10/18/2010 10:48 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Real Estate and Business Concerns Are Front and Center at the MBA


Near term, economists tell us that less homebuyers and more apartment renters are in our future. Yet, the Mortgage Bankers Association reports that multifamily lending declined 40 percent in 2009 from its 2008 levels.

"2009 saw borrowing volumes drop 40 percent from the previous year, but 2,725 firms remained active in making loans backed by apartment buildings," says Jamie Woodwell, MBA's Vice President of Commercial Real Estate Research. The data includes rentals of five or more units. "The depth and breadth of the market provided loans of virtually all sizes." Higher underwriting standards are resulting in fewer refinances and less new construction.

I will find out more details at the MBA's 97th annual convention in Atlanta on Oct. 24-27. I'm attending to cobble together cutting-edge stories about real estate and small business.

Notably, industry conventions are rare opportunity to meet lots of prospects and industry leaders in one place. Even in this Internet networking age, pressing the flesh and looking your customers in the eye is still essential.

But it is important to be prepared in advance to get the most out of conventions. So that is what I am doing right now.

Unlike when I was an MBA member during my mortgage-banking career, I currently have nothing to sell. Thus my objectives are different and I am revising my game plan.

I want to learn how business owners are coping with the slow economy. Have they changed the way they advertise and promote their companies? Did they alter their business plans and add recession-friendly products?

It is likely that some have found niche services, such as managing bank-owned properties instead of financing them. Others are consulting with real estate investors to lower utility bills. Some appraisers are showing property owners how to reduce their property tax assessments.

Admittedly I'm out of practice going to conventions. Glad-handing and greeting hordes of convention goers will be uncomfortable for me. So I'm fumbling through the basics.

I established a priority list of convention attendees that I want to interview and sent them e-mails. Additionally, I checked out the speakers, events and presentation topics.

Heads of large national banks will be making presentations. Additionally, the CEOs of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are scheduled to tell us what they are doing with taxpayers' money. Ditto for the Assistant Secretary of the Federal Housing Administration. Euphemistically all three speeches are titled, "The Political Landscape."

Odd couple, Mary Matalin, Republican presidential advisor to George W. Bush, and her husband James Carville, Democratic presidential advisor to Bill Clinton will face off on the speakers' podium. She nicknamed Carville, "Serpent Head."

I am drafting an elevator speech. "Hi, I am Jerry Chautin, a business columnist and I'm looking for information that I can write about to help my real estate and business readers." Then I'll say, "If I can use your quotes, you'll get some free press exposure."

Maybe I will reverse that by offering free press exposure first to get their attention. Or is that too aggressive? Instead, I may test both to find out which works best.

I am also preparing for the opening night networking event. But being a shy person, I'll have to steel my resolve and strategically position myself at the entrance. That way I can greet people with my elevator speech as they come into room.

During breaks from the speeches, I will go to the exhibits. There are hundreds of booths so I am checking off the ones to visit beforehand.

Meanwhile, I would like to hear from you, my readers, if you have business or real estate questions and concerns. I'll ask the industry pundits that will be speaking at the convention and write about it in future columns. Please post your comments below or e-mail me at

Jerry Chautin is a volunteer SCORE business counselor, business columnist and SBA's 2006 national "Journalist of the Year" award winner. He is a former entrepreneur, commercial mortgage banker, commercial real estate dealmaker and business lender. You can follow him at