Manhattan Office Values Crater

Bloomberg has a short article that notes commercial real estate deals in Manhattan have come to a halt. They quote CB Richard Ellis statistics that show three buildings changed hands in the first six months of the year versus an average of 32.

The article cites a lack of financing as one of the obstacles in the market and that is surely the case. One could add that uncertainty about future demand for office space as well as rents probably factor in to buyers’ reluctance as well.

Perhaps the most interesting item in the article was the assertion that cap rates are up to around seven versus cap rates as low as three during the frenzy. Supposedly this cap rate is what would apply for prime, stable Manhattan properties though I’m not sure how valid it is given the lack of transactions.

Assuming that the cap rate is in that range it implies a greater than 50% decrease in valuations. The implications of a decline in value for the banks of that order of magnitude is self-evident. It should be noted that cap rates probably hit the silly low range to a greater degree in Manhattan than they did elsewhere but there is still plenty of pain in other areas.

We know from the S&L crisis of the late ’80s and early ’90s just how difficult commercial real estate busts are to crawl out of. The knee jerk reaction then was to pretend that the banks with government assistance could weather the storm and earn their way out of their predicament. The thinking was that time and appreciation would cure the equity gap. It didn’t work as CRE was an anchor that just didn’t hold the banks back but actually dragged them down.

Right now, we’re going down the same road. This time instead of calling it regulatory forbearance we have the Fed’s TALF program. This time we’ll use government financing to keep the zombie properties alive and once again hope that time heals the wounds.

Will it work? Maybe history won’t repeat itself but the odds are against that happening.

About Tom Lindmark 401 Articles

I’m not sure that credentials mean much when it comes to writing about things but people seem to want to see them, so briefly here are mine. I have an undergraduate degree in economics from an undistinguished Midwestern university and masters in international business from an equally undistinguished Southwestern University. I spent a number of years working for large banks lending to lots of different industries. For the past few years, I’ve been engaged in real estate finance – primarily for commercial projects. Like a lot of other finance guys, I’m looking for a job at this point in time.

Given all of that, I suggest that you take what I write with the appropriate grain of salt. I try and figure out what’s behind the news but suspect that I’m often delusional. Nevertheless, I keep throwing things out there and occasionally it sticks. I do read the comments that readers leave and to the extent I can reply to them. I also reply to all emails so feel free to contact me if you want to discuss something at more length. Oh, I also have a very thick skin, so if you disagree feel free to say so.

Enjoy what I write and let me know when I’m off base – I probably won’t agree with you but don’t be shy.

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