Why I’m (Still) a Big Believer in Silicon Valley Real Estate

by Tom Tognoli, on Jul 7, 2020 9:12:55 AM

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How is the real estate market?  Should I buy?  Should I sell?  Should I refinance or restructure debt?  What do you think will happen with residential and commercial real estate prices?  Will people ever go back to work or will they always just work from home?

These are some of the questions I get asked daily.  No one knows for sure exactly what the market will look like in the next few months or even a few years but it does not really matter in my opinion. What real estate investors need to be focused on is the long term.  Anything less is nothing more than speculation.  Same applies with any kind of investing.

I have been in the real estate industry for over 30 years and I have seen everything from earthquakes to the savings and loan crisis to the .com bust to September 11th to the great recession to our most recent challenges and more.  In every case, people tend to overreact short term to the financial impact because of fear, anxiety and uncertainty.  Yes, things will look different in the months and years to come but not nearly as much as most people think.   The roads will be packed with cars again (it’s already started), BART and trains will be full and people will “go” back to work.  There is too much value, creativity, culture and productivity that will be lost if people are not spending a lot of time together in the office.  Without that, people will not feel an emotional connection to their company and its leadership team...and that will lead to higher turnover which is a massive expense.  People need to go back to work for social interaction and for their mental health.  For most, work is the only place they socialize and connect with people. 

No one really knows for sure what things will look like in 12 to 18 months. That said, the farther out you go, the more clear the picture gets. I am a long-term bull on real estate: Silicon Valley and the Bay Area.  There is no place else like it on earth and there is a limited supply of real estate and that is not going to change. 

Since the wheels came off the economic track back in March starting with COVID-19, the residential real estate market has held up much better than I would have expected…so has the stock market for that matter.  Prices pulled back anyplace from 5% to 15% off the highs back in April but then stabilized, and buyers are out in full force taking advantage of the low interest rates as the Federal Government has flooded the economy with cash.  Now the problem is low inventory of properties for sale. 

Regarding the impact on commercial real estate, I see much of the same.  Will commercial buildings, hotels, and restaurants have less people in them? Yes, but that does not mean they will need less space.  There is actually an argument to be had that they will need more space.  Office space per employee has gone from close to 500 square feet per employee 25 years ago to less than 150 sq.ft per employee today.  With COVID-19 and social distancing, I have to believe we are going to see office space per employee needing to increase.  Let's say it only increases from 150 square feet per employee to 250 per employee…that is 67% more space per employee.  Even if 25% of the workforce worked from home full or part time, there is still going to be a shortage.  And yes I do think more people will be working remotely in the months and years to come but not nearly to the extent many think. 

Why am I an investor in and a fan of Urban Catalyst?  Because I am a believer in Silicon Valley Real Estate…I like the added value that comes with developing something versus buying a finished product/project…I like the tax benefits of investing in an Opp Zone…I like google, facebook, adobe, trains and Bart committed to downtown…combine that with the team, experience and reputation of the partners at Urban Catalyst...I cannot think of a better place to invest…especially long term.  

About Tom Tognoli 

download-2Tom Tognoli co-founded Intero in 2002 and built it into the largest real estate company in Silicon Valley; and one of the top real estate companies in the United States, doing in excess of $12 billion in annual sales volume at the time of his departure.  Tom and his partners sold Intero to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway in April 2014.

Tom continued on as CEO of Intero after the acquisition.  Under Tom’s leadership Intero continued to grow throughout the country until his departure from the company in April of 2019.

Tom is a passionate entrepreneur with expertise in leadership, building healthy teams and cultures and human behavior & performance.  Tom is also an active real estate developer, investor and advisor.

Tom is a dedicated man of faith with a no-nonsense attitude and authentic approach to both business and life. From his inspirational weekly blog, with over 20,000 followers, sharing insights on the keys to business and life success, to his positive message of encouragement for all generations, Tom is committed to helping individuals and organizations succeed.  

Today, Tom is a partner at 1Flourish Capital, an active real estate investor and developer, angel investor and advisor.

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Topics:Opportunity ZonesSan JoseSilicon ValleyOpportunity FundUrban Catalyst