Investors searching for higher yields have been flocking to CRE collateralized loan obligations (CLOs) for the past two years. Driven by target yields in the mid-teens for equity investors, real estate insiders say momentum continues to grow due to favorable stock market performances over the last several years.
“The market is on a roll, despite all kinds of predictions that the bull market will collapse any day now,” said Craig Barrett, co-owner of NBI Properties in Fort Walton Beach. “The investors we are working with are taking advantage of reduced borrowing rates and more loan options from lenders.”
Barrett added that commercial real estate CDOs were the financial vehicle of choice prior to the recession, but disappeared during the recovery. He said the new CLOs have an improved, simplified structure that is preferred because they are secured loan transactions.
Moody’s reported that 2013 closed with an estimated $2 billion in CRE CLOs issued, with an even bigger volume anticipated for 2014. However, CRE brokers say one of the biggest hindrances for the growing CLO market is the need to educate investors and discourage familiarity with CDOs, which are largely blamed for contributing to the 2008 financial crisis.
Barrett said there are there are important differences between the CDO structure and CLOs pertaining to commercial real estate.
“Before the recession, CDOs offered B-piece buyers a way to get leverage off of their double B and lower unrated portfolios,” he said. “People should know the new CLOs only include loans, and interim financing suitable for three, five and seven-year loans. What we’ve noticed is that
CLOs are not dominating commercial mortgage interim financing, but they still play an important role in the market.”
Recently issued CLOs have typically targeted loans on properties in transition. For instance, a typical loan could be structured for a class-C apartment building with an upfront reserve or future funding for renovation. The property would likely have a high occupancy level and be located in a tight market, but could possibly be in need of an upgrade in order to maintain and improve cash flow.
“Overall, CLOs are a good option for borrowers,” said Barrett. “We’re happy to help investors with the rules and regulations involved in order to take advantage of CLOs.”