Jonathan D. Miller

About The Author

A marketing communication strategist who turned to real estate analysis, Jonathan D. Miller is a foremost interpreter of 21st citistate futures – cities and suburbs alike – seen through the lens of lifestyles and market realities. For more than 20 years (1992-2013), Miller authored Emerging Trends in Real Estate, the leading commercial real estate industry outlook report, published annually by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Land Institute (ULI). He has lectures frequently on trends in real estate, including the future of America's major 24-hour urban centers and sprawling suburbs. He also has been author of ULI’s annual forecasts on infrastructure and its What’s Next? series of forecasts. On a weekly basis, he writes the Trendczar blog for GlobeStreet.com, the real estate news website. Outside his published forecasting work, Miller is a prominent communications/institutional investor-marketing strategist and partner in Miller Ryan LLC, helping corporate clients develop and execute branding and communications programs. He led the re-branding of GMAC Commercial Mortgage to Capmark Financial Group Inc. and he was part of the management team that helped build Equitable Real Estate Investment Management, Inc. (subsequently Lend Lease Real Estate Investments, Inc.) into the leading real estate advisor to pension funds and other real institutional investors. He joined the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the U.S. in 1981, moving to Equitable Real Estate in 1984 as head of Corporate/Marketing Communications. In the 1980's he managed relations for several of the country's most prominent real estate developments including New York's Trump Tower and the Equitable Center. Earlier in his career, Miller was a reporter for Gannett Newspapers. He is a member of the Citistates Group and a board member of NYC Outward Bound Schools and the Center for Employment Opportunities.

  • Amazon’s Lesson

    November 14, 2018

    The lesson from Amazon is clear—the gateways are where you want to be and will want to be, if you can afford it.

  • Byline Columns/Editorial

    Davos Exuberance

    January 26, 2018

    It’s Davos time and the business world is more exuberant than it has been since the frenzied days before the last financial collapse. Nothing like…

  • Byline Columns/Editorial

    Berlin's Lesson

    December 05, 2017

    Over the past two decades, Berlin has become a hot place to visit, re-emerging from Cold War isolation, dealing openly with the horrors of its Nazi…

  • Chicago

    Misplaced Narrative: Besieged Cities

    February 13, 2017

    I was in Chicago when the President was watching a segment on Fox’s O’Reilly Factor about the city’s disconcerting murder rate. That led to Mr.…

  • Commentary

    Playing on Unfamiliar Turf

    July 06, 2016

    I don’t normally talk about particular deals, but the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel story is so trend worthy. First off, an offshore institutional buyer…

  • Byline Columns/Editorial

    The Late Innings?

    May 16, 2016

    It’s a problematic time where figuring out where markets are going becomes especially difficult. The economic recovery has been relatively weak,…

  • National

    Viva Havana

    March 30, 2016

    Do I have a value real estate proposition for you. Just go to Havana.

  • Byline Columns/Editorial

    The Money Trail

    March 16, 2016

    Market bifurcation is a recurring phenomenon of real estate cycles—there are always the haves and the have nots. It’s typically most apparent in…

  • Commentary

    Revisiting the Era of Less

    February 09, 2016

    I coined the term “Era of Less” about five years ago to describe the period the U.S. would be facing economically coming out of the Great Recession…

  • Acquisitions/Dispositions

    Stock Market Signals

    January 14, 2016

    A CEO of a real estate investment management company wonders what's going on: "Should we be worried? Can you believe the outrageously high appraisals? It's all cap rate driven." The stock market has gyrated in a narrow range, but now trends decidedly lower. Analysts are worried that the market is overpriced as the world economy slides on the slick of well-deserved concern about China. …

  • Threat of Fear

    December 23, 2015

    A few days after the San Bernardino shootings I attended a Council of Foreign Relations luncheon headlined by William Perry, the former defense secretary under Bill Clinton. In the wake of the Paris attacks, he had a less than cheery assessment of the world's nuclear dangers that lost the appetites of most of us in attendance. In particular, for anyone living in New York or Washington DC he had a special warning, there is a…

