A Reckoning Looms for Commercial Real Estate—and Its Lenders

Wall Street Journal
Monday, December 14, 2020

Even as Covid-19 cases surge world-wide, the arrival of viable vaccines holds the promise of a return to something resembling normality by the middle of next year. But the commercial real-estate sector may never get back to normal, and that could spell trouble for banks. Many banks are concentrated in and dependent on commercial property lending. Bankshold half of all commercial real-estate loans. The 5,000 or so U.S. community banks, withabout a third of total assets, are two to three times as concentrated in commercial real-estate lending as the approximately 30 larger banks. Problems in commercial real estate can hurt banks in two ways. Losses on existing loanscan damage earnings directly, and a correction can reduce future lending volumes,impairing an important driver of earnings. Based on what we know now, things don’t look good.