Fort Lauderdale’s always been a destination. And despite the pandemic, stay-at-home orders and general messiness of 2020, that hasn’t stopped, particularly in the commercial real estate industry.
For Jaime Sturgis of Native Realty, this year has been the “Super Bowl for realtors.” The CEO of the Fort Lauderdale-based real estate brokerage says that his team has had to “work five times as hard to produce the same amount of output as we have in prior years for our clients.”
Though there was a delay in momentum with shutdowns in March, Sturgis says that activity and interest are slowly coming back to pre-pandemic levels, boding well for 2021. Ultimately, though the numbers aren’t what they were last year, Sturgis and his team have seen success in hospitality, office and retail leasing.
With roughly 1,000 people per day moving to Florida, and this growth is rippling through commercial real estate as well. Many businesses owners are looking for a move to Florida (top New York firms among them), sometimes because COVID-19 has forced owners to look toward the future. Native just completed a lease for a New Jersey restaurant and bar on a 9,263 square foot space in PMG’s Society Las Olas.
“We’re getting calls on a daily basis from restaurant/bar owners from the northeast, looking to relocate to South Florida,” Sturgis says. “We’re also negotiating a full price offer at Motif with another restaurant out of the Northeast. I think they were there for 30 years. The pandemic has caused them to reevaluate. That’s one of several. We’ve had bidding wars on some of the assets as well. Some of the restaurants that we’ve been selling—oftentimes many of those bidders are coming from the northeast.”
With the news of vaccines becoming available, Sturgis expects more confidence in the market. But the effects of the pandemic will still linger. In investment sales, Sturgis has seen a shift in consumer preference: large companies are moving from impressive towers to smaller buildings in the urban core, allowing them to “control their situation in the event that there is another pandemic or another lockdown.” He shares that Native is negotiating with two law firms to buy buildings on 13th Street north of downtown. While the future is uncertain on many fronts, this trend and the continuing trickle of business and people to South Florida bodes well for 2021.
“Oftentimes, commercial real estate deals can take several months to get from start to finish. If activity comes back now, we may not see the full effects of that until quarter one of 2021. But the good news is people are starting to kind of come out of their shell,” Sturgis says. “They’re a little bit more optimistic—albeit cautiously optimistic. We’re starting to see transactions occur again, both on leasing and the investment sale side.”