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There’s ‘a lot of opportunity’ in real estate as pandemic pinches property market, says investor

A view of East London from an aerial view. As the sun sets its glow is captured on the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf – the second business district of London.

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Opportunity abounds for investors looking to seize on distressed real estate assets in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, according to one of London’s prime real estate investors.

Thomas Balashev, founder and CEO of Montague Real Estate, said real estate has been unduly hammered during the downturn, creating opportunities for buyers to make gains as the economy recovers.

“I think it goes without saying that there will be a lot of opportunity,” Balashev told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Tuesday.

A different kind of crisis

Unlike in the 2008 Financial Crisis, which was linked directly to the U.S. housing market and enabled opportunities for some people to “get ahead of it,” the current economic crisis caught the market off guard, hurting otherwise sound assets, Balashev said.

“If you look at the way the pandemic’s been handled, both politically and the devastating effect it’s had economically, it’s caught many people by surprise,” he said. “So assets that really shouldn’t be distressed, shouldn’t have had such a significant drop in value, have suddenly come onto the market.”

The global property market has been hit hard this year by the twin ills of waning demand for commercial real estate, like offices and retail space, and shifting residential property demands, as homeowners switch cities for the suburbs.

Still, there are deals to be had across the world, insisted Balashev, who recently joined a Luxembourg-based fund focused on acquiring distressed real estate assets in Europe, Asia and the U.K.

If you’re a liquid buyer and you’ve got deep pockets, there’s going to be a huge plethora of opportunity.

Thomas Balashev

CEO, Montague Real Estate

“If you’re a liquid buyer and you’ve got deep pockets, there’s going to be a huge plethora of opportunity, not just in any one, fixed continent,” he said. “I think it’s a great time for real estate globally.”

Indeed, London-based Montague Real Estate, which deals predominantly in off-market transactions in the prime- and super-prime property markets, has seen an uptick in enquires from investors this year, said Balashev. That includes a 200% to 300% year-on-year increase in enquiries from investors in Asia interested in the U.K.

“We have to take that as a positive sign that people in the international markets are still looking to London as a safe haven,” he said.


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