Julie Sorensen
Director, GRS Group
(312) 476-7658
jsorensen@grs-global.com

One of commercial real estate’s ongoing difficulties looks like it will continue to challenge the industry over the next year, according to what I heard at the recent RE Journals’ Commercial Real Estate Forecast Conference, in Downtown Chicago. Construction-material costs and labor availability, one of the industry’s few, but major, sticking points, should continue to be a problem in the coming year, said panelists.

The situation is expected to improve a little: It’s estimated that construction costs rose somewhere between five and seven percent last year and there is a three-to-five-percent jump forecast for 2019. Among the culprits is a rise in steel and lumber prices, along with the difficulty of rising wages and finding skilled workers attracted to the construction industry quickly enough to meet development demand.

The labor shortage, in particular, has caused commercial real estate projects to stall across the country, with projects in some areas  falling behind schedule by six months.

Labor and construction-materials costs were significant concerns in the oft-cited annual Emerging Trends in Real Estate report released late last year by PwC and the Urban Land institute.

Due to a tight labor market, nearly every industry is facing a labor shortage along with wage increases, and commercial real estate is no different. The inability to find workers to complete in-demand projects costs money because of the delays involved getting these projects out of the ground, not to mention higher payrolls. Industry observers have also pointed out that since there are more employment options available many workers, who didn’t aspire to stay in construction for the rest of their lives in the first place, are changing careers. Additionally, it is tough to find young talent interested in construction jobs, and the training curve is costly for these positions.

On the materials end, the trade war with China is not helping. Turner Construction Co.’s recent cost index found that expenses increased 5.38 percent over the fourth quarter from the same period a year ago. It found that, though the costs of aluminum and steel haven’t risen dramatically over the last few months, there have been steady cost increases in gypsum.

As of now, there is no way to predict how long tariff battles and the increasing costs of materials will last, but there is one thing we do know. Those higher costs will likely be passed on to tenants   in the form of higher rents.

About GRS Group

GRS Group is a leading provider of commercial real estate (“CRE”) services worldwide. With offices across the United States, Europe, and affiliates around the globe, GRS Group provides local market knowledge with a global perspective for institutional real estate investors, occupiers and lenders worldwide. The GRS Group team has evaluated and advised on over $1 trillion in CRE transactions.

Through the company’s proprietary management process, Global Services Connection, GRS Group delivers an integrated suite of services including Financial Advisory, Transaction Management, Assessment and Title Insurance.  We provide a single point of contact, capable of leveraging the GRS Group portfolio of companies and delivering customized solutions to assist our clients in achieving their investment goals.