Ward to the Wise

REAL ESTATE PUBLIC RELATIONS: Veteran real estate reporter Ralph Bivins dishes on What’s hot, What’s not

Q.  As someone who has covered Houston’s real estate market for 30+ years, what do you think sets Houston apart from other Ralph Bivins head photomajor cities when it comes to real estate development?

A.  Most people would say the lack of zoning is a major difference. That is certainly true but I think what really sets Houston apart is its spirit of entrepreneurship.  Other cities are not as accepting or open in welcoming newcomers. In Houston, if you have a good project and moxie to get it built, you can be successful.

Q.  What major challenges/issues do your foresee in Houston’s real estate community?

A.  The slump in energy prices has had significant impact. We are seeing energy companies downsizing their footprint and subleasing empty space, so the office market is definitely getting softer. Energy and energy-related company mergers and acquisitions will continue to exacerbate that problem. The recent robust multi-family housing market has resulted in the building of numerous high-end apartment communities and I see a slowing in the absorption rate in the market.

Q.  Looking into the future, what trends do you see in different sectors of the real estate industry?

A.  Even with the sluggish energy industry, the single-family home market remains relatively unscathed. Houston’s population is still growing and the low inventory of single-family homes combined with low interest rates bodes well for positive growth and continued sales. Homes close to major employment centers are in high demand, as are those located in areas near the medical center and downtown. We’ve also seen significant growth in high-rise residential close to downtown. That vertical residential expansion will continue.

The most exciting new trend is the growth in the industrial sector in south Houston. The area has great access to downtown and lots of available land. The expansion of the Panama Canal will bring more containers to Houston and that’s another factor that will contribute to industrial growth. We also are seeing chemical plant construction and expansion.

Q.  What sorts of real estate stories are you looking for from public relations professionals?

A.  I’m always looking for information on new development projects and areas being developed or redeveloped. Real estate projects and people that are pioneering something new that allow for some analysis are of great interest to my audience. I also like receiving details on real estate transactions, prices, who the players are, etc. I don’t have space for personnel announcements other than at the CEO level. The same goes for office lease renewals.

Q.  How has media changed since you’ve been covering real estate?

A.  The changes are significant. No longer is there one “top dog” newspaper covering real estate. Print publications are losing readership. Media today is a diversified environment and people get their news from multiple sources. Social media should be a critical part of communicating effectively in 2015.

Q.  Can you share your insight on common mistakes you see from PR pros?  Any pet peeves?

A. I find it irritating when a PR professional gives an exclusive announcement to one publication. They may get their big splash, but they won’t get coverage anywhere else. It’s offensive to the other real estate reporters and certainly not good media relations. I have great respect for PR professionals who deal fairly with the media and stand up to clients and/or reporters who request an exclusive. My advice to PR pros is to counsel clients that working with the media is a long-term game and it’s about building relationships. Reputations and relationships last longer than just one story.

Ralph Bivins is an award-winning journalist with extensive experience in print, broadcast and online media. He is the founder of RealtyNewsReport.com that covers regional and national news of significant trends and transactions in commercial and residential real estate. Subscribe to Ralph’s blog at RealtyNewsReport.com or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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