Ever since the start of the market downturn in the summer of 2007, people have been eagerly looking to MIPIM as the potential herald of the return of the heydays of real estate. No such message came in 2009 or 2010, and I don’t think this is the kind of message that people came back with this year either.

But is this message ever going to come in the end? Probably not. People ought to understand that there is no return in sight, and this is probably for the better.

If anything, MIPIM shows that the market is changing rapidly, and probably for the better. The real estate industry appears to be shrinking and a number of players have already withdrawn from the market. It is probably better this way because presumably those who have left the marketplace, or are about to, are the weakest ones. Natural selection is at work.

But the shrinking of the real estate industry is not sufficient in itself to procure a bright future for the survivors.

More than ever, those who will develop and prosper in the years to come will be those who will be the most inventive, those who will demonstrate the best aptitude to seize the opportunities offered by the changed economic environment. To name but a few of the current opportunities in Brussels, the depressed office market offers opportunities for those developers who have the skills to redevelop properties for other purposes, such as housing. The ability to grasp the opportunities offered by the green revolution is also a significant advantage for office, retail and warehouse owners. And the same rule applies to those who will be able to set up alternative sources of financing to remedy the persisting tight debt market.

The conclusion therefore is, don’t wait for MIPIM to tell you what to do, but look around and identify the opportunities, work hard on it, and you might then be able to return to MIPIM next year with very interesting news to tell the market!