If there’s one statement appropriate to describe the current lending environment, it’s “The worst is yet to come.” Now that phase one of the residential debacle is behind us and phase two is just beginning (more than 1 million foreclosure notices of default are generated every 12 weeks in the United States), commercial real estate is about to go through one of the worst eras it has experienced in a long time.
While delinquencies and vacancies continue to rise, we have yet to really see the catastrophe being created by tighter underwriting requirements, stricter credit, bank failures and consolidation, and current and future loan losses in our nation’s banks and commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) market.
According to Fitch Ratings, there were approximately $50 billion in delinquent CMBS loans as of July 31, and that number will probably reach $100 billion by year’s end. CMBS delinquency rates are expected to eclipse 5 percent by the end of 2009. There’s an incredible amount of maturing CMBS and portfolio debt, and nowhere to refinance these if not a well-performing and reasonably leveraged property.
In a recent survey of 120 company presidents, CEOs and other executives, 82 percent indicated real estate values would remain flat or decline in the next 12 months. Moody’s/REAL Commercial Property Price Index said $2.2 trillion of properties acquired or refinanced in early 2004 lost value since the transaction, and many of these properties―typically leveraged 70 percent to 80 percent―will face significant refinancing hurdles, even if prices hold firm.
Few lenders today are willing to advance more than 50 percent to 60 percent of value. “The bottom line: Defaults are exploding,” says Richard Parkus, an analyst with Deutsche Bank. “It's terrible. It's going to be worse than in the early ’90s.” Parkus expects the market won't begin to turn around until 2012 at the earliest. By then, commercial-property prices will have declined by as much as 50 percent from the peak in early 2007, he estimates.
Available credit―and certainly cheap credit―will go to properties with low loan-to-value (LTV) ratios and strong borrower balance sheets, or to borrowers with the ability to provide additional collateral. If you’re looking for a takeout or construction loan with a property still in leaseup, finding a lender other than your current one will be near impossible.
While the government is trying to pump capital into the banks to induce lending, much of the funds have gone to allow select banks to buy failing banks, relieving the FDIC of the need to take over and manage them. As of August, the bank-failure tally was more than 80, with many more on the horizon.
The capital infusion has also gone to strengthen bank reserves, needed to cover mounting loan losses as well as under performing or over leveraged loans. Many major money-center banks, such as Citibank, are out of the commercial-lending market and are instead concentrating on a growing portfolio of special assets. Others, such as Chase, are looking for loans at 60 percent LTV or less and restricting asset types. Because of this, the availability of credit is fast becoming a crisis.