  • General Due Diligence

    Web Shopping's Moment

    December 03, 2015

    This may be the defining year when the internet cements its place as the shopper preference over schlepping into stores, particularly at Christmas.  And it's pretty amazing when you think back only a decade or so ago when bricks and mortar retailers were confidently predicting only marginal inroads from online purchasing in the future. …

  • High Tech Job Killing

    November 10, 2015

    Where will our next generation of jobs come from? The banking sector clearly is not a major growth industry—company staffing counts go sideways, average Wall Street bonuses slide, and retail operations shrink thanks to cash machines and smart phones. And who needs trading floors and as many day traders when transactions are programmed by computer algorithms?

  • Development

    What About Public Space?

    October 06, 2015

    Apartment buildings continue to propagate in and around urban cores to satisfy move back in trends and meet expected continuing demand from career-focused young adults. High rises with floor-to-ceiling glass and surrounding views, granite kitchen counter tops, well-appointed gyms, roof decks, pools, and business centers are all the rage.  Developers and advisors sell institutional partners and investors on almost can't-miss “build-to-core” projects. Build them, lease them up, sell them to core investors hungry for any…

  • No Better Than Bric-a-Brac

    August 25, 2015

    On NPR yesterday morning the resident expert said all he knows is that “stocks go up and down,” which of course is all any of us really knows. But as I have been saying for quite a while now the U.S. economy and our property markets have been living off low interest rates with this government pump priming making us look better than we deserve and much better than just about anywhere else in the…

  • Experiencing Millennials

    July 22, 2015

    Amid strengthening consumer buying, most department stores continue to struggle—their sales range from sluggish to flat to down.  The big demographic bubble of Millennials dresses down—scruffy beards, jeans, and even tee-shirts become acceptable office attire in more companies. Suits and blazers are only necessary occasionally, if at all. And for years now it has been obvious that most people (not only GenerationY) no longer have as much time or interest to stroll through aisles of…

  • Wary About Office--Tenants Edge

    June 22, 2015

    We are six years into recovery and the national office vacancy rate is hovering somewhere around 15%. Is this the new equilibrium? Ten percent or under vacancy used to be the rationalized comfortable zone for relative supply-demand balance, but not many office markets can boast those numbers, especially out in the suburbs where much of the vacancy concentrates. Now, spec projects ramp up in many downtown markets beyond the relatively safe 24-hour cores like in…

  • Our Exceptional US Infrastructure

    June 04, 2015

    Just before I left for a trip to England last month, an Amtrak train left the tracks north of Philadelphia, killing eight and injuring more than 200. It was not a high speed train—we don't have those in the U.S. In fact we don't have many passenger train lines in this country, and the accident ironically precipitated another round of let's cut funding to Amtrak from a Congress which has chronically underfunded passenger train service.…

  • Acquisitions/Dispositions

    The Five Cap Rate Rule

    May 04, 2015

    I was talking to a portfolio manager last week just as he was reviewing the latest benchmark quarterly return for open-end diversified funds from the NCREIF-ODCE. The total return for the first quarter on the highly followed index was 3.39%, including a hefty appreciation component of 2.20%....

  • Private Equity Firms: The Curse of Success

    April 15, 2015

    Blackstone's $14 billion acquisition of GE's real estate holdings highlights again the concentration of institutional property assets among a relative handful of global private equity players, who mostly trade among themselves, driving up prices. 

  • Water Crisis

    March 30, 2015

    About 15 years ago, I was out in Phoenix and a local was telling me about the unlimited supply of water available from regional aquifers. I had been questioning how the city could maintain all its vernal golf courses in the middle of cactus filled deserts, let alone the rampant suburban development stretching to the horizons. …

  • Potholed Thinking: What's More or Less

    March 10, 2015

    More and Less The monthly jobs report tells a familiar story—the unemployment rate heads down, lots of new low wage jobs are created, the overall labor force has not grown appreciably as more baby boomers retire, and the small minority of people at the high end of the education scale (with graduate degrees) have the greatest opportunity to secure most of the wage gains, while everyone else treads water or loses ground… Employees of Wal-Mart,…

