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CMBS Loan Delinquencies Could Reach 7% and Beyond in 2010, says Realpoint

While the calendar is turning the page on a new year, the severe problems facing the commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) market will ensure that it experiences déjà vu for months to come.

The delinquent unpaid balance for CMBS loans climbed to $37.9 billion in November from $32.55 billion in October, a 16% spike, according to Realpoint LLC. The increase is due largely to the financial troubles of the Extended Stay America hotel chain, which is delinquent on a $3.5 billion portion of its $4.1 billion portfolio loan.

Realpoint projects the balance of delinquent CMBS loans to grow to between $50 billion and $60 billion by mid-2010. A loan is considered delinquent when it is 30 days or more past due.

“This outlook is mostly due to the reporting of several large loans from recent vintage transactions that continue to show signs of stress and default, along with continued balloon maturity defaults from more seasoned transactions,” writes the research firm.

The CMBS loan delinquency rate of 4.7% notched in November is projected to reach between 5% and 7% in the first quarter of 2010. That figure could potentially approach and surpass 7% to 8% under more heavily stressed scenarios through the middle of 2010, according to Horsham, Pa.-based Realpoint, which has been tracking CMBS loan delinquencies since 2001.

The multifamily sector accounted for 26% of the $37.9 billion delinquent unpaid balance for CMBS in November, followed closely by retail (25%), office (16%), and hotel (15%). Conversely, the industrial market accounted for less than 2% of the delinquent unpaid balance for CMBS during the same period. Health care properties represented less than 1%.

Special servicers continue to have their hand full, the research shows. The volume of CMBS loans in special servicing continues to rise dramatically on a monthly basis, with November marking the 19th straight monthly increase. Specifically, the unpaid balance for specially serviced CMBS rose from a trailing 12-month high of $58.36 billion in October to $65.8 billion in November, or a nearly 13% increase.

The number of CMBS loans newly transferred into special servicing totaled 324 in November. The current balance on those loans is $8.64 billion. Among the transfers were 177 loans issued from 2005 to 2007 — the height of the bull market for commercial real estate lending. These 177 loans have a current balance of $7.46 billion.

Simply put, 86% of the newly transferred loan balance to special servicing is tied to the heady lending period of 2005 through 2007, when issuance was soaring and underwriting was loose.

“Our default risk concerns for the 2005 to 2007 vintage transactions relative to underlying collateral performance and payment ability are more evident on a monthly basis,” writes Realpoint. “Both the volume and unpaid balance of CMBS loans transferred to special servicing on a monthly basis continues to raise questions about underlying credit stability in today’s market climate for these more recent vintage CMBS deals.”

Indeed, the percentage of loans in special servicing increased from 8.2% of all CMBS by unpaid balance in November, up from 7.2% in October.

The average loss severity — the amount written off as a loss and expressed as a percentage of the unpaid balance plus related workout fees — also is on the rise. In November alone, an additional $254.6 million in loan workouts and liquidations across 52 loans were reported with an average loss severity of 46%.

Eleven of those 52 loans had a combined loan balance of $55.2 million and experienced a loss severity of only 1%. But 41 loans with a combined loan balance of nearly $199.4 million posted an average loss severity of 58%.

Among other highlights in the report:

The risk of default among CMBS borrowers with balloon payments coming due is rising rapidly, either because of limited refinancing proceeds available or the properties are performing poorly. In some cases, borrowers have already exhausted their loan extension options.

The office market in most metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) continues to be roiled by layoffs, bankruptcies and corporate downsizing, even in historically strong markets such as New York.

A decline in distressed asset sales or liquidations is expected into early 2010 as traditional avenues of securing new financing is less available.

Realpoint projects that consumer spending will fall throughout 2010, putting a damper on the retail sector as a whole. Look for an increase in store closures and potential loan defaults.

The combination of falling commercial real estate values and owners’ diminished equity in their commercial and multifamily properties will prompt struggling borrowers of marginally performing assets to hand over the keys and walk away.

The negative outlook for the hotel sector is growing as many sizable hotel loans and portfolios from 2005 to 2008 vintage pools have reported poor or declining results in 2009, particularly in the luxury segment. Many hotel properties are being transferred to special servicing for imminent default and/or debt relief.

The bottom line is that while the economy is forecast to slowly improve in 2010, the headaches for commercial real estate borrowers and lenders won’t fade anytime soon.

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