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LOS ANGELES-The AIR Commercial Real Estate Association, which recently named Doug Earnhart of Lee & Associates as its new president, sees a bumpy road ahead for the first half of this year but prospects for improvement in the second half. AIR members commenting at a recent forecast sponsored by the group, presented their outlook for sales, leasing, finance and other facets of the Southland’s commercial real estate markets for the remainder of this year.

Earnhart, who is a senior vice president in the Ontario office of Lee & Associates, commented during his introduction at AIR’s recent 16th annual Market Review & Forecast event that 2009 “will be a year of getting back to basics.” Earnhart said that market conditions this year will present opportunities for new business for brokers, including “assisting the many investors sitting on the sidelines to enter the market.”

Downtown Los Angeles-based AIR, whose members include more than 1,750 real estate professionals in 400 firms in the eight-county Southern California area, featured forecasts and commentary from a nine-member panel at its recent Market Review & Forecast. Their outlook is that demand for commercial properties may return during the second half of 2009 after continued declines in lease and sale rates, higher cap rates and the absence of new construction in the short term–all of which should be healthy long-term. At the same time, cash-heavy investors currently are waiting for the right time to get back into the market.

The AIR panel’s comments covered submarkets throughout Southern California, ranging from central Los Angeles County submarkets to the South Bay with its port-related properties to the Mid-Counties, the San Fernando Valley, Orange County, the San Gabriel Valley, the Inland Empire and Ventura. The panel members generally forecast that lease rates will continue to decline but will stabilize by year-end 2009 and that buyers, waiting for the bottom of the market, may see that bottom by the middle of the year. Sales should pick up, too, because owners are becoming more willing to negotiate and more distressed assets will come onto the market.

The AIR panel members included Jerry Evans, president of Lee & Associates-Gardena; Steve Calhoun, SVP and partner at Colliers International’s City of Commerce office; David Harding, SVP with CB Richard Ellis in Universal City; Milo Lipson, SVP with Grubb & Ellis in Ontario; Clyde Stauff, SVP with Colliers International in Irvine; Lynn Knox, first vice president with CB Richard Ellis in Commerce; Jim Kruse, senior managing director with CBRE in Los Angeles; Dwight Hotchkiss, senior managing director with Cushman & Wakefield in Los Angeles; and Bram White, executive vice president of DAUM Commercial Real Estate Services in Camarillo.

The AIR forecast event also included the introduction of Earnhart as the new president of the organization. Earnhart, a 25-year veteran of commercial real estate, succeeds Bart Reinhard of CB Richard Ellis.

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