Real estate loan growth jumps 23% at 15 biggest SoFla banks

John Kanas
John Kanas

The 15 largest commercial banks with headquarters in South Florida increased their combined real estate loan portfolio to $27.2 billion at the end of the first quarter, up 23 percent from a year earlier. Only two of the 15 banks reduced their real estate loans outstanding over the year.

BankUnited alone accounted for nearly half the $5.1 billion increase in real estate loans written by the 15 banks in the 12 months ended March 31, quarterly financial reports filed with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. show.

Eleven of the 15 largest South Florida banks also reduced their holdings of repossessed real estate in the period, while nine trimmed their allowances for loan losses, or the money set aside to cover defaulted loans.

Miami Lakes-based BankUnited, the largest South Florida bank based on assets, added $2.4 billion to its real estate loan portfolio in the 12 months through March, expanding its portfolio to $6.6 billion.

BankUnited also added more assets than any other South Florida bank in three categories of real estate lending: loans secured by commercial real estate, by multifamily residential buildings and construction loans.

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“Miami is bursting again, and not just with high-tower condominium projects, but with a substantial amount of user-[owned] building in the middle of town,” said John Kanas, chairman and CEO of BankUnited, during the publicly held financial institution’s April 24 conference call with stock analysts to discuss first-quarter results.

Construction loans increased at nine of the 15 largest South Florida banks in the year ended March 31. The biggest increase, $65 million at BankUnited, was followed by increases of $57 million at City National Bank of Florida, $39 million at Ocean Bank, $35 million at Stonegate Bank and $21 million at Banesco USA.

Commercial real estate loans rose at 12 of the largest 15 banks in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. BankUnited added $888 million of commercial real estate loans and Florida Community Bank added $375 million, a distant second, followed by increases of $211 million at Stonegate Bank, $191 million at City National Bank of Florida and $178 million at 1st United Bank.

Commercial real estate loan portfolios declined by $70 million during the period at Capital Bank, by $24 million, at U.S. Century Bank and by $12 million at Banesco USA.

Multifamily real estate loans increased at 12 of the 15 leading South Florida banks. The $874 million increase at BankUnited, the largest by far, was followed by increases of $188 million at Florida Community Bank and $39 million at Mercantil Commercebank. Multifamily loan portfolios fell by $59 million at Capital Bank during the period and by $12 million at Ocean Bank, $10 million at Gibraltar Private Bank & Trust and $3.6 million at Sabadell United Bank.