CMBS (Conduit) Loan Defeasance Drops Rapidly

February 15, 2018

A CMBS Loan, also known as Conduit Loan, is a type of commercial real estate loan secured by a first-position mortgage on a commercial property. These loans are packaged and sold by Conduit Lenders, commercial banks, investment banks, or syndicates of banks.

The legacy CMBS market has been shrinking rapidly, which has affected defeasance activity profoundly. Last year, only 449 CMBS loans ($6.4 billion) were defeased. Compare this to 2016, where 1,059 loans ($15.9 billion) were defeased.

Why did the number of defeasances drop?

Last year, market conditions were perfect for defeasance transactions. However, there simply was not very many loans to defease. When interest rates are low, and property values high, we see higher defeasance activity. This was what happened in 2016.

Between 2013 and 2016, a spike of defeasances occurred when approximately $70.6 billion of loans were replaced by government securities.

This increase in defeasance activity occurred simultaneously with the CMBS Wall of Maturities.

What fuels the defeasance fire? Maturing Debt.

Bottom line, there are fewer maturities, so there are fewer defeasances. This is best explained when looking at the financial crisis that happened almost a decade ago. After the fall, so to speak, not as many CMBS loans were issued.

The decline of maturities = The decline of defeasances.

What is the expectation?

Steadiness. This expectation isn’t a strong one when looking at the scarce amount of loans issued in the last 10 years, following the 2008 financial crisis. Let’s break the numbers down…

2008 – $12.1 billion of loans

2009 – $3.6 billion of loans

2010 – $11 billion of loans

The Big Variable

In short, expectations of major interest rate hikes. Rate increases motivate borrowers to “lock in” current rates, as well as defease existing loans. However, for this to happen, the increases would have to be dramatic. 1% is not enough to scare a borrower into completing these transactions. Instead, it would have to be a much higher number that would cause them to defease, even if they only had a few years left on the existing loan.

Prepay or Defease?

Securitized commercial mortgages are usually structured with prepayment restrictions. This is to make sure that the lenders receive the cash flows that were expected for the life of the loan. If a borrower decides to pay off their loan before it becomes available to prepay, they could face serious penalties. These payoff cases typically happen when there is a sale of the property or a dramatic drop in interest rates.

Alternatively, the borrower could replace their mortgage collateral with government securities that copy the mortgage’s cash flow. In short, the lesser amount of time left on the loan, the lower the cost to defease. As with the opposite, the longer amount of time remaining on the loan, the more it will cost to defease. This is why most wait until the last two years of the maturity of the loan to defease.


If you have questions on defeasement or the maturity of your loan, contact RESolutions to guide you to the most appropriate steps for your situation.