VCU holds real estate trends conference

By Matt Butner - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Despite recent word that the recession may be ending, uncertainty remains. Here in the Richmond area, the commercial real estate market continues to struggle, and local experts say it could get worse.

The complicated language of real estate market recovery obscures a simple truth- nobody really knows when or how things will get better.

"We're trying to find the new normal," said Conference Chair Gloria Freye. "There's still a little more unpleasantness that we have to go through until we get to better days."

In the Richmond area, much of the unpleasantness centers on the commercial real estate market.

"Some of the data that's out there about vacancies in the Richmond metro area is anything but positive," said David H. Downs, Director of Kornblau Institute at VCU.

Vacancies have become apparent in places like Innsbrook, where one study suggests they could run as high as 35 percent by early 2010. In the local housing market, prices have fallen nearly 5 percent from a year ago, and are struggling to go back up. Whatever immunity Richmond's real estate market may have enjoyed in the past, has all but disappeared in this most recent downturn.

"What's different is how interconnected all the parts and all the regions are in this economic cycle," said Downs. "Richmond, through let's say through almost no fault of its own, is going to get pulled down in areas that before we simply haven't."

As far as a recovery, all of the conference's speakers seemed to agree that it will take place. But they've seen little evidence of it so far.

"We're not going to measure that in the next couple of months. We're not going to measure that potentially in the next couple of quarters," said Downs.

The real estate trends conference is put on annually by the VCU School of Business, with proceeds going to fund scholarships for students in the school's real estate program.

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