Sam Zell, who made himself a billionaire by betting on real estate when it was down and out, sees similar opportunities now.
“Commercial real estate in the U.S. is measurably better than conventional wisdom says,” he told CNBC.
Zell notes that private equity king Wilbur Ross said months ago that commercial real estate would be the next shoe to drop.
“Well it ain’t dropped yet, and I don’t think it’s gonna,” Zell said.
To be sure, given the real estate bubble that burst in 2007, there will continue to be numerous workouts and reorganizations.
“But the key to this scenario is that it wasn’t on oversupply crisis,” Zell said. “This was a demand reduction. Real estate is all about supply and demand.”
With essentially nothing of significance having been built since July 2007, the property market should gain as the economy improves, Zell maintains.
“The level at which we haven’t added to real estate supply in many areas is going to create a real shortage,” he said.
“I’m more optimistic about housing and the (commercial) real estate market.”
Not many experts share Zell’s bullishness on housing.
Home building is “dead flat in the mud,” Karl Case, co-creator of the S&P/Case-Shiller home-price index, told Bloomberg.
The proof, he says: Housing starts have stood at 15-year lows for the past 18 months, and vacancy rates are increasing.
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