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Real estate pros see recession by 2017, survey shows

The real estate sector is getting a little more pessimistic about the economy and a majority of professionals in the industry now see a recession ahead in the next 18 months.

A survey of 400 people in the real estate business by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and the Urban Land Institute (ULI) showed a drop in positive sentiment to 69% from 84% six months ago. Current levels are at the lowest in two years.

“There’s a lot of weird stuff going on in the world—China, interest rates, volatility in the equity market—all of which is creating anxiety,” said Mitch Roschelle, a partner at PwC.

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And while a majority of those surveyed remain positive for now, more than half expect a recession by the end of 2017, notes Roschelle, who adds that two out of the last four recessions have been in part due to a slowdown in the real estate market.

However, he sees a silver lining to real estate pros losing their optimism.

“They’re saying, ‘Listen, maybe we need to back out. Maybe we need to not reinflate a bubble and cause another recession,’” said Roschelle. “If we don’t reinflate a bubble with housing prices and we don’t reinflate a bubble with commercial real estate prices, we may not have that bubble bursting causing another recession. So if there is a recession, real estate folks are saying, ‘It’s not going to be because of us this time.’”

Global uncertainty may also lead to some overseas investors turning to U.S. real estate. “The more volatility that goes on in foreign markets and the more uncertainty there is about geopolitical risks in foreign markets, they tend to rotate toward U.S. dollar-denominated investments and income producing asset classes like real estate,” Roschelle said.

“What’s interesting is foreign sentiment for U.S. real estate has improved while domestic sentiment has weakened.”

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