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Real estate as an asset class: Universal location

The ultimate local market, real estate is also open to being globalized as an asset class. Great strides have been made in doing this and there’s more to come.

It is one of the giant global industries, right up there with food and healthcare; it provides the collateral for a high proportion of loans in the world banking system and for growing volumes of securities, but it remains obstinately driven by local factors of supply and demand.

Real estate presents a conundrum. For the world’s largest investors it has many of the characteristics of an institutional global asset class to which they should consider allocating a significant portion of their funds to achieve diversification relative to bonds and equities, a hedge against inflation and potentially attractive returns.

Securitization of real estate equity as well as debt has made this easier than ever to implement. As Reits spread around the world, global investors will be able to buy and sell exposure to different geographies and classes of real estate much more easily and at lower transaction costs than through buying actual buildings themselves. They can already take positions in bonds secured against cashflows from loans to different classes of real estate in different geographies.

No wonder then that large US pension funds and similar institutional investors are now debating not whether to invest but what proportion of their funds to dedicate to the asset class: should it be as much as 10%, or even more?

Yet real estate is far from being a consolidated global industry.

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