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SO, HOW’S YOUR CONFIDENCE LEVEL?

More than 460 respondents to last week’s poll represented a spectrum of confidence levels. Interesting, however, is the fact that in this optimistic-by-nature industry, the minority (16%) state that their “Guns Are Blazing.” A dire 25% think the next few months will be “Bad. Real Bad.” The majority however (59%, in fact), do mix equal parts of optimism and bad news, even as the recession clouds gather, sticking in large part to “Cautious Optimism.” Commentator Ray Torto, who is principal and chief strategist at Boston-based CB Richard Ellis Torto Wheaton, counts himself among the latter. Here’s why:

“Everyone’s debating if there’s going to be a recession. Our view is that there won’t be but that’s not the right question.

“The question is how slow the growth is going to be in 2008 and into 2009. It’s going to be slow and we’ve been telling our clients that for more than a year. It makes no difference if the growth is point-one or minus-point-one. It’s still crappy, and it comes down to making sure your confidence level is in line with this reality.

The 16% in your poll? I know those guys. A lot of them are our institutional clients who are equity buyers and are predominantly cash or low-leverage buyers who–to quote many of them–keep their powder dry. They go for properties with less competition.

“And I know the 25%, too. They either bought during the flurry of late ’06 or the first half of ’07 at prices that were a little too high and they knew it. They expected things to just go straight up and now they have a valuation issue. Or they took short-term debt and thought they could bridge to long-term, and then the world changed. The poll makes a lot of sense because there are those two extremes.

“Then there are the big chunk of people in the middle who have a diversified portfolio and have to make sure they bring home some return. They’re cautiously optimistic because they know prices will take a bit of a hit. Without debt it’s going to be a buyer’s market, but they also understand that–as I tell our clients–while commercial real estate has the same last name as residential real estate, they’re not related at all. While fundamentals are stalling, they’re not getting worse. One man’s chaos is another man’s opportunity.”

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