Local real estate agents provide economic insights

David Kim, Jagdeep Singh Bachher and Gene Deering

Hundreds of local businesspeople attended the UCSB Economic Forecast Project’s 2022 South County Economic Summit on Wednesday, May 4 at the Granada Theater. The annual event, held in person for the first time since 2019, featured five speakers providing context to today’s real estate, labor and financial markets. The UCSB Department of Economics established the project in 1981 to provide the community with information on economic, demographic, and regional business trends in the tri-county areas.

Local realtor and former president of the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors, David Kim, presented his assessment of the area’s residential real estate market, including the impact of the pandemic on Santa Barbara housing.

A graduate of UCSB in 2003 with degrees in business economics and law and society, Kim described a real seller’s market. Out-of-town buyers, coupled with historically low inventory levels, have led to dramatic surges in local home prices and fierce bidding wars.

“Out-of-town buyers were used to bidding very aggressively in areas where they lived, so they started using those strategies here in our market,” Kim said. “There are people who have been doing real estate here for over 40 years who say they’ve never seen a market like this.”

Nonetheless, Kim offered encouragement to buyers, noting that he has seen those who persevere eventually succeed in buying a home.

Gene Deering of Radius Commercial Real Estate provided an overview of the commercial and real estate industry and the hospitality sector on the South Coast. His presentation included drone video of the downtown hallway, along with commentary.

“At this time, the City of Santa Barbara has an incredible opportunity to redesign State Street, De La Guerra Plaza and the State Street Underpass,” Deering commented. “We have a window of time to make the change and use positive momentum to help State Street.”

As an example, Deering highlighted the second and third floors of the former Macy’s and Nordstrom buildings. “They total 180,000 square feet of retail space that is being converted into technology office space,” Deering explained. “If our community can attract larger tenants to activate these spaces, it could bring a thousand workers downtown daily.”

Deering described the local hotel market as hot. “In previous years, we could see a hotel trade every few years. We are currently seeing more activity in the hospitality industry than anyone can remember. Demand continues to grow for hotel development.

Other speakers at the event were UCSB economics professor Peter Rupert, who provided an update on the region’s economy and the topic of rent control; Jagdeep Singh Bachher, Chief Investment Officer in the President’s Office at the University of California, who spoke about investing in turbulent times; and Josh Williams, head of BW Research, who spoke about Santa Barbara County employment and workforce trends.

For more information about UCSB’s Economic Forecasting Project, visit efp.ucsb.edu.

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