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The move for lenders to find ways to avoid action on troubled CRE loans has been called “extend and pretend,” though “delay and pray” might be even more apt.

While an institution can avoid significant and final decisions, it can put off the day when it takes a hit to its balance sheet, hoping that find another solution in the meantime. Who wants to take possession of a property along with the responsibility of disposing of it?

But how much of this activity has been going on and how long could it be sustained? CRED iQ has analyzed loan modifications during this period of significantly elevated interest rates.

“The number of modifications in 2023 more than doubled compared to 2022,” they said. “Of the $162 billion in securitized commercial mortgages which matured in 2023, 542 loans were modified with cumulative balances just over $20 billion, which is a 150% increase from the amount of modifications that occurred in 2022. According to CRED iQ’s 2024 CRE Maturity Outlook, 2024 will see $210 billion in securitized maturities. CRED iQ predicts that the modification trend will continue to surge as more special servicers decide to ‘pretend and extend’ versus foreclose on these commercial properties.”

In office, 26% of $35.8 billion in CMBS loans that matured last year were paid in full. Borrowers either couldn’t get refinancing (which likely would have meant a heft injection of equity into projects) or couldn’t sell for a price that allowed them to gracefully exit the stage.

Since February 2022, so two years, 593 office loans transferred to special servicing. Out of them, 13.7% were modified, 14.0% returned to the master servicer as corrected, 8.4% were paid off, and the remaining 63.9% are still with the special servicer.

“Extending the loan term has been the most popular modification type in 2023 and so far in 2024 (excluding grouping categories Other and Combination),” they wrote. “By deal type, CRE CLO deal led all categories and comprised nearly half of all loan modifications, followed by SBLL deals.”

CRED iQ gave two examples of the largest loan modifications to date — 1.6 million square feet One Market Place in San Francisco and 249,063 square foot mixed use in the Chelsea submarket of New York City. Well enough, but how long can this go on without investors, regulators, or others demanding a permanent ending?


Source:  GlobeSt.

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The Mortgage Bankers Association has revised upward its estimate of debt maturing in 2024.

Because of the number of extensions and modifications that lenders have been granting borrowers in the past few years, the amount of CRE mortgages maturing this year is expected to increase from $659 billion to $929 billion.

“The lack of transactions and other activity last year, coupled with built-in extension options and lender and servicer flexibility, has meant that many loans that were set to mature in 2023 have been extended or otherwise modified and will now mature in 2024, 2026, 2028 or in other coming years,” said Jamie Woodwell, head of commercial real estate research at MBA.

This new estimate expands the universe of potential distress that could enter the market. At the same time, though, the increase in maturities this year could also have the unexpected consequence of generating more price transparency in the market. The uncertainty surrounding interest rates and questions about property values and fundamentals have led to fewer sales and financing transactions. However, the mortgages due to mature in 2024 and clarifications in other areas should help break up congestions in the markets.

The CRE loans maturing this year vary both by investor type and property type. For instance, just $28 billion, or 3 percent, of the outstanding balance of multifamily and healthcare mortgages either held or guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, and Ginnie Mae will mature in 2024. In addition, life insurance companies will see $59 billion, 8 percent, of their outstanding mortgage balances mature in 2024. However, $441 billion, or 25 percent, of the outstanding balance of mortgages held by depositories; $234 billion, 31 percent, in CMBS, CLOs, or other ABS; and $168 billion, 36 percent, of the mortgages held by credit companies, in warehouse, or by other lenders, will mature this year.

In terms of property type, 12 percent of mortgages backed by multifamily properties will mature in 2024. Also, 17 percent of mortgages backed by retail and 18 percent backed by healthcare properties will mature this year. In addition, 25 percent of loans backed by office properties will come due in 2024. Finally, 27 percent of industrial loans and 38 percent of hotel/motel loans will mature this year, as well.


Source:  GlobeSt.


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By Jay Steinman and Karina Leiter

Jay Steinman, left, and Karina Leiter, right, of Duane Morris. Courtesy photos.

Jay Steinman, left, and Karina Leiter, right, of Duane Morris. Courtesy photos.

Loan defaults and workouts are on the rise again due to a confluence of factors causing headwinds including: the surge in interest rates and real estate owners inability to refinance maturing loans at affordable rates; the continued rise in the cost of certain materials needed for renovation and construction; the staggering cost of flood and windstorm coverage and the impossibility of even obtaining coverage; and the loan maturing in the near future without satisfactory options to refinance or be otherwise paid off on time.

Anticipating the fallout from potentially billions of dollars in distressed loans, lenders must be on high alert. Drawing from lessons learned in the last two historical downturns, where we witnessed unprepared lenders face severe consequences, it is imperative for lenders and financial institutions to act now.

Identifying distressed borrowers and projects is a critical first step, acknowledging the inevitability that many loans are already or may default in the near future. By taking proactive measures now, lenders can not only brace for the storm but also enhance and protect their available legal remedies in the event of a borrower’s default.

The subsequent steps outlined in this article offer a strategic guide for lenders, empowering them to navigate the complexities of loan workouts and enforcement actions with resilience and foresight.

