The State of Foreign Investment in Real Estate

By McCoy, Bowen H. | Real Estate Issues, August 1997 | Go to article overview

The State of Foreign Investment in Real Estate


McCoy, Bowen H., Real Estate Issues


It is a special pleasure to write the introductory letter to this international edition, as I have had the privilege of engaging in international finance for 35 years. It is interesting to me that, while we pride ourselves on the large amount of international finance which has taken place over these years, in percentage terms, the relative portion of international trade and finance is probably less today than it was in the 19th century, when foreign capital flows supported the growth of nations such as the United States, Australia, India, and the African colonies. Indeed, if one goes back even further in time, the great French economic historian, Fernard Braudel, reports that the silver mines of New Spain (Central America) created such inflation levels in Spain that they literally bankrupted the nation.

Nonetheless, the nominal level of international capital flows is much higher than ever before. In my own experience, I have noted that, from time to time, various parts of the world have found themselves afloat in dollars for particular reasons, and their financial institutions seek ways to invest such surplus flows. This was a part of the "Italian miracle" in the early 1960s. The central bank in Italy dealt privately with a couple of New York investment banks to recycle roughly a billion dollars of such funds. The same situation occurred, on a larger scale, in the Middle East in the early 1970s and in Japan, on an even larger scale, throughout the 1980s. Typically, such capital flows are invested first in U.S. Government securities; then in high-grade corporate bonds; and, late in the cycle, in equities, joint-ventures, and real estate. …

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