NEW YORK CITY-Having a presence here is a key factor to doing deals here, said panelists discussing what out-of-town investors look for in this market at the Young Mortgage Bankers Association’s spring luncheon. “One of the things that really makes a difference is having folks on the ground,” said James R. Dunlop, senior vice president of Archstone-Smith, which is the largest public apartment owner here in the city. He noted that sometimes out of towners have a “different way of looking at things that can turn mediocrity into success.”

According to the Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate, foreign investors view the US as the strongest and safest location for international commercial real estate acquisitions. In a survey released earlier this year, 74% of participants, compared to 60.7% in 2005, report that the US offers the most secure environment for investment.

Deals completed by foreign investors “attract a lot of attention,” said Mark Meier, director, Mitsui Fudosan America Inc. He expects there will be increasing amounts of Japanese capital going toward real estate due to such factors as the increasing Japanese economy, the interest in real estate, lack of domestic supply and legislative changes here. “There is no reason to expect investments will subside in the future.”

“Investors are looking for off-market deals,” noted Scott Latham, executive director, Cushman & Wakefield New York Capital Markets Group. “Private capital will continue to dominate.” He said part of the reason investors find the city so attractive is because “the fundamentals are very strong and the vacancy rate low.” He anticipates competition will remain as there is so much capital for the supply of suitable product.

While out-of-town investors seek out New York City, they can’t always get what they want. “We’d love to get a piece of dirt in Manhattan,” said Dunlop. “That’s what we can’t find.”

And Mark Meier offered an open call for properties here in the $50-million to $150-million range. “If there’s anything people want to part with, let us know.” He said the firm is particularly interested in vacant or near-vacant assets in Lower Manhattan. The panel was moderated by Mitchell S. Berkey, Esq., who is a partner at Wolff & Samson PC.

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