What an Uncertain Commercial Real Estate Outlook in 2021 Means for Financing

By Steven Caligor, BHI

In these early days of 2021, there appears to be some cautious prospects of hope.

A COVID-19 resurgence both internationally and domestically, further lockdowns, and even a new variant of the virus create uncertainty. However, the vaccine rollout has sparked market rallies, along with hopes of returning to a degree of normalcy toward the end of the year. We now have a stimulus package and a new presidential administration. Yet this scenario is tempered by a focus on the predicted winter COVID activity, thus creating further question marks.

Even the economic forecasts present a mixed picture. The base case from the Conference Board calls for a 3.4 percent annual expansion of the U.S. economy in 2021. Yet the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that GDP will increase 4.2 percent in 2021, and the CBRE Real Estate Market Outlook forecasts 4.5 percent GDP growth this year.

The ambiguity of where we are in the COVID crisis — whether there is an end in sight and when — will determine prospects for the real estate sector. In 2021, the real estate story will be all about asset class, density and geography. For each of these aspects, to paraphrase Charles Dickens, it could be the best of times or the worst of times, depending on multiple variables.

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