Fewer commercial mortgage-backed securities loans are landing in special servicing, a sign that a recovery is underway in the commercial real estate market, according to Fitch Ratings.

The ratings agency noted Monday that the number of CMBS loans now in special servicing fell to $74.8 billion at the end of the third quarter. Compared to the peak of the CMBS delinquency wave, that is down $6 billion from $91.7 billion back in 2010.

That also is improved from June when $80.5 billion loans were in special servicing.

In addition, special servicers are generally servicing fewer loans. The average asset manager over the past year was servicing about 12 loans, down from 20, Fitch said.  Back in 2010, special servicers were carrying more distressed loans, with one firm managing as many as 50 assets.

While fewer loans in special servicing is generally good news, Fitch noted the trend towards a smaller specially serviced loan pool may be hard to maintain over the long term.

“The large volume of maturities that will begin in 2015 and run through late 2017 are difficult to predict amid uncertain interest rate trends and the current delicate recovery in the business cycle,” wrote Fitch in its report. 

Moody’s Investors Service analysts also spotted underlying risks, noting the overall credit quality of loans backing CMBS will continue to deteriorate in 2013. Still, Moody’s does not expect the underwriting to ever deteriorate to 2007 underwriting levels, creating some security in the marketplace.

Of course, performance is also based on loan type, and multifamily is doing well, according to Moody’s.

“Multi-family and hotel, two other important sectors, are further along in their recovery, and net operating income for both will grow,” Moody’s wrote in its analyst report. “The credit quality generally, and therefore the ratings, of outstanding CMBS transactions will be stable in 2013, with affirmation constituting 80% rating actions and the remainder evenly divided between upgrades and downgrades.”


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