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HOUSTON-Following US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s statement on Feb. 10 that the Term Asset-Backed Security Loan Facility will likely be expanded to allow purchase of commercial mortgage-backed securities, groups in the commercial real estate industry praised the news as a positive step toward loosening liquidity and hopefully getting the real estate machine rolling. But real estate veterans in Texas tell GlobeSt.com they want more specifics about the plan before getting too excited about it.

Those who felt comfortable enough to comment on the issue pointed out the plan’s huge lack of specifics. “It’s too early to know how it’ll be implemented, what the structure is going to be, and the timing of the rollout insofar as when we’ll see a benefit in the overall market,” comments John Alvarado, managing director of Jones Lang LaSalle’s Dallas office. “But it’s a step in the right direction.”

“Until there’s a real plan that’s identifiable and meaningful and tangible, I think you’ll see a less than robust reaction,” adds Transwestern’s Gulf Coast and Mountain Region President Chip Clarke, who is based in Houston. “The bottom line is that I’m glad the government is doing something. It’s clearly dealing with the right issue, but the credit markets have to come back. Until they thaw, we won’t be able to move with any kind of real certainty toward recovery.”

Matthew S. Khourie, Trammell Crow Co.’s Southeast Operations President says the TALF plan might allow current CMBS package holders to free up capacity so they can make those, and other, loans. Once the mortgage-backed securities are moved off the balance sheets, he remarks, the fresh capital can hopefully get to work on the frozen markets.

But people shouldn’t get the impression the plan will suddenly unleash a torrent of liquidity. “I think it’ll go from an absolute freeze to a trickle of running water,” says Khourie, whose operations are in the company’s Houston office.

“It’s a couple of drops in a big bucket that needs to be filled,” Alvarado agrees. But on a more positive note, he continues, there seems to be some signs that, frozen markets or not, investors might be ready to put debt and equity back to work on real estate investments.

“We’re getting phone calls and personal visits from buyers from all over the country, telling us they’re ready to start looking at deals again,” Alvarado adds. “We haven’t seen these people for six months.”

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