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Commercial Lending Bounces Back In 2010

With CMBS and Life Company Financing Picking Up Speed, MBA's Commercial Loan Index Reaches Highest Level Since Third-Quarter 2008
February 9, 2011
Powered by improving conditions in the real estate and capital markets, CRE loan originations rose by 36% in 2010 over the previous year, according to preliminary data released at this week's Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) real estate finance convention in San Diego. In a separate report, the MBA also found that loan maturities continue to roll at a manageable level, with just 11% of the $1.4 trillion in outstanding commercial debt expected to mature this year, shrinking to 9% in 2012.

"All the fundamentals are ripe for a very positive, solid comeback, especially in the multifamily sector," Faron Thompson, who attended the conference as the newest addition to Jones Lang LaSalle's real estate investment finance team, tells CoStar.

Mortgage bankers originated $110 billion of commercial and multifamily mortgages during 2010, with a strong fourth quarter powering an increase of 36% from 2009, according to preliminary estimates based on the MBA Quarterly Survey of Commercial/Multifamily Mortgage Bankers Originations, released at the conference this week.

The results show that loan production by life insurance companies sprang back to life in 2010. Life companies were the leading source of lending, with origination volumes 155% higher than 2009 levels. Government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA/Ginnie Mae also saw strong volumes, with increases for FHA/Ginnie Mae offsetting declines in production for Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac. Total originations for commercial mortgage-based securities (CMBS) conduits increased more than 10-fold in 2010 while originations for commercial banks saw a year-over-year decline.

CB Richard Ellis Group Inc. posted an increase of 233% in its commercial mortgage brokerage business, driven by loan originations and strong GSE activity as well as improvements on the parts of traditional and conduit lenders, said CFO Gil Borok during the Los Angeles-based company's fourth-quarter conference call.

Originations jumped 63% in the fourth quarter over the previous three months and 88% over fourth-quarter 2009, pushing totals above 2009 levels, said Jamie Woodwell, MBA’s vice president of commercial real estate research. The late rally was driven by increases in originations for office properties, which rose 170% over the same period a year earlier; and hotels, which rose 169%. Loans for industrial properties, retail and multifamily rose 98%, 94% and 81%, respectively. Health-care lending was flat at 4%.

Origination volumes typically grow over the course of the year and changes between the third and fourth quarters are likely driven at least in part by seasonal factors. However, among investor types, CMBS saw an increase in loan volume of 298% compared to the third quarter, by far the largest quarterly jump. The next-largest increase, originations of commercial bank portfolios, rose a more seasonal 102%.

The stirring of the CMBS market after a three-year slumber reflects the improving picture for commercial real estate fundamentals. In addition to the ten-fold increase for all of 2010, CMBS conduits rose 60-fold increase compared to last year’s fourth quarter. Life companies' volume rose 170% in the fourth quarter over a year ago.

"Life companies and FHA led the increase in dollar volumes, but a large percentage increase in originations for CMBS is likely the most symbolic change from last year," Woodwell said.

So far, conduit lenders have been more active on non-multifamily side because the GSE agencies have owned the apartment lending space. But expectations are that conduit pricing will be competitive with agency pricing no later than midyear, JLL's Thompson said.

"With that, on top of the life companies' activity, it's going to be a very active and robust year from a capital providers' standpoint," he said.

The MBA's Commercial/Multifamily Mortgage Bankers Originations Index, which averages 100 on a quarterly basis since 2001, started first-quarter 2010 at 45 and rose to 114 in the fourth quarter. That's the highest since third-quarter 2008's 116 and roughly parallel to 2002-2003 levels, according to an MBA chart.

Compared to the third quarter, fourth-quarter originations for hotel properties saw a 333% increase while health care properties ended the year strongly with a 204% increase.

As capital continues to spread across the market and fundamentals and the economy improve, emboldened investors will make solid bets across the spectrum of CRE properties, filling in the bifurcated market, Thompson said.

