- Google trends point toward rising interest in commercial real estate (CRE); CommercialCafe also recorded traffic growth between May and September
- According to a CommercialCafe survey, only 12% of tenants browsing for office spaces are looking to downsize; 40% of respondents are ready to sign a lease
- Location and rent price — pre-pandemic favorites — are still the most important office space characteristics for tenants; ample parking space and natural light are the most desirable amenities
A study published by CommercialCafe in May identified an uptick in interest for commercial properties and office rentals. An update one month later found that the recovery continued into June and that our site was seeing consistent growth in traffic.
So, in order to determine if the recovery process has continued since our last analysis, we revisited the data on traffic and online search interest for commercial real estate. We also surveyed visitors to CommercialCafe and our sister company PropertyShark regarding tenant status and expectations for leasing office space.
What we found is that 40% of respondents are actively looking to lease office space, and that location and rental rate — which were major factors for tenants prior to the pandemic — are still the most important characteristics for office space. Keep reading for a detailed analysis of the survey and online interest in commercial real estate.
Google Searches for CRE Near Pre-Pandemic Levels, CommercialCafe Sees 5 Months of Traffic Growth Since May
Online searches for keywords like “commercial real estate” and “commercial property” fell sharply during the height of lockdown measures in March and April. However, search interest in these keywords has been steadily increasing since May, and is now reaching levels close to those recorded before the pandemic was declared. In fact, searches for some keywords — such as “office space for rent” — are even seeing more searches now than in January or February this year.
CommercialCafe traffic reflects a similar trend to overall online searches for CRE terms. In March and April, as concerns grew regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, a considerable drop was apparent in traffic to CommercialCafe.
However, after rebounding by 21% in May, site traffic continued to grow month-over-month up to September. What’s more, after four consecutive months of traffic growth, CommercialCafe saw a record number of visits in August and September — the same months when online searches for CRE-related keywords hovered around pre-pandemic levels.
Office Leasing Survey: 40% of Respondents Actively Looking for Space, Preferences for Characteristics and Amenities Mostly Unchanged
While online activity pointed toward a rebound in the CRE sector, we wanted to get a clearer picture of what was driving tenants to look for office spaces. So, we asked visitors to CommercialCafe and PropertyShark to answer five questions related to their current office space situation and expectations.
Specifically, when asked about their current lease situation, 47% of respondents said they were only browsing for properties and postponing any leases for the time being, whereas 40% were actively looking for an office property to lease. The remaining 13% said they were looking for an office space, but avoided booking viewings.
Meanwhile, of those who were actively browsing for an office space, 24% said they were simply looking to relocate, while another 24% were looking to upscale their office space. Notably, only 12% of respondents said they were downsizing and looking for a smaller office space.
When it comes to the characteristics of their future office space, preferences did not change considerably form before the pandemic. We asked respondents to choose the three characteristics that matter the most in their choice, and two responses — location and rental rate, which were leading factors for choice in office space prior to the pandemic — far outpaced the rest. Tenants also expressed confidence in the stability of the market, as only 6% viewed rent deferral clauses as an important factor in signing an office lease.
Meanwhile, expected amenities (in which respondents could choose any number of responses) also did not change considerably since the pandemic was declared. Namely, parking space and natural light are still the most sought after, with 39% and 32% of responses, respectively. Moreover, 23% of respondents said they are not expecting any change in terms of amenities.
However, some tenants are showing more interest in additional health and safety measures, even if they are lower on the list of priorities. For example, 16% of respondents expected to have improved HVAC and antimicrobial furniture, while 11% were looking for buildings with multiple entrances to reduce crowding.
While demands for amenities and property characteristics have not radically changed, tenants did express increased interest in leasing smaller suburban properties.
Of all survey respondents, 35% said they were searching for office space in a building smaller than 50,000 square feet, and 25% wanted to lease space in a suburban location. In fact, some real estate experts have pointed toward lower-density suburban offices as a possible solution for companies’ operations — at least for the time being.
The data presented in the survey was collected between July 27, 2020 and October 1, 2020 on CommercialCafe and PropertyShark, with a total of 1,882 respondents from the U.S. Responses were voluntary, and respondents could stop at any point in the survey.
Google Trends data was collected between October 19, 2019 and October 20, 2020.