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It may seem that recent events have more to do with world politics than the real estate business but thinking beyond the headlines is revealing.

First, there is the security angle. The cash which flows from a building depends on tenants being happy and tenants expect to be secure. I was in Toronto on Wednesday, visiting some of our co-op employers including one in the CIBC tower. She mentioned that the level of security had risen, even if the focus of attention was hundreds of kilometers away. I am sure that all of the bank buildings at King and Bay have emergency plans, both because they are managed by some of the best property managers and because the events of 9/11 affected what people worry about [1] [2].

Second, there is the human angle. Headlines shout: “if it bleeds, it leads” is an old idea in media.  I find that insights are rarely found in a headline, such as the people who offered first aid to Cpl. Cirillo at the War Memorial: even if we cannot prevent a disaster, we are not helpless. I encourage students (in our Property Management class) to take a first aid class: e.g. Red Cross or St. John’s Ambulance.  You never know when you might make a difference.

Third, there is a political angle. Recent events are making people think of new laws to control people who may disagree with a policy or an opinion. In the real estate business, it is easy to find flashpoints where people raise the voices in disagreement: e.g. developers who are unhappy at politicians for stopping or slowing down a good idea or residents who are want politicians to stop a project.

I once heard a speech by Rex Murphy to a large gathering of real estate professionals and he was talking about the advantages Canada offers to the real estate business. But it wasn’t taxes or regulations or the state of the economy that he was talking about. He was talking about the advantages of a decent political system. We complain about this or that aspect of a government, perhaps with great energy, but it is also important to recognize a proper limit on disagreement. Canadians have a reputation for being nice, as opposed to “my way or else”, and for finding ways of getting along. Compared to the rest of the world, our political system is stable, mostly efficient, and relatively predictable. Businesses can make investment plans for 25 or 30 years. Unhappiness with an aspect of government does not cause somebody to start a revolution. In many other parts of the world, that situation is less certain.

So, while the news this week has been startling, the most important stuff may not be in the headlines. Like the real estate business as a whole, the important stuff often hides in plain sight.

PS: More on News and Real Estate. The website of Medecins sans Frontieres has a graphic (in the middle of a long page) showing the design features used to set up a hospital in Africa when treating patients who have or may have the Ebola disease. This graphic, and the thoughtful experience which led to it, illustrates another lesson for the real estate business: preparation and forethought may not be front page news but you do not want to be on the front page because of a mistake.

PA

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