Real estate 2021 crystal ball

Real estate researchers across the U.S. seem united in their 2021 forecast: it all depends on COVID. The pivoting and “new normal” many sectors experienced in 2020 will continue as the vaccine rolls out and efficacy is evident. A new President with different health and environmental platforms, along with increased revenues and spending agendas, will shift demand in different sectors. Top national highlights of the 2021 forecast include:

  • Office – demand remains sluggish as tenants re-evaluate their space needs and plan for workers to gradually return to the office throughout 2021. Vacancy rates may not peak until early 2022.
  • Retail – curbside pickup remains important as brick-and-mortar sales are expected to rebound while e-commerce sales are expected to stall. CBRE forecasts a decline in e-commerce sales growth for the first time since 2008.
  • Industrial – including logistics, nearly 250 million s.f. of industrial net absorption is expected this year. Warehouse rents remain high and vacancy will remain low.
  • Data centers – the reliance on technology became clear in 2020, leading to 373.6 megawatts of data center development now in construction. Total data center inventory is forecast to grow 13.8%.
  • Hotels – hospitality companies are expected to recover over 50% of revenue in 2021, but full industry recovery isn’t expected until 2023, though it could be 2025 for luxury properties.
  • Multifamily – demand will remain strong with prices of properties expected to continue rising at a rate of 6% or higher.
  • Residential – mortgage rates will slowly climb from the record lows of 2020, but existing home sales are expected to go up 7%, housing starts will be up 9%, and the median price for existing home sales will be up 5.7%.

Texas ranks high in overall real estate prospects by the ULI Emerging Trends 2021 report; Austin and Dallas ranked in the top 10, San Antonio ranked No. 12, though Houston fell to No. 52 due to the soft energy markets. But Houston’s residential sector is expected to be solid, with December 2020 marking the second strongest selling month in the history of Houston home sales. January should bring another month of exceptional sales activity. Credit to CBRE, Colliers International, Nareit, and Ralph Bivins/Realty News Report for market data.


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