November 7, 2017

Detroit closes gap in debt delinquency rates


  • Detroit region has had a higher CMBS debt delinquency rate than the national average
  • In September, the Detroit metropolitan statistical area was less than one-tenth of a percent higher than the national delinquency average
  • That’s the closest it’s been in the last 10 years

For the last decade, the Detroit region has had a higher delinquency rate on commercial mortgage-backed securities debt than the national average. And for a string of several months during the Great Recession, about one-sixth of the area’s outstanding debtors were more than 90 days late on their payments.

But in September, the last month for which data from New York City-based Trepp LLC was available, the Detroit metropolitan statistical area was less than one-tenth of a percent higher than the national delinquency average.

That’s the closest it’s been in the last 10 years, showing how much the Detroit area’s CMBS market has improved. That’s starting to trigger fresh interest from large institutional investors who had blacked out the region and state as a whole for years. Paired with recent demand for new office and other construction, improving vacancy rates and other factors, industry experts are optimistic.

“It’s reflective of the general health of our economy and our lending environment and the condition of our commercial real estate markets, and it also reflects that we are not an outlier anymore,” said Dennis Bernard, president of Southfield-based Bernard Financial Group. “Detroit for so long was an outlier.”

CMBS are fixed-income or floating rate securities which use commercial real estate loans as collateral.

The region’s rebound is the result of riskier loans — those issued during the debt boom of the early 2000s — being shed from the balance sheets through either foreclosures or workout agreements, and because stricter lending standards today preventing riskier CMBS debt from being issued, Bernard said.

He added that of the 540 outstanding CMBS loans on commercial real estate in the Detroit area, his company services 280 of them. Just one of them is delinquent.

There will be a slight upward tick in delinquency rates soon, but only because of some of the 2007-08 loans issued just before the economic recession are still on the books, Bernard said.

“Those are legacy loans which will have loan-to-value issues,” he said, adding that as the market has improved, he has toured downtown Detroit with four of the large life insurance lenders who haven’t issued debt in the city in three or four decades.

Mike Schick, director of Birmingham-based Q10 | Lutz Financial Services LLC, is similarly optimistic.

“We’ve had both good lender interest and probably some lender interest from lenders who have not historically been active in Southeast Michigan and Michigan as a whole,” he said.

“In the mid-2000s the lending market was lending as aggressively as we have ever seen,” Schick said.

Trepp data backs that up. In 2005, $1.65 billion in commercial mortgage-backed securities debt was issued in metro Detroit, according to Trepp. That tapered off over the next two years, as $1.44 billion was issued in 2006 and $1.22 billion in 2007.

Generally improving occupancy rates in the industrial and office sectors have also helped draw lender interest, Schick said.

The Detroit area has $5.91 billion in CMBS debt spread across 541 loans, with $324.2 million delinquent across just 21 loans as of September, according to Trepp. Ten years ago, there were 997 loans with a total balance of $8.64 million, with $149.1 million delinquent across 21 loans for a delinquency rate of 1.72 percent.

The 10-year high delinquency rate of 18 percent came in September 2010, which was almost double the national average of 9.05 percent. At that time, the market had $7.33 billion in outstanding CMBS debt across 794 loans; 136 of those were delinquent with a balance of $1.32 billion.

report last month by Commercial Property Executive says that retail and office properties, by far, have the most amount of delinquent CMBS debt nationwide, with both asset classes at or above the $5 billion mark in the last year. Hospitality, multifamily and industrial properties each have less than $2 billion in delinquent CMBS debt nationwide.