9.3% of student loan borrowers missed one payment over the quarter, 16.4% missed two payments, and 12.9% missed all three payments.

“In the pandemic, missed student loan payments or deferrals could adversely affect the ability in the future for younger households to enter the housing market or slow the climb of the housing ladder,” the release said.

Through the second quarter, 65% of borrowers reported receiving permission from their lender to delay or reduce their monthly payment – though only 57% took the offer. Nearly a third, 30.6%, of those who did receive permission missed a payment.

By race and ethnicity, the percentage of borrowers reporting missed student loan payments was on average over the quarter 54.5% for Blacks, 49.7% for Latinx, 45.0% of Asian/Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders, 44.4% for Whites, 42.3% for White Non-Latinx and 37.1% for Native Americans, the report said.



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National Apartment Association Joins Lawsuit Challenging CDC National Eviction Moratorium


The National Apartment Association (NAA) announced today that it is taking legal action against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for its nationwide eviction moratorium, joining the New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA) in its lawsuit challenging the legality of the federal agency’s order.

The NAA reiterated its argument that federal agencies do not have powers to waive state laws and that the CDC has encroached on private property rights with no legal authority. 

Rental housing industry advocates maintain that they should not be held responsible for solving the nation’s housing crisis and that government agencies should not trade one crisis for another.

The NAA and NCLA, a non-partisan, non-profit civil rights group, contend that the CDC’s order directly harms the apartment industry and jeopardizes the long-term viability of rental housing.

The lawsuit, Richard Lee Brown, et al. v. Secretary Alex Azar, et al., argues that rental housing providers, especially small mom-and-pop owners, have been irreparably damaged by the CDC order and its overreach because they do not have the ability to absorb delinquent rent and still pay their bills required to keep communities operational and tenants in their apartment homes. 

Rental housing advocates say the moratorium is overly burdensome and undermines their obligations to provide safe and affordable housing. They assert that many rental housing providers are unable to collect rent under the order, including rental debt, which limits their ability to pay taxes, mortgages, insurance and utilities and provide contracted services to other residents who have paid their rent. 

“Eviction moratoria saddle the apartment industry solely with the responsibility of offering a service without compensation, all while operating at a potential deficit,” said Bob Pinnegar, NAA president and CEO. “Rental housing works on extremely narrow margins and, though last paid themselves, owners still need to pay extensive bills.” 

Throughout the economic crisis unleashed by Covid-19, NAA has called for direct rental assistance, claiming that is the only policy that keeps people housed and directly addresses the needs of owners and operators alike.

In an official statement, NAA said, “Despite continued calls for this much needed relief from a chorus of voices, including renter advocates and real estate groups, Congress has failed to enact direct rental assistance. This inaction, paired with the CDC eviction moratorium, devastates the industry in the short-term and furthers the housing affordability crisis, to the detriment of the broader economy in the long-term.”

Pinnegar warned that the CDC’s action should serve as a wake-up call for all Americans.

“A nationwide eviction moratorium without any kind of financial or direct rental assistance will exacerbate the nation’s housing affordability crisis and reverberate into national, state and local economies,” he said. “If owners and operators cannot pay their bills – including apartment staff payroll, taxes, mortgages and insurance – rental units lose financial viability and money stops flowing to other sectors of the economy. Further, many rental housing units may be permanently lost from our already insufficient housing stock, whether by foreclosure, government liens or even the sale of the property.”



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Millions Are House-Rich but Cash-Poor. Wall Street Landlords Are Ready.


Americans with mortgages have accumulated nearly $10 trillion in home equity thanks to a decade of rising home prices. Yet millions of them have fallen behind on mortgage payments and risk losing their houses.

It is a potential bonanza for rental-home investors. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, big single-family landlords have raised billions of dollars for homebuying sprees.

Even if there isn’t a surge in repossessed homes to buy cheaply off the courthouse steps—which led to the emergence of Wall Street’s landlords during the foreclosure crisis a decade ago—there is likely to be a lot of forced sales and new renters.

