With a health crisis and an economic crisis raging at the same time, picking the most resilient markets is hard. You can’t just study economic statistics. You also need to cull the health data and look at the impact of the stimulus.
Omar Eltorai, market analyst at Reonomy, has done that and says he knows what areas can weather this storm. “The cities and markets that have fared much better have been those which have experienced a milder health crisis in terms of cases of COVID-19, the strain on their local healthcare system and the reaction of the local consumer and economy,” Eltorai says.
Eltorai studied COVID-19 cases data, labor force statistics, state GDP by industry and the price parity across states to measure the relative impact of a hypothetical $1 of stimulus.
“Based on the cases seen to date and the composition of their economies and labor force, I believe some of the best positioned markets are in North Carolina, Missouri, Ohio, Arkansas and Kansas,” Eltorai says.
The most challenged markets are no surprise. They include New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Washington DC. “The hardest hit cities are those with high population density, high costs of living and significant labor and economic exposure to non-essential and severely impacted industries [such as energy, retail, food and beverage],” Eltorai says.
If the commercial properties in these hard-hit areas, or really any place, can’t collect rent, it’s going to hurt their value. “The current and future earning potential of a property drives its valuation,” Eltorai says. “And while the valuation is important for the owner, it also is very important to the owner’s finance providers. So when rent is not collected, it not only has the negative consequence of hurting value now, but it also can have more negative downstream implications in terms for the owner and the owner’s finance providers.”
This situation won’t change for a while. “Until there is a vaccine or a cure that is proven to be effective and can be produced at scale—the markets hit the hardest by the disease [in terms of rate of cases] will likely remain those which will have the most challenged valuations,” Eltorai says.
Eltorai suggests that landlords negotiate with struggling tenants, but not to the point that they’re hurting themselves. “They should acknowledge and align their negotiations with their crisis expectations—most would likely agree that this is temporary and so any adjustments to the lease should also be temporary or be flexible to adjust when necessary,” he says. “Crises require clear and regular communication with the necessary parties.”
In this case, those parties include the tenant, landlord, lender, property manager and legal representative among others.
“Given that the current market environment has no clear end date, the adjustment plan made now should be flexible enough to be workable for all parties during these stressful times and at least nine to 12 months more, but also adjustable to fit more normal times,” Eltorai says.