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Crystal ball predictions for 2009
Posted by Kevin Brass in Asia real estate, Caribbean real estate, Spain real estate, News, General

Around the world the property industry is preparing for rough seas, clamping down budgets and stowing expectations.

In many ways, 2009 will be “a deeply unpleasant year,” the Global Property Guide forecasts in its annual report, a fairly typical example of industry projections. A review of 2009 forecasts finds pessimism running rampant, with many prognosticators seeing 2009 as even worse than 2008.

“2008 was the year that subprime borrowers and speculators got hurt by the real estate crisis. 2009 could be when everyone else gets hit,” a Business Week analysis warns.

But business goes on. Investors are still hunting for deals; construction and sales continue. Markets like Latin America and Middle East may even grow in the year ahead.

“Raising the Roof” wades in with its own predictions for 2009, from intriguing markets to the trends that may impact the industry.

-Death of the speculator: Ah, who will forget the good old days when investors would get on the phone and buy two or three units they had never seen, knowing they could flip them in a couple of years. That buyer sleeps with the dinosaurs.

-Vultures rule: There’s never been a better time to be a bottom feeder. Deals are available around the world for investors willing to pick through the remains. The good news: Vulture activity suggests a market is bottoming out. The bad news: What happens a year from now when the vultures put that property back on the market and look to quickly cash out?

-Return of the Americans: The dollar is gaining strength, making the world a more affordable place for U.S. buyers. Suddenly that Tuscan farmhouse looks a lot more appealing to Joe and Martha from Iowa, thanks to the drop in the euro.

-Safe haven shoppers: Real estate is the new blue chip investment. Already developers say investors are looking for places to stash their money outside stocks and banks, making overseas property an attractive alternative, especially for mid-range buyers seeking a long term way to diversify their portfolios.

-Off plan is no plan: Convincing people to buy in pre-construction is almost impossible these days, developers say. Few buyers are willing to put money down until they see a finished product, especially skeptical Americans.

-Green is In: Conventional wisdom suggests eco-policies will take a back seat in tough economic times. But the election of Pres. Barack Obama will likely bring the United States into global discussions, fueling new technologies and a renewed eagerness (and requirement) for eco-friendly development among conscientious buyers and municipalities.

-Eastern Europe slowdown: The high fliers of the last few years will likely slow, as Western buyers grow more skittish. At the same time a wave of new developments started three years ago at the height of the market in countries like Bulgaria and Romania will come on line, creating a glut of supply of luxury condos.

-Asia dollars in North America: China and Korea have relaxed restrictions on overseas investments, creating a new generation of Asian buyers. “Safe” markets like the U.S. and Canada may be among the main beneficiaries.

Markets to watch:

Croatia: A new law going into effect in February will make it easier for EU residents to buy property. There’s already an established tourism market and the war is fading into memory.

Dominican Republic: Of the established Caribbean islands, the D.R. is the one still growing. International money continues to flow from both the U.S. and Europe.

South Pacific: Infrastructure is improving on many islands. Prices have soared around the world, making the South Pacific a little less outrageous, compared to other markets. And it’s still the postcard for paradise.

Seychelles: Not for the budget traveler, but it’s still a relatively young second home market. Tight controls on development should aid long term value.

Panama: The tower market in Panama City may be dicey, but there are still miles of beaches and unspoiled mountain retreats awaiting adventurous buyers. And the infrastructure is miles ahead of some of the other Central American destinations.

Brazil: Big money from around the world continues to flow into the country. For buyers willing to overlook the crime and volatile economy, it’s still the place to buy a large piece of pristine land. Brass

Kevin Brass travels the world reporting on tempting locations, unusual homes and hot markets. His home-buying experience began in Southern California, where he managed to completely miss the real estate boom. He now lives with his wife, Lietza, in an oddly Tudor-style two-story house with canyon views in the suburbs of Austin, Texas. The key selling point was a screened porch, a special treat for their two cats. Unfortunately, only one has figured out the mechanics of the kitty door. He is a longtime contributor to the Properties section of the International Herald Tribune, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, People, NWA World Traveler and a wide variety of other publications.

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