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  • Writer's pictureRealFacts Editorial Team

This is What the End of Extend and Pretend Looks Like


Extended photo of CRE

In the high-stakes world of commercial real estate (CRE), a strategy known as "extend-and-pretend" has long been a lifeline for banks laden with precarious loans. This practice, also cynically dubbed "delay-and-pray," allowed banks to sidestep immediate losses by extending loan terms in the hope that market conditions might improve. However, the recent wave of activity among major financial institutions suggests that the end of this era is drawing near. Banks are now scrambling to offload these risky loans, attempting to stave off the inevitable recognition of losses.


Discreet Deals Behind Closed Doors


A recent investigation by The New York Times sheds light on the nuanced maneuvers of these banks as they quietly seek to purge their balance sheets of underperforming CRE loans. Jay Neveloff, the head of Kramer Levin’s real estate practice, provided crucial insights. "The banks know they have too many loans on their books," Neveloff explained. "They are making discrete inquiries to see how great a discount they'd need to offer for buyers to pick up the worst of their lots." This clandestine approach underscores the banks' desperation to avoid public scrutiny.


Neveloff, who represents several family offices, revealed that these institutions have been approached directly by banks eager to sell loans at a discount. Similar accounts have surfaced elsewhere. GlobeSt.com reported earlier this year about a large investor who received such overtures from banks. The quiet nature of these transactions is deliberate, aiming to prevent a widespread reevaluation of property values that could force banks to write down significant portions of their portfolios.


Michael Hamilton, a real estate expert at O'Melveny & Myers, echoed Neveloff's sentiments. He recounted deals where banks granted borrowers an additional year to find buyers, even at substantial discounts. "What I have been seeing is the cockroaches are starting to come out," Hamilton remarked. "The general public does not have a sense of the severity of the problem." Hamilton’s vivid analogy highlights the underlying issues plaguing the CRE market, which banks are keen to keep under wraps to avoid triggering a crisis of confidence.


Preventing a Financial Meltdown


The banks’ stealthy efforts to sell off distressed loans are driven by a desire to prevent a mark-to-market reevaluation of their assets. Admitting that these properties are worth less than their recorded values could necessitate significant write-downs, jeopardizing the financial stability of these institutions. The fate of Silicon Valley Bank, First Republic Bank, and Signature Bank—each pushed into FDIC receivership last year after the value of their government and mortgage-backed bonds plummeted—serves as a stark warning.


Regulatory Pressures and Market Instability


Furthermore, banks face legal restrictions on how long they can hold onto property before being compelled to write it down and sell. This regulatory pressure adds another layer of urgency to their current maneuvers.

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