IMMeDIATe PAST CHAIr WOMAn
Association of foreign Investors in real estate
By Ivanna C. Sukkar
As chairwoman of the Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate (A.F.I.R.E.) until this
past September, Karin Shewer led the 188-member organization through one of the real estate
industry’s most-turbulent periods in recent history. Here, she tells us more about the 20-year-old
association and how it informs foreign investors on domestic issues.
What does A.F.I.R.E. do? The association strives to help the foreign investor be as knowledgeable
and informed as a domestic investor. We educate and inform our members of the condition of
the U.S. economy and real estate markets. We do this primarily through three main conferences,
[our] newsletter [and] articles. We also do an annual survey of our membership and talk about
their investment preferences, down to what cities [and] what types of properties.
So what property types are most popular with foreign investors? Office is traditionally the
property type that international investors prefer in the United States [because of] its stability. The
multifamily-rental-property market is a recipient, in a positive way, of what’s happening in the
single-family-home and -condo market. People need a place to live. The homeownership decline
is shifting some people to becoming renters by choice.
What attracts foreign investors to certain cities over others? Foreign investors generally
choose the most-populated cities with the better demographics [and] the most-dynamic business
communities as their point of interest. And there are some psychological things. When you look
at America from far away, you like to go to the big [central business districts]. You’re more
comfortable, [and] you know of them.
We’ve seen a decline in commercial-mortgage-backed-securities (CMBS) issuance and a
shakeup on Wall Street. How do foreign investors view these issues? The foreign investors are
very concerned, in my opinion, about what’s happening in the U.S. right now. When they come in,
they’re going to want to have debt. If there’s no CMBS market, there are not going to be as many
takers for financing. We’re dealing with an illiquid market here right now.
What other foreign-investment trends are you seeing? The currency exchange rate is extremely
favorable to the dollar, so the investors are looking at that as an opportunity to come to the U.S. at
a discount. The other thing I think investors are starting to see is that someone can invest much
more opportunistically today than someone could have 20 months ago, whether it be [through]
deal structure [or] whether you come in and acquire an asset at a little cheaper pricing.
How does foreign investment affect commercial mortgage brokers? When you look at foreign
investment in the United States, you can see that [investors have] made very attractive investments
in the past year. I think that interest is here, and it will grow.
The U.S. has excellent demographics, which are the foundation to encourage non-Americans to
buy here. And they will be here as investors and will allow [commercial brokers] to do business
with them. They don’t always come here with the debt in their back pockets. They find it here.
Ivanna C. Sukkar is an associate editor at Scotsman Guide. Reach her at (800) 297-6061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
… in December’s Scotsman Guide
Special Report: Local Markets
Is tourism still driving Denver’s retail sector? And what
is next for New Orleans, Las Vegas, and other cities?
We’re revisiting numerous subject cities from our
Spotlight features from the past three years to see
where their commercial real estate finance markets
Also in the magazine:
■ How to locate and secure hard-money financing
■ What’s new in the office sector
Online? Check out current and past editions of
Scotsman Guide at scotsmanguide.com.
5 Years Ago
From November 2003’s
“For an underwriter to better determine
whether or not a deal will work, the
amount of information gained upfront
is crucial. … By knowing more than just
the historical operating information, an
underwriter can make a more educated
decision about the success and feasibility of a transaction.”
— ANDREA C. RIEGSECKER
“Know Your Deal,” scotsmanguide.com/3180
View this article and others in our free article archive
Each month, Helping Hands features a
mortgage professional or group that has
volunteered to lend a hand to others in need
By Jennifer Landree
Name Craig Grella, owner, Cornerstone Funding
Project Fundraising for No Limits Theater Group Inc.
Site Los Angeles
How Since 2001, Grella has been a board member for No
Limits, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that sponsors nationwide after-school theater programs and Los Angeles-area speech therapy for deaf and partially deaf children
from low-income families.
Grella and Cornerstone Funding Services also donate to
No Limits in multiple ways. Every year, Grella and three
other employees set up a Cornerstone team Web page to
solicit donations for No Limits’ annual walkathon; the
fourth-annual event took place Oct. 18 at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
Cornerstone hoped to raise $1,000 for it this year, as of
press time. A No Limits corporate sponsor, Cornerstone
has donated an additional $1,000 to No Limits this year.
Participants depart from the starting line of 2006’s No Limits Los Angeles Walkathon, a fundraising event for the group at Los Angeles’ Kenneth Hahn Recreation Area. Photo: No Limits Theater
Grella went a step further: After he sold his personal motorcycle this past December, he donated his profits to No
Why Executive Director and Founder Michelle Christie-Adams asked Grella to join the executive board seven
years ago because of his connections in Los Angeles. As
he spent time in the classroom with children, Grella says
he “got to see firsthand the good that [No Limits was] doing in the community.”
No Limits’ program helps children develop communication and confidence, Christie-Adams says. Speech therapy,
which can be costly, also is out of reach of many low-income families, she says.
Impact Since it started in 1996, No Limits has helped
more than 1,000 children through its theater and after-school programs, Christie-Adams says.
The No Limits walkathon also raised $162,000 in 2007,
Try it nolimitsspeaksout.com
Jennifer Landree is a Seattle-area writer and former
Scotsman Guide editorial intern. For questions or comments,
To share your company’s story, e-mail email@example.com.