Sam Zell is the probably the most admired living real estate investor, and for good reason. He built some of the largest and best-run REITs (Equity Residential, Equity Office, etc.). He then sold Equity Office at a very opportune time, just before commercial real estate prices began their swoon several years ago. When Sam Zell talks about real estate, as he did recently on CNBC, it is worth listening to what he has to say. Below is a brief summary. He was asked to comment on both housing and commercial real estate. Excerpts:
Single family and commercial real estate are totally different markets.
Zell doesn't think the logistics of operating thousands of homes as rentals will work well. He is skeptical of Blackstone and others doing this on a large scale.
In the office market, he says law firms that did lease 100,000 sq ft are only taking 80,000 sq ft at renewal. Work patterns are changing in ways that do not favor office.
In retail, he sees e-commerce continuing to take market share from bricks and mortar. He ties the troubles of JC Penny in part to e-commerce. He is generally bearish on retail that is in between major destination centers on one hand, and small local strip centers on the other hand.
He said Equity Residential, the apartment REIT that he founded, is doing "great."