Prospects of a recession aren't likely to deter foreign investments in U.S. real estate in 1980' a panel of real estate experts predicted here today.
Relative fiscal safety and higher yields will be the primary incentives for more foreigners to invest capital in major U.S. properties. Because these investors are seeking tax advantages and long-term appreciation, prospecets of any recession are "not too acute," said Georges DeWandeleer of Brussells, president of the International Real Estate Federation.
His views were supported at a national convention of Realtors by John Clayton of London, editor of a realty publication, and Henry Miller, a Dallas Realtor whose firm has been working with foreign investors for five years. Miller said his firm handled 85 sales of properties to foreign investors, mostly West Germans, for a total of $415 million.
"The demand is as strong as ever," Miller said at a news conference, "because safety of investment is considered ahead of yield." He added that both attractions are stronger in the U.S. for foreign investors who also enjoy tax advantages superior to those in their own lands. Miller said the major investment handled by his firm was Deutsche Bank purchase of three large office buildings in downtown Houston from developer Gerald Hines for a total of $150 million, of which $40 million was cash.
"Foreign investors are willing to put more cash into their purchases than American investors," Miller added in an interview. "They have the money in hand and are able to use it as an advantage in negotiations price." He said the greatest interest is in office buildings, but investments range from a ranch in Montana to a rice business in Louisiana.
Clayton pointed out that besides the other reasons for foreign interest in U.S. real estate, British invesotrs feel "increasing restrictions on U.S. developments are likely to make existing projects more valuable."
Personal investors are following the trend of insurance and pension funds into American real estate because restrictions on the movement of private funds out of the United Kingdom have eased, Clayton said.
The panelists said that no totals are available on foreign investments in U.S. real estate but that most estimates indicate the amount is less than one percent of all investment property in the nation. That percentage also covers foreign purchases of U.S. agricultural land.
Realtor Robert Ward of Orlando, Fla., said some U.S. developers are now making joint ventures with foreign investors who provide capital for new projects that might otherwise be unfeasible in this era of 17 to 19 percent construction-loan rates. Some U.S. banks act as trustees for foreign realty investors, he said. An interesting twist in today's real estate investment picture is that high rates of borrowing money are encouraging pools of investor cash to be created to buy prpoerties to and avoid financing costs and thus accomplish a higher yield.
More than 15,000 are attending the annual convention of the National Association of Realtors in an atmosphere darkened by rising mortgage interest rates and recent downturns in residential buying and selling. However, this has prompted realty brokers to keep business moving by showing property sellers how to provide their own financing to buyers unable to find affordable loans in the usual market.