Three Decades of Global Institutional Investment in Real Estate
19 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2021 Last revised: 23 Jun 2021
Date Written: March 1, 2021
Alternative assets represent an increasing share of pension fund assets, and real estate is a cornerstone of that allocation. This paper investigates the trends in pension fund real estate investments over the last three decades, both in private and in public real estate, focusing on the performance of the asset class for the ultimate asset owners. The development of pension fund allocations to real estate differs across regions, with allocations increasing in Canada, stationary in the U.S., and shrinking in Europe. Just over 10% of the real estate exposure is through publicly listed vehicles. Within the real estate portfolio, the authors observe a continuing increase in the use of external fund managers. Investment costs are stationary, with pension funds in the U.S. structurally paying more to their external private real estate managers than their peers in Canada and Europe. Costs relating to public real estate are more equal across regions. In terms of performance, the authors observe rather stable total returns for both private and listed real estate over the last three decades, contrasting volatile performance of private equity and infrastructure. Intermediated investment management for private real estate is costly, leading to disproportionately lower net returns.
Keywords: Pension Funds, Real Estate, Alternative Assets, Investment Performance
JEL Classification: G20, G11, G23
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation