Analysis

A reckoning for real estate debt: bracing for refinancing 

Billions of dollars of real estate debt will mature in the next 12–36 months and must be refinanced at much higher costs. 


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Now that we’ve set the scene for the current deal environment and fundraising conditions that real estate asset managers are encountering, we turn our attention to another real estate trend shaping these fund managers’ challenges and opportunities: the specter of refinancing 

With the outlook for real estate deal activity and fundraising improving, the biggest financial challenge facing real estate investors in the coming quarters will be refinancing. 

Billions of dollars of real estate debt – issued at bargain-basement rates at the peak of the credit cycle in 2021 – will mature in the next 12–36 months and must be refinanced at much higher costs. 

According to Morgan Stanley analysts more than US$1.5 trillion of commercial real estate debt falls due for repayment before 2025. The delta between office and retail property valuations at the top and bottom of the market could be as wide at 40 percent, according to Morgan Stanley, resulting in heightened risk of default across the sector. 

In this article, we explore the challenges real estate asset managers face as a result and the resources they can seek out to help mitigate the impacts. 

The road from low rates to daunting refinancing

As interest rates hit new lows in 2021 in reaction to a Covid-rattled economy, real estate managers saw their investment target options open up. 

Alongside the boon for real estate, private debt strategies experienced a rush from managers and investors eager to take part in the attractive terms. Real estate debt wasn’t left out of that equation. Managers with pure real estate strategies hurried to stand up debt strategy arms to meet soaring investor demand while those already raising real estate debt funds basked in the rush on their fundraising efforts.  

Now, three years down the line, real estate managers and real estate debt managers alike are staring down the maturities of their loans. 

Banks and capital markets are not completely shut, and there will be liquidity available to refinancing these debt maturities, but with interest rates settling at elevated levels relative to the last five years, interest rate coverage ratios could be a factor in determining whether senior loan and bond lenders will be able to fully refinance maturing debt facilities. 

This could open up opportunities for junior capital providers to gain traction in capital structures, with mezzanine and preferred equity as some of the solutions that real estate companies could turn to when topping up capital structures. 

As in the fundraising space, the upcoming refinancing wall could also lead to a split in the market between haves and have nots. Real estate borrowers in resilient sub-sectors that exercised restraint at the peak of the credit cycle should find refinancing relatively straightforward.  

As one example of a resilient subsector, also mentioned in our previous article, the data center real estate market continues to perform, especially as we increasingly integrate AI and machine learning features into our daily lives and create a greater need for physical computing space to power that demand. 

Borrowers that took on leverage too aggressively and are in weaker performing real estate sub-sectors will find it much more difficult and could encounter financial stress and distress. For example, many employers are still allowing for hybrid or fully remote work post-pandemic, and the office building sub-sector is still under close watch by the industry for fear of a crisis when these loans come due. Rebound rates can vary vastly city by city. 

Arm your firm with resources and industry expertise

In a long game like real estate investing, we all know there will be times of feast and times of famine. Real estate managers can’t control the macroeconomic factors – only the way in which they run their funds, select their investments, create value, and manage risk. 

When facing headwinds like the impending wall of real estate debt maturities we find ourselves with now, it’s essential to focus on the operational elements that are under a firm’s control. In getting back-office operations in order, funds can free up their teams to focus on value-added activities rather than getting bogged down in the administrative and technical challenges that come with managing a complex portfolio of properties. 

Alter Domus has guided real estate managers through multiple cycles of the market over the last two decades. We’re prepared to help you operate through this challenging credit market with your choice of service model – outsourcing, co-sourcing, and lift-outs – as well as full back-office services including fund accounting, loan servicing, transfer agency, and far more. 

Ready to empower your staff to outsource challenging workflows so they can work on higher-value problems and processes? Reach out to our team to start a conversation. 

Key contacts

Anita Lyse

Anita Lyse

Luxembourg

Global Sector Head, Real Assets

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