The number of branches in the U.S. shrank by more than 1,700 in the 12 months ended in June 2017, the biggest decline on record, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of federal data. Branch numbers fell again in the second half of 2017, as they leave less profitable regions and fewer customers use tellers for routine transactions. That would add to the thousands of locations closed following the financial crisis, and is the longest stretch of closures since the Great Depression.
JP Morgan Chase, the nation's largest bank, announced plans to close roughly 300 branches by the end of 2016, roughly 5 percent of its overall footprint. According to the National Real Estate Investor, JP Morgan Chase is looking to cut costs and optimize its branch network and plans to change how it services its retail customers by emphasizing mobile banking and more tech-savvy automated teller machines, illustrating a larger trend within the banking industry: a greater focus on branch efficiency and technology. The commercial real estate industry is taking note, as this means thousands of shuttered branches.
By Sharif Mitchell, Senior Managing Consultant / Area Leader, New York City
& Cameron Moore, Senior Managing Consultant / Area Leader, Atlanta
As we approach the end of 2013, commercial real estate lenders are eager to find out whether they have reached or exceeded their goals in providing funding for real estate transactions. According to the Commercial Observer, one thing is certain: CMBS investment bankers have exceeded last year’s output, yet it is not certain if the Wall Street shops will reach a $100 billion in gross lending. There are also the traditional savings and commercial banks, mortgage REITs, private equity funds and insurance companies, as well as new players in town who joined and/or increased their volume of financing this year.
Commercial real estate investors seeking higher returns are turning to smaller markets and buying suburban properties. According to Bloomberg, demand for office buildings, retail centers and warehouses in cities such as Reno, Nevada; Greensboro, North Carolina; and Louisville, Kentucky, is surging as yields shrink for real estate on the coasts and in larger cities. Properties on the outskirts of major metropolitan areas also are attracting interest, with prices for suburban offices rising faster than downtown real estate.
The commercial real estate market is on the rise this year, especially for office properties. As the demand for mortgage loans has increased, banks have also lowered lending standards. The Federal Reserve Board reported that 21.9 percent of banks surveyed last month said they reduced credit standards for commercial real estate loans in the third quarter this year, while only 2.7 percent reported tighter standards, according to The New York Times. The net loosening figure of 19.9 percent was down a bit from the second quarter but otherwise the highest such figure since 2005, when the real estate bubble was inflating. At the same time, more banks reported rising demand for commercial real estate loans than at any time since 1998.
During the 19th annual Lodging Conference, held last week, hotel industry leaders met to discuss trends and prospects for the coming year. One session panel titled "Owners and lenders forum," addressed concerns facing hotel lenders and owners, which include possible overbuilding, rising interest rates and the cost of unionization. Several panelists stressed their worry of overbuilding, especially in midscale and upper-midscale markets.
The share of community banks' assets devoted to commercial real estate loans has drastically increased over the last 20 years. According to Columbus Business First, commercial real estate loans made up about 26.7% of all assets at community banks in 2011, up from 19.6% in 2000 and from 14.5% in 1990. This is significantly higher than larger banks, which have shrunk their portfolios to 8.8% in 2011, down from 9.9% in 2000 and 12.1% in 1990.
More capital is expected to come back into commercial real estate in greater volumes and across multiple lending sources throughout the remainder of 2012. According to the CoStar Group, a survey administered by Jones Lang LaSalle of 20 institutional lenders has reported positive expectations for 2012 funding aims including a 12% uptick in expected capital placement this year. Lenders seem to now be more accepting of risk and indicate higher levels of cash flow for secondary markets and property types.
Commercial property loans across the nation rose to their highest level since 2007 during the third quarter as banks, insurers and government-backed finance companies increased lending. According to Bloomberg, new loans for commercial real estate climbed 98% from a year earlier and 10% from the second quarter. The total dollar volume of loans rose to around $31 billion from $28 billion the previous quarter. The surge in loan originations likely is focused on Class A real estate in major markets.