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5. Real wage growth: This is a critical category that doesn’t receive enough attention. Real wage growth is adjusted for inflation. From 1979 to 2007, inflation-adjusted hourly wages have increased by only 0.1 percent annually, according to the Economic Policy Institute. In a consumer-driven economy, how can consumers continue to go to the malls and to auto dealerships and buy nonessential items when they don’t have the funds to do so? Spurring the economy with purchases must be prefaced by increasing wages. This is a large question mark heading into 2011 and beyond.
Although many factors must improve to recover from the economic downturn, there are bright spots and areas for growth in the commercial real estate market. Some prospects for brokers to pursue include:
•U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loans or other business loans not collateralized by real estate: Commercial brokers should be up-to-speed with these programs and should work with an SBA lender that can help their clients, and in turn help brokers increase their income.
•U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) loan programs: Many people believe that HUD or some other federal agency must step up to the plate and get more involved in commercial financing via guarantees and securitization. The 35-year, fixed-rate apartment-building mortgage HUD offers is a way for property-owners to lock in a low interest rate and not have to worry about the costs of refinancing. HUD also insures various types of assisted-living, senior-housing, and health-care and hospital loans.
•Other new commercial mortgage programs: There are always new and innovative financial mechanisms and loan structures being developed and offered. In a down climate, brokers must be the point-person for former and current clients. Brokers should know what’s new and what might be of some help to those in need.
•Commercial loan modifications and workouts: There has been a lot of bad press about loan mods and workouts, but there is money to be made in salvaging distressed and delinquent commercial mortgages. This has become an increasingly large niche in the past 18 months.
•Hard money: As bank lending has gotten tighter — and as borrowers still seek funds for commercial property acquisitions and development projects — hard money has been a more prudent alternative for many. A number of hard-money lenders use it as a tool alongside conventional loan-brokerage businesses.
•Business incubators: This is a marketing niche you should focus on in these tough times. Many incubators are quasi-public operations that provide cheap and practical means of helping entrepreneurs get off the ground. Most are regional; some may be affiliated with national groups. In any case, these incubators could lead to the successful local businesses of tomorrow.
•Fledgling or brand-new industries: Despite widespread bad news, a new industry will likely emerge and grow strong in the next two to three years. What it might be is unknown to most, if not all, of us. As it grows, however, it will create jobs along with new facilities and work environments. Brokers who remain on the lookout and identify emerging industries in the early stages can reap the rewards.
There are many things to be concerned about in commercial real estate. Many of the professionals who succeed during and after the current downturn, however, are the same people that succeeded in the last one — or at least the same type of people. They’re creative. They’re diligent. And they’re often a little more cautious and quite a bit more aware than those who fail.
By looking at where we’ve been, brokers can get a better sense of where we’re headed and better position themselves moving forward.
Ken Lambert is CEO of Ken Lambert
Mortgage Enterprises Inc. KLME provides marketing, consulting and licensing services to residential and commercial lenders. Reach him at (267) 295-2778 or visit the company’s Web site at www.commercialequitybuilder.com.
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