Just Wait

Ah, it’s the last day of my (brief) “staycation.” I’m sure you can relate to the idea of having a huge list of things to do and only accomplishing a few of them. How does this happen?

The simple answer is that those of us who plan to do things are in a select group—those always thinking ahead of the next thing(s) to accomplish, and laying out a plan for how they are to be done. It all sounds so easy on paper.

If your universe is parallel to mine, what you have been experiencing lately is a scrambling from one idea to the next—how you might best use this “slow” time to catch up on the many ideas you have been contemplating, and how you might bring them to fruition.

We architects are the same. Our research and development departments have been in high gear, working diligently to conjure up the “next big thing,” that will help to grease the skids of commerce and get us all rolling as it was in the “salad days.” (Does anyone remember 2005?)

What we’ve been searching for, often in conjunction with our reliable clients, or even with those new groups who have formed from the wreckage of the housing bubble, is the next avenue of unbridled success—what combination of product, approach, and process will bring us again to a position of strength and leadership in the industry? The searching, as it turns out, will certainly do us all good.

Isn’t it a wonderful thing that the fundamentals of the rental housing business will not need to be re-tooled as the American auto industry? (Well, hopefully not.) At its core, the enterprise still produces quality dwellings for a large percentage of Americans.

Every apartment provider has taken a beating over the last many months; many are waiting with “shovel-ready” products to start up when the magical mixture of lower construction costs plus months to delivery hits the catalytic nexus. Many of us believe that will occur in the third quarter of this year. That means we have only a few months to hang on until the next boom cycle gets started in earnest!

Around me I hear reports of how the demand for rental housing, especially in the most impacted markets, continues to build up. Meanwhile, of course, the development folks who have been separated from their previous gig have teamed with others of like mind to form new entities to provide this very necessary asset. Long and short, when the “orders” start rolling in with renewed vigor, they will surpass what we have experienced in the past due to sheer demand.

A wise advisor of mine counseled that on average, the lapse between the S & P 500 hitting bottom, and the employment picture changing to positive is on average nine months. I saw a Yahoo! Headline this morning that said the S & P is in plus territory; this can mean only one thing: gentlemen, start your engines!

Our firm, like everyone else, has preened and adjusted to these bitter times. But the light is on at the end of the tunnel, and I’m persuaded it’s not just another train. It’s time to cozy up to your favorite professional and start talking and drawing the future.

It’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.

(Daniel Gehman is principal at Thomas Cox Architects. He can be reached at DanielG@tca-arch.com)