In surveying local realtors we asked them to give us a forecast on the real estate marketplace for the next two years. Not surprisingly the commercial real estate market remains challenging and many believe that much of our improvement depends on the recovering economies of neighboring states. While the residential market may have hit bottom and is beginning to improve most predict that we won’t see any progress in commercial sales and leasing until next year.
Lending continues to be a challenge if not a down right nightmare. Cash flow is a constant struggle for small business owners and even if you have commercial property as collateral lenders are balking at financing options. We are told time and time again that even those potential buyers with stellar credit and cash in the bank can’t get a commercial real estate loan let alone capital for operations. Lenders are fearful and extremely cautious and require more equity investment, reserves and will continue to scrutinize the ongoing performance of an asset.
We can only hope and encourage building owners to continue to work with local banks and credit unions in renegotiating commercial property loans. Don’t take the first no for an answer. The banks are not interested in taking your property and if you have typically been a good customer they should want to work with you. It has been our experience that many banking representatives will treat you like you’re the problem and you need to come up with a solution. Don’t be threatened by their attitude. Keep asking for what you want and how you want your loan restructured. Persistence in this market is key to getting what you need and staying in business.
The Small Business Administration recently issued a press release stating lending in Oregon and SW Washington continued to increase significantly through the second quarter of the federal government’s 2010 fiscal year ending March 31, 2010. The trouble with this ‘information’ is that it cannot be verified and we have yet to find one company/investor helped by an SBA loan in this region.
Local property managers are predicting that more commercial buildings will go into foreclosure as some businesses are forced to walk away from their leases and building owners struggle to make their mortgage obligations. While landlords and their property management professionals have been preoccupied with tenant retention attracting new prospects will take a renewed direction. For start-up businesses, however, this can be seen as an opportunity to get a very reasonable lease rate as they become new entrepreneurs. This is evident in the fact that downtown Bend has a 94 percent occupancy rate with numerous new retailers taking advantage of the lease opportunities.
Without a new wave of job opportunities in Central Oregon the commercial market will not pick up. Local companies will not be expanding space or purchase buildings if they are unable to acquire the capital to add employees, equipment or products. Everyone is highly aware that we need to diversify our economy and depend less on the building trade industry. While construction of new homes and buildings will gradually pickup, it will not return to the boom days we had become accustomed to.
In order to create new job opportunities we need to stretch our imaginations, be creative with enticements such as enterprise zones and available financial incentives and bring new companies to the area. All of this will have a positive impact on the both the residential and commercial real estate markets.
Everyone agrees that the best part of living in Central Oregon is the lifestyle: recreation, quality of life, safety, education, clean air and entrepreneurial opportunity. People from larger metropolitan areas still have a desire to move to this region taking advantage of today’s lower price of housing.
All of this adds up to this: if you survived last year, you’ll survive this year. Business is picking up and there’s a wave of optimism in Central Oregon. Hold onto your commercial property in any that you can and you’ll eventually reap the rewards.
Or, as Simon says: Though we have undoubtedly ridden a commercial real estate roller coaster and could be bumping along the bottom – it being an admittedly risky strategy to try to time the peak or low of any market cycle – the recent crash and depression of values also offers prospects for savvy individuals, including investors and tenants, to push against the prevailing sentiment and find opportunities in this particular stage of the cycle.