City in Texas is “strongest market” in US

Houston is one of the top commercial real estate markets in the nation.

According to a CEO from one of the country's top real estate development firms, a certain Texas city is the place to be for commercial real estate.

"Houston is booming and bar none the strongest market in the United States of America," Joseph Sitt, CEO of Thor Equities, told Reuters. Sitt and his company currently have two projects underway in Houston.

The Texas economy jumped 4.8 percent last year, marking the fastest rate of improvement among the biggest states in the nation. Houston has been a major contributor to the Texas economy, and the city has added 100,000 jobs in 2012 and is expected to add another 80,000 in 2013.

Even Wells Fargo – one of the most conservative big banks in the country, according to Reuters – is getting in on the fun. Houston is one of the few places in the nation where banks are loaning money for construction starts without requiring developers to have a tenant before breaking ground.

Exxon is currently building a 20 building, 400-acre campus with with room to employ 10,000 workers. Exxon calls it "one of the largest commercial construction projects underway in North America."

Right now, Houston and its surrounding suburbs are home to the construction of 56 office buildings that total more than 11 million-square-feet of space, according to real estate service firm CBRE.
The shale oil and gas industry has helped turn Houston into an energy capitol, and companies are expanding in the area to meet demands for bigger workforces.

"If you are investing in Houston, you're a believer in the energy sector long term, which we are," said Russell Cooper, managing director of capital transactions at Shorenstein Properties LLC in San Francisco.

Still, economists are careful to point out that oil and gas in Texas has been a volatile market.

"The Texas oil and gas industry is not known for long periods of stability," Karr Ingham, economist for the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers. "Nobody wants what happened (in past busts) to happen again."

Large insurance company investing in Houston
The New York-based MetLife Inc., has closed on a $235 million loan from BG Group Place on a 46-story high-rise in downtown Houston. The building, which is located at 811 Main St., is the most recent addition to Houston's Class A office towers. The building is 973,800-square-feet.

"The BG Group Place investment aligns well with our overall commercial real estate strategy and allows MetLife to grow in a key market for us," said Robert Merck, senior managing director and head of real estate investments for MetLife.

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