More than a year into the pandemic, high-rise office buildings are largely empty. About one of every two hotel rooms is unoccupied. Malls are struggling to attract shoppers.
And yet by most measures, the U.S. commercial real-estate market is in remarkably solid shape. Prices fell far less than after the 2008 financial crisis and are already rising again. The number of foreclosures barely increased. Pension funds and private-equity firms are once again spending record sums on buildings.
The market’s resilience shows how the federal government’s aggressive efforts to support the economy kept landlords from suffering steep losses. Banks have also offered delinquent property owners some slack, rather than foreclosing aggressively.
This support won’t last indefinitely, and there could be a rude awakening for investors when it starts to wane. Real-estate owners will have to contend with remote work’s threat to the office market, the dearth of business travel and the broad decline of the mall business.
But a number of big global pension funds have been raising their allocations to commercial real estate, which should bring plenty of cash into the market, and prices are already rebounding.