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CHICAGO-Class B is the place to be, at least for investors and lenders in two sectors. That appears to be one consensus from Chicago Real Estate Council’s recent capital markets forum, which highlighted the challenges owners of class A office and multifamily assets are experiencing compared to their counterparts in the class B arena.

For instance, LJ Melody & Co. managing director John Clifford says the disparity is underscored by his firm’s underwriting of two Downtown office buildings. The class A building is “struggling to maintain its price point,” Clifford says, while the class B building “is doing just fine.”

Meanwhile, LaSalle Bank chief credit officer John Grossman reports not much has changed in the multifamily sector, where unemployment is wreaking considerably more havoc on the operating statements of class A building owners. Many owners of class A properties are offering one-year leases that include a 13th month on the house, he reports, in an attempt to combat an oversupply of buildings and defection of tenants to homeownership.

Meanwhile, job losses in 26 of the last 32 months have had less of an effect on class B buildings, Grossman says. “It’s not impacting class B nearly as much,” he says. “Multifamily continues to be very strong in the eyes of CMBS because of its class B orientation.”

In addition to job losses, Allstate Investments, LLC’s Robert Treleven worries about a potential drop in consumer spending that might end the relative party the retail sector has been enjoying. Although about half of the money has been reinvested back into real estate, home equity lines of credit have helped fuel consumer spending, Treleven notes.

“At some point, there’s a hit,” he adds. “Once interest rates pop up, it’ll put a big dent in retail spending.”

Another concern of Clifford’s is softness in the industrial sector. “Part of that is China,” he says, referring to the outsourcing of labor to that country. “But there’s another school of thought that says, ‘If you build it, they will come’.”

That is predicated on the industrial sector being the first to rebound during a recovery, Clifford explains. “It’s a tough gamble,” he warns. “No one knows the timing of that.”

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