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(Carl Cronan is editor of Real Estate Florida.)

GAINESVILLE, FL-A new report by the University of Florida’s Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies shows that statewide confidence in practically all sectors is at its lowest point in three years of surveys. Going back further, current conditions for real estate are comparable to those during the 1974 recession.

The center’s survey of economic experts finds that belief in the market has sagged to new lows that haven’t been experienced in Florida in decades, particularly in commercial real estate sectors such as retail, office and multifamily condo. Rather than seeing only short-term trouble, as in recent years, experts are revising their outlook for recovery well beyond 2009.

“It looks like we’re in a pretty tough spiral for the moment,” Wayne Archer, executive director of the Bergstrom Center, tells GlobeSt.com. “No one I know has a good handle on when things are going to turn around.”

What began as a financial crisis related to subprime lending has been compounded by rising unemployment, tightened household spending and retail closings, according to Archer. He adds that this state used to be able to count on population growth to attract retailers, but now South Carolina and Georgia are outpacing Florida in new resident gains.

Investment expectations are lower for all forms of retail, except freestanding big-box stores, with office following closely behind, Archer says. On the other hand, the industrial/warehouse and multifamily/apartment sectors appear to be holding up better during the current recession, he says.

Expectations for condo sales aren’t likely to get much worse because they are already bad, Archer notes in the survey results, pointing to that sector as the proverbial canary in a coal mine for real estate market conditions. The good news there, he says, is that there are far fewer foreclosures in Gainesville and other parts of northern Florida than in the state’s southern half, with Lee County becoming “king” of foreclosures.

One possible sign of hope for Florida real estate, Archer points out, is President Barack Obama’s efforts to advance federal initiatives set forth last year to reduce home mortgage rates and thaw out frozen financial markets. In the meantime, he says apartment dwellers are able to find better deals on rents and concessions lately.

This marks the Bergstrom Center’s 13th quarterly survey of Florida real estate trends, with prior results showing a steady outlook for real estate investment. Nearly 400 responses were collected for the latest survey, which was conducted in December.

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