  • Asset Management

    The Real Threat To Malls

    February 23, 2015

    America's malls could be terrorist targets… That's according to the head of U.S. Homeland Security… And this is supposed to be news as we approach 14 years after 9-11? Of course, Secretary Jeh Johnson was trying to make a point to a recalcitrant Congress that his agency needs to be funded to protect the country properly. Throwing a little scare into Americans might get their representatives to act. In particular, the warning signaled--watch out at…

  • Productivity Without Wage Gains

    February 02, 2015

    It's always something, isn't it? Now, the strong dollar restrains economic growth… Exports are off, imports are up… The trade gap widens... Savings from lower gasoline and heating prices offers some offset, but since a majority of Americans have little cushion in their bank accounts or retirement plans with many living pay check to pay check, spending is better but not off the charts.  After lagging in the post-recession malaise, car sales finally spurt. But…

  • Capital Markets

    What is a Secondary Market?

    January 19, 2015

    You know we are in the mature part of the cycle when institutional investors start hashing over just what is a secondary market. What they are really concerned about and trying to rationalize is buying assets in higher risk markets with suspect tenant depth and limited exit strategies if times go bad. And oh by the way that's just about everywhere outside the leading 24-hour cities. It's just a matter of degree of how risky…

  • Convenience at a Price

    December 19, 2014

    All the new apartment construction in-and-around the convention center in Washington DC is another example of sterile neighborhood development sweeping through our cities in a rush to create profitable 24-hour environments.

  • Don't Get Greedy

    December 06, 2014

    So to answer definitively the “What should I do now?” investment question previously posed, I say it's time to hold with the caveat—sell anything sketchy or past its prime. I don't think it's a great time to buy and the always narrow development window is closing.

  • What Should I Do?

    November 19, 2014

    Some recent private chit-chat heard among a group of prominent real estate dealmakers: “Land prices are out of reach.” “I'm struggling with low yields.” “Opportunities are harder to find.” “You can't make the numbers work on (building) condos.” “Not buying existing core assets.” “Spread compression is too much.” “It's insane pricing on industrial.” “Underwriting is loosening.” “It's a tremendous time to borrow.” “Debt has never been cheaper. “We're seeing limited or no call protection--loans will come back to you.” …

  • Development

    Infrastructure Spending Post Mid-terms: More of Less

    November 10, 2014

    The new totally GOP-controlled Congress appears poised to continue the course for infrastructure policy set by the House during the last two sessions— in the politest terms that amounts to benign neglect. In fairness, most Democrats have been reluctant to raise the federal gas tax too or find other funding sources for the nation's rapidly deteriorating roads, bridges and tunnels, not to mention rusting water lines and overtaxed sewage treatment systems as well as crumbling…

  • Development

    Downtown LA Revival—For Millennials Only?

    October 24, 2014

    You can pick up some of your most cogent, well-spoken market information from cab drivers… A hack in LA was no exception earlier this week. “It's the smart young people who work hard and play hard who are moving into downtown.” And he should know—he shuttles them back-and forth between the Staples Center's one-big open sports-bar scene and rental apartment towers, which spring up and shoehorn in among office buildings and decked parking garages east…

  • Wall Street Swoon Raises Real Estate Worries

    October 17, 2014

    Real estate lags, the stock market predicts… So should we be worried? Really only perceptions among investors are finally changing by turning more pessimistic. For real estate markets—retail and hotels will register the impacts sooner. The recent volatile downward moves on Wall Street and world exchanges only underscore what has been obvious—the global economy remains impaired and has lived off extremely low interest rates. Europe has not recovered from the 2008 debt crisis—ageing demographics and welfare state systems…

  • The Waldorf and Strong Dollar

    October 07, 2014

    Waldorf Hotel Sale: Here is a confluence of an offshore investor seeking to park money in a safe place, the power of 24-hour city-global gateway dynamics, and overshooting on iconic properties.  Just up Park Avenue two condo developers hope to cash in on the same factors by building sky-high trophy towers to attract skittish capital.  You think wealthy Chinese are not nervous over the Hong Kong demonstrations—highlighting the widening gap between rich and poor? How…

  • Casino Roulette

    September 19, 2014

    Casinos still seem to be popping up everywhere as seemingly desperate states pass enabling laws, looking to stimulate economic expansion in down-and-out areas or raise tax dollars—anything to overcome the effects of the lukewarm economy on revenue growth.

