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NEW YORK CITY-The credit crunch might have sent reverberations through international real estate as a whole, but firms still need to look at individual markets when making investment decisions, said speakers today on a panel at NAREIT’s REITWeek event. This is especially true in foreign locales.

“Real estate is still a local industry,” stressed Jack Foster, managing director and head of global real estate, at Franklin Templeton Investments. Since real estate is priced locally and driven by local economies, it is the duty of investors to find the best values around the world, he said.

However, there are some challenges, especially in countries that might not have the level of transparency enjoyed in the US, pointed out James Rehlaender, managing director of European Investors Inc. “The companies themselves don’t offer up much information,” he said but acknowledged that “the last three years is 10 times better than it was five years ago.”

And though they are attractive because the returns can come in higher, emerging markets can be even tougher, said Nancy Holland, chief investment officer of global securities for Fortis Investments. “There’s not a lot of research out there on any of these countries,” she said. “You have to have people out there who understand these markets.”

But these challenges aren’t stopping investors from delving into international markets. For his part, Jeffrey Horowitz, global head of real estate investment banking at Merrill Lynch, said his firm will likely garner two thirds to three fourths of its revenue from foreign entities in the next few years.

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