CCIM Feature

Opportunistic Investor

Sam Zell is a dynamic force in commercial real estate investment, who has bought distressed or undervalued properties and companies worldwide and often sold them for spectacular profits. With a net worth estimated at $4.9 billion, he has been right far more often than wrong.

Zell will share his thoughts on commercial real estate, lending, and investments at CCIM Thrive, Oct. 27-28, at the Hyatt Regency Austin in Austin, Texas.

While real estate sales have surged again, Zell sees the deferral of marriage among millennials as the single biggest change in the last 15 years.

“The shift in capital allocation alone from that demographic change is seismic,” he says. “Instead of rushing to buy houses in the suburbs after college, millennials are focused on 24/7 cities and entertainment. They don't want commitments. They saw their parents or their parents' friends with houses underwater during the last recession.”

Despite the uptick in loan activity, Zell thinks the confidence level among lenders is unjustified.

“The stock market reflects an almost perfect world scenario, but Main Street is not feeling the euphoria,” he says. “Take technology, for example, which is the single biggest tenant in this recovery. Technology is thriving on the availability of capital by selling equity to cover operating losses to chase an idea. Sound familiar? But ongoing burn rates are not an asset class.”

Throughout his storied career, Zell has relied on and honed his uncanny ability to identify investment opportunities in unlikely places and in uncommon industries.

“I'm an opportunistic investor, and there are always opportunities,” he says. “The difference between this recovery and those that preceded it has been the absence of obvious opportunities by sector or geography. Each deal - in debt or equity and regardless of industry - has been unique. I think that playing field will continue for the foreseeable future.”

Based on Zell's experience, trusting your instincts regarding opportunities is better than following the money.

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