  • Advantage Developers For Now

    September 08, 2014

    We're now well into the development stage of the real estate cycle—even though commercial vacancy rates are higher than average in many markets this late in recovery.

  • Acquisitions/Dispositions

    Past Performance Does Not Guarantee Future Success

    July 18, 2014

    It's the point in the real estate cycle where early opportunity and value add funds sell assets and pay back investors typically with extremely solid returns. If you invested in apartments or office in major downtowns in 2009 or 2010 you have done rather well. Hotels have also escalated in value and industrials have rebounded. It's time to cash in. …

  • Capital Markets

    Stretching (or Over-reaching) on Deals

    July 01, 2014

    Having trouble putting money out, sustaining a decent yield? Who isn't? It's been a consistent theme too much capital chasing too little quality real estate product, and the smart money is holding onto stabilized, core product in the top-tier, 24-hour markets. So investment managers and private equity players find themselves stretching—their investment parameters, the range of markets they consider, the property types they seek, and the ultimate deals they do—to keep their clients and partners happy,…

  • New York's Condo Reach: How Much is Too Much?

    June 16, 2014

    Marble and granite may still be in favor as part of the executive suite, only now its in kitchen countertops and shower-bathroom accommodations rather than in vast entrance lobbies and curtain walls.

  • Employment

    Economy Peaking?

    May 28, 2014

    Jonathan D. Miller recaps the prevailing economic trends, five years into the recovery...

  • Employment

    Take Off the Blinders

    March 31, 2014

    Facebook's recently purchased a virtual reality goggle company. Are they putting the blinders on everyone else?

  • Byline Columns/Editorial

    The So Uncool Burbs

    March 18, 2014

    The use of public transit hit its highest level since 1956, Sbarros is bankrupt, JC Penney and Sears woes continue...with its base seemingly dwindling, what will happen to the suburban mall?

  • Paris Theme Park

    February 28, 2014

    Europe essentially remains in the doldrums, and the French economy begins to look more like Italy's or Spain's and less like Germany's, while the Germans feel the drag of the rest of the region.

  • No Free Ride

    February 12, 2014

    High speed rail in the United States continues to go nowhere fast…

  • Following the Money

    January 17, 2014

    Coming out of 2013, the big institutional core real estate funds reportedly are scoring handsome low-to- mid-teens annualized returns, continuing an excellent run. Concentrating investments in the major urban areas has been paying off as capital continues to flood into these markets, creating cap rate compression in an ongoing low interest rate environment. Over the last several years, apartments had a nice spike, now industrial real estate is taking over, Class A office in the best submarkets generates NOI growth off renter demand for flexible and sustainable space, and those good old fortress malls continue to score, attracting all the top retailers, who winnow positions in lesser shopping centers.

  • Nowhere to Go

    January 02, 2014

    A ton of money sits on the sidelines looking to invest in real estate—is it $50 billion, $70 billion, $100 billion—who really knows? But by all accounts there continues to be plenty of capital that seems priced out of the top markets, remains skittish about everywhere else, or both.

  • Happy New Year! Will It Be?

    January 02, 2014

    In the real estate world, 2014 will be more of the same. And so you want something more exciting and different? Look it could be a lot worse…

  • Houston's Ride

    December 02, 2013

    The chamber of commerce spirit can be counted on to get the provincial juices flowing—where does my city (metro, town) fit in the pecking order of investment choice? Locals look at the year-end surveys to see where their market ranks. And darn if it looks pretty much the same every year. One way or another the vast amount of capital flows head into the familiar 24-hour cities, which I identified nearly 20 years ago in Emerging Trends. The order may change from year to year, but institutional capital wants to be in New York, Washington, DC and San Francisco first and foremost. And Los Angeles, Boston, and Seattle will always be perennial favorites too. These are the places where the nation's economic engines concentrate and most commerce gets done. It is where tenant demand is strongest, driving NOI growth and real estate values. In downturns, these markets tend to hold value better and recover more quickly. That's been true again in the most recent cycle, and these places are where the smart money invests to buy and own. They are the real estate blue chips.

