Sandy Paul leads 20/20’s Atlanta office, bringing more than 20 years of experience in the commercial real estate space, including national leadership positions in real estate market research and thought leadership at Newmark, where he led the firm’s research platform.
Given the current state of the office market, how should office owners, developers, and investors manage their talent acquisition strategy?
For office market owners, developers, and investors, there might be the impulse to tighten the purse strings and slow new hiring. It’s true that due to current inflation and changes in the economy spurred by COVID, demand has slowed for office space. However, office occupiers are re-evaluating their staffing and space needs, and the cyclical nature of the sector suggests that now is the right time to fill talent gaps in preparation for the next investment and development cycle. The office market will not look the same as it did pre-COVID, but there will still be a need for new development and repositioned assets, which requires experienced and talented professionals. Competing with excellence for the available market share will be more important than ever.
What is the impact of return-to-office policies?
According to Newmark market research, even as the U.S. office market saw the Class A vacancy rate increase 1.7 percentage points over the past year, office-using employment has been growing. Return-to-office mandates will move some of these professionals out of remote work situations and back into leased space. For owners of office assets, retaining or hiring experienced professionals to help determine which assets are most likely to outperform in the years ahead and capture this market share is essential to a successful business plan.
Outside the office sector, where else do you see a rising need for real estate talent?
Companies in the industrial sector should give serious thought to how they can augment the talent in their ranks. The picture for industrial is more complex—the industrial market decelerated after strong performance in the early stages of the pandemic. U.S. industrial market absorption measured 45 million square feet in the second quarter of 2023, outpaced by 110 million square feet of new deliveries. This activity pushed vacancy up to 4.6%, but that is still well below the long-term average, and the average rent continues to rise. Firms should keep this in mind as they consider the future of their professional staff. Having experienced leasing and sales agents on the team who can claim an outsized share of the existing market demand is important for investors’ long-term success.
The multifamily sector has been strong throughout the last several years. Can you provide your insights into what the future holds and how this will impact employment and hiring in this arena?
Yes, the multifamily sector has remained sturdy throughout the past several years, as a housing shortage persists across the U.S. We are seeing active hiring across the sector, particularly for development project managers, capital markets executives, and affordable housing specialists. Notably, 98,429 multifamily units were absorbed nationally during the first half of 2023, according to Newmark. This nearly quadrupled the absorption experienced during the first half of 2022. Demand is likely to continue accelerating during the remainder of 2023 and the first half of 2024. While new supply has been strong, demand is likely to maintain a steady pace as well. Newmark projects that apartment demand will exceed the 2018-2022 average in 40 of the top 50 metro markets from 2023-2025. Given this, investment and development firms in the multifamily sector should focus on talent retention strategies as well as acquiring new talent who can help meet this demand.
How can candidates best prepare themselves for future opportunities in these sectors?
I advise candidates to keep an open mind with respect to the types of organizations they will consider. For example, I recently completed a search for a Vice President of Finance and Capital Markets for a non-profit affordable housing developer. The organization sought candidates with for-profit experience and relationships that could lead to strong capital raising in service of its mission. The selected candidate had created a workforce housing fund and also served as an acquisitions director for an investment management firm. My client valued his experience with affordable housing but also his private sector background. Candidates who shed preconceived notions of where they want to work and explore a wide range of opportunities often find surprisingly good fits in sectors they hadn’t previously considered.
More about Sandy Paul
As the Managing Director of 20/20 Foresight’s Atlanta office, Sandy works with real estate and financial organizations to build and strengthen their leadership teams, strategically using his strong relationships with real estate owners, developers, brokerage professionals, and private equity firms, as well as notable industry associations. Prior to joining 20/20 Foresight, Sandy served as Senior Managing Director of National Research for Newmark, leading the firm’s national research platform. Sandy led Newmark’s national thought leadership function, supervising the publication of dozens of studies on key trends shaping the office, industrial, multifamily, retail, and hospitality sectors. He has also served as a featured columnist on real estate market trends for Commercial Property Executive and Multi-Housing News, and as Executive Vice President at Delta Associates, a real estate information and consulting firm.
Sandy was awarded membership in the Counselors of Real Estate (CRE) and in the land economics honor society Lambda Alpha. He also has guest lectured in the real estate graduate programs at Georgetown University and George Mason University.
Sandy earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government from Dartmouth College and a Master of Public Policy degree from Duke University’s Sanford Institute of Public Policy.