“A lot of people are house-rich but cash-poor,” said Ivy Zelman, chief executive of real-estate consultant Zelman & Associates. “If they bought in the last two or three years, even if they bought five months ago, they have equity.”

Having plenty of home equity but reduced means to keep making payments could prompt many to sell while prices are high and exit homeownership with a cash cushion, Ms. Zelman said.

People behind on their payments aren’t being kicked out of their houses yet because of federal and local restrictions on foreclosure enacted during the pandemic. Many with federally guaranteed mortgages have entered forbearance, which allows them to skip payments for up to a year without penalty and make them up later.

Some 3.5 million home loans—a 7.01% share—were in forbearance as of Sept. 6, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Many more borrowers are behind on their payments but not in forbearance programs with their lenders.

Meanwhile, bidding wars are breaking out for suburban homes hitting the market.

Millennials coming of age have been enticed by historically low mortgage rates. Other house hunters are leaving city centers and apartments, seeking room for home offices and space between them and their neighbors. And then there are investors, a mix of individuals and investment firms that have been buying more than one in every 10 homes sold in the U.S. over the past decade.

The most house-hungry of these investors are the rental companies formed a decade ago to gobble up foreclosed homes by the thousands. They were expanding before the pandemic, wagering on a permanent suburban rental class. The economic distress brought by the lockdown has only made investors more excited about such companies’ prospects.

So far these companies have reported record occupancy, on-time rent collection on par with historical averages and rising rents. Shares of the two largest landlords, Invitation Homes Inc. and American Homes 4 Rent, are up 79% and 59%, respectively, since stocks bottomed on March 23. The S&P 500 is up about 50% during that time.

Investors have bought nearly $900 million of new shares sold by the two largest rental companies since the pandemic began. Other home-rental operations have also sold nearly $6 billion of rent-backed bonds, including three deals presently in the market, according to Akshay Maheshwari of Kroll Bond Rating Agency.

Beyond that, investment firms Blackstone Group Inc., Koch Industries Inc., J.P. Morgan Asset Management and Brookfield Asset Management Inc. have each made nine-figure investments in single-family rental companies eyeing expansion.

American Homes 4 Rent, which owns about 53,000 houses, in May more than doubled the size of a home-building pact with J.P. Morgan Asset Management to $625 million and last month raised more than $400 million in a stock offering.

“We’re endeavoring to deploy that capital as quickly as possible,” Christopher Lau, American Homes 4 Rent’s finance chief, told investors at a virtual conference this week.

American Homes 4 Rent is still buying properties off the open market. But the company has focused lately on building homes expressly to rent and this summer has been one of the country’s most-active builders.

Its largest rival, Invitation Homes, hasn’t been building but it has resumed its prepandemic pace of buying about $200 million worth of homes every three months. To fund its expansion, Invitation sold about $500 million worth of new shares in June.

“We could have, quite frankly, raised a whole lot more,” Chief Executive Dallas Tanner said last week at an industry conference.

Invitation Homes said in a presentation to investors this month that it is planning a sale-leaseback program as another channel to add to its 80,000 homes. Invitation Homes executives said the plans are nascent and declined to discuss them in more detail.

Sale-leaseback transactions are common in commercial real estate and involve the owner of a property selling to investors and then renting it from the buyer.

Such arrangements would allow those who face the prospect of losing their homes to cash in on high house prices without having to move, said Jarred Kessler, chief executive of EasyKnock Inc., a startup that he said raised $25 million from venture investors in June and hundreds of millions of debt to launch a sale-leaseback program this month called ReLEASE.

The business line was originally conceived to allow homeowners to start cashing out of their homes when the market was hot or when an expense arose, but not necessarily when they wanted to move. Since starting out in 2016 the New York firm has bought $187 million worth of houses, all of which remain occupied by the sellers. Now EasyKnock has distressed borrowers in mind and is looking toward early next year, when prohibitions on foreclosure are set to expire.

“Once January comes that’s when the carnage will come,” Mr. Kessler said. “We’re just giving people choices that they never had before.”



