As the leading gateway markets become much too pricey, more yield-deprived capital edges into other places in search of better returns. Pickings remain slim given compromised demand except in the apartment sector. It’s basically the same old story. Some investors get excited about energy and high tech markets where some modicum of high paying jobs get generated. They like the Texas cities—Houston, Austin and the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex for energy and San Francisco-San Jose, Seattle, the aforementioned Austin, Boston and the North Carolina Research Triangle for high tech.
Investors need to be careful when relying on either the energy or tech sectors, both of which prove volatile in the stock market with similar impacts on real estate. It’s taken Houston almost 20 years to regain some luster after the early 1980s oil industry meltdown. Both Dallas and Houston have been reasonably good development markets, but investors struggle with low barriers to entry. Austin has 24-hour characteristics, the University of Texas, and a state capital to buttress energy and high tech businesses. That’s quite a powerful tenant demand-driver combination, but the city is relatively small and lies one step removed from global pathways (DFW Airport). No matter all the calls for U.S. energy independence, domestic oil prices remain beholden to global markets and the combustibility of Middle East hot spots as well as market speculators. The ups and downs are baked in, and the property markets follow along.
On the high tech front, San Francisco already ranks as one of the country’s premier 24-hour cities. Its Silicon Valley connection has become a more important jobs creator as the city’s financial services sector has been hit by recent consolidations and fallout from the credit crisis. Historically, the City by the Bay has been probably the most up-and-down of the global gateways with the bursting of the internet bubble 10 years ago knocking values down after major spikes. The city now peaks again along with other leading core markets, but should we be at all concerned about the flagging share prices of Facebook and Group On? And how many more apps do we really need? Has Apple peaked after its Samsung victory? And how will the Android world fare going forward? Is this the beginning of another correction or maybe the start of a bit of an industry lull?
Seattle has diversified beyond just Boeing and Microsoft, but the software behemoth appears to have incurred a noticeable vision deficit—what’s the company’s next market-changing innovation? We’ve been waiting for more than a decade. Boston likewise is a highly diversified 24-hour favorite, but the Route 128 corridor historically has been a R&D rollercoaster; and the Research Triangle offers limited investor opportunities, lying off global flight paths.
Undoubtedly, the nation’s high tech sector will continue to be an economic bulwark for decades to come, but start-ups come and go with shocking suddenness, and the industry constantly morphs. Does Facebook have a half-life? Does today’s cutting edge new software tenant cut its own throat in a year or two?
Who knows and that should give investors some pause.