High Rates Challenge Commercial Property Strategy

Commercial real estate buildings overshadowed by the symbol of high interest rates.

Commercial property owners are grappling with the reality that the anticipated interest rate cuts might not materialize. But it’s not just borrowers who are on the hook; lenders are in a tight spot, too.

A new reality: Persistently high-interest rates are challenging commercial property owners to rethink strategies; as Fed Chair Powell said last week, “Restrictive monetary policy needs more time to do its job.” Hopes for easing refinancing conditions in 2024 are diminishing amid stubborn inflation and strong economic data, shifting expectations in the real estate market.

Escalating costs: Investor expectations for the secured overnight financing rate (SOFR) have shifted significantly, now predicting it to stabilize at 4.825% by early 2025, with only two minor rate cuts anticipated this year, down from six expected in January. This change has sharply increased hedging costs for borrowers with floating-rate debt. The cost to extend an interest-rate cap on a $100M mortgage has surged from $1.3M to $2.1M, posing a new financial challenge for owners.

The cost of these caps has become a major headache for property owners

Zoom in: Lenders are also under pressure as persistent high interest rates lead to commercial real estate loans rolling over. MBA notes that $929 billion in property loans are maturing in 2024, up 41% due to extensions from 2023. Previously effective during the low-rate environment post-2008, the “extend-and-pretend” strategy now risks tying up significant capital with no imminent return to low rates. This affects not only banks, where these loans form over a fifth of portfolios but also investors in CMBS loans, who face disappointing returns as low as 3% on top-tier bonds.

Case in point: In New York, landlords like SL Green and Vornado have paid about $100M to extend a $1.08B loan for an office building, reflecting the lengths some property owners will go to avoid defaults. However, smaller owners might choose to relinquish their properties rather than invest further.


Big picture: Sustained high interest rates are freezing property transactions as elevated debt costs challenge buyers to meet lenders’ coverage requirements. Property owners face tough choices: either reduce prices or invest more capital into their properties to secure loan extensions. This new reality forces sellers and borrowers to navigate a constrained market with limited options.