Banks modify more CRE loans than CMBS, contributing to better loan performance when property incomes decline. However, banks have higher delinquency rates for less-stressed loans, consistent with modification policies encouraging strategic default. Motivated by these facts, we develop a tradeoff theory model in which lenders vary in their modification technologies. Modification frictions discourage strategic renegotiation, enabling CMBS to offer higher LTV loans and attract borrowers seeking higher leverage. The model produces cross-lender differences in LTVs and spreads consistent with the data. Reducing modification frictions at CMBS decreases welfare by restricting debt capacity for the borrowers that value it most.
We study the role that recourse plays in the commercial real estate loan contracts of the largest U.S. banks. We find that recourse is valued by lenders and is treated as a substitute for conventional equity. At origination, recourse loans have rate spreads that are at least 20 basis points lower and loan-to-value ratios that are around 3 percentage points higher than non-recourse loans. Dynamically, recourse affects loan modification negotiations by providing additional bargaining power to the lender. Recourse loans were half as likely to receive accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the modifications that did occur entailed a relatively smaller reduction in payments.