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People movers: Churchill Mortgage, Zumper, Verity Global Solutions, NYC Housing Partnership


Churchill Mortgage has added Randy Starkweather to its executive team, naming him chief financial officer where he will be responsible for overseeing the company’s financial operations and performance. 

Starkweather brings more than 35 years of executive management experience to the position, specializing in financial and operational management, mergers/acquisitions, strategic planning and financial restructurings.

His background includes financially overseeing organizations with revenue in excess of $2 billion, along with growth-oriented companies, like Cambio Health Solutions, which grew from a start-up to an industry leader, prior to its acquisition by FTI Consulting

Shalin Amin has joined Zumper, a privately-held rental marketplace, as the startup’s first chief experience officer.

Bringing an extensive background as a design executive to the position, Shalin will be responsible for elevating the end-to-end user experience, scaling the team and overseeing the two-sided marketplace. Starting his career as a product and brand consultant, designing user interfaces for companies like eBay, Condé Nast and Warner Music, he eventually went on to build socialize.it, a mobile-first startup that seamlessly creates photo albums, and work at Uber, where he redesigned the rider app that garnered numerous awards and set the bar for design at Uber. 

Verity Global Solutions, an outsourced solutions provider specializing in the mortgage industry, has appointed a new chief operating officer, adding mortgage industry veteran Chetan Patel to its leadership team. 

As chief operating officer, Patel will be responsible for expanding the company’s breadth of services and growing the company from 600 employees to more than 3,000, with an immediate goal of hiring between 50 to 100 mortgage servicing specialists and filling over 100 underwriter positions.

Verity also added Kerry Goodman to its team, naming him vice president of sales and business development. Bringing over 25 years of sales experience to the position, Goodman will be tasked with helping position the company as a mortgage industry leader in international business outsourcing, along with building new customer relationships and expanding on existing ones.

The NYC Housing Partnership, a not-for-profit intermediary for the development of new and rehabilitated affordable housing, announced it named Esther Toporovsky as its new executive vice president, a newly created position. Toporovsky will be charged with helping the Housing Partnership broaden its focus on additional directions and new opportunities, 

Mostly recently, she served as the senior program director of green communities at Enterprise Community Partners, where she provided strategic oversight of innovative green capital initiatives and business models for community development.



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The Paradox Of The U.S. Black Home Ownership Rate


In a recent article here on the Biden housing plan, I mentioned the Paradox of the Black Home Ownership Rate – in the 30 years from 1940 to 1970 when housing discrimination against Blacks was legal and horrific, the U.S. Black home ownership rate nearly doubled going from 23% to 42%, but 50 years after the 1968 Fair Housing Act became law, the U.S. Black home ownership rate was essentially the same as in 1968. It was 41% in 2018. That paradox seems impossible but it’s true. 

Another hidden truth is that from 1940 to 1970, the Black home ownership rate increased more in the South than in the North. For example, from 1940 to 1970 the Black home ownership rate in Mississippi increased 31 percentage points (from 18% in 1940 to 49% in 1970) but in New York state the Black home ownership rate only increased 14 percentage points (from 6% in 1940 to 20% in 1970). The economic mystery is why did Black home ownership increase more in the South, despite the South being far more segregated?

A third hidden truth is about redlining. Many mechanisms segregated housing and redlining wasn’t the most common or most violent but redlining is the mechanism most often mentioned in the media. You can see the FDR administration’s 239 redlining maps here. You’ll notice redlining was concentrated in the North, not the South. Massachusetts had 27 redlining maps but Georgia only had five. New York state had 17 redlining maps but Mississippi only had one. The South in the 1930s was already extremely segregated. Redlining wasn’t a Southern-based policy that spread up into the North. The demand for redlining segregation seems to have been strongest in the North.

The shocking truth is that today, the Black home ownership rate in the South is higher than in the North. The Black home ownership rate in Massachusetts is 35% but in Georgia it’s 47%. The Black home ownership rate in New York state is 31% but in Mississippi it’s 54%.

