TIAA-CREF, one of the world’s biggest money managers, is to open its first overseas office by setting up a base in London to step up investments in European property. The move signals foreign buyers’ growing interest in the region’s real estate market.

The US pension fund’s decision to open the first foreign outpost in its 90-year history underlines the desire by cash-rich investors to take advantage of the financial crisis to pick up assets at attractive prices.

The move by TIAA-CREF – which manages about $480bn (£251bn) on behalf of 3.4m academics, teachers and doctors – also enhances London’s status as a global financial centre and a prominent real estate hub.

Tom Garbutt, TIAA-CREF’s global head of real estate, said the London office would be the platform to increase the fund’s exposure to European real estate. 'We wanted to establish a beachhead in Europe given our sizeable commitment to the region,' Garbutt said. 'This is a relationship business and it made sense for us to have a presence in the communities we invest in.'

Financial Times