N.Y. Landmarks for Sale to Foreigners?

Foreign buyers accounted for $52.1 billion in U.S. commercial real estate last year, according to Real Capital Analytics, roughly double the dollar volume of deals made in 2006.

Middle Eastern funds accounted for about 16 percent, or $8.2 billion, of last year's spending.

"All these oil-rich countries in the Middle East -- their coffers are flush with capital and they need places to park that capital," Fasulo said. "Real estate's certainly part of that allocation."

But Middle Eastern real estate investments paled last year to those stemming from other regions. Investors from Australia and Europe purchased $13.9 billion and $12.2 billion, respectively, in U.S. commercial real estate.

Recent headlines about New York purchases notwithstanding, foreign real estate spending in the U.S. this year may not hit 2007's scale. Fasulo said that between January and March, deals totaled less than $4.2 billion. During the same period last year, that figure was more than $7 billion.

Fasulo explained that today's credit crunch is to blame. It makes it harder for companies, he said, to finance deals to purchase real estate.

"Acquisitions are down across the board for all capital groups, including foreign investors," he said. The challenging debt markets, he added, "don't discriminate by the type of buyer."

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