We all know the obvious real estate benchmarks -- and most have been moving in positive directions in recent months.
But to be smarter about the market in 2013, we asked some business leaders around Orange County for what not-so-obvious indicators they'll be watching to see what's next for the economy and real estate heading in 2013.
Here are 13 economic patterns that real estate fans should be keeping an eye on this year.
Kevin Baldridge, president of Irvine Co. Apartment Communities, is watching the pace of people switching from renter to owner.
"Historically, about 20 percent of our residents report leaving us with the intention of buying a home. During the economic downturn, the number dropped to 10 percent. During other economic recoveries, the number gradually progressed upward. This time, it jumped. My sense is there's pent-up demand. People have been saving their money and are finally confident enough about the recovery to make the leap. We believe the drivers behind the burgeoning demand for single-family homes will also support apartment fundamentals. A recovering economy and optimistic consumer bode well for all sectors of housing."
Daren Blomquist, vice president at foreclosure tracker RealtyTrac, is watching whether his neighbors start putting up for-sale signs.
"Most of my neighbors have been in the neighborhood for a long time, but there have been very few homes for sale in the last two years after a plethora of foreclosure and short sales in 2009 and 2010. I suspect several neighbors have held off selling because of the down market. Already I saw one of these neighbors go ahead and sell in the last month thanks to the recent rise in prices, and I think if I see more sale signs pop up, that will be a strong indicator that things are going well in the neighborhood. But if not -- it probably indicates the market is not going as well as expected."
Rand Sperry, CEO of the Sperry Van Ness commercial real estate franchisor in Irvine, is watching single-family housing.
"I look to single-family housing as a bellwether for the general economy. Here in Orange County, single-family supply has shrunk considerably, which has led to an increase in demand. This points to increased competition and positive growth for the local economy. Single-family housing has an important psychological impact on the rest of the economy. When it points to positive growth, we will see the same for the rest of the economy."
Tricia Esser, CEO of architects KTGY Group in Irvine, is watching what apartment landlords are charging.
"We watch apartment rental rates; when those get to a certain level, buyers will come back to the for-sale market. We are also closely watching how city agencies can get back land that the state of California took over from redevelopment agencies. We think cities are going to get more creative!"
Nick Lieberman, president of Bona Fide Mortgage of Irvine and treasurer of the Apartment Association of Orange County, is watching what folks do with investments in this low-rate climate.
"I'll be listening for the level of patience expressed by friends, colleagues and customers with respect to the returns they obtain on their cash and money market holdings. There will be a point when people become so fed up with what amounts to zero or negative return (after inflation is factored in) that they will feel compelled to act. The greater the public's aggravation with miniscule yields on liquid assets, the greater the propensity to deploy funds into real estate."
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