Clearly, we don’t understand what drives home ownership, otherwise, we wouldn’t have failed so spectacularly over the last 50 years – under both Democratic and Republican administrations – to reduce the Black-White gap in home ownership rates.

I doubt the lack of improvement was caused by overt racism. Take, for instance, the famously liberal state of Minnesota. The 1950 census showed the Black home ownership rate in Minnesota was 45% which was very high. Minnesota’s Senator Walter Mondale was one of the two major sponsors of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Another Minnesotan, Vice President Mondale’s long-time associate and his campaign manager in Mondale’s 1984 presidential campaign, later ran the largest mortgage company in the country, Fannie Mae, and was likely the most powerful person in the U.S. housing industry for several years. 

Nevertheless, despite what I assume were good intentions from Minnesotans, the Black home ownership rate in Minnesota plummeted to 24% by 2018. The White home ownership rate was 77%. Similarly, for metropolitan Minneapolis, the gap between the Black and White home ownership rates was 51 percentage points, the largest gap for any metro area in the U.S. with more than 1 million residents.

Minnesota and the U.S. clearly don’t understand how to increase Black home ownership.

Our problem might be worse than having policies that just don’t work. Some of our housing policies in the decades after the Fair Housing Act could be partly to blame for the problem. A few economic misconceptions could have blinded us to bad policies – bad policies that have totally offset the benefits of the good policies enacted. Economics might be like medicine where sometimes “the cure is the cause”? 

After 50 years, the Black home ownership rate should be similar to, or at least converging on, the White rate. We would have a far better chance of increasing the Black rate to where it should be if, first, we could explain the Paradox of the Black Home Ownership Rate – why did the Black home ownership rate nearly double from 1940 to 1970 when housing discrimination was legal but today the rate is essentially the same as when the 1968 Fair Housing Act made housing discrimination illegal?

Did something else happen around the same time as the 1968 Fair Housing Act that unintentionally stopped the previous trend of increasing Black home ownership?

We need to know what caused the paradox before we’ll know how to fix our home ownership problem. Clearly, after five decades of failure, any housing market misconceptions we have are so entrenched they’re invisible to us. But perhaps new solutions are hiding in plain sight.

I have some theories.

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Weekly Housing Market Monitor: What’s Happening in the Housing Market?


Every week, NAR Research releases the Weekly Housing Market Monitor, tracking the state of the housing market and related industries in this unprecedented time.

Some highlights from the latest report:

Contract Signings and Pending Contracts

  • The housing market continues to recover strongly, fueled by low mortgage rates. Contract signings during the past four weeks (ending September 13) were up 23% from one year ago, a strong pace despite the slight decline from last week’s pace (26%) as we enter the fall season.
  • In the past four weeks (ending September 13), there were 9 new pending contracts for every 10 new listings, a slower rate than the 9.9 ratio through July 5.

Days on Market and List Price

  • Properties sold more quickly in the past four weeks (ending September 13), with the median days on market at 22 days, a slight increase compared to the prior four weeks when it was at 16 days, in part due to the seasonal slowdown.  This is far below the 38 median days on the market about one year ago.

  • On average, properties also sold at 97% of the list price in the past four weeks (ending September 13), a slight dip from the 98% ratio in the prior four-week period.

Home Price Growth in Metro Areas

  • Based on preliminary information of sales transactions during the four weeks ending September 13, the median existing homes sales prices in 40 areas tracked by NAR were up over 5% in 37 metro areas, with the strongest growth in the Bridgeport, CT, and Atlantic City. Prices rose year-over-year except in Ann Arbor, Michigan. NAR releases the official price figures on a quarterly basis.
Bar chart: Year-Over-Year Percent Change in Median Existing-Home Sales Price in the Four Weeks Ending September 13, 2020

Cost of Lumber Rising

Demand for lumber for both residential and commercial construction has pushed up lumber prices. The producer price index for softwood lumber was up 45% in July from one year ago.

