Tuesday, October 24, 2023

$270B in CRE capital is on the sidelines. How much of that sum could go into distressed real estate?

 By Ashley Fahey – Editor, The National Observer: Real Estate Edition, The Business Journals

It's still mostly a waiting game for commercial loans and properties showing signs of distress — so what'll it take for more of those deals to trade?

At the end of the third quarter, an estimated $270.6 billion targeting North American real estate was sitting on the sidelines, according to Preqin Ltd. Of that, more than $100 billion was opportunistic capital, which typically targets properties requiring an aggressive repositioning and lease-up strategy, and also includes new development.

It comes at a time when the broader commercial real estate industry is watching what'll happen to an estimated $1.9 trillion in commercial real estate loans set to mature in the next four years. In particular, the office market is being closely observed as companies depart big blocks of space in older buildings in favor of consolidating into smaller offices in higher-quality buildings.

In September, the overall commercial-mortgage backed securities delinquency rate was 4.39%, an increase from 4.25% the month prior, according to Trepp LLC. The office delinquency rate also continued a monthly ascent (it has grown every month since December 2022), hitting 5.58% in September.

What will it take for distressed properties to trade?

While more distress is expected, it hasn't fully emerged yet, as lenders work with borrowers on short-term extensions and modify and restructure loans when possible.

The $100 billion or so earmarked for opportunistic real estate appears to be waiting to capitalize on emerging distressed situations across asset classes, said Aaron Jodka, director of U.S. capital markets research at Colliers International Inc. (Nasdaq: CIGI).

"We have to wait for some of these properties' debt to mature and a decision to be made," Jodka said. "A lot of investors are waiting for their hands to be forced: If they can wait out their existing financing, they’re going to do that. At the point that they need to refinance or they have an occupancy loss that doesn’t allow them to cover their debt service, that’s when those events will take place."

Pricing also has been cited as a major barrier for distressed and non-distressed buildings alike to trade. Commercial real estate investment volume was down by 60% year-over-year in the second quarter, according to CBRE Group Inc. (NYSE: CBRE).

Aaron Jackson, the loan enforcement team leader of law firm Polsinelli PC's financial services litigation practice group, said there are buyers in the market with the ability now to purchase buildings, even ones facing financial issues, low vacancy and that need a significant capital infusion.

But, he added, a lot of buyers don't feel prices have bottomed out. There also are a lot of commercial real estate loans that, by today's standards, have low interest rates, meaning more buyers are interested in assuming existing debt.

Jodka said there's evidence of bridge capital being deployed, even for things like construction loans that will come due during the time of development, to help offset the rapid rise of interest rates since they were underwritten.

Still, there's been an increase in fund redemption requests this year, particularly in the private REIT space, said Chad Littell, national director of capital market analytics at CoStar Group Inc. (Nasdaq: CSGP). It's also taking twice as long to raise money in a commercial real estate fund as it did 18 months ago, he said, prompting questions about how much so-called dry powder will be available as loan distress and delinquencies rise.

While office real estate is expected to see the most potential distress and opportunistic buying, the hospitality sector is another one to watch closely, both Jodka and Jackson said.

Hotel real estate is usually financed with floating-rate debt, Jodka said, so there's naturally more refinancing risk there. Plus, the hospitality sector was hit hard during the Covid-19 pandemic, and any Paycheck Protection Program money owners received during that time went to keeping the lights on. In many cases, that further deferred maintenance that will soon need to be addressed, he said.

The lodging CMBS delinquency rate was 5.27% in September, according to Trepp LLC. That's actually a slight decline from recent months, and lower than both retail and office delinquency rates last month.

Full story: https://tinyurl.com/2p8ckmy3


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