How do you find the right property for a user, even if it is not actively on the market?
We typically lease or sell properties that are actively listed and use the MLS or Loopnet to find available buildings. But sometimes it can be hard to find just the right property or space, especially in this current market of low inventory. Searching the market for a specific user often involves reaching out directly to commercial landlords and property owners that we know, contacting other commercial brokers directly with my need to see if they are listing anything soon that is a match and literally driving around the market to check out buildings that might be a good fit. I am also a member of the Lancaster County Association of Realtors’ C&I Council, a group of commercial real estate brokers and affiliates. The group is a great resource in helping me find properties that may be off market and quietly available. And, having been in this business for 34 years, I personally know a lot of property owners and have a pretty good handle on what might be available if it’s not currently listed.
What is the CCIM designation and what does it mean for your clients?
The CCIM designation stands for Certified Commercial Investment Member. This is an advanced designation in commercial real estate which is held by less than 6 percent of all commercial agents. (It) requires 200 hours of advanced study, with week-long courses in topics such as financial analysis, site selection, commercial marketing and lease analysis. Each class has a required exam to pass at the end. The courses are taught by outstanding, highly educated and experienced instructors. The designation also requires the submission of a detailed resume of transactions and a four-hour exam at the end of the course series. It can take a couple of years to get through all the classes. This designation provides the advanced knowledge, skills and insight to truly help my clients to achieve their goals, whether it is to purchase an investment property, find a site for their business or get a building leased up. And that’s what I am all about, helping people make good real estate decisions for their business or their own investment purposes.
Many offices still have all or most employees working remotely and some have moved into a more flexible situation with work-from-home options. How do you see this affecting demand for office space, as well as what businesses are looking for in their spaces?
My opinion is COVID-19 and its resulting fallout have permanently reshaped the way the way we live our lives and do business. For example, before COVID, holding meetings via Zoom, working from home, or wearing jeans or casual clothes to the office was just not acceptable. But we all were forced to hit the learning curve and make adjustments at the same time, and now Zoom is often preferred to meeting in person. The office dress code has changed too, it’s much more casual now. Let’s face it, your office is wherever you and your laptop are — your home, the coffee shop, a park bench, your car, the pool — wherever you have a connection and a phone, you can work. So, work has become extremely mobile, and the need for office space has clearly waned. Many workers enjoy not making the daily commute.
This does not mean the need for office space will go away, but many businesses are rethinking their space needs and whether employees really need to be on site five days a week. Many are going to a hybrid model. Some businesses have completely gotten rid of their office space or are planning not to renew their lease when it expires. Others have taken more space so they have room to spread people out. My feeling is the demand for office space will be soft for at least a couple more years, and long term it may not entirely recover from the changes brought about by COVID. What I see businesses looking for now are spaces that are slightly unconventional, with the “cool” factor — unique space that offers ways for employees to be as alone or connected with others as they wish. Today’s office spaces will likely have a mix of standard offices and open workstations, but will include spontaneous meeting spots and maybe a cafe, theater, gaming room, reading or relaxation area. Some are even including a gym or workout room, bike racks and showers.
Businesses are also becoming more design-conscious, to provide an attractive environment that stimulates creative thinking, encourages collaboration and makes employees want to come in to work. Businesses are also paying more attention to locating in areas that offer a mix of amenities, such as convenient access to restaurants, shops, daycare, transportation, walking trails, entertainment and other activities. Downtowns are definitely a popular choice, especially for younger workers, but suburban locations are holding their own too. Employers are more concerned about offering a clean environment. Bathrooms with automated, no-touch fixtures, and HVAC systems with special antiviral HEPA filters help make an office building more comfortable for employees to be at work. Spaces that allow people to spread out are desirable — no more tiny cube farms please! As employers compete to find qualified workers, the space of the future will be dictated more by the needs and desires of the employee than the employer.
What is your wish for 2022?
I would truly like to see this pandemic go away; for people to stop getting sick, going to the hospital, or losing their lives. It has hurt so many people in so many ways, not just in physical terms, but also people’s mental health, especially kids. I look forward to the day we can go back to focusing on the people and things in life that are important to us and not have COVID be the daily news headline. But I know it is likely to be around for a long time, so I wish and hope better treatments, more effective vaccines, higher resistance and herd immunity will eventually put this pandemic to rest.
About Christine Sable
Christine Sable, 63, has spent more than 30 years in commercial real estate, the last 12 heading Lancaster-based Sable Commercial Realty. Prior to that, she spent 21 years as real estate advisor and president of Sable and Associates, Inc., and has served as a lease advisor to the Lancaster County Conservancy. She also speaks at workshops and seminars and has been an instructor at a local real estate school.
Sable has a bachelor of arts degree in fine art from Millersville University and also earned her Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) designation.
She lives in Manheim Township with her husband, Steve Geisenberger. They have a daughter, Nicole, and a son, Justin, who is a licensed real estate agent with Sable Commercial Realty as well.