Whither Refinancing in a Still-Soft Commercial Market?

The National Association of Realtors reports that its commercial real estate index, which measures the attitudes of more than 600 local market experts, rose just 2.8 percentage points to 41.0 in the second quarter. That's well below the 100 mark, which represents a balanced market.

And the gloom rolls on. The National Association of Realtors reports that its commercial real estate index, which measures the attitudes of more than 600 local market experts, rose just 2.8 percentage points to 41.0 in the second quarter. That’s well below the 100 mark, which represents a balanced market.

It also marks three years of decline. The last time the NAR index showed a balanced market was in the third quarter of 2007.

How does what NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun calls “very much a tenant’s market” impact refinancing efforts? As it turns out, quite a bit. With Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke asserting last month that “notable restraints on the recovery persist”, it could be reasonable to assume that property values aren’t about to rise. That in turn will impact the willingness of banks to offer refinancing deals, which threatens to spur a new wave of loan defaults as building owners find themselves unable to meet their mortgage obligations. Ergo the fears of a double-dip recession.

That said, an encouraging consumer confidence survey for July shows that Americans are more optimistic when it comes to the job outlook, a major factor in lifting the markets as well as real estate conditions.

The question, of course, is whether this trend is enough to help unfreeze the chilly credit markets and make the downbeat real estate professionals smile. Stocks did indeed rise after the consumer-confidence report was issued, but whether this will last remains to be seen.

In the meantime, commercial real estate owners looking to refinance had best be prepared for a tough sell, at least until the market begins to regain some semblance of balance.