Antoniu Panait is Managing Director at VASTINT Romania and has been working with the company since it expanded to our country, in 2009. He has a strong background in real estate, having managed complex portfolios and investment opportunities. He is now in charge of VASTINT’s Class A office and retail spaces in Bucharest – Timpuri Noi Square and Business Garden Bucharest.

Main takeaways

  • The future is definitely digital
  • It is difficult to change leasing conditions overnight, as investment costs have stayed similar to those we saw before the pandemic
  • The need for office spaces won’t disappear
  • The focus is now, more than ever, on certifications, flexibility and cooperation

How has the pandemic changed things for VASTINT

In the context of the pandemic, VASTINT focused on two main directions: their internal team and the way they conduct business. Antoniu Panait talks about what made a difference in overcoming challenges for them:

“In terms of internal community, having a smaller team than other companies has proven to be very helpful, because we managed to go through all the unforeseen situations, and were able to accommodate to all the changes faster.

In terms of business, all our buildings benefit from premium technical solutions, which definitely make a difference in protecting our health. Nevertheless, at the beginning of this pandemic, we have sharpened our safety and sanitary procedures in order to prevent the spread of the virus. The endeavor has been recognized through the Safe Guard certification obtained after a thorough audit conducted by Bureau Veritas, a world leader in testing, inspection, and certification. Timpuri Noi Square was the first office project to receive such a certification.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, VASTINT has implemented various safety measures, some with a tech component, in order to ensure the health and comfort of their clients:

Since the first stage of design and development of our buildings, we aim to bring the highest standard of comfort, by obtaining LEED PLATINUM certification, which focuses on the air quality and energy efficiency. The technical details that have become Vastint standard, here, in Romania, are 100% fresh air supply on the tenants’ premises and common areas, the two CTAs that are located on the roof of the buildings at more than 50m height, high-quality fresh air filtration systems, windows that open every 2.7 m, and 3m height floors.

Regarding the measures taken at the beginning of the pandemic period, we’ve signalized all the safety measures taken on all common spaces, introduced contact surface protection, unidirectional flows, periodic nebulization of the common spaces, limiting the access in the elevators, revolving doors, and lobby area.“

Change happens step by step

Although special situations emerged, requiring understanding and effort from everybody involved, Antoniu says that they ”succeeded to overcome all these challenges without harming our relationships nor our business strategy.

When it comes to leasing conditions, one of the most popular topic in tenant-landlord negotiations, Antoniu Panait says that overnight changes are difficult, as investment conditions haven’t changed:

It needs to be looked from a different perspective, as for the last years the constructions costs increased year over year while the market asking rents didn’t keep up“, he adds.

Digitization of the industry

The global crisis we have been facing for almost an year now accentuated the role of technology in all industries, and real estate makes no exception. Antoniu thinks that what one of the things that accelerated the digitization of commercial real estate is “the impossibility to organise face to face meetings, in order to conduct the traditional renting process.

Regarding their own process, they have already adopted a series of PropTech solutions: “the LPR system for access in the underground parking, the usage of cards for elevator & office access, or even the mobile phones (for some buildings in our portfolio).” Furthermore, they are aware that “the future is digital” and are looking for “multiple options to ease up reaching the potential future tenants.”

Antoniu adds that the real estate industry needs to adapt and evolve. PropTech can play an essential role in this transformation, but for it in order to be efficient, things should be done sustainably:

“The PropTech Market is just starting to arise in Romania, as a specific one in the industry, and the information should take its time to fix all the problems that might appear during implementation.”

State of CRE in 2021

Last year has definitely changed the future of real estate, bringing new regulations to be followed, new needs to be met, new topics on the negotiations table:

We believe there will be more focus than ever on certifications, technical specifications and location of the buildings, since all of these aspects will translate into retention rates directly connected with employees’ comfort and productivity.

It could also be a time to accelerate the adoption of new ways of using the offices, with emphasis on meeting modern needs for cooperation and flexibility. Anyhow, these dynamics are not an exact science, all we can do is to learn together and adapt. “

Future of work

With so many trends related to the way we work, it is hard to clearly see into the future. But one thing is sure, Antoniu says: we will still need office spaces, it is just a matter of time until each company decides how to make the best of them:

It’s difficult to foresee if the office spaces shall be used in a different way and how big the changes shall be. What we know for sure is that the office space need will not disappear, it’s just a matter of time until the companies will clarify their future plans regarding coming back into the office, or mixing between work from home and traditional office.”

VASTINT in 2021

To end our interview, we wanted to learn more about VASTINT’s plans for 2021. The developer has already established a stable basis in Romania, with 2 projects that sum up to 100.000 sqm of leasable spaces, and the team is optimistic and ready for new projects:

What we can say about us is that we are optimistic about the future and we are eagerly preparing the second phase of Timpuri Noi Square’s project. Also, Vastint’s investments in Romania will not stop here, having concrete plans to diversify our local portfolio.

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