US sporting goods retailer REI surprised the real estate world last month when it put its never-been-used headquarters in a Seattle suburb up for sale, a striking example of how the pandemic is reshaping office demand.
The property didn't sit around long, however. This week, Facebook bought it for $368m (€310m), delivering a profit to REI and adding to a trio of buildings the social media giant has already leased nearby.
The quick listing and sale highlights the topsy-turvy nature of commercial-property markets six months after Covid-19 forced people to work from home, leaving skyscrapers and office parks vacant.
It also shows the wide variation among employers as they weigh their future real estate needs, said Greg Johnson, president of Wright Runstad & Co, which developed the Seattle headquarters. While REI chose to scatter workers across multiple sites, Facebook "has said we're hiring like crazy and we want to have places for people to sit in close proximity," Johnson said. "Everything in between is going on, as well."
Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg said earlier this year that as many as half his company's employees would work remotely in the next decade, which many real estate investors took as a bearish omen for the industry. But since then, Facebook announced a major lease in New York, a clear sign that it still wants physical offices for employees to gather and collaborate.
In Ireland, Facebook signed up before the pandemic to be the key tenant in a massive office in Dublin in the former AIB Bankcentre campus in Ballsbridge.