Risk Management

Commercial Real Estate’s Ballooning Threat

A $124 million default by a Long Island mall could be the tip of an iceberg.
Stephen TaubMarch 30, 2009

The next credit crunch will come in the commercial real estate business, where many heavily leveraged companies are experiencing a loss of tenants and lower rents due to the lousy economy.

One potential trigger point could be looming balloon mortgage payments that are coming due, with unlucky timing, amid the worst credit crisis and real estate slump in decades.

A case in point is the Mall at The Source in Westbury, N.Y., on Long Island. The owners have defaulted on a $124 million interest-only balloon loan, according to Newsday, which cited Trepp, a firm that tracks commercial mortgage-backed security transactions.

The mall, which houses bankrupt retailers Fortunoff and Circuit City, had a 10-year-old balloon loan that matured on March 11, according to the paper, citing Thomas Fink, senior vice president of Trepp.

Newsday said the loan servicer, LNR Properties, listed the loan as a nonperforming mature balloon loan. In other words, the servicer has given up any hope of getting paid.

The loan was issued in 1999 by Nomura, the paper noted, adding that the owner of the mall is listed as W&S Associates.

“What’s been happening is that more and more commercial properties have been having trouble refinancing balloon payments that are coming due,” Fink told the paper. “There’s no market right now or the market is not giving them the proceeds or the rate they want to refinance the mortgage.”

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