Starwood's Graham said the best real estate investments were not the fanciest ones.
"There's opportunity in quality assets but not the trophy ones—B-plus, A-minus-type assets in good locations," he said. "You can still buy quality assets that are liquid on the way out and get very good cash flow."
Examples of such markets, Graham said, include Orlando, Florida, San Diego, Portland, Oregon, and Denver.
Europe may offer more relative value than America. "We're certainly not stealing anything in the U.S.—in Europe it's a different story," Graham added.
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J.P. Morgan's Kelly cautioned against investing in historically low-quality offices and housing in mediocre markets.
"We did learn some lessons from the last time," he said. "When you look at secondary markets, tertiary markets and the long-term valuation, the ability of those assets in those markets to hold that long-term appreciation just hasn't been borne out."
Vosper of Morgan Stanley called valuations "a tale of two markets."
He said good-quality buildings in prime locations like New York or London, especially offices, are valued at precrisis peaks and may not be attractive, even if there's no bubble.
"This has been driven, in my view, more by a desire for the yield, which still looks attractive versus other options," he said after the conference in an email. "However, we are a reversion to the mean investor and relative to the normal risk-adjusted returns for these types of assets, they seem very fully priced."
Other, less picked-over markets may provide a better opportunity, Vosper said. He gave general examples of buildings with short remaining lease terms or those that need "repositioning" in markets with strong growth potential.
Such geographies might include Charlotte, North Carolina, Dumbo in New York City and Canary Wharf in London.
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