Commercial and multifamily mortgage debt outstanding grew $44.3 billion during the first three months of 2018, the largest first-quarter gain since before the Great Recession, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The 1.4% increase from the fourth quarter of 2017 brings total commercial and multifamily mortgage debt outstanding to $3.2 trillion across five investor types. The MBA data includes both whole loans, as well as commercial and multifamily loans in mortgage-backed securities.

Commercial and multifamily mortgage debt

Banks and thrifts hold the largest share of outstanding debt, at $1.3 trillion, or nearly 40%. But the large first-quarter increase was driven by the commercial mortgage-backed securities market, which added $6 billion in new loans, the MBA said.

The CMBS sector has grown for three consecutive quarters for the first time since 2007. And a year ago, CMBS mortgage debt outstanding declined by $21 billion quarter-over-quarter, according to the MBA.

Interestingly, first-quarter holdings grew more slowly this year than last among the three largest investor groups: banks, life insurance companies and the government-sponsored enterprises, Jamie Woodwell, MBA vice president of commercial real estate research, said in a statement.

Multifamily loans account for $1.3 trillion of the total mortgage debt outstanding, while other commercial real estate accounts for $1.9 trillion. The first-quarter growth came from $19.3 billion in multifamily and $25 billion in other commercial real estate lending.