Norton: The only thing certain right now is uncertainty

We’re not out of the woods until there is a viable vaccine
Bill Norton

Bill Norton

Labor Day has come and gone, although with a much different feel as the pandemic, a great distractor, has broken the natural rhythm of the end of the summer and kids back to school.

Some days this summer seemed like vacation while others seemed tedious. In the world of commercial real estate, transactions (sales and leases) have been virtually nonexistent since March. The hope was that things would pick up post-Labor Day, but I sense it is now post-November elections…

Is school on or off? Are kids going back? Or remote? Or both? How about work – are we going back? Yesterday I was in our 3,000-square-foot office all by myself (again).

The first round of stimulus/recovery money is nearly spent, but Congress can’t agree on Round Two. For those who were getting the extra $600 a week, this is crunch time.

Here in New England, on top of the pandemic, there is even more polarized politics and all kinds of uncertainty. We have a record heat wave and drought. One upside has been more time for golf. I have lowered my handicap by four strokes. Alas, soon I will put the clubs in the garage for five months.

Today’s headline reads, “U.S. economy struggles to sustain recovery.” That is what is in front of us. Lots of uncertainty.

What we have learned is that an economy that is 70% services, mostly retail and entertainment, is not very durable. We also have learned that while we did hunker down and get through the last six months (March-August), it has not been pretty. At the New Year, we will see that the economic impacts are “Huge” (to quote what’s his name). Seriously, it will take five to 10 years to reflate the economy back to where we were.

In the meantime, Congress remains deadlocked on relief. I am one of the first to admit that printing money, throwing trillions at the wall and seeing what sticks, is not a great strategy, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Despite all the positive, wishful thinking, we are not out of the woods until there is a viable, working vaccine, widely distributed and everyone inoculated. That is two years, maybe three years, out – best case.

I am advising clients and friends that it is next summer before we really know where we stand on the pandemic, on the economy, on Washington, D.C., Congress and the White House, as well as back here in New Hampshire on our Main Streets. As a fellow CRE is fond of saying, this is a campaign, not a battle.

One last request: pay attention. Get out and vote or vote by mail now/soonest. This is no time to be silent on the sidelines. Regardless of your choice, make yourself heard because we have to live through the next four years…

Bill Norton, president of Norton Asset Management and an honorary member of AIANH, is a Counselor of Real Estate (CRE) and a Facilities Management Administrator (FMA). He can be reached at

Categories: Real Estate