When you consider the future of commercial real estate, what is your number one consideration? It should be the direction that society is going in. From manufacturing to warehousing to retail to apartment buildings, commercial real estate is all about servicing society.
Manufacturers that don't keep up with technology won't be able to produce customized products in mere days. The automotive industry has been moving in this direction for years. Manufacturers that master technology that quickly delivers customized products will thrive. Those that don't will go bust.
Full service malls are already on the decline. Mall anchors such as Sears and J.C. Penny's are going dark all over the country and causing the smaller stores to shutdown with them. These once major chains might survive in a much smaller online version but the mall format is doomed on two fronts. Both from the continuing growth of internet sales and from the proliferation of discount sellers like Wal-Mart and Target. Mall properties may soon be worth no more that the land they stand on.
Warehouses are another sector of commercial real estate in dire trouble. While the high tech distribution centers like Amazon and FedEx have heavily modernized and automated their facilities, most warehouses have not and are way behind the power curve. Most warehouses are nowhere near having the ability to make one day or same day deliveries. This is analogous to car manufacturers that can quickly deliver customized products. The highly automated warehouse will thrive in the future and the antiquated ones will go the way of the large malls. Our population insists on instant gratification and only distributers that can deliver will survive.
One sliver of hope for malls is they could be repurposed into the town centers that Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y are demanding. These massive sections of the population want the charms of city living where they can to live, work and play in a compact area. But just any old building on any old block in the city won't do. The commercial properties that will thrive are those that reinvent themselves for old technology into modern mixed-use properties.
The younger generations work to live instead of living to work as the Baby Boomers did. The younger generations want to take frequent breaks from work and demand amenities in or near the work place. This could lead to a repurposing of malls and older office buildings.
The transition into city life doesn't mean that suburbs will be abandoned. Millennials still like this life style. But as is true for much of our aging infrastructure, suburbs need a major facelift. Millennials want the same compact lifestyle as the other generations except they want it outside of the hustle and bustle of the city. They too want a work-play environment. Suburbs will become more walk able communities with high-speed public transportation into the cities.
Besides technology, the other big change to commercial real estate will be the green movement. Society will demand a small carbon footprint that is more ecologically friendly. While "going green" is happening across Europe, it's still mostly a buzzword here. Still, commercial properties that want to thrive will need to greatly improve technology and go green in the years to come.
Please leave a comment if this article was helpful or if you have a question.
Author bio: Brian Kline has been investing in real estate for more than 30 years and writing about real estate investing for seven years. He also draws upon 25 plus years of business experience including 12 years as a manager at Boeing Aircraft Company. Brian currently lives at Lake Cushman, Washington. A vacation destination, a few short miles from a national forest in the Olympic Mountains with the Pacific Ocean a couple of miles in the opposite direction.