Readers who enjoy poring over research have hit the jackpot. This issue features two exclusive studies: our second-annual borrower trends survey conducted independently by NREI, and a corporate real estate report compiled jointly by the editorial staff and Coldwell Banker Commercial. Here are some highlights and observations:

  • The retirement of Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who enjoyed rock-star status, is clearly concerning borrowers. One-third of the 354 borrowers in our survey say that his departure will impact interest rates over the next 12 months, a surprisingly high percentage. While Greenspan is a household name, his successor, Ben S. Bernanke, is a virtual unknown to most Americans. But that low profile is undoubtedly going to change — perhaps sooner than later if the fed funds rate climbs another quarter point.

  • One-quarter of borrowers (26%) expect their use of short-term debt to grow in the next 12 months. That figure is troubling, given some of the warning signs of excess liquidity, lax underwriting by lenders and historically low cap rates. The finding is an indication that there are plenty of borrowers who are not heeding the advice of seasoned industry veterans to lock in rates for the long haul. I wonder if these users of variable, short-term debt sleep well at night, because if interest rates spike faster than real estate fundamentals improve, the potential exists for a whole host of problems.

  • Four out of 10 respondents (42%) say that the 10-year Treasury yield will need to reach at least 6% before their use of fixed-rate, long-term financing is negatively affected. With the 10-year Treasury yield hovering near 4.5%, that means there is a cushion of 150 basis points before borrowers turn squeamish. Most experts don't expect the 10-year yield to hit 5% until at least mid-year, so lenders will likely experience a strong surge in volume in the foreseeable future, barring an unexpected economic shock.

  • Only 4% of corporate respondents plan significant hiring in 2006, down from 10% in last year's study, yet GDP grew 4.1% in the third quarter of 2005. Corporate America remains cautious about hiring, while the existing workforce is showing strong productivity gains. Also, much of the job creation in the past few years has been linked to small businesses. This trend, I believe, has strong implications for the office market recovery going forward.

  • Secondary markets remain strong candidates for growth largely due to the high real estate and business costs associated with major metros. More than half of corporate respondents (55%) currently own or occupy space in secondary markets. What's more, four out of 10 corporate respondents are likely to enter secondary markets in 2006. Why? Labor and land is less costly.

In short, there's a lot of fodder for discussion in this issue. If you have any feedback on our research reports or any other article, I encourage you to e-mail me at matt.valley@penton.com.