Foreign Investors Plan to Buy More U.S. Apartment Properties

 In Industry News

International buyers are planning another huge year of investment in U.S. apartment properties, according to the 24th annual survey of the members of the Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate (AFIRE).

“The investment opportunity is the United States, itself,” says James A. Fetgatter, chief executive of AFIRE. “The real estate fundamentals are sound; the economy continues to remain strong; there are opportunities across all sectors of the real estate spectrum and in both gateway and secondary cities.”

International enthusiasm for apartment buildings in the U.S. will build on the huge investments foreigners made in such properties in 2015.

“No one plans a major decrease”

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of AFIRE’s members expect to have modest or major increases in their investment in U.S. real estate in 2016, according to the survey. Roughly another third (31 percent) say they expect to maintain their current investment levels.

“No one plans a major decrease,” according to AFIRE, whose members are among the world’s largest institutional real estate investors and have an estimated $2 trillion or more in real estate assets under management. The survey was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2015 by the James A. Graaskamp Center for Real Estate, Wisconsin School of Business.

These investors most prefer multifamily and industrial properties, compared to other property types. Retail came in third, followed by office and hotels.

More than five-out-of-six respondents (85 percent) say their perspective on the viability of the US real estate market was unchanged compared to last year, although 80 percent said it was “very” (35 percent) or “somewhat” (45 percent) difficult to find attractive US real estate investment opportunities.

2015 a banner year for international investment

Foreign buyers were particularly active in the U.S. property market in 2015. The volume of investment in apartment properties that involved foreign buyers grew 180 percent in 2015, according to New York City-based research firm Real Capital Analytics (RCA). Overall, investors of all types bought a total of $150 billion in apartment properties in 2015, up nearly a third from 2014, according to RCA.

Canadian investors spent more than investors from any other foreign country on U.S. apartment properties: more than $10 billion in U.S. dollars. The giant, $5.3 billion sale of Stuyvesant Town in New York City to a partnership including Montreal-based Ivanhoe Cambridge counted for more than half of that sum. But the total volume of investment from Canada would be significant even without the Stuyvesant Town deal.

“It takes more than one big deal,” says Jim Costello, senior vice president for RCA. “It is a lot of small transactions.”

Investors from other countries were very active as well. Even without Canadian investment, the total volume of investment from other foreign countries in U.S. apartment properties grew 81 percent in 2015 compared to the year before. Investors from the U.K. spent less than $2 billion.

Middle Eastern investors participated in apartment deals totaling $1.6 billion, despite concerns about waning falling oil prices. Investors from Qatar and Bahrain lead this group with a number of portfolio deals, according to RCA.

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