Morgan Stanley analysts think commercial real estate is heading for something ‘worse than in the Great Financial Crisis’—here’s what Goldman Sachs and UBS have to say
Following the failures of both Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, all eyes have been on commercial real estate (CRE), with some sounding the alarm, claiming it’s the next shoe to drop. As Fortune has previously reported, commercial real estate lending standards were already tightening up over the past year as the Federal Reserve flipped into inflation-fighting mode. The ongoing bank troubles, however, will only exacerbate that tightening.
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Even before the banks went under, experts within the sector knew it would be a challenging time for commercial real estate, particularly for office properties with rising vacancy rates and falling property values, amid the shift to remote work. Not to mention, the entire sector faces a wave of loan maturities—meaning they’ll need to refinance to higher interest rates.
Those commercial real estate headwinds—which are particularly strong in the office space sector—will increase the risk of defaults, distress, and delinquencies, as the industry is largely built on debt.
Last week, Allianz’s chief economic advisor, Mohamed El-Erian, told Insider that “the moment of truth will play out” for the commercial real estate market once those loans mature and the sector is forced to adjust to the current economic climate. “This is part of a larger set of activities that, while they made sense when interest rates were rock-bottom and liquidity was abundant, make a lot less sense today,” he told Insider.
Billionaire investor Howard Marks, cofounder of Oaktree Capital Management, also expressed concern over the sector’s health, writing in a memo that “notable defaults on office building mortgages and other CRE loans are highly likely to occur.” As for banking giants, they’ve presented their outlooks for the sector, ranging from almost apocalyptic to manageable losses.
But what do big banks think about all this?
To better understand, let’s take a look at the commercial real estate landscape from Morgan Stanley, UBS, and Goldman Sachs from this month—all of which touch on various, but sometimes similar, aspects of what’s to be expected.
Morgan Stanley’s wealth management chief investment officer, Lisa Shalett, wrote in a recent report, “More than 50% of the $2.9 trillion in commercial mortgages will need to be renegotiated in the next 24 months when new lending rates are likely to be up by 350 to 450 basis points.”
Even before the bank failures, office properties were already facing “secular headwinds,” and are expected to face more challenging times ahead, Shalett wrote, with vacancy rates close to 20-year highs.
Therefore, Morgan Stanley’s “analysts forecast a peak-to-trough CRE price decline of as much as 40%, worse than in the Great Financial Crisis.” The distress, following the number of loans set to mature, and the likelihood of defaults and delinquencies as a result, will trickle down and affect more than banks and landlords—and no sector would be “immune” to the effect of that, Shalett wrote.
UBS, the Zurich-based multinational investment bank that recently acquired Credit Suisse, employed a less dire tone, arguing that commercial real estate “headlines are worse than reality.”
Despite the fact that “rising interest rates, a slowing economy, and increasing vacancy rates in office buildings have weighed on the sector in the last couple of years,” UBS said, a “repeat of the 2008 liquidity crisis” is unlikely— even if credit tightens further.
UBS expects around $1.2 trillion of the outstanding $5.4 trillion in commercial real estate debt, aside from multifamily, will “mature” and be up for refinancing. That will likely happen amid higher interest rates, which, UBS said, will “only add to existing challenges around servicing debt—especially in areas like office and certain segments of retail where cash flows have become challenged due to post-pandemic behavior.” Like others, UBS suggested defaults will occur as a result.
However, those defaults don’t necessarily mean the sector as a whole is at risk, particularly as beleaguered sectors, like office properties, account for only 15% of commercial real estate. And the circumstances, the bank said, are much different than those of the Great Financial Crisis, which is why it argued that a repeat is unlikely.
“The health of the overall banking system and market liquidity conditions are substantially better than they were during the GFC,” UBS said. But that’s not to say things can’t necessarily get worse from here. If the economy entered into a recession, commercial real estate losses that UBS expressed as manageable over the long term could result in “meaningful deterioration in CRE to pressure banks’ shares due to both earnings/profitability risk.”
Goldman Sachs says the real risk is in the office sector, writing that it has been the “subject of high investor focus in recent months, and rightly so, in our view.” But most of its fundamental troubles “preceded last year’s back-up in policy rates.” Nonetheless, Goldman Sachs pointed to three particular risks awaiting commercial real estate.
