WHER Chat: Imperatives of the Commercial Real Estate Industry During COVID-19


In 2020 NAWRB WHER, Volume II: Real Estate, we explore how the real estate industry is navigating COVID-19 challenges and utilizing technology as a solution. The industry must accomplish crucial initiatives during the pandemic to ensure the commercial real estate sector’s sustainability and reliability in the future.

1. Earning the respect, trust, and loyalty of customers and employees: In this time of uncertainty, leading operators are learning the importance of communicating to the point of overcommunication to make sure they are fully understanding and attending to their tenants’ needs at this moment and helping to protect everyone in their ecosystem. This may make communication as a company-level brand, rather than a property-level brand, more common, thereby speeding up an existing market trend.

In B2B environments, such as offices and retail stores, CEOs, and management teams are finding it helpful to asset managers and property managers by engaging directly with tenants. By interacting with the tenants directly, they not only address their needs more efficiently but also create a more trusting relationship with tenants who feel like they are being heard and valued.

2. Centralizing cash management: Prior to COVID-19, the McKinsey report notes that real estate was highly decentralized as important decisions regarding cash flow were made at the property level. However, due to the duration and depth of this crisis, which seems to have no end in sight in the United States, top management is now taking the initiative of centralized direction on property-level cash management in addition to company-level balance-sheet decisions and credit lines. As stated by the report, “All levels of management—including those at the property level and company level—are beginning to identify efficiency levers and when to pull them based on the underlying performance of properties and the business as a whole.”

3. Making tailored and informed decisions: Even within a single asset, needs will vary among tenants, particularly in commercial lease concessions. Real estate leaders are utilizing available behavioral data to generate fact-based insights that can help them make more informed decisions tailored to the needs of their diverse tenants (rather than a “one-size-fits-all” decision approach). They have data on local epidemiological and economic scenarios, competitive assets around a property, and the impact of the crisis on individual tenants.

4. Taking the digital leap: As we mentioned earlier, professionals in residential real estate have already taken the leap in digital sales and leasing processes, such as using virtual open houses and showings (sometimes augmented and virtual reality), as well omnichannel, targeted, and personalized sales. All of these tools are also available to the commercial real estate market in allowing their prospective tenants to find the right space for themselves.

5. Rethinking the future of real estate: Some landlords and lenders in the commercial real estate sector are looking ahead and preparing for how a business will change after the crisis is over. However, professionals are broadening their resources to include psychologists, sociologists, futurists, and technologists in addition to traditional economic or customer-survey-driven approaches. Some of the questions real estate professionals will have to ask include: “Will employees demand larger and more enclosed workspaces? Will people decide not to live in condominiums for fear of having to ride elevators?” By extending their research to include interdisciplinary resources and experts, business leaders will possibly find creative, informed solutions to these unprecedented challenges facing the industry.

About 2020 NAWRB WHER

The NAWRB Women Housing Ecosystem Report (WHER), our annual research report, provides the vision to revitalize communication and partnerships between industries as we work together to form mindful strategic solutions for social impact with a gender lens achievement. The 2020 NAWRB WHER includes the most diverse coverage of the Housing Ecosystem with almost eighty resources in six volumes: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion; Real Estate; Business Ownership; STEM; Access to Capital; and Aging Population. While waiting for the release of 2020 WHER, order a copy of the 2019 NAWRB WHER here!

Know the Rules of the GameⓇ Podcast: Life as College Zoomers

Nikki and Veronica

Now that schools have shifted towards using Zoom during the pandemic, what does this mean for students? Find out more in this episode of Know the Rules of the GameⓇ Podcast: Life as College Zoomers with host Desirée Patno, CEO & President of Women in the Housing and Real Estate Ecosystem (NAWRB) and Special Guests Veronica Cheng and Nikki Courtney, who attend UC Berkeley and UCLA, respectively. Cheng, Courtney, and Patno discuss and reflect on rules that students should keep in mind in order to make the best out of their educational experiences amidst Coronavirus.

To listen, click here!

Co-signed a private student loan? Here are tips to protect yourself during COVID-19

As the Coronavirus continues to affect the health of millions of Americans, it also continues to exacerbate the financial struggles that many individuals face during these times. It is critical for those with outstanding student loans to know their options when it comes to protecting themselves and their credit during the pandemic.

