Dec. 19, 2007
I was down to the last bite of a warm, butter-flavored bread pudding topped with vanilla ice cream. Sitting across the table at the annual Real Estate Center holiday luncheon was our chief economist, Mark Dotzour, who had resisted temptation and not ordered dessert. He then gladly accepted "samples" from those around him.
"You know," he said, wiping his chin, "a case could be made that America's obesity problem is linked to real estate."
Suddenly that last bite of bread pudding tasted like grapefruit. He had my attention.
"Well, commercial real estate rents are on the rise," he noted. "If you own a restaurant, you need to increase prices to pay the additional rent.
"You can't just add $1.50 to a menu item without a reason. And for a restaurant, the recipe is simple: supersize it."
Bet you never thought of that.
Dotzour may have been putting a holiday spin on a real estate reality, but his comments show exactly how the staff of the Real Estate Center views the world. Our answers offer practical solutions in the everyday life of Texans.
The January issue of our quarterly magazine Tierra Grande will continue the tradition of applied research we began more than 35 years ago. Here's a sampler.
"Looming Boom." Driven by population and job growth, Texas' next quarter century should be marked by prosperity, says research economist Jim Gaines. By 2039, the state is expected to add 13.6 million people. That's the equivalent of another Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, Houston, and Corpus Christi.
"Double Whammy." Ever consider the tax consequences of foreclosure? Research fellow Jerry Stern has. He sees two potential problems. Tax may be due as ordinary taxable income associated with the cancellation of debt or as taxable gain from the disposition of the asset.
"How Inventory Affects Housing Prices." What's ahead for housing markets? Economic theory suggests that when the inventory of homes for sale falls below a "natural" level, prices will rise. In July 2007, Texas' inventory of homes for sale was six months. The natural inventory is 8.7 months. What does this mean to you? Continued home price appreciation is likely, says research economist Ali Anari.
"Ranching for Rookies." Many new landowners are unprepared for the challenge of managing land in a way that sustains a healthy ecosystem. Experts recommend drafting grazing leases based on animal units rather than flat per-acre rent. Charles Gilliland's article includes a table with equivalent revenue per acre for various lease rates per animal unit at various carrying capacities.
"Recognizing Mortgage Fraud." Here's a serious discussion about a serious topic from the Center's legal expert, attorney Judon Fambrough. Lenders are most vulnerable, but all real estate professionals should recognize signs of mortgage fraud and know what to do if they encounter it. Suspected fraud can be reported to authorities without fear of reprisal.
"Packin' It Up: Texans on the Move." Texans are more mobile than average Americans; four million Texans changed homes in 2005. Dallas had more movers than any Texas metro. Relocating Texans translate into commissions for Texas REALTORS® and big bucks for moving-related businesses.
"Little Pieces, Big Prices." Texas land sales are slowing somewhat, says Gilliland, a Center research economist, but prices are still rising. For the first time, the per-acre price was more than $2,000 in 2007. It hit $2,075.
Whether real estate contributes to the fattening of America, I can't say. But I do know these articles are the vanguard of an ambitious research agenda planned by the Real Estate Center's staff. The practical solutions uncovered in 2008 will certainly give Texans plenty of food for thought.
These articles can be read online by Feb. 1, 2008. Go to www.recenter.tamu.edu.