Texas – First in Line to Return to Office Life. What Property Owners Can Do to Help

While 2020 has been a slow year for most major CRE markets in the U.S., some currently show better signs of quick recovery than others. Especially in the Class-A office world, historically strong markets like Chicago, NYC or L.A. have seen office occupancy at its lowest numbers in decades. While this is undoubtedly a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, it does not explain why certain markets are predicted to have faster and stronger recoveries. After all there is no evidence that would suggest that the pandemic will subside in one part of the country faster than in another.

Yet, Texas has seen a less adverse effect on its office occupancy than for example NYC or Chicago. This has to do with several factors: Texas’ tax laws have become an incentive for many companies to relocate their operations to the state.

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Austin in particular has become a hot tech market, attracting many companies from the Bay area, with Alphabet, Oracle, Amazon and Facebook all having expanded their footprint in Austin, while decreasing their footprint in Silicon Valley. The January 2021 CBRE report states that:

“Austin offers one of the most favorable development markets for commercial construction in the U.S. according to CBRE’s U.S. Development Opportunity Index. The region secured the ninth overall spot on the inaugural list with sector rankings of fifth for retail development opportunities, sixth for office, seventh for multifamily and 18th for industrial.

NYC based CRE giant Tishman & Speyer for example has invested between $145 — $150 million in Austin, where 3.5 million square feet of office space are under construction. A recent article by The Real Deal further states that: “Economic growth in Austin has made the city’s housing market competitive. A recent Zillow survey found that 84 percent of participating industry experts, economists, and investors expected that Austin home prices will grow faster than the national average, the strongest consensus about any trend in any U.S. market.

Next to Austin, both Dallas and Houston have made it into the top 10 development opportunity markets in 2020, according to CBRE. With a growing workforce in Texas, the optimistic view is not limited to urban centers like Austin but stretches to the suburban market, with the Houston area being a good example. “Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Belvoir Real Estate Group’s outlook for value-based suburban office product remains bullish.” (Biz Journal Houston Feb 8 2021).

With a gradually growing number of vaccinated people and the otherwise advantageous position that the Texas CRE market has due to other factors, the question becomes the following:

What can property owners and managers do to facilitate the safest possible return to their office portfolios? The emerging world of PropTech presents an interesting opportunity for property owners to upgrade their properties in meaningful ways, especially in the Class-A office world. CBRE describes in its 2021 market outlook that:

“Occupiers are increasingly demanding flexible space options, shared meeting space, indoor air quality, connected building apps and touch-less technology when considering new leases. Buildings that provide these desired amenities may find more favor by enterprise tenants as leasing volume resumes. Occupiers may reduce their amount of leased space in the future, but the quality of that space will become more important.”(CBRE 2021 Market Outlook).

While many PropTech products / applications that offer solutions that allow for shared amenity booking, maintenance requests or visitor management, few provide a one-stop-shop solution the way that the white-labelled Sharry application does.

The core element of the Sharry’s white labelled application is its mobile access solution which allows occupiers to use a virtual key card in their mobile phone instead of, or next to the commonly used plastic card. The solution eliminates much of the common surface touching and touch-less elevator calling and directing can be set up via the app and the access integration. Thanks to its large library of direct access control system integrations, Sharry has become a trusted partner of Austin based company HID. This cooperation has led to Sharry becoming NYC CRE giant SL Green’s official tech partner, implemented in all of their Class-A office properties. Furthermore, Sharry has been able to bridge the building’s base access control system with those of the building’s tenants, making it an unmatched state of the art product in today’s PropTech market. As a service to company guarantees continuous maintenance of the access control connectivity, making sure that HW and SW updates don’t disrupt the system. The software’s operating/ admin system allows property management to grant and revoke access rights in bulk, or individually, within a matter of seconds. The resulting flexibility makes the life of every property manager easier and is also perfectly suited for spaces that may be looking to offer shorter term leases.

The operating system further increases efficiency and user friendliness with its guest management feature, via which email invitations with QR codes, serving as registration tools and virtual key cards (to the building and garage) can be sent directly from the app, or as previously common from outlook. Security has a clear overview of scheduled guests in the building and the ability to check in unregistered guests seamlessly. The Sharry guest management eliminates all common surface touching in the check-in process, protecting both visitor and building security.

While popular community features like shared amenity booking, maintenance requests, polls & surveys, on-boarding guides or news alerts are all part of the standard Sharry package, the data derived from all features’ usage is provided to property owners to help them make the best possible adjustments on the road ahead. Sharry’s big advantage here compared to the competition is that the app is centered around mobile access guarantees higher usage and with that more accurate data.

Furthermore, many of the application’s features correlate to the several main pillars of the increasingly important WELL health safety rating. Sharry is proud to have contributed to WELL certifications in the past. The Sharry app & admin streamlines all aspects of building usage, property management and daily communication, making sure that tenants and office user’s safety and well-being are a priority.

Written by Robert Bote, Business Development at Sharry
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