DALLAS-T’is the season for forecast events, with Transwestern Dallas and Delta Associates unveiling their predictions for 2008 and letting its team and clients know where the market now stands.

“I hope none of us take for granted the strength of the great community that we have,” said Ross Perot Jr., Transwestern’s TrendLines’ trendsetter of the year and a Dallas/Fort Worth favorite son who took Hillwood from a startup to a multi-billion-dollar powerhouse in 19 years. And it was Delta Associates’ CEO Gregory Leisch from Washington, DC who drove home just how strong the regional market is for attendees of the fifth annual TrendLines, held at Northwood Club in North Dallas.

“It’s my view the credit crunch will not bleed into a recession,” Leisch said. From now until 2009, he’s predicting increases, marginal in many cases, which will keep the economy “sturdy but not robust.” The bird’s-eye view of Dallas/Fort Worth calls for 70,000 jobs annually, slight rent hikes for all product types and absorptions in line with historical averages. The latest job count shows the region added 78,000 jobs by the end of August, but Texas is bound to feel the impact of the nation’s economic slowdown.

As the economy slows, Leisch predicted that it won’t significantly impact the investment sales arena although he does believe that the sector hit its peak this year. “There is still so much money on the sidelines that we think investment sales will still be robust for several more years,” he said.

The condensed version of his forecast shows office rent growth of 3% to 4% in Dallas and 2% to 3% in Fort Worth; apartment rent gains of 2% to 3% marketwide; industrial, a 2% climb; and retail, an uptick of at least 2%. The gains, of course, aren’t universal since “better buildings in better submarkets will outperform this,” Leisch says.

Leisch was quick to remind the audience that the US economy is 70% consumer driven. And, pollsters say consumer sentiment is at its lowest ebb since 9/11 so that’s the one caveat that Leisch embedded into his predictions.

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