In the parched landscape of transactional real estate, raindrops are starting to come down.
San Francisco attorney Charlie Thornton, who chairs the real estate practice at Paul Hastings, says he went two years without handling a single acquisition or joint venture agreement – both longtime staples of his practice until the financial crisis hit. He says he kept busy through the downturn by putting together large development projects and lots and lots of workouts.
But in the last four months, Thornton says equity funds have been searching for properties to park their cash in believing that prices look more “right” again. And even banks are starting to lend a little.
And that means 2010 is shaping up to be different than 2009. Thornton says he and four other lawyers on his San Francisco team are in the midst of nine deals. All but two are in California. Though he couldn’t share details of pending transactions, Thornton noted that many clients are interested in distressed properties, like office buildings with no tenants in them. Investors are also checking out shopping centers up and down the West coast and industrial properties across the country.
“I’ve probably got more deals going now than I can remember,” Thornton said. “I see every one of my fund clients very busy looking at properties. They’re starting to engage.”
Here’s hoping a double-dip recession doesn’t come and spook them.