Smart Money & Economic Forecasters Confusion!

by Harold Shumacher

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A sage observer once noted that if you laid all the economists in the world end-to-end you still couldn’t reach a conclusion. That same statement may be applicable to real estate professionals.  In the past few weeks I’ve been to a half dozen different seminars, panel presentations, peer meetings, networking events etc. You get the idea. If there is one universal consensus it’s that people are working harder than they have in a long time, deals take longer to complete and, in general things are “better.”

Are they? Again, depends on who you talk to.  According to Loopnet, in the first quarter of 2010 there were 89 land sales in the 32 county metroAtlanta area. Of those transactions 32 were “arms length” (not involving a distressed or bank owned property) but of those 20 were  sales under $1 mm.  New retail projects are few and far between. We’re aware of a couple of Kroger deals, being built without small shops-essentially a build for fee transaction, rumored wal-marts and a planned outlet mall (from Cousins) in Canton. This year’s ICSC/RECON (the shopping center convention) will be lightly attended (at least compared to previous years) with a continuing emphasis on “relationship building” rather than “deal making”-though it’s frequently the same.

The smart money, that’s been on the sidelines for one to three years depending on who you talk to- still appears to remain stagnant. Economic forecasters can’t agree if we’re in a V recovery, with the low point in early 2010 or a W with an anticipated double dip any day now.

With the continuing failure of banks-albeit at a slower rate-, flat employment, limited consumer purchasing and reluctant buyers and tenants we’re not seeing a lot of positive movement at this juncture. If anything the recovery is U-shaped and we’re at the flat part.

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