After Sub-prime, Is Commercial Property Next?

Based on my own experiences of being allowed to borrow 40 times my annual income to purchase investment property, I knew the real estate party was going to end badly for many borrowers, banks and eventually tax-payers. I had tried  shorting Countrywide, which was the largest lender of mortgages, last year when the stock was trading at around $36. Unfortunately, I was a little early and closing my position at $39 incurring a substantial loss. If I had held on to my position, with Countrywide currently trading in $6-$7 range, I would’ve have been handsomely rewarded.

Hopefully, I’ll have the fortitude to hold onto my positions next time. Right now I think the Commercial real estate is the next bubble to burst.

Easy liquidity and the willingness of investors to settle for low rates of return have squeezed the margins on commercial properties over the past few years. Commercial construction has been on  tear and new malls have sprung up all over the place. There’s also been a contraction in commercial liquidity owing to the sub-prime fiasco. Added to that is the slow-down in consumer spending which will affect the bottom line of retailers and the amount their willing to spend on employees and rent.

I’m currently short Simon Properties (SPG), which gets 25% of its income from retail malls in California and Florida and the Dow Jones Real Estate Index (IYR). Lets see if I can hold on to these positions during the coming few months which will probably be quite volatile.

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