  • Acquisitions/Dispositions

    Taking the Industry Pulse… And What Does Twitter Augur?

    November 12, 2013

    A year ago we were saying pricing in the nation's leading markets looks mighty rich and asking whether an investor could feel comfortable buying existing assets with the risk of rising interest rates. Well, today we are contemplating the very same question as more international money looks to park itself in our 24-hour cities, prices have edged even higher and the economy has perked up to the point where the Fed may be more inclined to start adjusting up rates in the direction of more normalized levels. At the same time, comfort with secondary and tertiary markets has only marginally improved—continuing lackluster tenant demand does not justify an enhanced outlook and the potential for higher interest rates poses a greater threat for the prospects of commodity properties.

  • Atlanta

    Suffering Suburban Office

    November 04, 2013

    Fifteen years ago Gwinnett County northeast of Atlanta was one the country's fastest growing places—a center of ravenous suburban expansion—widening boulevards and parkways, strip shopping centers laced along gasoline alleys, disconnected office parks, residential subdivisions off dead-end cul de sacs, and swaths of blacktopped parking spaces. Local officials blocked extending the Atlanta MARTA subway system into the county, ensuring car dependence while consciously setting up transit barriers from poor sections of the metropolitan area to the south.

  • Economy

    Capital Concentration

    October 22, 2013

    Property values continue to escalate wildly in the global gateways as the wealthy and ultra-wealthy look to park money in the world's perceived safest and most stable places—on the top tier that means London and New York, but the effect in the U.S. extends from San Francisco and districts in Los Angeles to the Miami waterfront.

  • The Same Old Song

    October 02, 2013

    The government shutdown is a sure fire way to reduce government spending, while temporarily cutting the pay checks for millions of Americans… Obama Care is designed to reduce the amount we pay for health care impacting a huge profit-center industry that has been milking businesses and individuals for years with the highest costs in the world. Time will tell if the new health care plan will work… One way or another the federal government will temper its spending when the political parties work out some deal—actually shrinking spending is not in the cards… States and local governments, meanwhile, curtail services and eliminate what have been good paying jobs with generous benefits... And those public pensions are the next in the cross hairs as we have been pointing out.

  • Economy

    A Dream or Finally Facing Reality

    August 30, 2013

    It was easily missed in President Obama's speech on the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King's march on Washington DC. It was a short passage on the challenges facing the country and the impediments to realizing Dr. King's dream—The President said:“We shouldn't fool ourselves. The task will not be easy. Since 1963 the economy's changed.“The twin forces of technology and global competition have subtracted those jobs that once provided a foothold into the middle class, reduced the bargaining power of American workers.”

  • The MOOC Threat

    August 22, 2013

    So-called massive open, online courses (MOOCs) sound like a great idea. But what does it mean for real estate?

  • Shareholder Value and Real Estate

    July 30, 2013

    Fast food workers around the country are rebelling at wages bordering close to the minimum wage and the fast food companies threaten to automate more of their systems and eliminate workers so their message to workers is take it or leave it.

  • Shareholder Value and Real Estate

    July 30, 2013

    Fast food workers around the country are rebelling at wages bordering close to the minimum wage and the fast food companies threaten to automate more of their systems and eliminate workers so their message to workers is take it or leave it.

  • Shareholder Value and Real Estate

    July 30, 2013

    Fast food workers around the country are rebelling at wages bordering close to the minimum wage and the fast food companies threaten to automate more of their systems and eliminate workers so their message to workers is take it or leave it.

  • Motown's Message

    July 20, 2013

    The car companies brought their headquarters back into the city. The Tigers kept their stadium in downtown and the Lions moved back. You would see some PR about new tech start-ups and strip of restaurant and entertainment venues in the heart of the city. But the population continued to hollow out and vast swaths of empty areas literally were turned back to nature or in other words abandoned. City services stopped in many near empty neighborhoods and the police force is able to solve only a small fraction of reported crimes.

