The stock market has plunged and the federal budget and international trade deficits are still substantial, but these negative indicators have only slightly dampened the outlook of real estate industry leaders.
Many of those gathered at the National Association of Realtors' annual convention in Honolulu this week viewed the nation's economic woes as a warning, but not as an imminent catastrophe.
Almost uniformly, they said they believe 1988 will not be as robust as the years of 1986 and 1987 for the real estate industry, but not bad either.
Don Straszheim, chief economist for Merrill Lynch Inc., said the stock market's precipitous decline on Black Monday, Oct. 19, will help "reduce consumption and spending, raise savings, lower interest rates and reduce the risk of inflation.
"I don't think we'll have a recession in 1988," he said. Nonetheless, he warned, "We are so far from equilibrium that sometime in the next couple of years we'll fall into recession."
Economist Stephen E. Roulac of the Roulac Real Estate Consulting Group, said the "adjustment in the stock market will be very positive" for real estate investors.
"Right today you can buy property for 1980 prices. Stocks and bonds are viewed as more risky and real estate less risky. It is a much more dicey setting, but overall the outlook is positive," Roulac said.
He conceded there is "too much capital in real estate," which has led to vast overbuilding of office buildings in many cities, "and it's going to continue."
Then why put money into real estate?
"Look at the alternatives," Roulac said. "People are not going to put it into stocks and bonds."
Industry leaders also said they see mortgage interest rates remaining stable, at least in the next few months.
William M. Moore, the Realtor group's 1987 president, said: "We're anticipating that 30-year, fixed-rate home loan rates will stabilize in the 10 to 10 1/2 percent range for the fourth quarter this year, which should more than offset any buyer apprehension about the future of the economy."
Robert Horner, chairman of Citicorp Mortgage, went a step further, predicting that loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration and the Veterans Administration will reach single digits again by next spring.
But he conceded, "I'm more optimistic than most."
Higher insurance premiums and other increasing costs helped push the average monthly assessments paid by condominium owners to $113.64 in 1986, up more than 5 percent over 1985 costs, according to a new study by the Institute of Real Estate Management.
Cooperative unit owners paid median monthly assessments of $212.15 per month, while planned unit development owners paid $81.41.
The report said the median annual cost of operating a condominium -- half cost more and half cost less -- totaled $1,192 per unit in 1986, up 4 percent from 1985.
The survey covered more than 1,300 properties in the United States and Canada with more than 185,000 units.
The WEFA Group, an economic forecasting firm, said it expects mortgage delinquencies to decline in most parts of the nation this year, but also predicted that foreclosures will rise in the next five years in certain New England, Mountain, West South Central and Pacific states.
John Savacol, WEFA's director of real estate services, said that housing markets respond to local economic conditions.
He said that mortgage loan performance is tied directly to home value appreciation, local unemployment rates and debt-to-income ratios and thus varies considerably nationwide.
"The severity of the local economic slump plays an important role in the timing and number of delinquencies, which can lead to defaults and subsequent disclosures," Savacol said.
"Once an economy reaches the bottom of its cycle, a substantial number of delinquencies will still lead to foreclosures over the recovery period," he said.
IN THE BUSINESS ... Beta- West Properties Inc. of Denver has bought a 50 percent share of two Washington area office parks, the Willow Oaks Corporate Center in Fairfax County and the Research Office Center in Montgomery County, from the Prudential Insurance Co. of America, which will retain 50 percent shares in the properties. The two firms have formed joint ventures to manage the existing properties and to build the second phase of Willow Oaks and the second and third phases of the Research Office Center. ... The Washington chapter of the American Institute of Architects has elected Mary L. Oehrlein, principal of Oehrlein and Associates, as its 1988 president. ... Development Resources Inc. has started construction on Madison Place, an office, retail and hotel complex on a block bounded by North Pitt, North St. Asaph, Montgomery and Madison streets in Alexandria. It was the former site of the old Alexandria roller rink. ... Realty World Corp., in its annual survey of home buyer preferences, found that the price of a home is the No. 1 consideration of buyers in picking a house. Last year the survey showed that location was the first determinant, a factor that was second this year.
PERSONNEL FILE ... Chuck Martin has been appointed vice president and principal broker of CMC Realty Services Inc. in Fairfax. ... Porter Partnership Inc., a Bethesda-based restaurant and hospitality architectural design firm, has named John C. Porter as president of its construction services division. ... J. Gary Lee has been named vice president of Xerox Realty Corp. to direct the continuing development of Lansdowne, the company's 2,267-acre mixed-use project near Leesburg. ... Michael Krauss, formerly marketing manager of the Rouse Co., has joined the Atlanta-based real estate firm of Ackerman & Co. as vice president for marketing. The firm is developing the Washingtonian Center in Gaithersburg. ... Michael W. Quinn has been apppointed senior vice president of marketing and sales for Long Signature Homes Inc.