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(Carl Cronan is editor of Real Estate Florida.)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL-A complete reset of the capital markets may help get commercial real estate back to full strength, experts told the audience during the last day of the CoreNet Global Orlando Summit at Walt Disney World on Tuesday. At the same time, CRE must also wait for housing prices, a root cause of the current investment slowdown, to rebound over the next two years, they said.

Opportunity and private-debt funds are likely to be the first responders to a turnaround in commercial property investment, said Kenneth Rudy, president of capital markets with Jones Lang LaSalle in La Jolla, CA. He added that the banking industry will need to clear the deck of failed institutions and securities should be re-rated to solve the problem.

“Whenever somebody is losing, someone else is gaining,” Rudy told attendees at a morning session on corporate real estate at Disney’s Swan and Dolphin Resort. “The first ones back into the markets will be those who have recalibrated their assets.”

While opportunists stand to gain from the ebbing market for commercial properties as early as next year, Rudy said home prices aren’t likely to rebound until the third quarter of 2010. “All of this started with housing,” he said, “and it’s going to end with housing.”

Rudy further noted that mortgage-backed securities, credit default swaps, a lack of confidence in financial institutions and global and inter-market linkages contributed to the economic “perfect storm” now under way, with China even launching its own $586-billion stimulus plan earlier this week. “Events are happening almost daily that cause you to recalibrate constantly,” he said.

Jim Costello, principal and director of investment strategy with CB Richard Ellis/Torto Wheaton Research in Boston, said office landlords are having credit problems similar to their tenants, which could make concessions more difficult now than in past downturns. Although asking rents are certain to decline as vacancy rises, “it may be harder to take advantage of that,” he said.

CoreNet Global CEO Prentice Knight asked the audience for a show of hands as to whether they would increase, decrease or maintain their real estate budgets in 2009. The vast majority indicated that they would scale back budgets, while only about 10% of the room raised their hands for keeping them the same as this year. Only a few hands went up to indicate an increase.

GETTING THROUGH TO THE BOSS: Plenty of technology is available that allows employees to work just about anywhere, yet top bosses are apparently still cool to the idea of letting people out of the office, according to a survey of CoreNet Global Orlando Summit attendees. The survey results indicate that 77% of respondents see alternative workplace strategies (AWS) programs growing worldwide over the next three years, though 45% cite lacking support from senior management as the biggest challenge.

Employee attraction/retention and a better work-life balance are the two main reasons corporations are implementing AWS programs, said Katherine Randolph, director of unified communications for Redmond, WA-based Microsoft Corp., which conducted the survey with CoreNet Global. Secondary reasons include cutting costs, improving productivity and combining physical and virtual work environments.

Randolph said AWS programs aren’t intended to completely replace traditional workplaces, particularly given the prospect of rising office vacancy over the next several quarters. “Clearly the office is still important as a place for collaboration and social connectivity,” she said.

CLEANING UP THE WEB: Economic development groups looking to get their message across to expanding companies are not using their Web sites properly, experts said during an earlier roundtable discussion. They said some groups focus too much on dazzling graphics and cute slogans, forgetting about the type of information corporate decision-makers really need.

“Many Web sites don’t even include a list of the local employers and what industries they operate in, or a listing of recent new location and expansions in the area,” said Dennis Donovan, principal of Bridgewater, NJ-based WDG Consulting. Companies want that type of information to better understand a region being considered for a new facility, he said.

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