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Ron Weaver

Real estate lawyer with Stearns, Weaver, Miller, Weissler, Alhadeff and Sitterson, Tampa

Q. How do you think real estate sectors will fare in 2004?

Residential will remain strong, though I have concerns interest rates may rise in the third or fourth quarter. But as long as mortgages are under 8 percent, sales should be strong. Retail also will continue the strength of the last two or three years, because it's chasing housetops. Apartments are becoming strong after a mediocre couple of years. Industrial also has been mediocre, with a little slacking due to the jobless recovery.

Q. Do you see any upturn for office real estate?

Office space has been hurting for the last four or five years and it began to stabilize last year. The next year or two, we should see some rebounding; the West Shore area (in Tampa) is having a little revival. There still will be some soft spots downtown and no new office space is being built because you need $28 (per square foot) to build and can only get $20 for rent. But as companies move around and upgrade, you may see a dollar or two increase in rates downtown. New-car-itis will hit.

Q. Any concern about a downturn in the residential market?

After the election, Bush or whoever will have to do catch-up regarding rates. So it may be a totally different prognosis in 18 months, with some softening. Residential has been too good for 10 years. There's the concept of pent-up demand, but it's been spent up in the last 10 years with regards to residential.

_ KRIS HUNDLEY, Times staff writer

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