Investment Column: Robust Foreign Capital Heads to the Sunbelt

By Steve Pumper, Executive Managing Partner, Transwestern: Learn why the Sunbelt may be the next hot place for U.S. and foreign investments in 2016.

Pumper, SteveThe investment market for U.S. commercial real estate has picked up in all categories this year, and that momentum should continue into next year. Foreign investors still see the U.S. as a safe haven for capital, meaning we should expect another wave of international capital flowing into the U.S. commercial real estate market in 2016. Specifically, enduring global unrest in the Middle East and Europe will prompt an inflow of international capital to trophy assets in core markets as the U.S. continues to outperform other countries in terms of GDP growth and solid business fundamentals. We will therefore remain pursued by the countries we’ve seen before, but with more capital from Japanese investors due to changes in their investment parameters.

All of these factors will combine to generate investment transaction volume in 2016 that’s in line with the volume of 2015, which is headed for an all-time high, surpassing 2007 levels.

All the major product types saw an increased year-over-year investment volume in 2015 (as of Oct. 31):

  • Office product had $121.5 billion in transaction volume, representing a 23 percent year-over-year increase;
  • Multifamily had $119 billion, a 32 percent year-over-year increase;
  • Retail had $73 billion, a 1 percent year-over-year increase;
  • Industrial had $58.2 billion, a 49 percent year-over-year increase;
  • Hotels had $37.9 billion, a 35 percent year-over-year increase; and
  • Development sites had $19.9 billion, a 14 percent year-over-year increase.

In total, this year has seen $429.3 billion in investment sales, representing a 24 percent year-over-year increase. Foreign capital accounted for $76.8 billion of that volume, or 18 percent. While there is much talk in the industry around Chinese investment, with it being the fifth-largest source of foreign capital in 2015 with $3.9 billion, Canada led the way with $23.2 billion, followed by Singapore at $14 billion and Norway at $8.6 billion. Qatar, China and Germany were virtually tied in the $3.8 billion to $3.9 billion range.

Most investors, foreign and domestic, are still targeting core markets. Manhattan generated $22 billion in transaction volume, followed by a steep drop-off to $3.9 billion in Los Angeles. Foreign investors are beginning to target markets in the Sunbelt such as Atlanta, Dallas and Phoenix as product availability and pricing make it increasingly difficult to achieve investment objectives in major markets like Boston, Manhattan, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

Atlanta and Phoenix have been laggards onto the economic recovery stage, but both have been gaining traction through 2015 that will continue into 2016 and make them significant players for foreign investment capital in the coming years.