First it was residential homeowners walking away from their properties to avoid hefty mortgage payments. Now commercial real estate owners are doing the same.
"Frankly, I am surprised that we have not seen a lot more," Rob Little, chief investment officer of Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers, told Dow Jones.
It’s not just mom-and-pop businesses that are ditching their facilities.
The giant real estate investment trust Vornado Realty just announced it will default on two loans totaling $235 million.
In January, BlackRock and Tishman Speyer Properties handed over control of the massive Manhattan apartment complex Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village to creditors.
They paid $5.4 billion for the project in 2006, but it’s now worth less than $2 billion.
Experts expect the numbers to mount, as more loans come due and banks remain reluctant to refinance loans.
Just like homeowners, commercial property owners owe more on their mortgages than their properties are now worth.
Most commercial real estate loans are non-recourse, meaning loan holders can’t go after debtors’ assets. So it makes perfect sense for owners to bail.
"If a property is deeply underwater, and the cost of modification is too high, then it can make sense to walk away," Aaron Bryson of Barclays Capital told Dow Jones.
Some experts view the commercial real estate slump as an investment opportunity.
For example, Starwood Capital, TPG Capital and Five Mile Capital just agreed to invest up to $905 million in troubled Extended Stay Hotels.
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