Nonwaiver Letter

If a default has occurred the lender may want to have counsel draft a form of reservation of rights or nonwaiver letter. The letter should identify the known breaches and should also include “nonwaiver” type language which generally states that notwithstanding the breach or default the lender is reserving all rights under the loan documents and is not waiving any right or remedy thereafter even though it may be taking no action at that time to enforce its remedies.

Review Loan Documents

Before discussing a potential loan workout with a borrower or proceeding to exercise the remedies available, lenders should first evaluate their legal position, which includes conducting a thorough review of all loan documents including all organizational documents, title insurance policies, surveys and other due diligence materials received at closing and thereafter. Taking inventory of all collateral is also important if possible. A careful review of the loan file should be conducted to identify any documents and correspondence that may adversely impact enforcement of remedies. You don’t want to go to war with defective loan documents or due diligence issues that should have been addressed before the loan closed or thereafter.

We recommend that a new pair of eyes go through all relevant documents. Unfortunately, it is human nature that the counsel who handled the loan previously may have missed or overlooked something that will become critical during the workout, foreclosure or REO sale thereafter. Further, lenders should consider whether there are any technical issues with the loan documents and loan structure that could complicate enforcement.

Lenders should pay particular attention to what constitutes an “event of default” under the loan documents, keeping in mind the borrower’s financial and non-financial covenants, as well as the remedies available to both parties when an event of default occurs, including, without limitation, any required notices and applicable cure periods.

Perform Updated Diligence

After the lender and its counsel have reviewed the loan documents and defects if any have been identified, it is also prudent to conduct an updated review of diligence items with respect to the collateral which secures its loan, the borrower and any guarantors, including, without limitation, updated searches, title, review of financial information with respect to the property, borrower and any guarantor and current organizational documents. The lender may also want to obtain an updated appraisal and environmental audit.

By performing loan document review and analysis and the updated diligence, the lender will better understand its position and leverage before entering into negotiations with the borrower. Any existing liens or other title defects may complicate any foreclosure sale and further slowdown enforcement, which is already a lengthy process.

Execute a Pre-Negotiation Letter

Before beginning any substantive discussions with a borrower regarding a loan modification or forbearance agreement, we recommend that the lender require that the borrow and any guarantor execute a pre-negotiation letter agreement. A pre-negotiation letter agreement sets forth the parameters of the negotiations between borrower and lender prior to memorializing such negotiations in any written document. We recommend that the pre-negotiation letter agreement include a requirement that the borrower and any guarantors provide certain updated due diligence information described above to the extent that the lender’s file does not include this information.

Workout Negotiations

To the extent that a lender elects to withhold from enforcing its rights under the loan documents as a result of a borrower or lender default, the parties should enter into a loan modification or forbearance agreement. Generally speaking, it is best practice that the forbearance agreement include an acknowledgement by the borrower and any guarantors that a default has occurred under the loan documents and that the lender agrees to refrain from exercising its rights and remedies for a specific period of time, provided that the borrower and any guarantor comply with the conditions set out in the loan modification or forbearance agreement. The forbearance agreement at a minimum should include the following provisions: recitals, admission of outstanding loan balance, debt service payments during the period of forbearance, forbearance period, conditions precedent to the effectiveness of the forbearance agreement, forbearance events of default and remedies, retroactive default interest from the date of the initial default, release of lender, waiver of bankruptcy stay, consent to appointment of a receiver and foreclosure, agreement not to contest foreclosure and reaffirmation of guaranty.

Enforcement Actions

The process for enforcing a loan through foreclosure varies across jurisdictions, so lenders should understand the unique process in their jurisdiction.

The loan documents may allow the lender to ask a court to appoint a receiver to take possession of and manage the property until the foreclosure is finalized and the property is sold through a foreclosure sale; provided, however, the applicable standard for the appointment of a receiver varies by jurisdiction. Lenders should also be aware that language in a loan document that allows a lender to “request” or “apply” for the appointment of a receiver does not necessarily entitle the lender to that appointment in most cases. Most states have recently adopted a model receivership law making it a bit easier to obtain a receiver in different venues around the country.

In light of the current interest rate environment, borrowers are getting more desperate to hold onto their current financing and will employ various delay tactics to prevent lenders from enforcing their rights. These types of defensive tactics can significantly increase the time and expense associated with enforcement of the loan.

Be Aware of Lender Liability

Throughout the workout and/or enforcement process, lenders should be aware of their exposure to potential lender liability claims. Borrowers may bring claims based on a lenders’ failure to honor its obligations under the loan documents, unreasonably delay, or lack of good faith. These claims will open lenders up to discovery, which can be time-consuming and expensive. Therefore, lenders should keep in mind that all non-privileged communications may be discoverable and keep all internal and external communication professional. Lenders should ensure that all discussions with the borrower and any guarantor are well documented and subject to confidentiality requirements set forth in the pre-negotiation letter agreement and/or forbearance agreement.

In conclusion, with loan defaults and workouts on the rise due to various challenges, lenders must act proactively to safeguard their interests. By taking measures now, lenders can enhance their readiness to navigate the challenges ahead, protecting both their assets and legal remedies. In the evolving financial landscape, foresight and preparedness are key to resilience.

—Meagen E. Leary and Phillip Hudson, attorneys with the firm, assisted in the preparation of this article.


Source: DBR