Real estate investments may be a little more attractive in 2012, but it is going to be a long, slow grind before any real improvement is seen, according to the experts.
A few markets may still have some deals and some types of housing, like apartment buildings, will remain attractive, but most investors will need to hold onto property for five to ten years before seeing any real return on their money, says the Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2012 forecast from PwC US and the Urban Land Institute. The report does not hold out much hope for real estate investors in 2012, concluding that those who can sell or hold will be the best off.
"In recovering from the recession this time, the real estate market is going to be different. Recovery is going to be slower," said Jonathan Miller, author of the report and a real estate analyst. Emerging Trends has been published for 33 years and this year was based on responses from 950 real estate experts, including investors, developers, property company representatives, lenders, brokers and consultants.
"Real estate may still look good compared to stocks and bonds, but the recovery is slow. The demand is not very robust and it is not going to ramp up this year or in 2012," he added.
The problems emanate from several sources, including a lack of jobs, many of which are being taken away by technology.
"Government debt and cuts in budgets will mean more job cuts and an aging demographic means fewer workers, so consumer spending does not increase," said Stephen Blank, senior fellow of finance at the Urban Land Institute. "At some point, interest rates are going to increase and some people will have to refinance at the wrong time. Also rents are not moving."
Apartment buildings always seem like good investments, but Blank noted, "There is a ton of trash to sort through to find a good investment.
"On the debt side, banks are holding back," he added. "Under the circumstances, there is going to be little appetite for risk on the part of investors."
Commercial property probably will not fare much better although it may be slightly above 2011, said Chuck DiRocco, head of real estate research at PwC in Washington. Weaker properties will be sold and companies likely will pull back on their real estate allocations.
"Foreign investors may still gravitate to the United States, because the U.S. looks good comparatively," Blank noted.