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Commercial Real Estate

Jim Hancock: Commercial Real Estate and that French Attitude

I like to compare the personalities of real estate investors to the typecast of the European countries I've visited. Take the French. They got tired of the austerity programs from Sarkozy’s conservative government and elected a new liberal president, Francois Hollande. They seem ready to spend, with caution to the wind.
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Jim Hancock

I’ve been putting something off for 31 years. When my wife and I got married, we had an option to take a friend’s apartment in Paris for a week for our honeymoon. Although Paris sounded interesting, my 1981 budget didn’t allow for the airfare, leisurely bistro dinners, expensive wine and accoutrements. Besides, I was told the French had a really bad attitude toward Americans.

My taste was much more Western hemisphere … Corona, margaritas, and beaches. We (I) picked Cozumel. It was a little cheaper than Bermuda. Who knew September was hurricane season in the Caribbean? Despite the changing currents that brought the raw sewage onto the beach, the “piped in” music to our hotel room that we could never turn off (it played an odd litany of Led Zeppelin, Charlie Pride, and the Captain and Tenille), the rain that never seemed to stop, and that chicken bone that got stuck in my wife’s throat during dinner on our first night at the hotel, our marriage has turned out pretty well.

We have still not been to France.

Although the travel budget in recent years has mostly included destinations close to home, like Norman, Okla., and Fort Worth, I like to compare the personalities of real estate investors to the typecast of the few European countries we have visited:

• England. They speak the same language, are quite formal, and keep reminding you they once had the world’s biggest real estate empire. They are sitting on the sidelines waiting for the stabilized deal at a distressed price.

• Italy and Spain. Exciting and fun. They will buy any deal that looks pretty, has some sizzle, and passes the approval of their equity partner (mother).

• Germany. They think it would be foolish to buy or sell any deal now.

I have the sense that new investor opinions are emerging, ones that are tired of the private-sector austerity this planet has been living with since 2009. There is also a sense that all great deals don’t have to come from the bank or special servicer. All this money on the sidelines will soon leave the mattress to find a productive home again, much of it in commercial real estate.

These are not just deals on the core side or distressed side. Deals in the middle are happening. People are starting to let go and see hope for the future.

Did I mention my wife and I haven’t been to France? I could no longer put this off, so I recently called a travel agent to arrange a trip to celebrate our 31st anniversary. The agent said he has never seen so such much booking activity for September travel to France by Americans. I get the sense we are all traveling there in the hopes of changing our attitudes.

So, what is the true French persona in commercial real estate terms? They got tired of the austerity programs from Sarkozy’s conservative government and elected a new liberal president, Francois Hollande. They seem ready to spend, with caution to the wind.

My clients need more buyers with a French attitude!

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