There aren’t many times the world of commercial real estate finance can be compared to a medieval fantasy epic, but now may be that time.
“Winter is coming” was the ominous warning that permeated many scenes in “Game of Thrones,” as characters from the show’s seven kingdoms cautioned one another that, even on the brightest days, one should always be prepared for a much worse day ahead.
The many kingdoms of the commercial real estate debt world have been anticipating such a situation for some time, safe in the knowledge that bull markets last only so long, and corrections and resets are as sure as death and taxes. And, while the COVID pandemic necessitated a short-term pause in lending, nothing has quite shaken the market like the snow squall that’s currently building around us.
Only 12 months ago we were in a market environment where the sun was firmly shining. Loan originators were going gangbusters, lending across asset types and geographies, exploding back into action as the world rebounded from pandemic-aggravated turmoil and shutdowns. Competition was lined up around the block for most deals, with lenders willing to do battle (and, dare we say, even draw blood) in the name of closing their busiest quarter ever.
Fast-forward to today and a distinct chill is in the air, fed by the cumulative and unforgiving headwinds of rising inflation, spiking interest rates, geopolitical risk and an impending recession.
Fear cuts deeper than swords, and the volatile market conditions have created a market environment where few borrowers dare to tread in search of financing for fear of medieval torture or — worse — an empty wasteland with zero lender bids for their loan. On the other side of the table, we’re now in a lender’s market for those brave enough to continue to lend, but also one in which many financing sources are in a deep freeze, with many borrowers left out in the cold.
With the pendulum of power swinging firmly back to financiers, it seemed fitting that we asked our 18 lenders — who hail from the far-off kingdoms of Banks, CMBS, Debt Funds and Life Cos. — to opine on what they’re seeing from their lofty thrones, how borrowers should be keeping the hearth warm, and exactly how chilly 2023 could get. “Chaos is a ladder,” or so said Lord Baelish, and so we also asked what the key opportunities are today.
While there’s little dispute that a full-blown blizzard will be upon us early next year, the consensus is that it will be a short-lived one, and borrowers and lenders alike will come out fighting on the other side as they always do. In the meantime, those who haven’t lived through a true market winter are being plunged deep into one of the best learning experiences of their careers, thus far.
“There is only one thing we say to Death: ‘Not today,’ “ master sword-fighter Syrio Forel said to Arya during her training in “Game of Thrones” — and we say the same to the next 12 months.
Bundle up and batten down the hatches, team. Winter is Here.