Len Herman, 2013 president of the Orange County Association of Realtors and agent with Keller Williams Realty in Mission Viejo, will watch employment trends.
"The unemployment numbers are grossly understated, as they only consider individuals currently collecting unemployment benefits. There are still a great number of people that are either still out of work or underemployed that have managed to retain their homes. But for how much longer?"
Chris Pollinger, First Team Real Estate's senior vice president for sales, awaits the return of new mortgage makers with private financing.
"Right now, almost all of the loans for real estate are government-backed. Each up-cycle in real estate has been fueled by the private sector pouring money into mortgages. In the '90s, it was the savings and loans. In the 2000s, it was hedge funds and the mortgage broker. There is too much money in potential returns for this area to be ignored forever."
Dan Heinfeld, president of Irvine-based architectural design firm LPA Inc., looks at how many kids are in school.
"Growth in K-12 school and college enrollments have a direct impact on facility needs. This also indicates an upward trend in key areas of California's economy, construction activity and employment."
Donny Disbro, CEO of Professional Community Management, will be watching who's buying locally.
"During the prolonged economic downturn, we saw an influx of foreign real estate investment. This helped mitigate the impact of the recession in many of our communities. I'd like to see if this was merely a temporary response to low housing prices or if we'll see foreign investment continue to buoy the market and perhaps fuel the next boom."
Jeff Ingham, senior managing director at Jones Lang LaSalle commercial brokerage in Irvine, is watching how office space is used.
"Given new technology providing workers the ability to work from home and the 'Gen Y' factor of open work space, we are seeing space utilization for the average Orange County office tenant move from north of 250 square feet per person to at, or below, 200 square feet per person. This trend is causing a reduction in demand for space, as well as a push for tenants to consider relocation as opposed to renewal."
Alan Reay, president of tourism consultancy Atlas Hospitality Group in Irvine, is watching land sales.
"You are going to see more hotel owners looking for suitable sites to develop or even buying existing older hotels in in-fill locations to knock down and build new. When prices of hotels that are 30 to 50 years old are above $100,000 per room, it makes a lot more sense to start looking to build; this is the next wave in hotel real estate over the next three to five years."
Gary Watts, broker for Impact Real Estate in Mission Viejo, will be reading, watching and listening for his key market indicator.
"The media's opinion of the market. There is no way around it. They drive consumer demand. Should they get worried, they will not be hesitant to tell everyone that a 'second bubble' may be occurring."
Jim Palmer, president of the Orange County Rescue Mission, is watching those without roofs over their heads each night.
"What we look for is the number of services provided and the number of new people or families new to homelessness. Since 2008, these numbers continue to rise, and we do not see any signs that these trends will change. Such indicators mean that we must continue to meet increased demand while we work to raise awareness of the issues surrounding homelessness. Unfortunately, these indicators mean that men, women and children continue to live in dire situations, often paycheck-to-paycheck, until, finally, they reach the end and they're out on the streets."
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