First, commercial real estate borrowers are exposed to higher interest rates, Goldman Sachs said, which translates into higher funding costs and increased exposure to floating (or variable) rate liabilities. That risk leads to the second, in that refinancing will be painful for some commercial real estate borrowers. Goldman Sachs estimates that $1.07 trillion worth of mortgage loans will mature before year-end 2024. And borrowers’ ability and willingness to do so amid higher rates will be limited. As for the third risk, Goldman Sachs points to tighter lending standards ahead, and the effect of that on both banks and those within commercial real estate.
“The potential for disruptions to U.S. commercial real estate activity from a pullback in small bank credit availability is substantial, unaided by the fact that the segments most dependent on bank financing—offices and retail properties—are also facing the strongest risk of functional obsolescence.”
The three risks outlined above, Goldman Sachs says, could put more pressure on net operating income and increasing vacancy, along with an increase in delinquencies—particularly for office properties.
Luxe $9m South Yarra sanctuary for sale with six-car basement garage
A winning collaboration by some of the best in the business has produced this luxurious modern sanctuary in a prized lifestyle location.
High-end builder Agushi teamed with celebrated Workroom architects and Nathan Burkett Landscape Architects on the private inner-city residence.
The four-bedroom, five-bathroom house at 12 Rockley Rd, South Yarra has hit the market with a $9m-$9.5m asking price.
Largely crafted from concrete – which even features on the sculptural curved staircase that links the home’s three levels – and marble, it delivers sophisticated interiors with carefully framed garden views.
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When at home, a mirrored lift, infinity pool with in-floor cleaning and a six-car basement garage provide the ultimate in convenience.
But it is the state-of-the-art automation that paves the way for a lock-up-and-leave lifestyle.
The technology has been a game-changer for vendor and interior designer Georgie Coombe-Tennant and her husband, Mark.
It has transformed the way they live, doing away with the need for front door keys and allowing them to turn on the oven remotely, let the postie in the gate while sitting on a ski lift or turn on the sprinkler from Europe.
“We had always had old traditional homes and renovated them, and we just felt like it was time for something modern,” Mrs Coombe-Tennant said.
“We saw Bear (Agushi’s) work and my expression for his work is that everything is so resolved.
“He has not left a single detail out of it. If you think of something you would need in a home it’s there.”
She has delighted in decorating the home, which she said offers loads of space despite having a townhouse feel.
“I found the home is so easy decorate and furnish because you have got this beautiful blank canvas and you can put any amount of colour or neutrality into in,” she said.
As well as three living areas and four bedrooms, the two-year-old home has the luxury of two home offices with desks crafted of the same grey Damastas marble that features in the lavish kitchen and bathrooms.
The main open-plan living zone screams entertainer thanks to a series of full height sliding doors linking it to a covered outdoor dining space with a built-in barbecue, a conversation pit and north-facing sun deck.
A second ground floor lounge room provides another breakout space, perfect for curling up beside the fire.
Despite its proximity to Chapel St and Toorak Village, Mrs Coombe-Tennant said the home felt secluded.
“I guess with South Yarra people are always worried about noise and things like that but it’s very, very quiet, it’s really secretive. No one knows it’s here,” she said.
“Once we are in that front door you don’t hear a single sound, but you have got everything on your doorstep.”
RT Edgar Toorak director Sarah Case added that it was rare to find homes of this calibre created specifically for a lock-up-and-leave lifestyle.
“This home has every luxury we’ve come to expect from Agushi, who’s renowned solid concrete construction, superior quality, generous spaces and meticulous attention to detail, while providing for a modern way of living with a lift to all levels, stunning pool and six-car garage,” Ms Case said.
“From the magnificent marble kitchen to the beautiful bedrooms and the poolside outdoor spaces, every aspect has been thoughtfully designed to meet the needs of even the most discerning buyer.”
Mr Agushi said he prided himself on building homes with “over specced” insulation, glazing, solar panels and smart home integration.
Expressions of interest close on June 15 at 5pm.
According the latest Proptrack Home Price Index, national home prices continued to stabilise in April after rising for the fourth consecutive month, rising 0.14 per cent.
A grandmother's van life and where housing investors live: This week's top real estate stories – The Globe and Mail
Here are The Globe and Mail’s top housing and real estate stories this week, with the lowest mortgage rates available in Canada today, commentary from our mortgage expert and one home worth a look.
