Wednesday’s Academic Roundup

Reiss on Single Family Rental-Backed Bonds

Law360 Quoted me in Newest Property-Secured Bonds Invite Scrutiny (behind a paywall). It reads in part,

The Blackstone Group LP’s recent groundbreaking move to sell bonds secured by single-family rental homes may have created the next securitization blockbuster, but attorneys say the product could attract the same type of litigation that has plagued the commercial and residential mortgage-backed securities markets.

Blackstone is among a growing group of entities that amassed large numbers of foreclosed homes after the crisis and are turning them into profitable rentals. Now some are hoping to take that profitability one step further, extending loans secured by these single-family homes and securitizing them.

This process offers benefits both to players like Blackstone and to smaller landlords that own groups of single-family rentals and can’t get traditional lenders to lend against their assets. Blackstone’s debut product — sold to a syndicate led by Deutsche Bank AG — has been very well-received, but attorneys caution that many questions remain unanswered, and REO-to-rental-backed bonds could pose litigation risks.

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Blackstone’s $480 million deal, in which it pooled 3,200 homes owned by its portfolio company Invitation Homes and used them to secured a single loan that it then securitized, made waves as the first of its kind.

Several other opportunistic real estate investment companies, including American Homes 4 Rent and Colony Capital LLC, are expected to follow suit, but they are treading lightly as the new product is assessed by the market and investors.

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The homes themselves may also be subject to condemnation or landlord-tenant litigation that could encumber the overall loan indirectly by affecting the value of the collateral, according to David Reiss, a real estate finance professor at Brooklyn Law School.

Before the recession, single-family homes were considered too expensive to be managed by a large institution like Blackstone or American Homes 4 Rent because of their geographic diversity and because it was hard to control property management on so many different homes, according to Reiss.

The financial crisis made distressed single-family homes cheaper and more attractive to opportunistic investors, and the low price may compensate for the other issues, he said.

“This is a new asset class, and it is not yet clear whether Blackstone has properly evaluated its risks,” Reiss said.  “Time will tell whether these bonds will become a significant new category of asset-backed securities or whether the financial crisis presented a one-time financial opportunity for some firms.”