  • Twinkie World

    July 16, 2013

    There's an estimated $70 billion in institutional capital wanting to find a home in real estate, but unable to get in the door. Meanwhile, hundreds of wannabe managers and partnerships try to raise more money when managers and operators with secured commitments have trouble finding sound investments… The top markets appear too pricey, everywhere else appears too risky, especially the further out in the suburbs you look.

  • Topping Out?

    July 02, 2013

    At lunch yesterday someone raised the lurking question—“Have values topped out?” Since we were sitting in the middle of Manhattan sushi den, I presumed he was talking about the New York office market. And of course, New York is a special case—a unique, global gateway where everybody wants in and foreign money all too readily grabs for a piece of the action.

  • The Worm Starts to Turn

    June 24, 2013

    ADDENDUM: Blog Addendum—How revealing is the news behind Tuesday's CNN headline after Wall Street's rebound from recent market declines—“Stocks higher on weaker GDP data—hopes rise that interest rates stay low.” Is this investing turned on its head? We used to buy shares in companies based on their prospects for increased earnings from sound business models. Here we get more news that reinforces views about relative weakness in the underlying economy and that sends markets into buy mode, because the government will keep printing more money and provide cheap financing, which helps trading spreads and CFO balance sheet manipulations. Unfortunately, real estate investors need increased GDP to spur office leasing and retail sales for higher shopping center returns. In that vein, the announcement from big law firm Weil Gotshal should not be welcome news to office brokers. Weil announced layoffs of associates and compensation reductions for some partners, probably a harbinger of more thinning to come among the professional ranks where firms cannot command the same level of fees from corporate clients they once did. That gives Bernanke and friends more prodding to be cautious and keep rates low. It's just another buy signal, right? As noted below: the U.S economy is certainly no great shakes, but China deserves our special concern…

  • Hold Onto Your Wallets

    June 12, 2013

    There was another article in the paper over the weekend about how more mutual fund investors are wising up and moving away from stock picker managers to index funds, because the majority of pickers don't beat the index while charging significantly higher fees for their questionable value add, further eating into returns.

  • Employment

    Infrastructure—Jobs or Jam-ups?

    May 28, 2013

    Government deficits decrease, partly because of budget cuts and higher taxes, but mostly just because the economy is improving enough to generate more business and commerce and more income and sales taxes.

  • Advisor Shakeout Underway

    May 15, 2013

    So many real estate advisors looking for new allocations to stay afloat, so many lackluster or worse returns to find in legacy funds, so much capital looking for yield, and so much of that money going only to the top performing fund managers while the also-rans run out of time.

  • Economy

    Follow the Yankees

    May 01, 2013

    Despite a solid, early-season winning record, the New York Yankees were selling grandstand and bleacher seats for $5 this week, according to a dispatch on Yahoo. It's not just because Jeter and A-Rod are on the disabled list and who-knows-who is in the line-up to replace them and some of the other big name stars. Attendance is down, because the average fan just cannot afford the price tags the Yankees envisioned for seating when they formulated plans for their new billion dollar stadium—those $2,500 box seats around home plate, tailored to the Wall Street expense account crowd—have always gone wanting since the new stadium opened in 2009 and now Yankees tickets are always available for online resale at a fraction of face value. The Yankees, meanwhile, are trying to get out from under the salary cap after paying egregiously outlandish salaries to A-Rod and others before the Era of Less took hold. If Average Joe cannot keep up, eventually the guys at the top of the compensation pyramid will make less too.

