Real estate lending is stagnating, new acquisitions are on hold: panels

Avra Jain, Susan LeFleur, Amy McCook and Andrea Romera

Avra Jain, Susan LeFleur, Amy McCook and Andrea Romera

Real estate lending is stagnating across all sectors, and developers are uneasy about making new acquisitions since the start of the year, panelists said at the Florida Real Estate Women’s Forum on Thursday.

Some attributed the uncertainty to President Donald Trump and the effect many of his proposed changes to policy will have on the real estate market.

“Right now, everything seems to be on hold,” said Hana Eskra, president of Gorman & Co. “Deals that were in the works in the last four to six months are going through, but no one is looking for new acquisitions right now. Lending and new investments are flatlining until we know more [about Trump’s plans].”

More than 300 women owners, developers and investors from across all sectors of Florida real estate came together to discuss the industry at the forum, held at the Koven’s Conference Center at Florida International University’s Miami campus.

Panelists included more than 30 leading women in real estate, who shared their expertise on the state of commercial and investment real estate in the Sunshine State.

Several panelists spoke to increasing demand for efficient apartments. “We’re seeing a big push for smaller units. People are willing to take a smaller space living in a building with more amenities like WiFi, smart lockers, and on-demand fitness studios, especially if it means a smaller rent,” said Andrea Romero, vice president of development for Mill Creek Residential.

In a discussion targeting building design and innovation, speaker Susan LaFleur, a senior associate for design and engineering firm Stantec, agreed the trend towards smaller spaces is something to look out for in the Miami market.

“People want affordability, but still want a great living space with an appealing design,” said LaFleur. “We’re actually looking to develop micro apartments, 300-square-foot residential units that are being seen in cities like New York, San Francisco, and Columbus, Ohio.”

Concerning commercial retail growth, the panel discussed changes in consumer patterns.

“We’re seeing that entertainment is the new retail or food and beverage as the new anchor, be it a fast-casual restaurant, bowling alley, or boutique fitness studio. People are looking for experiences to get them out of their homes,” said Amy McCook, vice president of development for Equinox Development Properties, confirming a push for retail complexes that offer a range of lifestyle choices.

A keynote with Avra Jain, founder of Vagabond Group, concluded the forum alongside Pamela Liebman, president and CEO of the Corcoran Group. During the talk, the two women shared valuable insight into their world of top-level commercial and investment real estate. 

Among Jain’s parting words of wisdom: Get out and explore your market, and look to the city’s artists to find the next neighborhood hotspot.

“Arts and culture is what drives neighborhoods and attracts the right business,” she said. “Right now, that’s what’s happening in Little River and – on the residential side – Little Haiti. It’s going to be the next Wynwood.”

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