Researchers from the NYU Stern School of Business and the Columbia University Graduate School of Business say the work-from-home movement will result in $500 billion of lost value in office real estate.
In a recent study, the researchers found a 32% decline in office values in 2020 and predict a 28% fall “in the longer-run.” The work-from-home shift since the pandemic has caused significant changes in lease revenues, office occupancy, lease renewal rates, lease durations, and market rents, researchers say.
Robust tools for working from home had been in place for years, but the necessities of the pandemic pushed widespread adoption of remote work. According to the researchers, office occupancy dropped from 95% in February 2020 to 10% within a month. By May 2022, it had only bounced back to 50%.
If the trend remains strong, a lot of office space might not be necessary. That would mean massive financial implications for land values and valuations in lending, nearby retail space, and tax resources for local governments.
The declines don’t fall evenly. There is “some evidence of a ‘flight to quality,’ particularly in rents,” researchers say. But rents may have yet to bottom out, as vacancy rates are at 30-year highs in many cities, and on average two-thirds of leases haven’t come up for renewals yet.