Commercial real estate market slowing but steady.

The effect of the pandemic on Columbia's commercial real estate market is still playing out, industry experts say, with some segments holding steady while others suffer.

One thing, though, is clear: Transactions during the COVID-19 health crisis have not fallen off a cliff like they did in the Great Recession of 2007-2009.

"I recall very vividly in '08 and '09, in a lot of cases, it was just a literal turning of the spigot off," said Bruce Harper, managing partner at Trinity Partners' Columbia location. "Activity ceased; deals fell apart. In this go-round, we've seen some deals have fallen out, (but) we've seen things a lot worse."

While the retail and hospitality sectors are bearing the brunt of closings and uncertainty, other markets are maintaining and, in some cases, growing.

"Industrial, because of the pandemic, accelerated into warp speed," said David Lockwood, executive vice president and COO of Colliers International South Carolina. "The need for warehousing, logistics, manufacturing space, and companies who are moving operations back to the United States from foreign companies that is the wildest, craziest active market."

While investment sales also remain strong, an area where the pandemic is beginning to affect decisions or a lack thereof is in the office market. With many workers working from home for the past six or seven months, companies are "second-guessing how much space they lease and what sort of physical footprint they need," Harper said. "They've discovered that working from home with technology is actually doable and productive in many regards."

Lockwood said while companies may be deciding whether new floorplans with more distance between employees is necessary and would require expansion, "that's probably a 2021-type issue. Most tenants are really just trying to get back into the office to make sure that they have the productivity they need to keep their company running."

In early March, Harper said, "we were approaching record levels of office rents, very low vacancy rates. Some of those decisions moving forward have slowed. There's still good activity there, but a lot of those would-have-been long-term lease decisions companies were contemplating, maybe an expansion and looking at a five-year or a 10-year commitment, a lot of those decision have veered toward shorter-term situations. The historically low interest rates are motivating a lot of office investors or office users to get out there and identify and...

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