After the Fall

Larry O. Doss Friday, April 24, 2009

Goodbye, McMansions
Book review: ’After the Fall’
By Patrick S. Duffy, Friday, April 24, 2009.

Inman News

Cover image courtesy John Wiley & Sons, Inc.Book review
Title: "After the Fall: Opportunities and Strategies for Real Estate Investing in the Coming Decade"
Author: Steve Bergsman
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Inc., March 2009, 201 pages, $24.95 list ($16.47 on

Audio interview: Click here for an audio interview with Steve Bergsman.

With the housing market still in tatters but showing some signs of life and the commercial markets starting their own freefall, many investors continue to consider real estate one of the last places to put their dollars to work.

In his new book, "After the Fall: Opportunities and Strategies for Real Estate Investing in the Coming Decade," veteran real estate and travel writer Steve Bergsman argues that now is precisely the time to start considering what types of real estate sectors -- whether residential, commercial or leisure -- should be on your shopping list, both today and in the future.

Bergsman, who has also written "Maverick Real Estate Financing: The Art of Raising Capital and Owning Properties Like Ross, Sanders and Carey," "Maverick Real Estate Investing: The Art of Buying and Selling Properties Like Trump, Zell, Simon, and the World’s Greatest Land Owners," and "Passport to Exotic Real Estate: Buying U.S. And Foreign Property In Breath-Taking, Beautiful, Faraway Lands," certainly seems to know his niche, having written on the subject for 25 years.

In this latest work, he carefully examines specific types of real estate for updates and provides unvarnished gut checks on their relative health based on scores of interviews with a variety of industry experts.

While many authors of books on real estate focus on housing, Bergsman instead starts out by analyzing the commercial sector, including the markets for office, industrial, retail and multifamily residential space.

For each chapter, the author takes us through a brief business journey beginning with an overview, followed by "Where We Are Today," "Where We Were," "Where We Are Headed" and "Fundamentals."

Readers can easily thumb through to whichever chapters they deem most relevant for analysis on the past, present and future for their sectors of interest. In addition, a "Bonus Box" at the end of each chapter focuses on a recent trend for a particular land use sector, such as "The Office Condominium," "Flex Space" (for industrial uses) or "Locations for Knowledge Workers" (for retail uses).

In the case of the commercial real estate markets, Bergsman paints a future portrait of haves and have-nots, in which the largest investors will favor larger urban, international centers such as New York, Washington, D.C., or Los Angeles, while largely ignoring tertiary, largely domestic markets such as St. Louis or Minneapolis.

By 2012, however, the author thinks it will actually be the sleepy, stable apartment market that will be one of the best places for institutional dollars, having likely rebounded from several years of weakness in that sector’s underlying fundamentals and a dearth of new construction.

No matter the specific commercial market sector, however, one key trend expected to keep expanding is sustainability, especially for new office developments. Although the certification for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) has been online only since 2000, its impact has been enormous, with experts predicting future premiums for LEED-certified projects -- and future upgrades for existing buildings wishing to remain on the radar screens of many investors.

Over time, as the cost for green building declines and is more palatable for value-conscious consumers, residential builders will also start offering more robust and complete energy-efficient features and options -- especially in urban locations where consumer awareness of green building techniques is higher, Bergsman suggests.

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