Like Northern Plains settlers stepping out of their cabins after a snowbound winter, consumers are treating the first signs of spring in the economy as an occasion for driving to stores and prying their wallets open just a little wider than they had since the depths of the recession. “Everyone has come to the realization that the worst is over,” says Tom Swieca, an SVP with Voit Real Estate Services in Ontario, CA. “Consumer confidence is improving from the depths of what it was in 2008.” Given that consumer spending comprises about 70% of the economy, it bodes well that shoppers are now more willing to shop.

Swieca's bailiwick, the Inland Empire, provides an especially clear vantage point of the valley in which consumer confidence had descended. “That area was hit exceptionally hard because we had so much unprecedented residential growth,” he tells Real Estate Forum. Amid the rapid appreciation in home prices in the mid-2000s, “people pulled money out of their homes to buy a Mercedes, put in a swimming pool or start their own businesses. Then when the market crashed, it crashed hard.”

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