Last week’s MBA CREF conference was more subdued than January’s CMBS-centric CREFC conference. While the mood was cautiously optimistic — and definitely better than last year — the MBA CREF conference lacked the jubilation expressed at CREFC.
That’s because CMBS was absolutely dead last year. Opening the coffin on the asset class has put most players in a celebratory mood, and that showed at the CREFC conference.
The people that go to the MBA CREF conference represent companies from a broader part of the real estate lending business, not just CMBS. To put it into perspective: Attendance was about 2,500 — about twice that of the CREFC conference.
These companies have been hurting for sure, but they were not put into the grave like CMBS was. The agency business (Fannie/Freddie/HUD) has actually been thriving, the life companies beat the CMBS market back in, and the FDIC is liquidating banks providing at least some deal flow.
Despite complaints about lack of funding for smaller deals, I would describe the MBA CREF mood as being cautiously optimistic but not yet jubilant.
2012 CREF in Atlanta
The biggest buzz at the conference was the MBA’s announcement that the 2012 MBA CREF conference will be in Atlanta.
There has been a history of the conference switching every year between a west coast city (San Diego) and a east coast city (Orlando).
Last year they tried Las Vegas, which was fun but a disaster for networking: Vegas swallows up a conference of only 2,500 people; you never saw anyone. But at least it was Vegas.
Needless to say, no one I spoke with was happy about going to Atlanta next February.
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Jim Flaherty is CEO of CMBS.com and the creator of the Backshop loan origination system. He is a trained credit professional with experience installing enterprise underwriting systems for commercial real estate lenders, rating agencies and investors.