From Dutch Traders to Wall Street Traders The Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate

 In the late 1980s, seeking high-growth, low-risk investment opportunities, and  with an affinity for brick and mortar, European pension funds began to invest  heavily in the American real estate market. So much money poured into the United States, in fact, that the pension fund  managers decided to start a not-for-profit association for the non-U.S. real  estate investment community doing business here. The result was the Association  of Foreign Investors in Real Estate, better known by its acronym, AFIRE.  

 “The primary force was Dutch pension funds,” says Jim Fetgatter, AFIRE’s chief executive, now in his 18th year with the organization. “They were heavily invested in the U.S., and heavily invested in the real estate  market.” AFIRE has a small, fulltime staff based in Washington and led by the chief  executive. Prior to heading up AFIRE, Fetgatter worked for foreign investors, and had a  decade and a half of real estate experience in his native Oklahoma.  

 Two decades after its founding in 1988, AFIRE remains the only not-for-profit of  its kind. The organization’s original purpose was education—both for the foreign investors themselves, and the U.S. professionals doing  business with them. This was particularly important after the passage of the  Foreign Investment Real Property Tax Act, or FIRPTA, in 1980, an arcane but  important piece of IRS legislation that mandates a withholding of ten percent  on property sold by non-U.S. owners. The mission now is largely the same,  Fetgatter says, although the organization “has evolved into a high-level, exclusive investment organization.”  


 Unlike many real estate organizations, which are dominated by real estate  professionals, AFIRE is comprised mostly of investors.  

 “We are run and managed by the investors themselves,” Fetgatter says.  


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