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Investors Still Wary of Distressed Assets

Commercial real estate investors are taking a wait-and-see attitude before jumping in and buying distressed assets, according to an Ernst & Young study.  “We haven’t seen many portfolio transactions so far,” says the study’s author, Chris Seyfarth, who is national director of E&Y’s non-performing loans.  “Given the size and the magnitude of the untitledproblem with banks, I think the expectation is that at some point we’ll start seeing sizable portfolio transactions.”

According to the E&Y study, 53 percent of respondents have purchased distressed or non-performing loans in the last 18 months.  Another 45 percent believe it is too early to even think of buying non-performing loans.  Distressed assets are “piling up faster than they’re being resolved,” Seyfarth says.  “The broad view is that commercial real estate assets are getting worse, not better, and that’s going to impact financial institutions.  The issue is that the price expectations are different between the two players, and in some cases significantly different.”

Only 35 percent of those investors claim to have return requirements above 20 percent, and an equal number actually are shooting for returns in the 10 percent to 15 percent range,” Seyfarth concludes.  Once the anticipated tsunami of distressed assets his the market, it could be met with a rush of pent-up capital, all trying to get the best deals at the same time – which may, ironically, further cushion price declines, resulting in a more competitive investment market.

News about the spike in housing starts and the buoyancy of the stock market, which has recaptured $3 billion in value in just a few months, suggests that the recession has at least stabilized and economic recovery is near.  This should encourage increased liquidity in the credit markets, eventually supporting the commercial real estate investment market.

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