The Commercial Real Estate Market Could Crash Soon

Experts are warning that the commercial real estate market may be on the verge of a significant price crash. Is your investment portfolio prepared?
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The commercial real estate market is bracing for a potential crash that could rival the 2008 financial crisis, as warned by Lisa Shalett, Chief Investment Officer for Morgan Stanley Wealth Management.

Lisa Shalett, Managing Director Morgan Stanely

Office and retail property valuations may plummet up to 40% this year due to higher interest rates, making it challenging for investors to refinance trillions in looming debt. 

However, there are differing views on the severity of the situation, with some experts suggesting that the headlines may be worse than the reality.

Debt Refinancing Risks and Market Turmoil

Morgan Stanley analysts predict a peak-to-trough decline in commercial real estate (CRE) prices of up to 40%, surpassing the impact of the Great Financial Crisis. Over 50% of the $2.9 trillion in commercial mortgages will require renegotiation in the next two years, coinciding with expected lending rate increases of 350 to 450 basis points.

This scenario raises concerns about the ability of borrowers to navigate the refinancing process and the potential strain it may place on the market.

Regional Banks at the Center of Upheaval

Complicating matters further, small and regional banks represent the primary source of credit for the $20 trillion commercial real estate market, holding approximately 80% of the sector's outstanding debt.

As the financial sector experiences turmoil (Silicon Valley Bank and First Republic), these regional banks face challenges that could lead to more restrictive lending standards. This credit crunch could make it increasingly difficult for businesses and households to obtain loans, impacting economic growth.

Impact on Small Businesses

Small Businesses

During a credit crunch, banks typically raise lending standards, resulting in limited access to loans for small businesses and households. Borrowers may face stricter terms, such as higher interest rates, as banks seek to reduce their own financial risk.

The tightening of lending standards was already underway prior to the crisis within the industry, as reflected in a survey by the Federal Reserve showing increased lending restrictions and reduced demand in late 2022.

Refinancing Risks and Maturity Wall

The commercial real estate street

Refinancing risks loom large for commercial property owners, especially given the front-loaded nature of the maturity wall. The next two years present significant challenges as more than half of the commercial real estate mortgage debt needs refinancing.

This situation, coupled with factors like rising interest rates and a shift towards hybrid/remote work, further adds to the struggles faced by the commercial real estate market.

Differing Outlooks and Market Realities

While concerns about a credit crunch and rising funding costs for banks persist, not all experts share the same level of pessimism regarding the future of the commercial real estate market.

Solita Marcelli, UBS Global Wealth Management's Chief Investment Officer of Americas, believes that headlines about office space are worse than the actual reality. Marcelli acknowledges the potential credit crunch but downplays the likelihood of a repeat of the 2008 liquidity crisis where capital markets essentially closed for financing.


The commercial real estate market is at a critical juncture, with debt refinancing risks and rising interest rates contributing to market uncertainty. The potential for a crash, comparable to the 2008 financial crisis, poses significant challenges for property valuations and the stability of small and regional banks.

However, differing perspectives on the severity of the situation suggest that the true impact may be less severe than anticipated. As the market continues to evolve, careful monitoring of lending standards, refinancing rates, and economic conditions will be crucial in assessing the long-term stability of the commercial real estate sector.

Tumisang Bogwasi
Tumisang Bogwasi

2X Award-Winning Entrepreneur | Empowering Brands to Generate Leads, Grow Revenue with Business Strategy and Digital Marketing | Founder, CEO of Fine Group