Who’s the New Lehman? No One—Yet! After Five Weeks, Investors See Hopeful Lending Signs

Five weeks since the once mighty and ever useful Lehman Brothers, onetime lender of last resort to New York City’s property investors, ceased to exist and two weeks since Barclays, which now owns many Lehman assets, fired the bank’s real estate rainmaker Mark Walsh, who has become commercial real estate’s new ATM?

That’s a joke, right?

“The credit market hasn’t un-seized,” said Richard Bassuk, president of the Singer & Bassuk Organization. “Right now, it’s like pulling teeth. The banks are just sitting. Basically, I say to my clients it doesn’t make any sense to do much right now. Let’s reassess at the beginning of ’09.”

Indeed, Mr. Bassuk said most of his work right now consists of refinancing existing multi-family buildings, thanks to the still-active folks at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

For his part, Steve Kohn, president of Cushman & Wakefield Sonnenblick-Goldman, said he’s completing some financings right now, but only because he first secured those back in the days when Lehman Brothers and Washington Mutual still existed.

Yet let it not be said that all is unwell in the realm of commercial real estate finance. The mood, at least according to Mr. Kohn, does seem to be slowly improving.

“It does feel a little better today than it did two weeks ago, for sure,” he said. “And I think there are great risk-adjusted opportunities for lending, whether we’ve hit bottom or not. And there’s certainly a consensus that we’re near it.

“There’s a little more optimism that credit will loosen things up.”

drubinstein@observer.com

Who’s the New Lehman? No One—Yet! After Five Weeks, Investors See Hopeful Lending Signs