"This is significant, but small compared to the over $1.1 trillion losses ultimately expected on residential mortgage loans and securities. Commercial mortgage losses will be a significant problem for many mid-sized and small banks," said Mark Zandi, the chief economist for Moody's Economy.com. "In fact, most of the banking failures that occur in the next several years will be due to losses on commercial mortgage loans."
Earlier this year, the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve announced a program in which they'll lend to investors willing to purchase the safest, top-rated commercial mortgage-backed securities. The Fed is trying to use its power as a lender of last resort to help keep some credit flowing into commercial real estate markets. This effort, however, is of limited importance because it targets the safest of commercial mortgages and won't address all that ails this important sector.
Additionally, pools of commercial mortgages are expected to be included in the auction of so-called toxic assets being readied by the Treasury Department through a public-private partnership.
Still, commercial real-estate brokers are bracing for protracted hard times.
"There will be a re-engineering of the culture of the real estate business," said Waters, the NAI Global executive, who expects few new development projects until the mortgage problem runs its course. "All the avenues to dispose (of bad commercial loans) are going to be utilized."
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