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Real Estate Bounding Back in 2011?

The promised year was 2012. Investors, Brokers, anyone thinking about or involved in the commercial real estate market were told for the past two years that we should expect the market to remain in the doldrums through the first part of 2012. But, activity has beat the estimate. The Commercial Real Estate Market nationally is buzzing again.

Investment in Industrial real estate began on the west coast industrial hubs at the end of 2010. In the Northeast, Industrial real estate in the form of clear-span flex space remained desirable and hot throughout the second half of 2010. The trend continues in 2011 and beyond.

Connecticut's private sector is largely made up of small companies that employ less than 250 people. For smaller companies based in a state where casual dress rules the day, non-traditional office space that is easily adaptable from a cube farm to a lab to a distribution area rules the day when tenants or buyers are looking for new space.

In the Boston area, Investor-Developers are picking up Retail Centers that hold promise for physical and construction expansion in future years. The office market remains in a holding pattern but Lab space is being absorbed more rapidly than expected last year.

In Connecticut and New Haven County in particular, leasing activity has picked up since our tough winter. Business activity throughout the state slowed, while roofs were shoveled and roads were cleared. New Construction for uses other than educational facilities and medical facilities is still far below the levels those that herald growth in the market, but Privately owned companies who hesitated to purchase properties for their operations last year have their eyes open again.

Last fall, Washington D.C. was the hot office market. The government expanded into vacancies and took space while other offices throughout the country gave up space. But, NYC rents are back on the rise and vacancy is dropping.

The Drake Hotel property, one of the most valuable pieces of city real estate, according to The Wall Street Journal, is on the brink of redevelopment. The owners can exploit a number of potential uses on the site. Hotel properties in Manhattan didn't suffer the way those in Vegas, Miami, Los Angeles and other cities did in large part due to the devalued dollar and European tourists. The apartment market has bounced back nationally too. Real Estate headlines for the past two months have touted the strength of the apartment market.

So, the news is good almost across the board. The apartment market has come bounding back. The Industrial market, especially in cities with good port access and solid distribution access (rail and road infrastructure) keeps the 2010 roll going and investors are putting their money back into real estate across the country. Warehouses are moving product. D.C. grew 43,700 new jobs in the last 12 months filling empty apartments. Lab space outside Boston, especially in East Cambridge is filling. Over the last ten years a quarter million square feet a year, on average has been leased up.

But the news is not all sunshine and unicorns. Chicago's industrial market continues to endure a dearth of transactions and a lot of empty space. And perhaps, more importantly, the larger economic indicators nationally remain in flux.

The banking industry remains under fire with some headlines claiming that smaller banks, mutual and community banks the sweethearts of the recession years are in danger of failing, whether those dire predictions are fulfilled remains to be seen, as is the future of Bank of America's bottom line. The refinancing of commercial mortgages, had the pundits screaming at this time last year as the second falling shoe in the real estate market, seem to be all but forgotten, whether they stall the recovery that even USA Today is now touting also remains to be seen. Employment figures, the rising price of oil, and re-employment of Americans, especially in Connecticut along with rising tax burdens will play a role in the resurgence of the market.

Overall, this bolstering of the market and its positive trajectory may continue strong and healthy, but it's more likely that there will be bumps in the road as the market finds its steady normal.

*****on another note, it seems that USA Today and I had the same idea today. Here's their take........

April 22, 2011

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