Comfort: Debt for hotels has
returned but on a selective basis.

WASHINGTON, DC-Rockwood Capital has gone to the debt markets three times in the last year to refinance hotels and by the third loan it found spreads had tightened by 160 basis points, according to Jones Lang LaSalle’s Matthew Comfort, who helped to arrange the financing. Rockwood’s experiences are illustrative of the appetite for hotel debt among lenders—and the general health of the lodging industry. “We have broadly seen the market recover and lenders are now looking for assets that are in transition,” he tells GlobeSt.com.

The most recent transaction was a $31.5-million loan secured to refinance the Club Quarters Washington, DC, a 161-room, full-service hotel two blocks from the White House. Comfort, along with colleague Mike Huth repped the deal. That makes three Club Quarters hotels JLL has helped refinance, for a total of $126 million. There was also the 230-room Club Quarters Rockefeller Center and the 170-room Club Quarters Midtown.

“All three were aggressively bid,” Comfort says. “The first deal got done by a debt fund, the second by a bank and the third by a bank and mezz lender. There was a 50 basis point tightening between the first two and 100 basis point tightening between the second and third.”

Not that the debt markets are anywhere close to the activity seen five years ago, he adds: “These markets are awakening but still a far cry from those days.” One category of company where debt financing is comparatively robust is hotel REITs. To name just a handful of examples: Supertel Hospitality obtained a $6.15-million secured loan with Cantor Commercial Real Estate, collateralized by Supertel’s 100-room Hilton Garden Inn in Solomons Island, MD; Ashford Hospitality Trust refinanced its $154-million non-recourse mortgage loan with a new $211-million mortgage with a two-year initial term and three one-year extension options; and MHI Hospitality snagged a $14.3 million secured loan with Fifth Third Bank, collateralized by a first mortgage on the Crowne Plaza Jacksonville Riverfront Hotel in Jacksonville, FLA. REITs, of course, have had a healthy access to the capital markets across all sectors, not just the lodging one. But that is another story all together.