Foreign investors from Germany, Mexico and Israel have won high-profile bidding wars for U.S. property over the past year. Their motivation, though, differs from much of the opportunistic money that has accumulated for such transactions, according to Matt Bronfman, managing director of Jamestown Properties, a private-equity firm that buys U.S. real estate on behalf of German investors. "Safety is often something foreign buyers are looking for," Bronfman said.

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