Survey: Interest growing in Cuba real estate opportunities

Nationwide, real estate industry leaders are eying investment in Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years, according to the sixth annual Akerman U.S. Real Estate Industry Outlook Survey released this week.

The survey of almost 180 U.S. real estate executives indicates they are slightly more optimistic about investment opportunities in Cuba than in traditional standouts like Venezuela and Argentina, despite the remaining restrictions on direct investment in Cuba.

“What people are looking at now is sort of scoping out those opportunities when those rules change,” said Neisen Kasdin, managing partner of Akerman’s Miami office.

Under current U.S. law, an American cannot invest in real estate — or anything else — in Cuba. But policies issued early this year do allow potential investors to visit Cuba to explore their options, according to Augusto Maxwell, chairman of the law firm’s Cuba practice.

If the embargo is eventually lifted, Americans will have access to the Cuban market, though the Cuban government limits the percentage of investment a foreigner can hold.

That could be good for Miami. Kasdin said he expects the city will become the conduit for investments flowing into Cuba.

When the survey asked about home-building in the United States, Kasdin said surprisingly, the responses suggest Latin America will be the dominant source of foreign capital in the single-family home-building sector.

“Nationally, foreign capital is having a heavy influence on global gateway cities,” Kasdin said. In places like California, that money is predominantly Asian, while in South Florida it mostly comes from Latin America.

Although the survey was conducted nationally, Latin America’s ranking as the dominant source could be skewed by the regional views of the respondents of the poll.

Latin American capital will also maintain its importance in inbound equity in the real estate market, with the greatest amount of foreign investment expected to come from Brazil, followed by Mexico. According to the survey, Latin American capital is one of the top three inbound equity sources for commercial real estate in the U.S.

While Latin American investment has been prevalent in Florida for years, Kasdin said he sees it spreading to other parts of the nation, such as New York and Texas.

Survey results were derived from phone interviews with 179 real estate executives from across the United States. Respondents to the Akerman survey include developers, investors, lenders and owners.

Related stories from Miami Herald