  • Economy

    More of the Same

    April 24, 2013

    Consider these items:•Gold gets hammered—investors who bought in and created a bit of a bubble worrying about inflation now back off in a general commodity decline as China stumbles and Europe remains mired in recession. The U.S. just keeps printing money and now Japan joins in on quantitative easing after two decades of keeping interest rates at near zero without much impact on the pricing of goods.•The housing market strengthens in part off pent up demand—a growing population needs more places to live. But much of the home buying in woebegone markets has been by big institutional investors, not Average Joes, who still cannot get mortgages notwithstanding bargain prices either because of bad credit or not enough cash to put down or both. The institutions will rent to the Average Joes in the meantime, but eventually hope to make a killing when Average Joe can afford to buy at a higher price.•McDonalds reports its global sales are off and value meals are back to increase market share. •Austerity has not worked in Europe---the latest numbers show even Germany begins to stumble, and now the sequester cuts start to bite into the U.S. economy—the jobs numbers have not been inspiring and our friends, the economists, suggest there won't be a pick up until year end.

  • Flight to Quality

    April 18, 2013

    At a dinner party the other night with a Manhattan real estate agent and a couple from New Jersey the conversation shifted suddenly from spouses dying of aneurysms to the local residential property markets. In the city, top-end brokers find themselves in a back-to-the-future circa 2006 frenzy—it's a seller's market and bidding wars ramp up prices with all or mostly cash buyers having a major edge. Developers of skyscraper condos nearing completion have timed the market extremely well, attracting nervous offshore money looking for a safe haven.

  • Aggregate (external)

    The Problem with Water

    April 01, 2013

    Floods and droughts—they're part of biblical lore. In our history, there have been various hurricanes, the Johnstown flood, and the Depression era Dust Bowl. The Mississippi from time to time overflows its banks and Atlanta's reservoir system almost ran dry in 2007.

  • Mixed Messages

    March 11, 2013

    The stock market and number of food stamp recipients (nearly 48 million Americans) hit new records at the same time—both new highs, just as unemployment ticks down to 7.7% and private hiring kicks up—notably in construction. The payroll tax gnaws at weekly pay checks and it's too early to understand the impacts of federal government spending cuts (sequester)—at least scattered layoffs and furloughs particularly but not exclusively in the public sector. The Fed keeps interest rates low, because the bankers do not see enough evidence of economic improvement, and the big commercial banks pass their stress tests—what a surprise. Instead of hiring, companies feel compelled to return excess cash to shareholders in record dividends or undertake stock buybacks—they can stay more profitable if they keep lean and do their hiring in cheaper overseas markets. The nation's household wealth has been restored thanks to the recent stock market boom and improvement in the housing market—some folks are at least feeling more affluent. Consumers seem to be borrowing again to buy things after paying down debt. But wages are not going up appreciably and the benefit burden keeps shifting to workers. At least health care costs are not increasing as much as they had been.

  • Yahoo and Office Demand

    February 26, 2013

    Office building owners, struggling with relatively anemic demand, may find some measure of comfort in Yahoo's decision to rein in its work-from-home employees and mandate their return to the cube-world. Is this the start of a trend reversal that could increase occupancies and buoy rents among office tenants? Probably not, although the Yahoo move may give some CEOs in other companies pause about letting home-officing get out of hand.

  • Aggregate (external)

    Lawyering—Not What It Used To Be

    February 14, 2013

    Have you followed the recent commentary about law schools in crisis? The three-year curriculum is too long, the cost-benefit isn't there except for tenured law professors, graduates emerge with enormous student debt, there are too few jobs, and far fewer that pay well. Law schools are talking about changing curriculums, possibly cutting a year out. The dirty little secret is—many intelligent college grads could pass the bar exam after taking one of those intense prep courses, certainly without all the law school course padding.

  • Economy

    Is Slow Growth Sustainable?

    February 04, 2013

    The unemployment rate inches back up close to 8%, GDP sinks into negative territory for the fourth quarter 2012, and the stock market heads for new highs as its price-earnings ratio stands at a rather lofty 22. Huh? Are we fooling ourselves again?

  • Top of the Market?

    January 23, 2013

    That looks like a top of the market price for the Sony Building in the heart of Manhattan's Midtown. Sure it's a trophy building near the most prime locations in one of world's best (and certainly America's top) real estate market(s). But paying $1.1 billion at a time when rents appear to have crested is a swallow hard proposition.

