Boston Business Journal
April 2020

While it remains to be seen how the COVID-19 pandemic will ultimately affect the real estate market this year, there was good news last year for several firms on the list of the largest commercial real estate selling brokers in Massachusetts.

About half the firms on the list achieved significant year-over-year gains in the total commercial square footage sold in Massachusetts in 2019. The three-biggest gainers on the list were:

  • The Conrad Group, growth of 239%;
  • CBRE/New England, growth of 39%; and
  • Boston Realty Advisors, growth of 25%.

According to Boston Real Estate Times, the biggest commercial real estate sales deal in Boston of 2019 was the $806 million sale of 100 Summer St., a 32-story tower in Boston, to Rockpoint Group. Newmark Knight Frank represented the seller and procured the buyer.

“The market was sizzling the past 18 to 24 months,” said Robert Conrad, president of The Conrad Group. “Vacancy rates were low on the South Shore and interest rates were low resulting in increased demand. The major challenge was securing product for sale. Once secured, there was an abundance of buyers. Most owners considering selling required 1031 contingencies which further increased activity.”

But Conrad said that the current coronavirus outbreak “has had immediate detrimental effects on the market. We have recently had two sales, which were under agreement to be sold, delayed indefinitely due to the fact that tenants within the two buildings closed down temporarily, we hope. In addition, we’ve had three lease transactions which have been put on hold due to the insecure state of the economy. Firms are scared of making decisions which may have detrimental effects in the future.”

William Kelleher IV, principal at Kelleher & Sadowksy, was a little more optimistic, saying that “commercial real estate transactions tend to have a 12-month life cycle. That said, we expect 2020 sales and leasing will be strong given our robust pipeline of deals prior to the health crisis. The challenge will be to develop a strong sales pipeline for 2021 transactions.”

Kelleher said his firm will focus on the markets it believes “will continue to grow and thrive in our region during a recessionary environment” – office space, multifamily residential, warehouse/distribution, health care/medical, biopharma/life sciences and “opportunity zones.”

By Sean McFadden