National Real Estate Investor's Diana Bell reports on a recent private equity summit highlighted by keynoter Sam Zell, the legendary investor and chairman of Equity Group.

The event was marked by protests against Zell by displaced former homeowners, which not only delayed his time on stage, but also cut it short. But during the brief question-and-answer session, Zell described an investment environment that's short on opportunities.

He noted that he doesn’t see much opportunity in the capital markets today. “Our whole world was built based on the assumption the pie would grow. Nobody has come up with a solution as to where that growth will come from,” Zell replied when asked about his assumptions for the next decade of real estate investment.

The summit also featured sessions on the debt market, where bridge lending emerged as the biggest opportunity for financiers right now, though the field is growing crowded. Another session focused on foreign investment in U.S. real estate.

“There is still a lot of opportunity in greenfield development. The U.S. is still a port in the storm and real estate is top of mind,” said Dr. Sam Natapoff, president of Empire Global Ventures, a New York-based investment firm representing foreign capital from China, Canada and North America.

Panelists noted they’ve experienced zero pushback from investors regarding secondary markets.

“The issue is more recently did we see peak pricing in 2015? They saw primary cities as oversaturated, so they moved into secondary cities,” said Roland du Luart, managing partner and head of the U.S. group at LFPI, a French firm that specializes in multi-strategy alternative asset management.

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