Expert Panel

By Tony Wilbert, Wilbert News Strategies

NAREE 2010 Matt Valley AUSTIN, Texas (June 2, 2010) – Despite encouraging signs, effects of the commercial real estate recession will reverberate for the next couple years. That’s the key takeaway from a panel of CRE experts who spoke today at the National Association of Real Estate Editors‘ 44th Annual Journalism Conference.

NAREE board member and National Real Estate Investor Editor Matt Valley, left, moderated the panel. He opened it with a few encouraging stats about increased investment sales activity and bidding wars for well-located, solidly performing assets. He also noted that Steve Pumper of Transwestern had to miss the panel because he was working on a deal. “That’s a good sign,” Valley said.

The panel pretty much stayed away from the question raised in the panel’s title: “Commercial Realty Trends: The Next Meltdown or Not?” That is until Jeff Collins, real estate reporter at the Orange County Register, asked if CRE is headed for a meltdown.

Probably not, panelists said, but the small signs of an upturn might be fleeting. Expect to commercial real estate to be flat at best for a while, they added.

“I don’t see us going into a double-dip recession, but we won’t be enjoying an uptick for a couple years at least,” said David Steinwedell, managing partner of Austin-based Stoneforge Advisors LLC. A former Wells Real Estate Funds executive, Steinwedell said the current “pricing bubble” for well-performing, quality assets soon would flatten.

Panelist Jeff Friedman, co-CEO of Mesa West Capital of Los Angeles, told the audience a double-dip real estate recession is a possibility. “What we’re doing is not taking the medicine we should be taking,” he said. “We’re prolonging and amortizing the pain.”

For his part, panelist Mitch Siegler, senior managing director of Pathfinder Partners, said commercial real estate will be in “a digestive mode” for the next three or four years because supply is well ahead of demand.

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