US investors, who once dominated the European commercial real estate market, are now virtually absent as commercial real estate continues to decline, according to new research by CB Richard Ellis (CBG). When the market was at its peak two years ago, US investors made more than €20bn ($28.5bn) in European real estate acquisitions in the first half of 2007. Just under half of those acquisitions, more than €9.5bn, were involved in trade deals, but nonetheless, Americans were big players, CB Richard Ellis said. In the first half of 2009, US investor acquisitions have dropped to €400m, a blip on the overall buyers market, according to the research. Germany has been hit hardest by the withdrawal. When times were good, German open-ended property funds and corporations were both active sellers, and the US investors liked what they had to offer, investing €36bn from 2006 to 2009. That’s nearly half of all European commercial real estate investment during that time. Along with Germany, France and the UK accounted for 84% of all US investment during the peak. “US investors are not only absent in the European market but also in the US market,” CB Richard Ellis’ global chief economist Ray Torto said in a statement. “American buyers, correctly so, have been convinced in the last year that there were lower prices ahead.” Sales transactions haven’t slowed, but the €700m of disposals in the first half of this year made US investors net sellers for the first time in several years, according to the research. However, Torto believes US investors will return to the market. “Looking forward, there are signs that US investors will start to become more active in Europe in the fairly near future. US opportunity funds that are currently raising capital are increasingly identifying Europe as a potential investment target and substantial amounts that have been raised in the recent past have yet to be invested,” Torto said. Write to Austin Kilgore.