NEW YORK CITY- checked in with Francis Greenburger, chairman and CEO of full-service real estate firm Time Equities, Inc., to discuss the impact the coronavirus pandemic, also known as COVID-19, has had on the market, what Congress’ stimulus package could mean for the real estate sector and measures the firm is taking in the midst of economic uncertainty and ambiguity.  

From where you’re seated in the market, how has COVID-19 affected the 2020 real estate market?

The real estate market is inextricably tied to the economy. This is clearly a terrible time for the economy and will take a long time to recover from. As in other economic disruptions, we will have to be patient and survive until the healing process can be affected.

From your view, how will the Senate’s $2 trillion coronavirus economic rescue package impact the real estate market? 

I have not yet studied it in detail to answer authoritatively, although generally whatever is good for the economy is good for real estate. Longer-term, however, large government deficits often lead to inflation or at least they did in old school economics. Higher inflation usually also leads to higher interest rates.

Are there any measures TEI is taking to protect its partners and tenants that other developers are not? 

TEI has always had a tradition of prioritizing its stakeholders’ interests. Tenant wise we are working on a case by case basis to assess need. We have a gigantic economic disruption [attributed to the coronavirus], the cost of which will have to spread across the economy. However, no one person, or one company, no one property owner can carry the need on their own shoulders.

The national government was quick to assure tenants that they would not be evicted if they were unable to pay rent for a period of time. However, they did not offer to allow property owners to defer their taxes or suggest a way owners could cope with their operating costs for energy, building staff, repair costs, insurance, etc. All the things that often the majority of most people’s rent checks go to pay for.

TEI is trying to help those tenants that can demonstrate financial need and lack of backup resources. We cannot help everyone including those that are financially able. When we do offer help, we often ask for something in return that can help us, like extending the lease term.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned thus far from this pandemic?

I have been encouraged by the incredible commitment of TEI’s staff to do everything in their power to help us service our stakeholders, maintain our properties and deal with the minute-by-minute challenges we all are facing.

Pandemic will have a new meaning for me and everyone living through this event. It will be another natural disaster to add to the world of challenges we all have to navigate.