Removing the Fog

It has certainly been a rough few years in the real estate business. It has been a prolonged downturn with global impact and influences. Everyone from the smallest homeowner to the largest commercial real estate interests have seen plummeting prices and evaporating equities take their toll on the balance sheet.  Some banks were thrown a lifeline of sorts by federal intervention and everyone else was just thrown under the bus of market adjustments. There was no floor of support and the collapse seemed ongoing. In years to come maybe historians will argue that the collapse was a cleansing process of market adjustment, but for anyone in the arena, it has just been a challenge of a lifetime, with no safe harbors.

In previous economic downturns, real estate was always the favorite stepchild, which led the way back to recovery. It is an industry of entrepreneurs, who are optimists, but unfortunately many of their tools, such as debt,  and real growth have been removed from their work shop. Real estate has been like a patient too sick and weak to get out of bed. Subsequently, during the past few years, the manufacturing sector has been anointed as the engine to create jobs to fuel the economy back to recovery, and the evidence would suggest that this is beginning to happen, although slowly since the job is so large, and the process has become more institutionalized than a real estate driven solution.

This is the market we know today with only with a few bright spots that are at best tenuous.  Confidence and growth seem to be trying to gain some traction, and hopefully a lot of the pain of adjustment has passed from the market. The multi-family industry seems to be the only segment that might warrant a healthy diagnosis domestically, while residential continues to suffer with foreclosures and falling prices. The commercial sectors of industrial, retail and office all have seen their respective adjustments downward. Real estate has taken a huge hit but at some point one needs to ask when will the slow climb back begin? When will the invisible hand of true market forces overcome all of the  interventions by  regulatory agencies, policies, and politics … when will the market say it is time to build on old equities and also  create new ones? What is the true signal that we are back on the road to recovery and renewed prosperity, which was once almost a guaranteed birthright of all Americans and our industries?

Once again, the Mason School of Business at the College of William and Mary has taken a leadership position in this conversation by assembling some of the most important regional, national and international real estate voices to offer insight as to where we really are in this market cycle.

These speakers will hopefully offer insights that remove the fog from the facts so a clear perspective can be gained for the current status and the future of real estate. The second annual real conference, to be held on April 11th and 12th, at The Mason School is entitled, “Surviving Today, Succeeding Tomorrow.” Additional information and registration can be accessed at the web site

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Daniel W. Aston

Daniel W. Aston is the Principal at The Whitmore Company LLC.

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