Real estate to Trump: Produce evidence or move on

Some were wary about the uncertainty caused by Trump's legal challenges to Biden's win

National /
Nov.November 09, 2020 01:30 PM
President elect Joseph Biden (Getty)

President-elect Joe Biden (Getty)

Former Vice President Joe Biden declared victory in the contentious 2020 presidential race Saturday morning after securing the clinching number of Electoral College votes from Pennsylvania.

President Donald Trump, however, refused to concede Saturday, vowing that he would “not rest until the American People have the honest vote count,” likely setting the stage for several more weeks, or even months, of uncertainty.

On Thursday and Friday, the president’s lawyers filed several lawsuits challenging the ballot counting practices in four states, alleging fraud without clear evidence. Federal judges have dismissed two of those lawsuits, in Michigan and Georgia. In the latter, election officials have already indicated that they will conduct a recount, given the thin margin between the two candidates. Biden’s narrow lead in Wisconsin is also poised to trigger a recount.

In interviews, real estate veterans told The Real Deal that Trump’s efforts to prolong the election could disrupt domestic and global markets. Some said the president should either provide evidence to support his allegations of fraud or step aside.

“It is hard to lose, as a competitive person myself,” said developer Don Peebles. “Hopefully he either brings forth some concrete evidence of voter fraud, or we move on, and he accepts the outcome of the election.”

Earlier this week, New York developer MaryAnne Gilmartin said that while “some level of uncertainty was already priced into the markets,” a protracted election process could cause a disturbance.

Condo.com founder Richard Swerdlow called the president’s legal threats “concerning” as the U.S. dollar is typically viewed as a currency of stability.

“When you’ve got these threats of lawsuits and who’s going to win, the global economy is on edge,” he said. “In general, it creates an environment of instability. Do [foreign investors] continue to invest in real estate?”

Real estate attorney Adam Leitman Bailey said the uncertainty stemming from election litigation won’t likely affect the real estate market, but could complicate delivery of the next federal stimulus package.

The real estate industry is also watching the remaining unresolved U.S. Senate races closely. Two contests in Georgia are expected to lead to a runoff election in January, reviving Democrats’ hopes of taking control of Congress. To secure that, Democrats would need to win two more Senate seats, since the vice president can cast a tie-breaking vote on Senate legislation.

Many in the industry are encouraged by the prospect of a split Congress, believing it will prevent the rollback of lucrative tax breaks and the implementation of other progressive policies.

“I hope we get the centrist Joe Biden and not the recent Joe Biden, and that we maintain what has worked from the Trump administration,” developer Shahab Karmely of KAR Properties said early Friday, pointing to Trump’s tax and trade policies.

Developer Francis Greenburger said that even if Congress is split and Biden doesn’t have much influence over legislation, the real estate industry would also benefit from “having various cabinets and divisions of government led by people who align with the traditional mission of those organizations, as opposed to other interests.” (Andrew Wheeler, the Trump-appointed head of the Environmental Protection Agency, formerly lobbied on behalf of the coal industry.)

Leitman Bailey said Trump’s supporters in real estate will likely have a better time stomaching a Biden presidency than those who opposed the president would have grappling with another four years of Trump. He agreed that some Trump supporters are comforted by the idea of a Republican-controlled Senate.

“They are realizing that you are not going to have a runaway socialist government,” he said. “The president matters a lot, but at least there’s a net beneath the president that is going to be moderate.”

Katherine Kallergis and Georgia Kromrei contributed reporting.


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