While the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides federal student borrowers with financial relief, many private student loan lenders are now offering reductions or suspending payments. As a borrower, it’s imperative to stay up-to-date on the status of your loan, to communicate with your primary borrower about requesting relief if applicable, and to check your credit reports. For more information and tips, you can check out this article by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

How the Coronavirus is Affecting Short-Term Rental Business Owners and Travelers


Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is now a global pandemic that has altered many facets of human life in the past few months, especially in the past couple of weeks, as countries are taking measures to contain the outbreak and protect the safety of their citizens. The travel industry has especially been affected as people are being forced to cancel or change their preexisting travel plans, whether international or domestic, as more countries are being labeled as high risk areas for contracting the virus. 

This has taken a toll on the short-term rental business, such a Airbnb and VRBO, as short-term renters and hosts are working through solutions in response to the coronavirus-related cancellations. Individuals who have created a small business out of offering their properties as short-term renters for travelers are faced with the financial burden offering a full refund for travelers who wish to cancel their stay due to the coronavirus. 

Business owners and travelers can purchase insurance policies for unforeseen cancellations, yet very few, if any, have clauses about pandemic coverage as this situation is unprecedented. It is resulting in a substantial revenue loss for businesses who depend on the funds from renting out their properties to pay their mortgage and make other necessary payments, or as a source of passive income. In addition, many short-term rental businesses are seeing loss in potential revenue as less people are booking stays for peak seasonal travel times, including holidays, both domestically and internationally, when hosts make most of their revenue. 

On the other hand, travelers who have already booked their short-term rentals in advance for an impending trip are in the unfortunate predicament of having to cancel their plans in order to limit their chance of contracting the coronavirus or spreading it to others. Social distancing is one of the new best practices. In addition, many countries, states, and counties have limited traveling to essential travel only. 

Many popular airlines such as Delta, United Airlines and JetBlue are waiving change fees to help accommodate travelers as they reassess and change their travel plans. However, those who have booked flights have most likely booked their accommodations, as well. Using Airbnb or VRBO for booking accommodation is typically a budget-friendly option for travelers on a tight budget, but these companies have their own unique cancellation policies that might differ from hotels or other mainstream options. 

The following are the up-to-date cancellation policies for Airbnb and VRBO, some of the most popular short-term rental third-party websites. As of March 15, 2020, Airbnb provides the following coverage for COVID-19 under their extenuating circumstances policy:

“Reservations made on or before March 14, 2020 for stays and Airbnb Experiences, with a check-in date between March 14, 2020 and April 14, 2020, are covered by the policy and may be cancelled before check-in. Guests who cancel will receive a full refund, and hosts can cancel without charge or impact to their Superhost status. Airbnb will refund all service fees for covered cancellations. The host’s cancellation policy will apply as usual to reservations made after March 14, 2020, and to reservations made on or before March 14, 2020 with check-in dates after April 14, 2020.” 

Note that reservations for stays or Airbnb Experiences that are made on or before March 14, 2020, with a check-in date after April 14, 2020, will not be covered under their extenuating circumstances policy, except if the guest or host has contracted COVID-19. Therefore, the host’s cancellation policy applies as usual. Because each host has a different cancellation policy, Airbnb recommends that travelers read the fine print before booking their stay and choosing the most flexible option. 

In the event that Airbnb hosts cancel a covered reservation, the company ensures that they will not be charged, there will be no impact on their Superhost status, if they have it, and they will refund all service fees. 

In response to coverage for COVID-19, VRBO makes the following comment on their website: “Vrbo® advises travelers to follow travel advice from the World Health Organization and local authorities. Refunds of payments made for vacation home rentals are based on the homeowner’s cancellation policy. If a homeowner or property manager refunds a booking due to COVID-19 (coronavirus) concerns, Vrbo will automatically refund the traveler service fee. Travelers who have purchased travel insurance should contact the insurance company for any claims processing.” 

In a direct letter to homeowners, VRBO recommends that they review their cancellation policy and “consider adopting a flexible or moderate policy for the time being,” and they encourage them to offer a full refund to travelers who cancel or delay their travel plans due to the coronavirus, although neither is required. Thus, short-term renters are at the mercy of homeowners, who are also understandably worried about the costs to their business, regarding the content of their cancellation policy. 

VRBO is also offering to waive cancellations so that they do not affect the ranking metrics for hosts worried that the cancellation will negatively impact their business. To waive a cancellation, hosts are required to cancel and refund their reservation in full and call customer support at their earliest convenience. 

Whether you’re a short-term rental guest or a homeowner, it’s important to keep updated on the current cancellation policies of the organization through which you book a rental or rent out your space. In this time of uncertainty, the best thing we can do is be prepared for any possible scenario and make the best decision we can for the safety of ourselves and others. 

* See this Article and many more in it’s original publication at https://issuu.com/nawrb/docs/nawrb_mag_vol9_issue1