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Foreign Investors Like Luxury

You know what they say about polls.  Still, a recent one is an interesting temperature reading for the new economy.   Overseas investors in United States real estate prefer retail versus office or industrial space right now, according to a recent issue of Commercial Property News. This is just one conclusion in a survey that examined the influence of the current housing slump on the economy and consumer spending.  Nearly 200 members of the Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate (AFIRE) revised their favored property rankings from the previous year.  Retail soared to first from fifth place, while hotels fell from second to fourth place  Office space plunged from first place to last. “While foreign investors are aware of the high occupancy and rental-rate increases in the office market, they fear that the credit crunch will cause tenants to lay people off and contract their space needs,” reported Karin Shewer, a principal for New York City-based Real Estate Capital Partners, which advises European investors about American real estate markets.  Shewer says multifamily’s lack of popularity is the result of a growing uneasiness with the United States condominium market.“Another issue with multifamily is that cap rates are very low right now and returns are limited,” Shewer said.  The strong preference for hotels relates to aging baby boomers.  According to Shewer, “A lot of baby boomers will inherit from parents who were conservative savers, and as they move toward retirement, they will have more time to travel, and they will occupy hotels.”  So why retail at the top?  Dan Fasulo, managing director for Real Capital Analytics, Inc., notes that “Retail is a diverse property type with many sub-niches.  What these investors might be referencing is high-end urban luxury retail.  We have seen a boom like never before in high-fashion apparel, jewelry and other upscale specialty stores that have been expanding globally as the worldwide economic expansion has driven up disposable incomes of affluent people around the world.”  The AFIRE survey also found that foreign investors still prefer American real estate to that in other countries.  To illustrate, AFIRE’s members collectively own $700 billion worth of real estate worldwide; $230 billion of that is invested in the United States.Lastly, AFIRE members were asked to rank their favorite cities for investment.  New York City and Washington, D.C., took first and second place.  London, Paris and Shanghai completed the list.

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