Maria Wood is senior editor of Real Estate Forum .

NEW YORK CITY-Although it is still a good time to be a borrower with a lodging property, loan terms have gotten a bit more conservative. That was the consensus of a group of hotel lending specialists who spoke Tuesday at a panel discussion sponsored by the International Lodging Finance Council. The event took place at the Westin Times Square hotel.

What has prompted this new conservative tact by lenders is the meltdown in the subprime mortgage industry, which has had an indirect impact on the CMBS market as rating agencies have become more cautious, according to Robert Stiles, managing director and principal at Sonnenblick-Goldman in San Francisco.

T. Anthony Premer, vice president of real estate finance for Pacific Life Insurance Co. in Newport Beach, CA, said that liquidity has been impaired and terms are not the same as they were three to six months ago. However, he added that there is now a “healthy resurgence” of capital in the market.

Echoing those remarks was Warren De Haan, managing director at Countrywide Commercial Real Estate Finance in Calabasas, CA. He said that even though spreads have widened, borrowers can still get cheap financing. But he hinted that some of the negotiating power has shifted away from the borrower. Lenders, he said, “now have more of a seat at the table.”

Frederick Van Overbeek, principal at Prudential Mortgage Capital Co. in San Francisco, said that the market has rolled back “from a state of Nirvana to more balanced underwriting.”

Some on the panel wondered if the fundamentals of the industry are healthy enough to justify the huge amount of capital that has poured into the lodging sector. Michael Cahill, president and founder of Hospitality Real Estate Counselors in Greenwood Village, CO, said that much of the RevPAR growth the industry is currently witnessing is due to average daily rate hikes. Yet, he added, demand is flat and room supply is on an upswing. “This is the classic end of the cycle,” he said. “We’re in the seventh or eight inning.”

Richard Mandel, president of Ramsfield Hospitality Finance in New York City, agreed that supply is ramping up and a recession is always a possibility. “The fundamentals are not so great, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a tremendous amount of money.” He said success depends no picking he right market and property type.

Douglas Kessler, COO and head of acquisitions for Ashford Hospitality Trust in Dallas, said that moderate room growth has prolonged the current up cycle. He said that although it has decelerated, RevPAR is still strong.

In addition to owning properties, Ashford also has the capacity to provide debt. However, Kessler said that the REIT has shied away from lending in recent months because of the overheated debt arena. But with more stringent underwriting, he said he sees an opportunity to re-enter the mezzanine marketplace as borrowers are unable to obtain the high leverage levels they had previous received.

The ILFC panel coincided with this year’s International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference, sponsored by New York University’s Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management, which took place here. To read articles from the conference on the luxury market click here.

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