Real estate debt funds are part of an exponentially growing alternative finance offering for commercial property borrowers, filling a void left by bank lenders following the global financial crisis in 2008. As this year’s RED 50 indicates, they stand toe-to-toe with any other form of non-bank lenders. This year, the 50 captured an aggregate $224.26 billion, 18 percent more than last year’s iteration. Last year’s ranking was 20 percent bigger than the inaugural ranking of 2020.
Within this aggregate total, signs of sector maturation abound. There is a growing acceptance by institutional investors that real estate debt funds are no longer the sole preserve of stout-hearted lenders and borrowers willing to accept high risk for high returns, but now also for stable debt issuance and core property activity, too. As one manager told us, less than a decade ago, few investors would countenance a 10 percent return from a credit strategy commitment. Nowadays, looking for a “safe place to earn a 10 has become thematic in our industry.”
The receding of bank commercial real estate lending coupled with the growing institutionalization of real estate generally means this is a market with plenty of runway ahead. Unsurprisingly, more firms are getting in on the act. This year’s ranking has six new firms. That tandems with other key takeaways, including the dispersion of managers and rise of private equity managers. Responsible for almost 24 percent of the capital raised, New York still dominates as the unofficial early home of real estate debt funds, but its grip has been loosened by other cities, particularly in the US, where many of these firms are based. With Europe playing catch-up and Asia barely started, expect the sector, and the RED 50 with it, to keep growing.