NEW YORK CITY-Investor concerns about the outlook for real estate in the Americas appear to be lightening up compared to three months ago, say respondents to the latest RICS Global Commercial Property Survey, distributed here by RICS Americas. However, that upsurge in confidence is lagging in the US as compared to Asian markets, the quarterly survey finds.

Just 24% of US professionals expect investors to hold off putting their money into commercial property, compared to the second quarter’s 43%, according to the survey. The contrast is even sharper when drawn against the fourth quarter of 2008, when 92% of respondents said they didn’t expect investors to budge.

In Asian markets, though, the outlook is considerably more upbeat about both leasing and investment sales. Sixteen percent of Hong Kong respondents, for example, expect rents to rise during Q4 2009, compared to 67% surveyed in Q2 who expected further downward pressure. Most US and Canadian respondents, by contrast, expect tenant demand to remain weak in Q4, while their counterparts in South American markets such as Peru are considerably more bullish.

“The Asian economy has withstood the extreme downturns of some of the more developed markets, including the US,” Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist for London-based RICS, tells “So it’s not surprising that the tenant market has held up relatively well. But the investment market has also done pretty well; we’re seeing capital values go up in some Asian markets. They could go up a bit further on the back of what is quite an accommodating monetary stance in many of those economies.”

Regarding the sunnier outlook toward the US investment picture, Rubinsohn says, “The market has begun to adjust. People are looking at asset classes and what opportunities there are. There is less negativity about the marketplace; there are going to be distressed assets sold, and those will attract interest.”

However, the challenges of obtaining credit still weigh on investors and mitigate against investment activity. “There is more interest out there; we’re nearer to the bottom in terms of investor activity,” says Rubinsohn. “Looking at some of the data from Real Capital Analytics, we have seen more transaction activity. But that’s the case in most developed markets, although only to a limited degree.” He adds that the look of mortgage financing “tells me the US market isn’t going to rush back anytime soon.”

Steve Williams, founding partner of Williams-Murdoch and global advisor to RCA, says in a RICS America release that “general economic indices look slightly more positive and confidence is guardedly returning, but tempered by concerns of rising short-term unemployment and long-term inflationary fears. While recovery theorists abound, the market has yet to confirm the veracity or resilience of the market’s green-shoots.”

Accordingly, Rubinsohn says RICS expects US professionals’ expectations to remain “subdued” in the near term. “Some of the economic numbers may improve, and that may begin to seep through into seep through into sentiment in the fourth quarter,” he says. “But let’s not get carried away with any improvement. It’s going to be very marginal at this stage.”

Rubinsohn says it’s “conceivable” that the markets could improve a little faster in centers such as New York City, with limited supply and high-quality product. “If the experience of the UK is anything to go by, we are starting to see that,” he says. “The better assets in London have responded. It’s partly overseas interest and it’s partly the fact that these are always going to be good quality products with a reliable income stream. But when you look at the US as a whole, I suspect you’re talking about a more subdued picture in Q4.”

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