It’s a yearly ritual to find out where international investors will put their money. And, the latest AFIRE survey shows that 95 percent plan to maintain or increase their investments in the United States. But investor “caution” is also rising.

The survey by the Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate shows that foreign investors remain bullish on U.S. real estate. Despite all the uncertainty about interest rates and policy changes out of Washington, AFIRE says investors feel the United States far outranks other countries when it comes to investing stability and security.

Among respondents, 60 percent say the United States is the most stable and secure of countries. Germany, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom also ranked in the top five but with much smaller percentages.

Survey respondents say the specific qualities they like about the United States include an economy that’s sustainable and growing, a high degree of transparency and a fair judicial system. They say that in general, U.S. investments are more secure overall.

Some foreign investors pessimistic

But even with that strong vote of confidence, one-third of the people in the survey say they feel more pessimistic about the United States than they did last year. Only six percent say they feel more optimistic. Another 60 percent say their opinion hasn’t changed.

AFIRE says that last year the survey showed eight percent felt more optimistic, another eight percent felt more pessimistic, and 85 percent said their opinion about the United States hasn’t changed. So there was a big jump in the percentage of people feeling more pessimistic—from eight percent last year to 33 percent this year.

AFIRE CEO James A. Fetgatter addressed that concern saying: “As uncertainty rises with a new government in Washington and interest rates that have risen dramatically, it is no surprise that investors have signaled a note of caution.”

Big Apple No. 1 – again

As for the cities attracting the most international buyers, New York hit the top of the list for the seventh year in a row. The Big Apple also ranks No. 1 among global markets for the third year in a row.

Los Angeles maintained its position in second place among top U.S. cities. Boston and Seattle moved into the third and fourth position. They were previously tied in fifth place. And San Francisco moved from the third position to fifth.

International investors are also showing strong interest in smaller markets with steady job growth and plenty of Millennials. Those include Nashville, Portland, Charlotte, San Antonio, Madison and Pittsburgh.

New York also sits at the top of the list for global cities. Berlin moved up into second while London slipped into third—apparently due to Brexit concerns. Los Angeles and San Francisco are fourth and fifth.

A shift in preferred property types

According to the survey, it appears there will be a slight shift in focus on the kinds of properties investors will choose. Last year, industrial and multifamily properties were tied for the top spot. This year, industrial properties are first, multifamilies are second, office space moved up into third position and retail slid to fourth. Hotels remain in the fifth position.

A few surprises in the AFIRE survey: Berlin was among the top five global hot spots for the second year in a row. Apparently, investors feel Germany also offers stable and secure investment opportunities.

Washington, D.C., also dropped off the top five U.S. cities list for the very first time. AFIRE Chairwoman Catherine Pfeiffenberger says that result is misleading. “Washington, D.C., is a global gateway city with good leasing activity and a growing economy bolstered by a young workforce,” she said. She feels it will continue to attract international investors. I’m not so sure.

When it comes to countries providing the best opportunity for capital appreciation, 47 percent named the United States. Brazil, Germany, the United Kingdom and Australia were all in the top five but with a much smaller percentage.

As for emerging markets, their favorites were China, Mexico, Brazil, India and Chile.

AFIRE has a membership of top institutional investors worldwide. The association claims it has an estimated $2 trillion under management in global assets.

For a list of the best U.S. markets for both cash flow and appreciation, visit


About the Author


Kathy Fettke is the founder and co-CEO of Real Wealth Network, a passive real estate investing club with more than 24,000 members. She’s also the author of  “Retire Rich with Rentals” and host of “The Real Wealth Show,” a featured podcast on iTunes with listeners in 27 different countries. Kathy is passionate about understanding real estate cycles so she and her members can invest in the best markets and best deals available today. She is frequently invited to share her expertise on CNN, CNBC, Fox News, NPR, CBS MarketWatch and in the Wall Street Journal.  Kathy received her BA in Broadcast Communications from San Francisco State University and worked in the newsrooms of CNN, FOX, CTV and ABC-7. She’s past-president of American Women in Radio & Television. Kathy loves the freedom that real estate investing can bring. She lives in Malibu, California, with her husband and two daughters and enjoys traveling, hiking, rock climbing, skiing, figure skating and surfing. Contact her at



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