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Entering the Era of Less—that’s the title of Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2011, which I author for PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Land Institute. Based on 875 confidential interviews and surveys with industry leaders, this year’s report is the most upbeat since we started into the crash three years ago and registers anticipated improvement across all U.S. real estate markets and property sectors. Next year promises continued thawing of lending markets, increased transaction volumes, and decent though tempered investment returns.

But for players hoping for a return to a semblance of the heady and extremely profitable transaction mania days of the past 15 years, Emerging Trends signals don’t hold your breath.   The Era of Less instead offers a shrunken industry, lower overall performance expectations, restrained development, and crimped profits very much in keeping with the somewhat diminished prospects for the overall U.S. economy as we dig out from our self created debt oblivion. Not surprisingly real estate outlooks will be restrained by sustained high unemployment and Americans’ more austere lifestyle choices now that our spending on credit has been significantly curtailed.

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