With a tumultuous 2012 now over, real estate brokers at Commercial Asset Partners Realty gazed into a crystal ball about trends taking shape in 2013.
"Nothing came easy in 2012," Heidi Tuttle-Beisner, broker-owner of Trinity-based CAP, wrote in a newsletter.
Nonetheless, some "creative thinking" helped the firm boost its business 40 percent in gross revenues compared to 2011.
Tuttle-Beisner remains "cautiously optimistic" about projections for 2013.
Last year, tenants took advantage of lower lease rates to relocate or extend lease terms, and business owners were able to purchase, at aggressive prices, buildings for their own occupancy, Tuttle-Beisner said.
She was the transactional broker in a deal that will move a U.S. Geological Services center to Lutz.
"The commercial market was active (in 2012) with buildings changing hands and being repositioned in the market," CAP broker-associate Paula Clair Smith added. "Tenants began buying again, as they could hardly afford not to with the low price-per-square-foot available."
In addition, sellers and banks accepted the reality of commercial real estate pricing. Investors took advantage with purchases of bank dispositions and other privately owned properties, primarily with cash.
The CAP brokers believe commercial real estate markets will continue showing signs of improvement in 2013.
"I anticipate we will see positive absorption in the office, industrial and retail markets," Tuttle-Beisner said. "Also, in localized markets that were not overbuilt in 2005-2007 and can produce the rents to justify the cost, I expect to see some new construction."
Smith also expects to see plenty of opportunity for all commercial real estate product types next year. She says owners are rebranding properties in order to attract new and repositioning businesses in 2013.
Networking often pays off, Smith said. "Most deals occur when one person mentions something to another person, and then we are off to the races."
CAP also solicited opinions of bankers last month about their perspective on the real estate market here.
Bankers have optimism about the coming year, tempered by uncertainty about the economic recovery and the coming changes in health care costs for employers, Tuttle-Beisner said.
"Property values seem to be stabilizing, and to a business owner, building equity is often preferential to paying rent," said Stephen Jeffries, senior vice president for Flagship Community Bank.
His bank is also doing more SBA loans, which offer a lower down payment and sometimes a longer amortization.
"At this point, we remain hopeful that the Florida economy will continue to gradually heal in 2013 and beyond, and that the remaining distressed properties will get flushed by mid-2014," said Douglas Winton, market president for Republic Bank.
"Locally, we are seeing tourism rise, but commercial real estate values continue to generally remain flat," said Ron Mirenda, vice president and SBA client manager for C1 Bank. "Once commercial rents start to rise, values will increase."
C1 Bank is doing a brisk business, driven in part by SBA loans, and "we are also seeing a growing popularity of non-bank, private lenders who have cash and are looking for a better return than the stock market and bank CD rates," Mirenda said.
All in all, despite all the uncertainty, Mark Buehrle, senior vice president of Freedom Bank, said, "I think we are on a gradual upward track."