Each Wednesday, The Wrap presents a compilation of recent noteworthy commercial real estate stories from a variety of publications. Below are links to five stories that caught our eyes in recent days.

Viewpoint: Rise of Female Leaders a Boon to Real Estate Business by Stephanie Pearson of REIT.com.

Key excerpt:

“With an increasing number of women earning a place in the executive suite, the REIT community is starting to see an uptick in female faces in the boardroom–a place where they are still markedly underrepresented. The Commercial Real Estate Diversity Report published earlier this year shows that 62 percent of the 175 REITs in the study had at least one woman director at the time of the report's publication, which marks a significant improvement from 45 percent in 2012.”

 

1Q Apartment Deal Volume Falls, But With a Big Caveat by Les Shaver of Multifamily Executive.

Key excerpt:

“On the surface, a 43 percent drop in year-over-year transaction volume would be disturbing. But if you take a deeper look at the first-quarter report by New York-based research firm Real Capital Analytics (RCA), things don’t look quite as alarming.

Excluding portfolio deals, sales of individual apartment properties increased 28 percent compared to the first quarter of 2013. That’s because the massive $6.5 billion portfolio sale of Denver-based Archstone occurred in the first quarter of 2013, skewing the results in last year's favor.

Overall, the first quarter saw $18.7 billion in apartments change hands. Individual properties accounted for $14.5 billion of that volume, while portfolios comprised $4.2 billion of the tally. In fact, 11 properties priced above $100 million sold in the quarter.”

 

Banks in U.S. Eased Commercial Loan Policies, Fed Says by Jeff Kearns of BusinessWeek.

Key excerpt:

“Banks in the U.S. eased policies for loans to businesses including real estate companies during the first quarter amid stronger demand for credit, according to a Federal Reserve survey.

For households, banks reported easier standards on consumer credit card and auto loans, the Fed said today in Washington in its quarterly survey of senior loan officers. The central bank surveyed 74 domestic banks and 23 U.S. units of foreign banks from April 1-15.”

 

What Really Drives Construction Lending? by Dan Corczycki of Commercial Observer.

Key excerpt:

“For multifamily lenders, the allure is simple. Be the construction lender and once the property achieves 85 percent occupancy, Freddie Mac and/or Fannie Mae will ‘take you out,’ so long as you meet their other prescribed hurdles. Plus many banks, such as M&T Bank and Wells Fargo, are ‘partners’ with the agencies by doubling as DUS lenders, where they take a small first loss position and Freddie/Fannie do the permanent loan. The GSEs have a voracious appetite for product despite their, err, difficulties of 2009 and their occasional public proclamations that they want to cut back on multifamily lending. Meanwhile, the stock prices of these two entities are largely based on earnings. And those earnings are based on fees. Under such a setup it’s easy to see how underwriting standards could slip.”

 

The JCPenney / Sears Effect Part II: Retail Center Owners, Tenants Seek Out Growth Opportunities Through Repositionings by Mark Heschmeyer of CoStar Group.

Key excerpt:

“Some of the lower-quality properties anchored by both JCPenney and Sears are leaving owners, potential buyers, lenders and existing retailers with a lack of confidence in properties with few attractive options for re-leasing the space.

REITs try to sell them because their low sales drag down the sales numbers they report corporately and more importantly, the cost of re-leasing them creates a huge strain on the portfolio where higher rents in A properties are otherwise achievable.”