BankUnited CEO predicts real estate boom will last another few years

Kanas denies lenders are holding back properties, waiting for prices to climb

Jul.July 15, 2013 10:00 AM

South Florida’s real estate boom will last at least two or three more years if the prediction by one of the nation’s top lenders holds true.

John Kanas of BankUnited, which has more than $12 billion in assets and 95 locations nationwide, speculated on the industry’s  future  in a wide-ranging interview with the Sun-Sentinel.  “We aren’t seeing any evidence of over-leveraging in South Florida,” said Kanas, who is based in New York. 

Kanas disputed that large-scale buyers that picked up distressed properties in bulk, including BankUnited equity partner Blackstone Group, are holding back properties — waiting for market prices to climb so they can make a greater profit.

“There is some of that, but not that much, in my view. That market is in the process of clearing and I don’t think lenders are holding back materially on foreclosed properties. We have seen the worst of it, I think. This market seems to be strengthening and we think it can absorb whatever foreclosures come out in the near future,” Kanas told the Sentinel.

Kanas and his team arrived in Miami in 2009 to take over BankUnited, then sinking in subprime mortgages, on behalf of billionaire investor Wilbur Ross.

Ross, Blackstone and Carlyle Group put up $900 million in new capital, according to the FDIC.

The FDIC absorbed $5.9 billion of BankUnited’s losses, helping steer it towards profitability as a commercial lender to real estate developers.

“The economy has improved in South Florida but above Palm Beach County, not as much. We see recovery in the Tampa area. But the rest of the state has been lagging behind,” Kanas said. [Sun-Sentinel]Emily Schmall

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