The housing crisis chose van life for this 57-year-old grandmother
Terri Smith-Fraser, a nursing assistant, was renovicted from her Halifax apartment last spring when the cost of rent for her two-bedroom apartment more than doubled. Unwilling to be a burden on her adult daughters or find a roommate, she decided van life – usually associated with the young and adventurous – was her only viable option. Suddenly a bronze 1998 GMC Savana purchased in January, 2022, was home.
“I’m a grandma. I’m not a 20-year-old nomad snowboarder. I’m just your regular person who goes to work every day, and I live in a van,” Ms. Smith-Fraser told The Globe and Mail.
Three reasons why mortgage refinances are disappearing
Mortgage refinances have fallen off a cliff. They’re down by 32 per cent, according to the latest data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). People still need to refinance, but there are three reasons why they can’t, Robert McLister writes in his column:
- Tumbling home values
- Soaring rates
- The stress test
And here’s what to do about it if you’re in this boat.
This week’s mortgage rates: Markets price in another dose of tough rate medicine
“Higher for longer” is again the buzzphrase in Canada’s rate market. So much for the mini-U.S. banking crisis, which drove rates lower for all of two months, McLister writes. Now we’re dealing with a U.S. debt ceiling mess and persistently disappointing inflation indicators, not the least of which is stubbornly low unemployment. Both those factors have been driving rates higher.
Four in five Ontario housing investors live in the province: Statscan
More than 80 per cent of individual home investors in Ontario live in the province, according to a new report from Statistics Canada. Just 3 per cent of individual home investors reside elsewhere in Canada and 16 per cent live outside of the country, reports Rachelle Younglai.
The story is the same in British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, which does not reflect the spike in investor buying that occurred during the COVID-19 real estate boom. The study provides a window into investor buying patterns, which have come under scrutiny as home prices and rents have soared across the country.
Home of the week: An urban manse on Toronto’s Humber River
From the street the home is an imposing two-storey stone manse at the top of a circular driveway with bay windows flanking the formal entrance. The foyer is a festival of detailed millwork and wainscotting that continues into the central hall and then into the formal rooms flanking the entrance. All of the doorways and windows in this space have modest arches, which adds a bit of Hobbit-like character.
The second floor has more of the original woodwork and arched windows, and the landing at the top of the stairs is generous enough for another formal sitting area with ravine views, and a balcony.
What do you think is the asking price for this house?
a. The asking price is $7.59-million.
LACKIE: Busy Spring in Toronto Real Estate
This has been a busy, bustling spring for the Toronto real estate market.
There are people who will say it’s all an illusion. A perfectly coordinated dance between snake oil selling realtors and their greedy clients, all unified in pumping a market currently back on its heels as means of personal enrichment.
How does that saying go — never let the truth get in the way of a good story?
They will say it makes no sense that the market should have any signs of life at all given the rollercoaster of the last 18 months (slash, the three years since COVID, if we’re being honest) and that with rates high and staying there, and prices still high and mostly staying there, we are looking at the furthest thing from a healthy marketplace.
And perhaps it’s all relative — things feel particularly energized because in comparison to last fall, we are actually seeing some action out there.
Houses in dodgy pockets fetching upwards of 20 offers, buyers seemingly undeterred by the needles on the street just steps away from the front door.
Cute houses in great pockets drawing multiple offers and landing peak-of-2022 prices.
Sellers who may have wondered if the time-was-now realizing they didn’t want to miss their moment.
There are many utterly baffled that the market has held. That prices have held. That the pain of 2022 didn’t reset the playing field.
They are adamant that any attempt to explain it by pointing to how grossly insufficient our inventory levels are is really just distortion and manipulation. The idea somehow being that people can be scammed into engaging and thus what we are really looking at is a mirage.
They think our problems will be solved if buyers simply stay home. Refuse to show up to houses that are underlisted. Refuse to engage in multiple offers. Refuse to pay a dollar more than list price. Refuse to pay realtor fees. Refuse to participate.
Legislate agents into listing at market value. Legally obligate sellers to accept any offer that meets the price they chose to list at. Cap realtor fees. The list goes on.
Absent from all of this is the reality very much apparent on the ground: for all of the noise and anger, Toronto has not enough houses and more than enough willing participants who are capable of driving a marketplace.
By this time next week, we will have stats to support that the spring market is very much here and with it I expect we will note a sharp increase in transactions and a notable bump to average sale prices.
Is it a seasonal blip that will fizzle out as temperatures rise? Entirely possible. But even just a return to some seasonal rhythms in our marketplace would be a welcome return to normalcy.
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