"There isn't enough trophy and trauma to go around for all the capital that's out there, so capital will fill in the in-betweens. People obviously now are chasing the trophies because of the protection, or chasing the trauma because of the yield."

"You can't have a market with all the attention at each end of the spectrum and a big void in the middle. We need the capital to fill in the gaps. Capital always has a way of doing that."

Loan Maturities Hold Steady

Only 11% or $155 billion of the $1.4 trillion balance of outstanding commercial/multifamily mortgages held by non-bank investors through Dec. 31, 2010, will mature in 2011, and 9%, $125 billion, will come due in 2012, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s 2010 survey of loan maturity volumes. The survey found that maturities vary considerably by the type of investor holding the loan.

"The long-term nature of commercial real estate means that relatively fewer -- not more -- commercial and multifamily mortgages have been maturing during the throes of the credit crunch and recession compared to other credit types," said Woodwell. "For most investor groups, commercial mortgage maturities are relatively spread out, with some increases starting in 2015 as the loans originated in 2005, 2006 and 2007 come due."

JLL's Thompson said most of the big banks have returned to profitability and will now make the difficult call to resolve assets that are troubled or upside down. Whether it's extending and modifying loans for overleveraged owners of fundamentally sound properties -- or foreclosing on the assets of bad borrowers or defaulted partnerships -- "we're seeing banks make the right decision for [each] asset," he said.

"The extend-and-pretend process will come to a close this year; banks are really ready to deal with their issues."

MBA’s 2010 survey collected information directly from servicers on the maturity years of more than $1.4 trillion in outstanding non-bank commercial/multifamily mortgages. Only small shares of the commercial and multifamily mortgage debt held by life insurance companies, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or FHA, or in fixed-rate CMBS will come due in 2011 or 2012. Greater shares of mortgages held in short-term and floating-rate CMBS and by credit companies, warehouse facilities and other investors will mature in 2011 and 2012.

According to the survey, $155 billion, or 11%, of the total $1.4 trillion balance of outstanding mortgages held by non-bank investors, will mature in 2011 followed by $125 billion, or 9%, in 2012. The maturities vary significantly by investor group. Just 3% of the outstanding balance of multifamily mortgages held or guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA and Ginnie Mae will mature in 2011. Life insurance companies will see 7% mature in 2011.

Among loans held in CMBS, 12% will come due in 2011, including 8% the $521 billion of loans in fixed-rate conduit CMBS and 22% of the $190 billion of loans in floating rate and large-borrower CMBS. On the high end of the spectrum, 30% of commercial mortgages held by credit companies and other investors will mature in 2011.

Wells Fargo, PNC Lead CRE Mortgage Servicers

Wells Fargo led the MBA's year-end ranking of commercial and multifamily mortgage servicers with $451.1 billion in U.S. master and primary servicing, followed by PNC Real Estate/Midland Loan Services with $337.4 billion, Berkadia Commercial Mortgage with $194.9 billion, Bank of America Merrill Lynch with $126.6 billion, and KeyBank Real Estate Capital with $118.9 billion.

Wells Fargo, PNC/Midland, Berkadia, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and KeyBank are the largest master and primary servicers of commercial/multifamily loans in U.S. CMBS, CDO and other ABS; PNC/Midland, GEMSA Loan Services, Prudential Asset Resources, Northwestern Mutual, and Northmarq Capital are the largest servicers for life companies; PNC/Midland, Wells Fargo, Berkadia, Deutsche Bank Commercial Real Estate and Prudential Asset Resources are the largest Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac servicers.

PNC/Midland ranks as the top master and primary servicer of commercial bank and savings institution loans; GEMSA the top credit company, pension funds, REITs, and investment funds servicer; PNC/Midland the top FHA and Ginnie Mae servicer; Wells Fargo the top for mortgages in warehouse facilities; and Berkadia the top for other investor type loans.

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