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South Coast’s Fourth Quarter Commercial Sales Post Highest Gains in Years

In advance of 2013 tax hikes, end-of-year commercial sales nearly match total transactions for first nine months

The final months of 2012 saw the greatest number of South Coast commercial property sales in years, but real estate professionals aren’t hopeful that run will continue.

Pacifica Commercial Realty reported 31 sales of commercial office, industrial, retail or land in the fourth quarter, for a combined value of $140 million.

The number of sales rivals the 36 transactions of the preceding nine months and easily surpasses their transaction value of $110 million, according to Mark Mattingly, Pacifica executive vice president.

The 69 transactions for 2012 represented $250 million, a sizable 47 percent increase over 2011.

While fourth quarter sales had a banner showing — December was the best single month in a decade — commercial leasing experienced little movement.

Mattingly didn’t expect the sales to inflate consumer confidence, attributing the boost in transaction activity to anticipation of impending federal and state tax hikes.

“We expected that there was going to be a real flurry of activity in anticipation of increasing tax rates,” he said. “This coming year will be significantly slower than what we saw. I think people did the deal they were going to do. It’s going to take a while to build up steam. It’s kind of, I think, the unintended consequence of misguided federal policy.”

Much of the final quarter activity was courtesy of investors realigning their portfolios and taking gains pre-tax increases, Mattingly said.

A better indicator of a healthy real estate market, he added, is a decrease in vacancy rates.

Last year was nowhere near being a notable year in terms of new leasing activity or decreases in vacancy.

“Slow leasing is an indicator of corporate America’s reluctance to make commitments,” Mattingly told Noozhawk. “There’s not some overwhelming confidence that we’re in the midst of some sustainable economic recovery. I think everybody is very concerned.

“I’m working harder,” he continued. “I have to.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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