  • According to the National Association of Homebuilders, lumber costs for the average single-family home have climbed more than 130% since April 2020.
  • This has resulted in an increase of more than $16,000 in the price of a new single-family home and $6,107 for a multifamily home.

Open Houses

  • Public interest in open houses dropped 49% last week compared to a year earlier. However, interest for open houses has increased significantly since the beginning of April (95%). At the local level, interest remains strong in Montana, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

Read the full report.



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Restored $17.5M Historic Craftsman in Palo Alto Attracts a Buyer


Palo Alto, CA, sits smack in the middle of Silicon Valley and lays claim to some of the highest home prices in the nation. Its current median list price is an eye-popping $3.2 million.

Given these high prices, the city has developed a reputation for tear-down projects that have left charming neighborhoods dotted with modern construction. These new homes emphasize sleek lines and contemporary stylings. For example, take this brand-new $4.25 million home. Or this boxy $4.3 million home.

Which is what makes this Craftsman-style home in the city—currently pending sale, with a list price of $17.5 million—so intriguing. Built in 1905, it’s also the second-most-expensive home in Palo Alto, right behind an $18.5 million French-inspired mansion.

And what is it that the Craftsman possesses and these newer homes lack? It’s protected for eternity, thanks to its spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

Owned by a former Facebook executive and his investor wife, who bought it for $4.9 million in 2011, this isn’t your ordinary Craftsman bungalow. After buying it, the couple embarked on a massive multiyear restoration project to revive this historic home.

Spanning 7,823 square feet, it packs five bedrooms and 5.5 bathrooms into a half-acre lot in the Professorville neighborhood, a 20-minute walk from University Avenue downtown. Stanford University is a relatively short jaunt away.

Exterior of home in Palo Alto, CA
Exterior of home in Palo Alto, CA

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Porch
Porch

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Stairwell
Stairwell

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Living room
Living room

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Dining room
Dining room

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Kitchen
Kitchen

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Wine cellar
Wine cellar

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Terrace
Terrace

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Outdoor kitchen
Outdoor kitchen

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Garage
Garage

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Garage interior
Garage interior

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Throughout the home are luxury details for the home entertainer, such as the high-end blue range in the kitchen, which was crafted in Italy, multiple fireplaces, and a walk-in wine cellar that could easily host a small tasting.

The bedrooms are spacious and much larger than you’d normally find in a Craftsman home. To bring the home into the 21st century, an upstairs media room, open kitchen layout, lower rec room, and two private offices were added.

To provide additional space for a growing family, the detached garage was converted into a massage and yoga studio, with shiplap interiors and new light fixtures. It could also be used as a one-bedroom cottage.

There’s also a sense of California-style outdoor living, with a chicken coop, and custom alfresco kitchen. A brick terrace has a fireplace surrounded by sectional sofas, for a cozy year-round vibe. Much of the gorgeous landscape work is complete, including planting beds, water features, and mature trees.

Open-beam ceilings, stonework, diamond-shaped window panes and woodwork have all been impeccably restored.

Photos of the home prior to its renovation illustrate the extent of the work on the interior. In addition to its spot on the National Register, the home earned a Palo Alto Stanford Heritage Historic Restoration Award in 2017.

The gorgeous restoration and its historical cred paid off—the multimillion dollar Craftsman is now in pending sale status. A new owner will reap the benefits of the meticulous handiwork.

Carol Carnevale and Nicole Aran of Compass have the listing.



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Three Ways To Tackle Commercial Re-Occupancy In The New Normal


Tim Curran is the CEO of Building Engines, the modern building operations platform for commercial real estate.

After months of being closed or at extremely low capacity, office buildings are cautiously moving towards re-occupancy. However, getting people back into buildings is a complex matter, and it’s made even more so given the severity of Covid-19. Coupled with the fluidity of reopening timelines and safety guidelines across states, re-occupancy is entering a new normal.

While there is certainly no one-size-fits-all approach to re-occupancy plans, there are three critical considerations office building owners and operators need to take into account. Especially if they want their properties to not only survive this vulnerable phase but thrive in its aftermath and the new normal of the workplace.

