Fearing Losses, Banks Are Quietly Dumping Real Estate Loans – The New York Times

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Some Wall Street banks, worried that landlords of vacant and struggling office buildings won’t be able to pay off their mortgages, have begun offloading their portfolios of commercial real estate loans hoping to cut their losses.

It’s an early but telling sign of the broader distress brewing in the commercial real estate market, which is hurting from the twin punches of high interest rates, which make it harder to refinance loans, and low occupancy rates for office buildings — an outcome of the pandemic.

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Late last year, an affiliate of Deutsche Bank and another German lender sold the delinquent mortgage on the Argonaut, a 115-year-old office complex in midtown Manhattan, to the family office of the billionaire investor George Soros, according to court filings.

Around the same time, Goldman Sachs sold loans it held on a portfolio of troubled office buildings in New York, San Francisco and Boston. And in May, the Canadian lender CIBC completed a sale of $300 million of mortgages on a collection of office buildings around the country.

“What you are seeing right now are one-offs,” said Nathan Stovall, director of financial institutions research for S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Mr. Stovall said sales were picking up as “banks are looking to shrink exposures.”

In terms of both number and value, the troubled commercial loans that banks are trying to offload are a sliver of the roughly $2.5 trillion in commercial real estate loans held by all banks in the United States, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

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