Regional Banks Scramble to Unload Commercial Real Estate Loans, Fearing New Crisis

Published by The Epoch Times | June 14, 2023

Analysts fear that CRE exposure could spark another round of bank failures

The work-from-home trend has been taking its toll on office landlords and is now making its way through to banks’ commercial loan portfolios, leading some analysts to predict that more trauma could be on the way for regional banks this year.

And in the current climate of bank failures, short sellers, and nervous depositors, banks with large exposures to commercial real estate (CRE) loans are racing to clean up and sell down their loan portfolios in hopes that they will not fall victim to another round of bank runs.

“There is an estimated $1.5 trillion of commercial property debt that will be due for repayment in about 18 months,” Peter Earle, an economist at the American Institute for Economic Research, told The Epoch Times. “It’s not improbable that even if interest rates have fallen by that time, some of that real estate debt will nevertheless be impaired and have an adverse impact on regional banks.”

In step with a recent trend in the CRE market, tech giant Google announced in May that it was attempting to sublease 1.4 million square feet of vacant office space in its Silicon Valley home base in order to “match the needs of our hybrid workforce.” Despite more employees returning to their offices this year, average office occupancy rates across the United States are still below 50 percent.

According to a report by Bank of America, 68 percent of CRE loans are held by regional banks. Approximately $450 billion in CRE loans will mature in 2023. JPMorgan Chase estimated that CRE loans comprise, on average 28.7 percent of the assets of small and regional banks, and projected that 21 percent of CRE loans will ultimately default, costing banks about $38 billion in losses.

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