print header

# 1 Commercial Real Estate Information Company

  • Find Properties 
  • Market Properties 
  • Analyze Properties 
Products
Commercial Real Estate News

Eight Takeaways on the Current State of Distress Opportunities

CoStar Group Sheds Light on the Who, What, Where, When and How Much of Distressed Real Estate
August 25, 2010
Since the start of 2009, buyers and sellers have transacted about $16.5 billion in distressed commercial real estate sales. Certainly more are expected to follow. Banks and CMBS special servicers are currently dealing with nearly $290 billion in distressed loans and properties.

CoStar Group recently analyzed the state of distressed real estate across the U.S., and presented its findings in a webinar on Wednesday in which it, discussing who is holding distressed real estate, how much presently exists by product type, what distressed deals have closed so far, and where the best opportunities are expected for buying distress in the near future.

Among the findings presented by Norm Miller, CoStar vice president of analytics; Jay Spivey, CoStar senior director of research and analytics; and Steve Miller, CoStar director of debt research and risk management, included eight key takeaways from that discussion.

Bank Distress: A Rolling Wave of Opportunities
As of the first quarter of this year, banks carried more than $150 billion in troubled commercial real estate-related assets on their books. Construction and land development loans accounted for about $80 billion of that. Loans on nonfarm, non-residential properties accounted for about $60 billion of bank distress and multifamily loans made up another $10 billion. The bulk of the distressed bank loans currently mature by the end of 2012, according to the Millers, (who are not related by the way.)

There is still no assurance over how much of those distressed loans will come to market, though. The trend among banks since the start of the Great Recession has been to extend the maturity date out on many of the loans, giving banks and borrowers the first opportunity to recognize a return.

However, that is not the situation for real estate classified as bank OREO (other real estate owned). The foreclosed CRE holdings of banks surpassed $41 billion at the end of the first quarter and, according to Norm Miller, which suggests that significant volumes of properties will be coming on the market soon.

Income-producing commercial real estate properties accounted for more than $25 billion of the banks' OREO amounts and construction and land development projects made up about $16 billion of the amount.

Special Servicers: An Increasing Flow of Deals
Distressed loans held in commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) present another huge potential of opportunity. CMBS delinquency rates have been, by far, the worst among all lenders. Special servicers -- those firms hired by CMBS trustees to manage problem loans -- are currently dealing with about $135 billion to $140 billion in distressed loans, according to Steve Miller.

The amount of those loans coming to maturity will be spread out over the next seven to eight years, with the bulk of loan maturities peaking in 2017 -- 10 years after the peak in CMBS issuance.

Multifamily and office loans make up the two largest amounts of CMBS distress at about $35 billion each; retail totals about $30 billion; and hotels, $28 billion. Loans on industrial properties made up the smallest portion at just $5 billion.

Heavy Competition for Distressed Assets
Of the amounts of distress held by banks and managed by special servicers, CoStar's Norm Miller estimates that there is near term potential deals on about half of that. At the same time, he said, there is about $200 billion of money chasing those deals, which has resulted in tremendous competition for high quality distressed assets that have been brought to market.

"With a few hedge funds in the hunt and much competition from opportunity funds for distressed assets, buyers must be strategic in getting on the inside with troubled borrowers, or approaching lenders who need to get delinquent loans off their books," Norm Miller said.

Increasing Investment Activity
Overall distress sales as percent of volume seem to be peaking as the total number of investment sales has begun to pick up, according to Norm Miller. Distressed sales seem to have topped out at about 22% to 23% of total volume. However, the number of distress sales has also been picking up, just not at the same pace as nondistressed sales. There were more than 2,300 distressed deals in the second quarter of this year, about 200 more than in each of the previous two quarters.

Distress Investors Favoring Large Multifamily Complexes
As of the first quarter of this year, distressed multifamily property sales accounted for about 28% of all apartment deals. On a dollar basis going back to the start of 2009, about $5 billion of distressed multifamily assets traded hands compared to $12.6 billion in nondistressed sales, according to CoStar's Jay Spivey, who broke down the distressed CRE numbers by property type. Spivey analyzed about 48,000 sales since the beginning of 2009 - about 10,000 of those deals qualified as distress sales.

