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The Rate Of Collapsed CRE Deals Tripled In March

San Francisco

Pending commercial real estate transactions are falling through more often as buyers change price expectations amid the coronavirus pandemic and economic slowdown.

Out of all commercial real estate sales contracts, 1.3% fell through in March, over triple the 0.4% average seen from 2016 to 2019, according to a new report from Real Capital Analytics.

In another sign of market weakness and illiquidity, the number of buyers dwindled at a similar clip. The market had 790 unique buyers of commercial real estate last month, just over a third of the average seen in months since 2016, RCA data shows. 

The sharp drop comes as financing for many property types, from student housing to fully leased office buildings, becomes less available and buyers become more uncertain of likely revenues, especially in the short-term.

CRE deals fell through at over three times the normal rate of 0.4% in March, while the number of buyers shrank as well, according to RCA.

In the multifamily space, the federal government has extended mortgage forbearance to many landlords, but those without agency-backed loans aren’t as lucky, and many fear May could drive a significant number of properties into distress.

The commercial sector, too, reckons with uncertainty over when a nationwide patchwork of shelter-in-place mandates will be lifted, allowing people to return to routines of working and spending outside the home.

As a result, investors and brokers say many in capital markets are effectively on the sidelines, at least until a more firm timeline for reopening arises.

"A rising number of busted deals shows that participants saw the growing economic calamity and realized that the assumptions they had in place for transactions no longer worked," RCA Senior Vice President Jim Costello wrote.