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HOUSTON-In the immediate wake of Katrina, much of the city’s real estate community agrees on two things: needs must be met and it’s only temporary.

There has been a battery of calls from New Orleans business owners, requesting everything from housing to business to industrial needs. “The real estate brokerage community is being deluged by calls from people who have businesses with every conceivable type of problem, from space to lease, to homes to live in, to property to buy,” says Michael Hill, owner and president of local firm, Michael Hill Properties Inc. “The real estate community in Houston has been mobilized to assist in whatever way they can.”

“We’ve seen everything from ‘hey I need temporary space just to get my phones working’ to ‘boy, we need to find a longer-term solution,” adds Chip Clarke, president of the Southwest region for locally based Transwestern Commercial Services Inc. “It’s been pretty fluid.”

On the other hand, many professionals in the Houston real estate market tell GlobeSt.com that what is going on now is likely to be temporary, rather than permanent, at least, on the commercial and industrial side. “Our offices haven’t seen companies needing long-term leases. We’re seeing shorter-term deals, with a lot of those seeming to be for 50,000 sf and above,” says John Ferruzzo, vice president of NAI Houston.

“Short term” means everything from month-to-month to as long as one year, but rarely beyond. Also, because of the urgency for space and immediate operations, build-outs and renovations tend to be left by the wayside. “There just isn’t the time to do extensive build-outs,” explains Jim Arket, senior vice president with Grubb & Ellis’ Houston office. “The goal is to put the people into the space and have them functional, rather than making the space functional over the long term.”

But it isn’t only the office and industrial space that is experiencing an increase in demand. Corporate relocation properties and multifamily properties are seeing a huge influx, as people move here to rebuild their businesses and need places to stay.

Much like on the office side, owners of multifamily properties are offering month-to-month rentals as opposed to year-long leases in an attempt to try to get people over the short-term need. “The National Multifamily Housing Association has issued a memo asking landlords and owners not to charge people premiums on rentals for going month to month,” says Maria Tiratsuyan, senior market analyst with O’Connor & Associates in Houston.

Different from the commercial side, however, is the possibility of a longer-term impact on apartment occupancy rates in Houston. “It’ll especially have an impact on the class B and C buildings,” Tiratsuyan predicts. “There has been quite a bit of vacancy in that inventory. And those are properties that many of the refugees are likely to go to because the rents are lower.”

Will Balthrope, senior director of multihousing for Cushman & Wakefield of Texas Inc., sees similar demand among corporate relocation housing, pointing to Signature Palms, a variable lease apartment community managed by a C&W client, as an example.

“A few days ago, a corporate relocation company came and leased every unit we had,” he says. “We were at 80% occupied as it was and they leased 43 units for six months at market rate. It’ll be my guess that they won’t pull out in six months, either.”

Nor is Signature Palms the sole exception, Balthrope continues. “I’ve been hearing that a lot of other properties like Signature Palms are going as quickly,” he says. “The numbers have been in the thousands.”

It’s hard to tell, however, what will come about in the long term. “It’s a wait-and-see mode. No one is really certain what will occur,” Ferruzzo says.

Still for the time being, the Houston community is lending a hand, whether the need is short-term industrial or long-term corporate relocation. “There’s the sense around here that no one wants to take advantage of a situation,” Clarke says. “But everyone is responding to the market and is doing what they can to at least let people know what options they have.”

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