Distress investors seem to be hunting for larger apartment complexes. The average number of units in the distress complexes that changed hands was 116 units. That compares to an average of 50 units in nondistress sales. The average price per unit for all distress deals was $54,565 compared to $91,985 for nondistressed units.

The most active distress investment markets were similar to those that experienced the most amount of single-family distress: the Southeast and West. In Atlanta and Jacksonville, FL, more than 70% of recorded multifamily deals were distress sales. In Orlando, Tampa/St. Petersburg and Las Vegas, more than 50% of all deals were distress sales.

Going forward, CoStar's Steve Miller analyzed where the best and worst opportunities were expected to be for distressed properties, based on expected average annual returns (AAR) from 2012-2014 and the relative estimate of future distress. For apartment properties, Minneapolis, Boston, Houston, and Northern and Central New Jersey were projected to have AARs of 16% or more and lower projections of future distress. The East Bay section of San Francisco was literally and figuratively on the other end of the country and spectrum, where returns were projected to be lower and distress higher.

Wide Differentials Seen in Office Deals
As of the first quarter of this year, distressed office property sales accounted for about 22% of all office deals. On a dollar basis going back to the start of 2009, about $2.5 billion of distressed office assets traded hands compared to $19.1 billion in nondistressed sales.

In a major difference with apartment investors, distress office investors seemed to be favoring smaller projects. The average size of distressed assets that changed hands was 43,917 square feet. That compares to an average of 51,623 square feet in nondistress sales. The average price per square foot for all distress deals was $97 compared to nearly twice as much for nondistressed office space.

The highest percentage of distressed office sales have been occurring in Detroit, Minneapolis, Atlanta and Memphis, where they accounted from 40% or more of all deals to nearly 80% (Detroit).

Going forward, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, Houston, Minneapolis and Dallas were projected to have AARs of 16% or more and lower projections of future distress. Portland (OR), Sacramento, Atlanta and Miami were on the other end of spectrum, where returns were projected to be lower and distress higher.

California's Retail Markets: High Risks
As of the first quarter of this year, distressed retail property sales accounted for about 18% of all retail deals. On a dollar basis going back to the start of 2009, about $2.8 billion of distressed retail assets traded hands compared to $14.8 billion in nondistressed sales.

Distress retail investors seemed to be favoring the slightly larger properties. The average size of distressed assets that changed hands was 33,534 square feet. That compares to an average of 25,245 square feet in nondistress sales. The average price per square foot for all distress deals was $79 compared to $137 for nondistressed retail space.

The highest percentage of distressed retail sales have been occurring in Atlanta, Orlando and Colorado Springs, where they accounted from 30% to 45% (Atlanta) or more of all deals.

Going forward, Chicago, Houston and Long Island were projected to have AARs of 15% or more and lower projections of future distress. The other end of spectrum was littered with markets, including the entire California coast, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver, Detroit and Atlanta, where returns were projected to be lower and distress higher.

Narrow Differentials on Industrial Deals
As of the first quarter of this year, distressed industrial property sales accounted for about 17% of all industrial deals. On a dollar basis going back to the start of 2009, about $1.4 billion of distressed industrial assets traded hands compared to $11.9 billion in nondistressed sales.

The average size of distressed assets changing hands was pretty close in both categories. The average distressed property was 54,984 square feet compared to 56,754 in nondistress sales. The price differentials were also closer together. The average price per square foot for all distress deals was $36 compared to $58 for nondistressed industrial space.

The highest percentage of distressed industrial sales has been occurring in Honolulu where they accounted nearly 45% of all deals. Detroit came in at about 27%.

Going forward, many second tier markets were projected to have AARs of 15% or more and lower projections of future distress: St. Louis, Memphis, Portland (OR), Indianapolis and Houston, as well. The other end of spectrum included Denver, Atlanta, Las Vegas and Miami, where returns were projected to be lower and distress higher.

Download this story and other national news in the Watch List Newsletter,, a weekly pdf that includes leads of distressed properties and loans and other news items not found on the CoStar Group web news pages. Sign up for the Watch List E-Mail Alert. It's the quickest way to link directly to the news and leads you want. Just e-mail your name, title, company, company business, city, state, and e-mail address to Mark Heschmeyer

 Find us on 

Welcome To CoStar's
Industry-Focused,
Award-Winning News

Winner of three Journalism Awards from the National Association of Real Estate Editors (NAREE)

Award-Winning News