Expert panel discusses state of Queens real estate
by Benjamin Fang
Aug 05, 2020 | 2542 views | 0 0 comments | 138 138 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Queens Chamber of Commerce’s Real Estate Committee hosted a virtual panel on the state of Queens real estate.
The Queens Chamber of Commerce’s Real Estate Committee hosted a virtual panel on the state of Queens real estate.
The Queens real estate market is starting to gain momentum again.

That analysis was made by broker, landlord and data experts who spoke on a panel hosted by the Queens Chamber of Commerce last week.

Stephen Preuss, vice chairman at Cushman & Wakefield, said compared to March, April and May, the Queens market is in a “much more favorable position” overall.

“I hope that will continue through the balance of the summer and into September,” he said, “which will be a real time of consequence for the last two quarters of the year.”

According to Jerry Pi, chairman of Pi Capital Partners, which is a landlord for retail, office and residential units throughout Queens and Manhattan, collections have also been “pretty stellar.”

Although rent collection is down overall, in July residential rent collection was about 95 percent. On the retail end, Pi said every retail store they have, whether it’s in Jackson Heights, Elmhurst or Flushing, has opened.

The weakest performing sector for Pi’s company is the office sector, with most employees working from home.

Preuss said small to mid-cap priorities, between a few million dollars to $25 million, are starting to transact. The higher-price products, meanwhile, are stagnant and not seeing the traction as pre-COVID.

“The institutional buyers are really stuck in the mud,” he said. “They aren’t able to navigate the red tape and steps to get that capital.”

Commercial real estate was heavily impacted by the pandemic as well. There was no volume in the first few months of the pandemic, Preuss said, because lending was not available as the liquidity market shut down.

As a commercial landlord, Pi said he worked out most of his company’s renegotiations back in March and April. As a result, their storefronts reopened.

“The most important thing for landlords to do is keep our spaces occupied,” he said. “We’re just trying to keep businesses to stay. I’m not trying to put people out of business.”

The real estate experts also discussed how different sectors of the market are currently performing. The top performer is the industrial sector, which Preuss said is the only asset class where pricing and availability have not changed.

According to the Cushman & Wakefield executive, vacancy rates for industrial properties are just 3 to 4 percent.

Although mixed-use and smaller multifamily homes, which are the “prototypical Queens assets,” were initially hard hit by the pandemic, buyers are coming back around because they’re usually safe havens for investors, Preuss said.

The hardest hit sector of all is hotels, which has been so affected that some owners are starting to convert them into other uses like homeless shelters.

“As of last month, we have more hotels in construction than hotels that exist in Queens,” Preuss said. “We were at saturation already.”

Real estate broker Michael Wang, founder of Project Queens and co-chair of the Queens Chamber’s Real Estate Committee, noted that the borough’s retail sector does well due to an abundance of mom-and-pop businesses.

“There’s so much density because franchises also want to be here,” said Wang, who moderated the panel. “Post-pandemic, it seems like the quality companies, whether a Fortune 500 or mom-and-pop, are looking for space.”

As for office buildings, despite the downturn Preuss said he believes companies will look for more boutique types of spaces that are closer to home.

“You’ll see more new construction in Queens catering to what we think the new office environment will be,” he said. “I’m bullish on what could happen as the new market for offices grows in Queens.”

Preuss added that he thinks the borough will come out of the economic downturn a lot stronger.

“I get the feeling it’s Queens’ turn to shine,” Wang said. “I’m optimistic about Queens.”
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