  • Capital Markets

    Safe Harbor for Now

    January 11, 2013

    My trip to Israel this week (for a speech to Israeli investors in U.S. real estate) reinforced the view that offshore investors see the U.S. as their only sure shot safe haven. Israelis generally have proved extremely savvy investors and the group of over 120 I met with had little interest in Europe—still viewed as a basket case economy—and apparently even less in China and other parts of Asia—not transparent enough.

  • Economy

    Digging Deeper

    January 02, 2013

    At least initially the stock market skyed higher over Congress's down-to-the-wire fiscal cliff vote, but really does raising taxes and putting off dealing with deficit cuts for another two months diminish uncertainty and discomfort about the future course of the U.S. economy? Reality needs to hit home.

  • Aggregate (external)

    Green Shoots Appear in Fallow Development Field

    December 21, 2012

    After nearly five fallow years, developers start to see (a few) opportunities beyond the obvious ones for apartments. In any gateway market, building an efficient floor-plate, LEED gold or platinum office tower will command attention from tenants who start to pay up for the chance to reduce their operating costs. They can lower utility bills, gain greater flexibility and decrease future expenses in altering layouts, win kudos and possibly attract young talent for using environmentally correct space, and buy into the notion that more natural light and fresher air creates healthier, more productive work environments. These new wave buildings successfully leech tenants out of last generation space and can be cheaper to build than buying existing trophy product at current cap rates.

  • Aggregate (external)

    There's A Lot Weighing Down the World

    December 21, 2012

    Patience is a virtue, right? We've been waiting for the recovery to kick in and demand to pick up. But this spring has not been an upbeat time. What's happening is not subtle and should be particularly unsettling, especially on the international scene.

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    Only Ourselves to Blame

    December 16, 2012

    Long before Newtown and the ongoing wave of mass shootings gripping the U.S., the fiction of safe suburbs versus dangerous cities had been upended. The urban white flight of the 1960 and 1970s stopped and even reversed in recent years as 24-hour cities appeared safe and secure, especially in upscale neighborhoods. Today young families may move out of cities back to suburbs, looking for better public schools, but today they rarely leave out of fear of violence or for a safer environment.

  • The Store is No Sure Thing

    November 29, 2012

    The whole Black Friday—now Cyber Monday shopping spectacle has turned into a Pavlovian binge by consumers—people rush into stores and now onto their computer devices lured by the prospect of bargains and buy plenty of other things they don’t really need, because it’s the time of the year to behave this way.

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    Will We Ever Learn?

    November 15, 2012

    After my annual foray to talk to real estate groups in Canada where lender prudence encouraged by regulator oversight has helped keep commercial property markets in equilibrium for the past two decades, I returned to the USA and read in the New York Times about how retailers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot have developed shadow banking schemes to extend credit at higher than average credit card interest rates to folks with low credit scores. The idea, of course, is to boost sales just as regulators here have tightened the screws on bank consumer lending practices to avoid the pitfalls of people buying things that they cannot afford—remember five years ago like the sub-prime mortgage crisis. And so what will happen? Many of these cash strapped buyers, who never should have been extended this credit, will eventually default on their credit card balances or consumer loans. Do we ever learn?

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    Coastline Real Estate—An ever Bigger Gamble

    November 02, 2012

    Sandy will turn out to be much worse than Katrina in terms of economic and personal dislocation after hitting dead-on the U.S.’s most important gateway city. And the storm’s fury is just another reminder of what’s in store for coastal real estate in coming decades—likely more destruction and devastation. I say this as an owner of a beach house on Long Island’s south shore that sits barely 300 yards from the ocean.

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    Emerging Trends: Optimism Clouded by Uncertainty

    October 23, 2012

    The snap audience poll matched the outlook for Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2013 at the report’s release during the Urban Land Institute Fall Meeting in Denver this past week. Before presenting the findings of this year’s forecast, I asked the 700 plus in attendance to answer whether they thought the real estate markets next year would be better, the same or worse than in 2012. Overwhelmingly they signaled better, maybe 20% or so “the same” and only a few thought 2013 would be worse.

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