Commercial Loans Blog

Commercial Lenders Are Finally Calling Their Commercial Loans

Posted by George Blackburne on Mon, Oct 5, 2009

Is Extend and Pretend Finally Over?

It is very rare for a commercial lender to make a fully-amortized commercial loan. Most commercial real estate loans are amortized over 20 to 25 years, and they have a large balloon payment due after either five or ten years.

When Lehman Brothers collapsed in September of 2008, the market for commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) also collapsed. At its peak, over half of all commercial real estate loans (by dollar volume) were originated by conduits to enter the pipeline to become commercial mortgage-backed securities. Then, without warning, "Boom!" (as John Madden might say) the entire CMBS industry suddenly disappeared.

Not surprisingly, since September of 2008, it has become far, far more difficult for borrowers to refinance their ballooning commercial mortgage loans. Rather than force their borrowers into foreclosure and bankruptcy, the securitization trusts and commercial banks, which own most of these maturing commercial real estate loans, have been either extending their loans or patiently forbearing from filing foreclosure.

This industry-wide practice has become know as extend and pretend or delay and pray.

The "pretend" part of that phrase acknowledges the reality that a vast number, if not a majority, of all commercial real estate loans are greatly over-leveraged. Suppose a five-year commercial real estate loan was written in late 2004 at 75% loan-to-value. Commercial property values since 2004 have probably fallen in the neighborhood of 35%. This ballooning loan has therefore probably soared from 75% LTV to around 113% loan-to-value.

As long as the borrower keeps making his monthly payments, however, commercial real estate lenders across the country have been extending their loans and pretending as if these loans were still adequately secured.

Is this a crazy strategy for the commercial banks? No. This is a perfectly rational decision. The same thing happened to Blackburne & Brown, our hard money commercial lending company, during the commercial real estate smash-up in California in 1991. For years we had made first mortgages on commercial real estate up to 65% loan-to-value. When commercial real estate values in California fell by 45%, two-thirds of our commercial loan portfolio was upside down. Our borrowers owed more on the property than the commercial real estate was worth.

Nevertheless, most of our commercial real estate borrowers just continued to make their payments. By 1994 commercial real estate values had recovered, and our most of our commercial loans were back to being right-side up. No one should find this terribly surprising. Poor people don't own commercial real estate. Rich people do. And most of these wealthy commercial borrowers could afford to just keep making the payments. Therefore I have no disagreement with those securitization trusts and commercial banks who have elected to extend and pretend or delay and pray.

However, the commercial loan officers at Blackburne & Brown are starting to report that more and more banks are finally demanding that their commercial real estate borrowers pay off their ballooning commercial real estate loans. They will extend and pretend no longer.

Suppose one of your commercial borrowers has a ballooning commercial real estate loan of $750,000 but he can only qualify for a $600,000 refinance.  Blackburne & Brown Equity Preservation Fund may be able to help. The Fund will invest $150,000 in your borrower's property and pay down his ballooning loan from $750,000 to $600,000. In return, the fund will take a share of the ownership of the property. Your borrower will still run the property.

Got a commercial real estate deal where you need equity? Please email E.J. Ridings at

Topics: commercial real estate loan, commercial loan, commercial mortgage loans, delay and pray, extend and pretend, commercial financing, commercial mortgage