While U.S. pensions funds are slowly becoming interested in real estate investments, they risk being outpaced by foreign funds, industry reports indicate in its annual survey of the investment activity of large corporate pension funds, Greenwich Research Associates reported a modest increae in equity property investments during the past three years, particularly among firms with the highest pension fund assets.

At the same time, however, a recent Pensions & Investments magazine article noted that, increasingly foreign funds have been finding fewer investment quality properties at home and abroad and are turning to joint ventures with American developers.

Of 1,000 companies with pension plans interviewed by the Greenwich organization, 16 percent indicated that they were investing part of those assets in real estate, compared with 10 percent three years ago. Currently, 12 percent of the companies surveyed plan to start investing to real estate.

Forty percent of the companies surveyed that rank among the 100 largest in the nation are now investing pension funds in properties and another 16 percent told the research firm they plan to enter soon. Nearby half of the employe benefit funds with assets of more than $500 million invest in real property, with 19 percent more planning to jump in.

According to Penions & Investments, pension funds from England and the Netherlands are leading the foreign invasion.

"What we have seen so far is the tip to the iceberg," one Chicago developer told the magazine9 "There are still a vast number of European institutions that are ready to go into the domestic market."