Mortgage bonds are back at Buffett's Horsham loan shop

Berkadia Commercial Mortgage, the Horsham-based commercial-finance company  bought by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and Leucadia Corp. from General Motors's finance affiliate, has started offering commercial-property buyers "fixed-rate loans that are intended to be included" in the new generation of commercial mortgage-backed securities.  the "new generation of commercial mortgage-backed securities," as the market restarts following its 2007-08 collapse. (Berkadia employs nearly 1,000, about a third of them in Horsham.)

Joseph Franzetti, formerly of Cohen Financial, Chicago, will run Berkadia's CMBS unit from his New York office. "We view this as a nascent recovery, not near the roaring days we had pre-2007," Franzetti told me. Instead of letting investors in the most-risky levels of CMBSs pick the bonds' servicing firms, as during the late mortgage bubble, investors in the safest parts of the bonds are doing that now, he said. "They thought they were getting short shrift. The market listened." The safe money is now in charge.

"The availability of capital is a good thing. It allows transactions to happen," Franzetti told me. "For properties that have sufficient cash flow, it's a good time to lend."

That doesn't necessarily mean real estate prices are recovering, or even stable: "I can't tell you that properties are getting better, or not. As the economy improves, you'd think it would. But more people are lending," and "the bond market is willing to provide this capital. So we will find places to put the capital to use, where it makes sense."