Economic downturn for real estate development

As a professional engineer, I am often involved with residential and commercial real estate development projects from the very beginning – doing due diligence to ensure that a development project is viable. This keeps my finger on the pulse of what is happening in land development.

From late 2007 into 2008, it was clear that real estate development activity was drying up, just by following the number of projects I was reviewing for my clients. But I must say that 2009 was surprisingly different.

Now that’s not to say it’s been a banner year yet, but the first quarter of 2009 saw more real estate developers than any good year before.

Perhaps the recession is over for property development.

Perhaps it is a good sign that developers are starting to look for development projects again and the trend will continue in 2009 and beyond.

I don’t know the answer to that, but to get another perspective, I used a tool called Google Insights. Google Insights graphs searches on Google to see trends in people’s interests over time. It’s a great tool to get a feel for what’s going on in the world. Common logic tells you that the more people search for terms like “real estate development,” “property development,” and “land development,” the more people are interested in starting development projects in the future.

This can be used as a broad brush, leading indicator for the development industry. Here’s a link to Google Insights showing search trends on “real estate development” ( Google Insights Search for real estate development )

Results on the link show that searches for these terms ended in late December 2008, and have reached those lows so far this year. Sure, the lineup is small, but it’s definitely a trend changer.

Does this mean the recession is over for real estate development?

Well, I wouldn’t play the farm based on people’s search trends, but the charts at least offer some positive news in the current doom and gloom climate. Only time will tell if the improvements in Google Insights charts continue. Similarly, only time will tell if the increased activity I see in my office with land developers will continue, but with one hope.

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