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Worries Grow Over Commercial Real Estate

For example, the owners of the 1,200-unit Riverton apartment complex in upper Manhattan had counted on converting deregulated apartments to market-rate rentals at a faster pace. But when that didn't pan out, they had trouble servicing their debt and were recently in danger of defaulting on their $225 million mortgage.

Trepp has uncovered 1,385 of these thorny commercial loans, totaling some $45 billion. The biggest portion is office properties (31%), followed by retail (25%).

General Growth needs $1.7 billion in the next six months to service its debt, much of it highly leveraged buys made during the boom. The company might be forced to put itself up for sale.

Finding loans to buy or develop a property is just as tough as refinancing one. Wide bond spreads mean that the source of funding that commercial real estate firms have used for the last decade — investment banks — "are more or less off the table," Clancy says.

Sales volume in commercial real estate is down over 70% from last year, RCA says. A growing number of properties changing hands are distressed, if not in default.

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