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Big Investors See Huge Opportunity In Distressed Real Estate

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Real estate investors are predicting the sharp economic decline resulting from the spread of the coronavirus may be a greater opportunity to buy distressed assets than even the Great Recession.

The 2008 recession began in the financial markets and spread to the real world. Between August 2008 and June 2010, commercial property prices fell by 35%, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Investors are predicting a steeper decline in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The shutterings of retail properties, hotels and many other businesses that make up a huge part of the economy have created such an angular crisis that some tenants immediately were unable to pay rents, and owners soon may be unable to pay mortgages, putting properties on the market. When those properties become available, real estate investors will be there to seize the opportunity. 

There is uncertainty to buying low on distressed properties, of course. Has the price completely bottomed out? When will markets rebound? How do you determine a capitalization rate when it is not clear which tenants can pay rent, or which will survive the crisis? But some of the biggest investors see it as an opportunity they cannot let pass.

Commercial mortgage-backed securities were among the first to feel the effects of COVID-19. Margin calls have intensely pressured borrowers, and CMBS valuations have tumbled. As a result, Brookfield Asset Management’s Oaktree Capital Management, the world’s largest distressed securities investor, told individual investors it would be accelerating deployment of capital from its distressed debt fund. 

Brookfield is not the only firm getting in on the act. New York City-based Compound Asset Management announced a fund in the middle of March that is specifically designed to invest in hospitality companies expected to recover in the long run but that were immediately hit hard by the pandemic.

Blackstone and Starwood also have billions of dollars in cash commitments available, and Elliott Management, Apollo Global Management and Appaloosa Management already have shown interest in acquiring distressed assets, according to Bloomberg.