Going in search of some savvy predictions for next year, GlobeSt.com and Real Estate Southern California sought out five experts from the Southern California region and asked them for their predictions for 2009. Each person gave five answers. Three of their answers appeared in the December issue of the magazine, which can be viewed in the pages of RESOCAL. Two bonus answers appear below.

What the experts came up with runs the gamut, and of course, many of our resident gurus try to tackle what’s arguably the biggest question that looms on the horizon: When do we hit bottom?

[IMGCAP(1)]Jack Kyser, chief economist, Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

1) A challenge for the real estate industry is that a lot of younger people will leave the industry. This could cause a shortage of talent a few years out.

2) Don’t forget the hotel industry. A lot of capacity is coming on line, and the outlook for 2009 is quite guarded. There has been a proliferation of hotel brands. And establishing them in a down market is going to be difficult.

[IMGCAP(2)]Hessam Nadji, managing director of research services, Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services

1) Investment sales will start to pick up after the first quarter of 2009 as buyers and sellers begin to redefine pricing. Financing should begin to ease by mid-year, leaving it far from generally easy to “available,” barring any more shocks and additional government rescue blunders—a tall order on the assumptions side of the equation.

2) This is not the great depression, the end of capitalism or free markets but get ready for over-regulation, at least for a while. Cycles are made of over-reaction on the way up and over-reaction on the way down and we are now in the midst of the ultra state of fear that comes with a major economic crisis, but will not last forever. This cycle will create tremendous buying opportunities, even more so than would have been logically expected just a few months ago before the downturn escalated into a full scale financial crisis. But buyers should not expect all properties to be discounted the same across-the-board—quality will once again matter and the spread between “A” and “B” assets and primary versus secondary, versus tertiary markets, which was temporarily compressed, is widening and here to stay as well it should.

[IMGCAP(3)]Tom Sherlock, Naiop SoCal 2009 president

1) Conventional wisdom will once again be revealed as far from wise. The current general believe that that there is plenty of capital waiting on the sidelines to pounce when prices drop further will be shown as hope rather than wisdom during 2009. Many institutional investors are facing a denominator effect, which has arisen from the plunging valuation of their equity portfolios, and their real estate allocations are being pinched as a result. And well capitalized, entrepreneurial firms will benefit from the window of opportunity, which will ultimately be open for a longer time than many expect.

2) In the spirit of making a far-out prediction—new leadership within many financial institutions fully recognize and write down their bad loans and assets while the new Obama administration makes a huge investment in upgraded national infrastructure. The quick and decisive business and political actions end the credit freeze, boost employment, and energize consumers such that commercial occupancies levels increase slightly by year end 2009, effective rental rates stabilize, and lenders provide 75% leverage to viable commercial real estate projects.

[IMGCAP(4)]Tony Thompson, chairman and CEO, Thompson National Properties

1) Orange County office vacancy will have positive absorption in the fourth quarter with negative absorption in the first three quarters.

2) Tony Thompson will be back on Grubb & Ellis board of directors.

[IMGCAP(5)]Lew Feldman, partner and Los Angeles office chair, Goodwin Procter LLP

1) Investments and Opportunities. Bank mergers will continue, as failed banks and savings and loans are taken over by the FDIC or OTS and sold either as institutions or as asset strips. Discounted notes representing interests in construction and asset loans will continue to trade, funded by private equity, institutional and life insurance capital. The CMBS and CDO markets will remain in a cryogenic freeze, due to difficulty in obtaining consensus among owners.

REITs with low leverage will acquire assets coming to market from over-leveraged REITs. Private REITs and private equity will begin to trickle out capital for distressed assets. Purchases of single family residences at foreclosure by aggregators that purchase, rent for cash flow and then sell when the market recovers due to legislatively created liquidity, will progress at a faster clip. The public and private sectors will view properties located close to transportation infrastructure with increasing interest. Affordable housing will gain momentum as the availability of low income housing tax credits, assuming that tax credits regain status as a desirable investment vehicle.

2) A look ahead. Contrary to history, the stock market is arguably not a good proxy for the health of our economy today, and, in many respects, is largely irrelevant to the real estate situation. Instead, real estate industry participants will fare better in calling a turn-around by observing three economic indicators: the housing supply overhang, the TED spread, and the unemployment picture. A turn-around is in the distance—the far distance.

But, as Dennis Miller would say at the end of every monologue: “That’s just my opinion; I could be wrong.”

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