Positive Vibe Permeates NWA Real Estate Market

by Paul Gatling  on Monday, Jun. 25, 2012 12:00 am  

No matter where he goes, Ramsay Ball is hearing the same refrain these days.

The chorus has been welcome and largely positive.

"Everyone I talk to [about real estate] on the commercial end - the architects, title companies, lenders - are all seeing an increase in their commercial activity," said Ball, a principal at Colliers International, working from the firm's northwest Arkansas office in Bentonville. "Instead of staring at the phone, they're all busy."

There's more happening, Ball contends, than most people realize. Investors are making deals for dirt and other developments, and leasing activity is picking up too.

Another tangible sign of the market's rebound is that CBRE Group Inc., the world's largest commercial real estate firm and the only one included in the Fortune 500 rankings, recently opened an affiliate office in Fayetteville.

"The activity has gone from zero to 40 miles an hour," Ball said. "That might be different than the 100 miles an hour we were doing in 2007, but it's certainly a breath of fresh air. There's wind in the sails."

A handful of other local professions agree with Ball's assertion. If the first few months of 2012 are any indication, expect more CRE activity throughout the year.

"We've seen a huge pickup [in closings] in the first five months so far this year," said Matt Kendall, president and CEO of Waco Title Co. in Springdale. "What we've seen in our commercial growth has been [an increase of] about 35 percent over 2011 and 22 percent over 2010. It's been a huge pickup."

Roger Boskus, a partner at Miller Boskus Lack Architects in Fayetteville, said his firm was also seeing signs of positive momentum with regard to the number of CRE inquires, and even proposals.

"Last year, if we got a couple every quarter, that was a lot," he said. "Now it's like a couple every week. We're getting barraged with all kinds of things.

"And my real estate broker friends, it seems like we'd talk to each other once a week," he added. "Now we don't even talk because everybody is too busy to chit-chat."

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