By the Numbers
Collateral performance in CRE CLOs still looks solid
Mary Beth Fisher, PhD | April 28, 2023
This document is intended for institutional investors and is not subject to all of the independence and disclosure standards applicable to debt research reports prepared for retail investors.
The collateral for commercial real estate collateralized loan obligations (CRE CLOs) typically are short-term, floating-rate loans for properties undergoing major renovations or repositioning. Although financing these projects can be riskier than lending against stabilized properties, the overall performance of CRE CLO collateral through the pandemic has been much better than broader CMBS. Since the Fed began hiking, performance has declined modestly but remains in line to somewhat better than non-agency CMBS. There are a couple of catches to the apparent outperformance though: the overall collateral profile is overweight multifamily and underweight both lodging and retail, and loan modifications, extensions and buyouts—difficult to uniformly track in CRE CLOs—could be masking some trouble spots.
The performance of CRE CLOs overall continues to be solid. Delinquency rates peaked during the pandemic at 1.75% of loans delinquent by 30 days or more and close to 3% of loans with non-current payments (Exhibit 1). After declining from early in the pandemic through the second half of 2020, delinquency rates stayed mostly below 0.5% into early 2022. As the Fed hikes raised rates on floating-rate loans, non-current loans and delinquency rates began to pick up: about 2% of CRE CLO collateral is non-current, with 0.75% being 30 or more days delinquent. The “past due” and “less than 30 days delinquent” categories do pick up some noise, but monitoring these categories is an important precursor to loans that will transition to delinquency. These categories also arguably reflect some degree of borrower stress when payments are late.
Exhibit 1: CRE CLO loan performance summary
Not surprisingly, the large increase in delinquencies during the pandemic was mostly from hotel and retail properties in CRE CLOs (Exhibit 2). Both property types had serious delinquency rates over 2% and accounted for most of the foreclosures. Retail properties in CRE CLOs continue to struggle, and currently have the highest delinquency rates across property types of 1.5%. Multifamily has performed exceptionally well, though recently there has been a noticeable build to 2.5% of loans that are past due or less than 30 days delinquent.
Exhibit 2: CRE CLO performance by property type
CRE CLO performance has been stronger than that of non-agency CMBS overall. One factor contributing to the relative strength is that investor demand and willingness to take on struggling commercial real estate properties has shaped the collateral pool of CRE CLOs. Thanks to a strong fundamental outlook, substantial price appreciation and outperformance during the pandemic, the collateral profile of CRE CLOs has shifted heavily towards multifamily over the past few years, and away from the pandemic-impacted sectors of the market: hotels, retail and office (Exhibit 3). Multifamily started off being about 25% to 30% of CRE CLO collateral in 2018 and has increased to over 50%, despite being only 22% of all non-agency CMBS (Exhibit 3). Office and mixed-use collateral began as roughly the same amount but has declined over time as multifamily has risen.
Exhibit 3: CRE CLO collateral has evolved over time
The retail sector has been struggling for nearly a decade, and its presence in CRE CLOs is small. It comprises about 3% of outstanding collateral in CRE CLOs but 15% of collateral across all non-agency securitized products (Exhibit 4). Hotels had the highest delinquency rates of any property type during the pandemic, and not surprisingly make up only a small slice of CRE CLOs post-pandemic, despite being 12% of outstanding non-agency CMBS overall.
Exhibit 4: Non-agency CMBS and CRE CLO collateral
Despite the additional risk of transitional lending, the performance of CRE CLOs has been better than the broader non-agency CMBS market in part due to the collateral mix (Exhibit 5 and 6). Overall, 98% of outstanding CRE CLO loans are current, while 2% are non-current. Half of the non-current loans (1.08%) are past due or less than 30 days delinquent, while the other 0.92% are 30 or more days delinquent.
Exhibit 5: Loan payment status of CRE CLO collateral
This performance is in-line to much stronger than that of non-agency CMBS, where over 3% of outstanding balances are delinquent (Exhibit 6). The enormous spike in delinquency rates during the pandemic was mostly driven by lodging and retail properties. Notably, CMBS loans in forbearance were typically considered delinquent until the forbearance was cured. As these loans became reperforming, the delinquency rates dropped steadily and sharply, and there was virtually no build up of properties in foreclosure or real estate owned (REO).
Exhibit 6: Non-agency CMBS and special servicing rates
Loan modifications, extensions and buyouts, which are difficult to uniformly track in CRE CLOs, could be masking some of the issues. For example, CRE CLO managers could allow forbearance, and, similar to Freddie Mac or Ginnie Mae, continue to consider the loan payment status as current while it was in forbearance. Managers also have incentives to replace or buy out delinquent or underperforming loans. As transitional borrowers work to stabilize and possibly sell their properties, or need to refinance out of floating-rate loans, it’s possible there will be further deterioration in performance.