Apartment Building Foreclosures Create a Buyers Market for Apartment Buildings


Many apartment buildings are now facing foreclosure because of falling prices, stricter underwriting guidelines and 5 year mortgages becoming due. For the astute buyer of apartment buildings these apartment building foreclosures could represent an investment windfall.

Fremont Street in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
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As a glaring symbol of the burst bubble in national residential real estate prices, the National Association of Realtors announced recently that a full 63% of homeowners in Las Vegas are now “underwater” in their mortgages. This simply means that they owe more than their property is currently worth. For many of these people, it simply makes no economic sense to continue paying for their mortgages when the underlying asset is no longer worth what they owe. This situation will probably lead to further foreclosures and further declines in real estate prices. As all eyes are currently watching the steep decline in residential real estate prices and rising foreclosures, the commercial side of real estate has hardly begun to realize the problems that may be looming on the horizon for many apartment building owners.

Homeowners in Las Vegas, for example, who are able to continue paying their mortgages may decide to hold on to their property for a few years and hope that real estate prices recover. They are able to make this decision because, presumably, they have 30 year mortgages. In contrast to residential mortgage holders, many investors in commercial real estate are holding on to 5 year mortgages. This means that they will be forced to refinance their properties when the notes become due and it couldn’t be happening at a worse time. Many apartment buildings rose in value right along side residential real estate prices and too many of these owners paid too much for their properties because they figured that as long as they were seeing a net profit every year from their rent collection then they had nothing to worry about.

Market Conditions Lead to Great Opportunity in Apartment Market

During the real estate investing frenzy apartment building buyers didn’t take into account the possibility that real estate prices would drop so precipitously is such a short period of time. Now, many apartment building owners are facing a dire situation. For example, let’s assume an apartment building investor purchased an apartment building in 2005 for 1 million dollars. He came out of pocket for $200,000 and he financed the purchase with a 5 year balloon note that becomes due on January 1, 2010. He financed 80% of the purchase price. In the last years, however, the market price of his apartment building has dropped 20%. It is now appraised by the bank as being worth $800,000. Unfortunately, when he goes to the bank to get a loan, the loan officer tells him that the bank has changed their underwriting guidelines and they are now only willing to finance 70% of the appraised value of the property. Now, he is only able to finance $560,000. The problem is that he still owes just around $800,000 on the property. The difference between $800,000 and $560,000 is $240,000. Unless the apartment building owner can come out of pocket to pay this additional $240,000 to the bank then he will eventually be forced into foreclosure. It is safe to assume that many apartment building owners will make the same choice that thousands of home owners have, to walk away from the mortgage and the property, chalking it off as a lesson learned.

For the first time buyer of apartment buildings, this could be a windfall in the making. There could be thousands of properties, in good condition, appearing on the market at rock bottom prices.

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  1. Another Investor on

    The history of commercial loans is a little different than that of the residential paper market. The banks have had a lot of experience with declining commercial markets in the past and these loans are more likely to be on their books instead of securitized. The government will also act as backstop on a lot of this paper. Although you will see a jump in foreclosures, I’m pretty sure you are going to see a LOT of work-outs negotiated.

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