Investors have shown a preference for the safe havens of Germany and the Nordic countries, where the majority of investment has been into commercial and residential assets.

Specifically in Denmark and Sweden, new properties are in demand and core, core+ and opportunistic acquisitions are in the pipeline for 2013. International investors are now looking for local real estate talent in order to set up their teams and offices and rely less on third party advice. This is where we predict most of the recruitment activity is expected in 2013.

However, in Southern Europe it’s quite a different story. The market is still in slow motion and the forecast for next year is rather cautious. Countries that are more vulnerable to the eurozone debt crisis, such as Spain, Portugal and Italy have attracted little investor demand with a lack of foreign buyers. In Spain, the property market may recover more quickly if the economy starts to turn around but that is optimistic for the moment. Madrid hopes that banks will write off bad property loans to kick start lending and get the economy moving again. However, there are a few companies benefiting from the situation, like servicers focusing on non-performing loans and those sitting within restructuring teams in the banks and in valuation teams. Employers will require experienced real estate professionals with an international skill set to meet the need of these teams.

Within Central & Eastern Europe, the markets have been divided along national lines since the onset of the crisis – Poland, which enjoyed positive GDP growth throughout, attracted a lot of investors over the past 18 months, whereas Hungary has remained effectively in a perpetual state of financial instability and has been off the radar for the past several years.

However, with the onset of the euro crisis, there are less transactions happening than in 2011 and the knock on effect has been a slow down in hiring mandates. One trend that is likely to continue is the increasing number of native CEE based professionals taking senior management roles within real estate. In Warsaw, the Country Managers for several well known UK and US property funds are Polish, each with over fifteen years’ real estate experience within international firms. Cobalt’s focus in the region has as a result been on securing top talent local to the markets we operate within.

Whilst the macro economic view within the eurozone is on the negative side, we are seeing significant appetite from investors within select areas. There is a real weight of money looking for secure long-term income from core assets in mainstream locations. Private investors are looking for income in this low interest rate environment. In addition, institutions are looking to match their members’ annuity liabilities with long-term income. Real estate secured by investment grade leases are well suited to their objectives.

Finally, the banks are looking to divest of loan book liabilities in order to recycle their cash and meet their capital requirement and private equity and distressed investors are happy to acquire from them.

So all in all, despite a macro environment that does not readily excite, we are seeing enough activity for those professionals who are skilled and equipped in the active areas of the market and we see a positive 2013.

Article first appeared in REurope Magazine, December issue. Written by Timothy Rowe Managing Director of Cobalt Recruitment.