Real estate debt investors are stockpiling cash, searching for opportunities to lend to commercial-property owners hurt by the pandemic. Property debt funds, including at Blackstone Group Inc., raised $14.1 billion from April through September, compared with $15.7 billion a year earlier, according to research firm Preqin Ltd. Yet the expected flood of deals has so far been just a trickle. Now there are signs of a thaw. On one side, competition is building to put that cash to work, motivating some lenders to take on higher risks. On the other, borrowers are growing desperate as loan extensions start to expire on malls, hotels and even some offices that are still struggling as COVID-19 continues to ravage the U.S. economy. “If you’re willing to do it, you’ll get a lot of deals, but you have to be willing to play in those sectors and take some risks,” said Mark Fogel, chief executive officer of Acres Capital, a New York-based commercial property lender. He said he’s getting almost twice as many calls from borrowers looking to refinance their debt or get bridge loans to stay afloat than just a few months ago. Debt fund investors are eager to see returns seven months after the coronavirus threw commercial property markets into disarray. When bank lending starts to dry up, investors looking for better yields tend to turn to private credit, which steps into the vacuum. Click to read more at www.houstonchronicle.com.