A quarter of commercial property deals funded by private investors

Private investors accounted for a quarter, or $153bn (£100m), of all commercial property deals in 2014.

Many of these transactions were funded by ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWIs) – grouped as those with assets of $30m (£20m) or more – through family-owned funds, companies or private offices.

The figure represents a 7% rise from the $143bn (£94bn) invested by UHNWIs in 2013, contributing to an estimated total of $619 bn (£407bn) worth of commercial property deals conducted in 2014.

The Capital Markets survey in the Knight Frank Wealth Report showed that UHNWIs are looking beyond prime or trophy offices and retail space as a safe haven for their funds.

An increased risk appetite could see investors moving outside a capital city’s CBD area, where yields have become increasingly compressed, and heading to secondary cities where better value and higher returns could be available.
UHNWIs are also increasingly allocating funds to property investments outside their own country. Peripheral markets such as Ireland and Spain are benefiting from this trend.

James Roberts, Chief Economist at Knight Frank, said: “UHNWIs are adopting increasingly sophisticated investment strategies, and sometimes this approach involves the kind of active management previously restricted to institutions and funds”.

“Examples include refurbishment and development projects: where others may see down-at-heel neighbourhoods, he sees opportunities for regeneration and social change.”

Roberts added that investors are turning to real estate because of ‘uncertainty’ facing the global economy:

“For the investor in the Middle East it is uncertainty over the situation in Iraq and Syria. To the European or Japanese investor it is the move towards quantitative easing and whether this will end stagnation. Conversely, the American or Briton faces uncertainty on how best to invest to capitalise on an unfolding recovery.”

“A real estate investor knows that if the lean years are to continue, one buys the safe prime assets, like offices in Manhattan or shops on the Champs-Élysées. If the economy is about to improve, the riskier but higher-yielding properties are where opportunities lie.”