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NEW YORK C ITY-There was a definite pro-CBD slant to this month’s meeting of the recently combined Counselors of Real Estate and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. And there’s little surprise in that when you consider the panelists: Ray Mikulich of Lehman Brothers and Jerry Speyer of Tishman Speyer Properties. A lively talk about the current and future states of the local, national and global markets was moderated by TIAA-CREF’s Joe Luik.

While it was agreed that current asset pricing is overblown, it was also made clear that what an investor pays isn’t as important as what the outcome is. “Are investors overpaying if they’re buying at 6% or 9% IRR?” Mikulich asked. “Yes, but whether or not you lose money is another question. And whether or not those investors get hurt depends on how long the recovery takes. Current values do carry some risk.”

The pricing is indeed what Speyer termed “very weird, and 10 years from now, people will look back at interest rates and say, ‘I could have made a lot more money.’ But they are not looking at the other aspects of real estate value.”

To skirt that sort of Monday-morning quarterbacking, Speyer revealed to the SRO crowd that his firm approaches every potential buy with a firm “break” threshold in place, and that is strictly governed by the company’s investment committee.

“We are never compelled to make any investment simply because we have the capital available to us,” he continued. “We won’t make a move unless we feel good about it.”

In down times, talk of diversification as a hedge creeps into many conversations, but none of the three experts on the panel embraced the strategy–at least in terms of their geographic spreads, and all confessed their penchant for big-city deals. “If I had stayed in good urban areas,” confessed Luik, “I would have made a lot more money.”

“I’m a big believer in big cities,” stated Speyer, “where you have a concentration of different businesses. If you limit your investment periscope to 10 or 15 of the largest cities, you are covering a huge population. But if you look at just the top half of that list, there’s more certainty that you’ll make money.”

“Diversity is good in a bond portfolio,” Luik stated. “Real estate is different.

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