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On Real Estate: 2010: The real estate odyssey

January 6, 2010

By Jim Hagerty

Staff Writer

It’s all but impossible to exactly predict the future. Even psychics are a bit cloudy as to what may be on the horizon. The real estate front, however, should allow all of us to see the collective writing on the wall. In 2010, the writing is quite clear, and the woes of 2007 are just now beginning to positively take shape as they morph from what was predicted to be a horrific aftermath.

Residential values should continue to dip, at least through April, paving the way for bargains and causing the investor drool pool to rise, rightfully for just as long. Buying low and selling high should ring true this year, especially as more qualified buyers come to the table with tax credits.

Owners of underwater properties will still tread in the soup unless restructuring saves the day, with a wave of bank-owned listings winning out to fill the investor trough. A lack of non-conventional loan programs could make land contracts popular financing tools and allow sellers to make some juice from buyers who scratch their ways to credit repair and conventional financing. Profits may prove eventual, but difficult to pass up, especially for investors with cash.

Investors should pass significant savings to buyers in 2010, prompting many downsizers and first-timers to pick from a rehabbed inventory where houses and condos are still priced thousands below values of three or four years ago.

Commercial outlook

Commercial developers, in business to attract national and international buyers and tenants, may be forced to retool in 2010, especially as big-box stores continue to struggle and jobless rates only inch their ways back to health. As we saw at the end of last year, the need for high-dollar commercial space is significantly less than it was in the past. Most brokers are likely to see an onslaught of corporate clients be squeezed out by a wave of local business people seeking build-outs, small storefronts and intimate office space.

Corporate job security is proving to be anything but safe, especially for those entering the second half of their careers. Even young college graduates and trained tradesman may pull the self-employment trigger out of the gate, avoiding the chance of being outsourced, downsized and laid off. As a relatively unskilled and uneducated workforce is pushed from factories and shops to classrooms for new-age training, many will return as entrepreneurs and local business owners. Sprinkle in an American resurgence of manufacturing and technology, and the good, old U.S. of A. should start showing earmarks of a Land of Opportunity, even as commercial values fall.

For commercial real estate agents, 2010 should start making obvious a new breed of client and opportunity, where profit and equity are measured by percentages instead of dollars and cents. Mixed-use properties could very well be a vital key to shortening unemployment lines and creating a considerable influx in the urban housing market. Add government incentives such as TIF funds and aggressive commercial financing to the pot, and the outlook will be even better, despite competition on the global front.

From the Jan. 6-12, 2010 issue

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