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Top Real Estate Expert Looks To Future

Kenneth Heebner, who since 1994 has managed the $1.2 billion CGM Realty Fund, has the best 10-year record of all real-estate-focused mutual funds, according to fund tracker Lipper, Inc. Heebner’s fund is up an average of nearly 22% a year during the past decade...greater than double the broader market.

Heebner, 65, recently looked at the real estate market in the U.S. and offered this thinking...

  1. A significant decline in housing prices is coming, as a buildup of inventories is taking place. Major retrenchment will occur in the hot markets of California, Arizona, Florida, and up the East Coast. These markets could well fall 50% from their peaks.

  2. As housing prices fall more people will be under water (those who got 100% financing), and they will be forced to walk away from their homes. The inventories of unsold homes grow dramatically with these foreclosures, and large price declines will follow. Such events will create a very difficult environment for home builders, too.

  3. The large declines in the hot markets will reduce the growth rate of the economy, but they won’t precipitate a downturn. The Fed will probably pause on interest rate-hikes once the extent of the housing slowdown becomes apparent, rather than threaten an economic downturn.

  4. As the global economy strengthens, leisure travel will continue to be strong. And the U.S. will see more tourism, because with the dollar weakening it will be less expensive for foreigners to visit America. Consequently, during the next several years there will be an inadequate supply of hotel rooms available for all of the travelers’ demands.

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