Reimagine office spaces’ potential.

The pandemic has proven that some remote work is possible, but there is still no denying that office spaces facilitate a number of activities integral to business and personal success. As evidenced by how quickly professionals have flocked to videoconferencing while remote, colleagues depend on face-to-face communications to be productive. Offices are natural arenas for that.

That being said, how office spaces are occupied will naturally change following the pandemic. Building owners and operators who want to retain business prospects will need to operate with a heightened level of flexibility. For example, employers have now had ample time to reevaluate how their spaces can be used more efficiently; do they want more square footage to accommodate a socially distanced workforce, or do they want less space, permanently keeping part of their staff remote?

Cushman & Wakefield’s report on the future of the workplace smartly outlines how cutting-edge office building operators can help tenants reimagine what is possible for their new needs, such as rethinking space requirements, reconfiguring spaces and realigning on safety standards. To facilitate these moves from a distance, savvy management and leasing teams can employ technology including videoconferencing and 3D visualization to help existing and prospective occupants better conceptualize the spaces they are considering. This enables owners to sooner process or renegotiate leases and help prevent slowdowns that affect business.

Prioritize safety and sanitation.

Concerns around the spread of Covid-19 are omnipresent these days, meaning that sanitation needs to be top of mind for every operator as they navigate re-occupancy. This dedication extends beyond increased cleaning — management teams need to execute ongoing, direct communication with tenants and maintenance teams to ensure everyone understands the advancement and handling of the situation. Given the patchwork of reopening protocols spread across the country, existing and prospective occupants want a clear idea of how their individual building is planning to approach re-occupancy to confirm they’re doing it safely.

To instill confidence in occupants, management teams can draft comprehensive digital guides detailing their unique action plans. In digital or written form, these guides can articulate all practices from how they’ll sanitize in the occurrence of an outbreak, to any processes occupants will have to complete when they enter the building each day. Having this information in writing will also work to eliminate unnecessary back-and-forth communications, in which detailed protocols can quickly become misunderstood or contradictory. However, even with a comprehensive guide available, operators do still need to establish and make known the most effective way for occupants to contact them, whether that be by phone, text, email or a building’s management portal.

Be strategic about downtime.

Despite management teams’ best efforts to ready their spaces for re-occupancy, it may be a while before the public again realizes the full potential of office buildings. That’s no reason for operations functions to stall in the meantime. While cutting back on utility and janitorial expenses to save money sounds like an attractive solution for properties still experiencing lower-than-normal occupancy, trimming too severely can present challenges down the road. When regular maintenance activities are ignored for long stretches of time, systems can break down and grime can build up, so that even more time and resources are eventually needed to get facilities back in working order.

To coordinate these maintenance activities, teams can use a hub through which all information — schedules, project status, tasks and instructions for completion — is exchanged. This may look like one of the many accessible project management apps available or a more sophisticated platform built with building maintenance in mind. With safety and security measures ramped up, operators need to ensure all employees have clarity around what’s expected of them so that they can correctly execute those responsibilities. Therefore, a centralized platform that’s updated in real-time can be helpful for aligning all parties. Further, since crew sizes may need to be decreased during this period, having this level of clarity and directness maximizes everyone’s time and resources.

Putting re-occupancy plans into action.

Re-occupancy is a nuanced and sometimes daunting process. When executed thoughtfully, it presents property owners and operators the opportunity to set up their buildings for lasting success. In the midst of coronavirus, the modern office building needs to deliver on a new set of criteria, focusing dually on near-term re-occupancy needs and the long-term changes that will result from the pandemic. As spaces move to be more flexible, responsive and secure, there’s more opportunity for leveraging technology to manage and even drive those changes. Especially within an industry that has historically been slow to adopt such innovations. A new era of office buildings is upon us. Are your properties ready?


Forbes Real Estate Council is an invitation-only community for executives in the real estate industry. Do I qualify?




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