These last six months have been full of terrific opportunities for this travelling academic to feed her real estate addiction.
First up was a trip home to Madison for the Wisconsin Real Estate Alumni Association. Since I hold three degrees from UW Madison, this reunion (held every two years) is always a special one for me. This year we had record attendance. I studied at Madison when James Graaskamp was the chair and we were able to convince many of the old timers to return this year, which marked the 30th anniversary of his death. It was three days full of catching up with old friends and colleagues, and meeting the new generation of real estate professionals.
It was striking to see how small a world commercial real estate truly is and how important your network from graduate school can be. Many of the teams that got started early, possibly while in college, were still working together – and appeared to be doing very well.
Then there was a trip to Kiawah Island for the ULI SC Capital Markets event. This meeting, organised by the Local Urban Land Institute’s District Council, was optimistic and full of interesting takeaways. The most eye-opening was a vehicle created by the new US tax code called ‘opportunity zones’. These are special areas across the US, designated by the federal government, where you can invest capital gains from anyinvestment into a fund, and if that fund invests in the ‘zone’ the investor avoids paying capital gains tax (CGT).
The rules and regulations for the investments were not very clear at the meeting and are still not very clear now. What wasclear is that a significant number of investors are seriously contemplating the use of this new vehicle as a way to avoid CGT. It makes me nervous – real estate professionals have to be vigilant to avoid the sins of our past. We need to make sure that funds invested in these zones are used for real estate investments that make economic sense, as well as being tax-efficient.