Even though a building in the Village of Ponderosa recently sold at less than half its assessed value, the time might have passed for shoppers to find real bargains in the Greater Des Moines commercial real estate market.

"We passed the low-water mark," said Kevin Crowley, who heads Iowa Realty Commercial. "The water is rising."

A limited liability company recently paid $895,000 for a bank-owned building in the Village of Ponderosa, far less than its nearly $2.6 million assessed value. (See Notable Transactions below.)

That kind of deal is disappearing in the local and national commercial real estate markets.

Crowley said that at the height of the collapse of the real estate market, his company managed a dozen or more properties that had been taken over by lenders after loans soured. That number is down to two.

"The best deals are behind us," Crowley said.

A report from New York-based Real Capital Analytics (RCA) suggests that bargain hunters might have waited too long.

More than half of the distressed assets on banks' books have been dealt with and the amount of loans falling into distressed situations has reached a cyclical low, according to the report, National Real Estate Investor reported. 

Of the $394 billion of mortgages that became troubled since the 2007 market peak, 58 percent have been resolved and $165 billion in properties remain to be worked out, according to RCA. In addition, new instances of distress fell substantially in fourth quarter to $4 billion, which is the lowest level this cycle.

The volume of maturing loans will be $119.5 billion in 2013, or 8 percent of the outstanding balance of commercial and multifamily mortgages held by non-bank lenders and investors. That's a 21 percent decline from the $150.6 billion that matured in 2012, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's 2012 Commercial Real Estate/Multifamily Survey of Loan Maturity Volumes. 

Maturities will remain at a similar level in 2014 before peaking in 2015, 2016 and 2017 based on the burst of lending activity in 2005, 2006 and 2007. Read more.