It is a truism that institutional investors in commercial real estate tend to play it safe, preferring core land value-add strategies and properties in gateway markets. In recent years many of these funds have pushed the envelope to consider secondary market investments but 2020 marked a significant pivot for these funds: a focus on distress. 

This, of course, is little surprise given the economic upheaval caused by the pandemic. Many, many investors have lined up to take advantage of such opportunities, even though the pipeline of deals has been less bountiful than expected as lenders worked hard with borrowers to keep loans current. 

Still, institutional investors' appetite for high-return CRE strategies this year is clear, according to Cornell University's Baker Program in Real Estate and Hodes Weill & Associates eighth annual Institutional Real Estate Allocations Monitor. "While value add strategies remain the strongest preference for institutions globally, investors are shifting a greater allocation of their portfolios to opportunistic strategies in anticipation of market distress and dislocations," it says. 

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Lisa Brown

Lisa Brown is an editor for the south and west regions of She has 25-plus years of real estate experience, with a regional PR role at Grubb & Ellis and a national communications position at MMI. Brown also spent 10 years as executive director at NAIOP San Francisco Bay Area chapter, where she led the organization to achieving its first national award honors and recognition on Capitol Hill. She has written extensively on commercial real estate topics and edited numerous pieces on the subject.