It's not much of a surprise that real estate investment trusts that focus on properties like malls and hotels have been major beneficiaries of positive vaccine news. But it might seem odd at first glance that office REITs have been some of the biggest winners.
In this Nov. 17 Fool Live video, two experts from The Motley Fool's real estate brand -- Millionacres real estate analyst Matt Frankel, CFP, and Millionacres editor Deidre Woollard -- discuss why office REITs like Empire State Realty Trust (NYSE:ESRT) and SL Green (NYSE:SLG) have done so well in the past month or so, and what investors should keep in mind going forward.
Deidre Woollard: So we're going to start talking about office REITs. Pretty exciting right now with the vaccines coming out.
Matt Frankel: Yes. It's a good time to be an owner of office retail right now. All the stocks, I like to joke that all the stocks that people have been rolling their eyes at me about for the past six months, no one is rolling their eyes these past couple of weeks. Office returns, they're working strong and it's something you wouldn't really consider a reopening stock in. Especially if you don't live in a big city market because outside of major cities, officers are generally open. I mean, I'm in an office right now. Officers are generally open, so you might not think about them, but there's a big lingering fear that people are not going to work in offices anymore after this. I was reading a statistic before we got on here that, that 56 percent of people in the US workforce could do their jobs remotely. That's a big number that could potentially leave the office.
Deidre Woollard: That's true. I was looking at some Gallup data from October, and it said that 33 percent of US workers are currently working always remotely, which is down from 51 percent in April. But what was interesting was that nearly two-thirds of those who have been working remotely said they want to continue to do so. That's not something I'm hearing everywhere. What are you hearing?
Matt Frankel: Well, I'm hearing that people want the ability to work remotely, not necessarily exclusively. This was a survey by Slack (NYSE: WORK). We all know Slack, I Slacked with Deidre before we were on here. Slack did a survey of 4,700 knowledge workers, which are people who could work remotely. Out of that group, they found that 12 percent of them, only 12 percent, wanted to work full-time from an office. But the 72 percent favored a hybrid work model, where they would work some of the time from an office and some of the time from home. Then we do the math, that only leaves 16 percent of the respondents who wanted to work full-time from home. I'm hearing that people want the flexibility to work from home if they want to. I mean, Deidre, if you had the flexibility, would you work some other time from home and some other time from the office?
Deidre Woollard: Yes, of course. I think a lot of people feel that way, and especially for people who have kids or are taking care of parents or have other obligations. Sometimes you need that flexibility. That's a really attractive thing for recruiting people is to be able to offer them that.
Matt Frankel: There's also a lot of perks to being in an office that it's important not to overwork. I mentioned on the show before, especially when you're early in your career, you want to be seen. It's great for career advancement, for networking, for things like that, to actually have your work seen by people and to collaborate with, especially when you're younger, you're bosses in your office. There's a lot of attraction to being in an office. The jury is still out on whether it's more productive or not. I've seen a lot of conflicting data about whether it's more productive to work from home or being in an office. I'm more productive in an office, that's why I choose to leave my house and go to an office in the morning. But I've seen a lot of conflicting data on that. But even productivity aside, there are perks to being in an office when it comes to choose your career in general.
Deidre Woollard: Well, I think that's driven a lot of people talk about those incidental moments. You get coffee and you're having a conversation or you talked to someone at lunch, all of those moments. That's one of the reasons that offices are designed the way they are. They're designed to encourage that. That's one of the things that became very important. Silicon Valley, the way they designed certain offices was to create those moments because that's where collaboration and inspiration tends to head.
Matt Frankel: For sure. There are many different kinds of offices. There are some types of offices that are not going to be as successful after the pandemic, tech companies, for example. But even with that, you're seeing like Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) and Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) just leased new office space in New York City. A lot of companies need a physical presence. Some offices are just not going anywhere. Some don't necessarily need a physical presence but want one, and from all this data, and it looks like workers want a physical option not necessarily a place they have to go to. But it looks like they want an option of having that physical place to go to. Like you said, offices are designed to help companies be successful, homes are not. Tools like Zoom (NASDAQ: ZM), like we're on right now, I have five different software programs opened on various windows on my screen that are nice substitute for being in an in-person office. But it's not the same thing. I think a lot of people are really discounting the hybrid work model as something that's really going to live on after the pandemic.
Deidre Woollard: I think that's really true. Another thing, I think that what I'm hearing more is the term, "Near home". They don't to have a long commute. Nobody wants that long commute and they may not want to stay in an office for eight hours a day or 10 hours or whatever, but they want the option to pop in somewhere. This could end up being something really good for co-working because people may end up wanting to be able to have a short drive, go to an office for four or five hours if they're doing concentrated work, and then go home and do more work later. I think we're going to see more a synchronous work happening. That's already happening during the pandemic, but I think that's going to be an ongoing trend and that's one of the reasons that something like Slack is so helpful.
Matt Frankel: You can also see companies start opening more satellite offices. Not necessarily co-working. But if, for example, like Amazon, instead of just opening an HQ to somewhere, they might open little offices in 50 different cities to accommodate, like you said, just the near space. Amazon maybe should open a co-working business. That could be the next way to take over the world.