The Douglas Metrorail Station will serve as the mixed-use project’s defining element. The Douglas Metrorail Station will serve as the mixed-use project’s defining element.

MIAMI—Some of the top minds in commercial real estate gathered in Coral Gables on Wednesday for RealShare Apartments East. With the sun shining and people swimming in the pool as a backdrop, the discussion and debate were lively at this year’s event.

Jack McCabe, owner of McCabe Research & Consulting opened with a keynote that offered insights into South Florida market trends. He opened with words few wanted to her: He believes we’ll see a recession this year.

“A lot of people think I’m crazy—hey did 12 years ago,” McCabe told listeners. “I believe the market forces that are underway right now are such are going to take effect on the US this year, especially the global recession.”

In the first panel, experts tackled commercial real estate in the cyber world, including investment, management and analytics. McCabe moderated the panel that included Mark Wohl, vice president of the broker channel at Ten-X, Adam Hooper, CEO of RealCrowd, and Francesca Loftus, CEO of hOM.

“We all have a phone in our hands or pocket right now. We are opening 50,000 accounts a month at Ten-X and we generate about 2 million web hits a month … What’s more interesting is that three quarters of the bidders are first-time bidders. Half of people coming to our site are coming through a mobile device. This is unprecedented.”

Steve Whitten, senior managing director at Institutional Property Advisors, moderated a panel titled, “Investment Strategies: Creating Value & Finding Return on Yield. The panel included John Bezzant, executive vice president and Chief Investment Officer at AIMCO, Matthew Ferrari, Eastern US director of Acquisitions for TruAmerica Multifamily, Charles Foschini, senior managing director at Berkadia, Colin Gillis, vice president of Acquisitions-Southeast for Passco, and Greg Matus, senior vice president of Investment Sales at Franklin Street.

“We typically look at assets in metros and suburbs, and value-add investments,” Ferrari said. “We see there will be some opportunities in South Florida, Orlando and Tampa. While it’s obviously competitive and not necessarily cheap in Florida, certainly relative to some markets we’ve been in on the West Coast we do feel there are some opportunities here for yield and continued growth.”

After lunch, Dough Bibby, president of the National Multifamily Housing Council, moderated a panel titled “Industry Leaders: A View from the Top.” Brad Hamel, senior vice president of operations at Alliance Residential, Nate Hanks, president and CEO of RealSource, and Steve Patterson, CEO and president of Related, discussed how to stay one step ahead of the trends and opportunities.

“We had several buildings in the pipeline,” Hanks said. “The unexpected happened in November and interest rates shot up. We tried to negotiate and we were successful with a couple and not with the others. It gave us a little spook and we’ve gotten cautious, much more cautious than I thought we would have.”

Afternoon sessions included a conversation with Freddie and Fannie, the biggest sources in apartment financing in the US. Melissa Marcolini-Quinn, senior vice president and managing director of NorthMarq Capital, moderated a discussion between Sharon Plattner, director of the Southeast region for Freddie and Woody Brewer, vice president of Multifamily Customer Engagement at Fannie.

Finally, Steve Moreira, owner and president of Majestic Properties & Investments, moderated the “Capital: Where is it Coming From & Where is it Going?” panel. Dan Cooperman, Chief Originations Officer at Terra Capital Partners, Kevin O’Grady, managing director of capital markets for Walker & Dunlop, Marc Suarez, director of Hunt Mortgage Group, Elliot Throne, managing director at HFF and Eric Fixler, senior director of Marcus & Millichap Institutional Property Advisors, discussed how much capital is flowing into the space and more.