Commercial Mortgage Loans – Institutional Funding vs. Private Funding (Banks vs. Hard Money)

It is more difficult to get a commercial mortgage loan today than it was two years ago. The credit crisis has prompted many commercial real estate investors to look into alternative sources of capital. Private lenders, often called hard money lenders, have gained popularity recently as banks and Wall Street brokers have refused to make loans. It is true that privately funded commercial mortgage lenders can be more flexible and can close loans in just days, but that does not mean they are easy to get. Before a property owner applies to a hard money lender they should understand the differences between institutional funding and private funding.

Regulation

Traditional lenders like banks, insurance companies and Wall Street investment houses are all highly regulated. Banks carry FDIC or other government insurance, insurance companies are watched over by each State Insurance Commission and Wall Street is governed by the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FIRA). There is a tremendous amount of bureaucracy, red-tape and rules involved in originating conventional, institutional loans. All this regulation means that bank loans are slow, banks are not flexible and there are loads of paperwork and documentation involved.

Private lenders are, by definition, private entities. They might be organized as LLCs or Limited Partnerships (LPs) or they might be a single, wealthy individual who makes money by making loans, but they do not fall under the prevue of banking regulation. They must, of course, adhere to all anti-fraud laws as-well-as all laws against un-fair and deceptive business practices, but they don’t have to report their specific lending activity to Government Agencies and are not subject to Government licensing or chartering. Hard money lenders can be highly flexible in their underwriting criteria; they can change their own lending policies as they wish for their own reasons. They don’t have to require large amounts of documents if they don’t want to and they can move very quickly if they like a deal.

Speed

Bank and other institutional loans typically take 90-180 days to close. Private loans can close in a matter of just days if they have to (a virtual impossibility when dealing with a bank) but generally take about 21 days. Rates Conventional loans are usually based on an established benchmark rate such-as the 10 year US Treasury Bond. The bank takes the base rate adds an index and comes up with a loan rate. Treasury and other rate indexes are historically low right now (Fall ’09) and commercial mortgage loans (for those who qualify) rates are being priced at between 5.5%-7.5%

Private lenders generally hold the loans they issue in their own portfolios as-opposed to institutions who generally sell their loans to Government Enterprises or the secondary market. Hard Money lenders make their profit on rate and points so they charge significantly more. Most private loans today are being quoted at between 10%-16%

Points

It is rare to see a bank charge more than 2 origination points on any loan.

Private lenders will typically charge at least 3 points and as many as 5.

Terms

Traditional lenders usually offer 3, 5, 7 or 10 year fixed terms on loans amortized over 10-25 years. A balloon payment or a refinance is usually necessary at the end of the term, although more and more banks are offering adjustable rate products that don’t require refinance.

Private loans are almost always short term, bridge type loans. Most charge interest only payments rather than amortize. The average private loan term is about 18 months and hard money lenders rarely write a loan for more than 36 months. The loan must be paid off in full at the end of the term.

Underwriting

Regulated institutions are now universally full documentation, full underwriting lenders. Every “I” must be dotted and every “T” must be crossed. They will fully underwrite the property first then the borrower. Both must pass muster or the loan will be denied.

Private lenders are equity lenders. They lend primarily based on the amount of equity in the target property. Investors will find hard money loans require much less paperwork and documentation. Private lenders will be careful and won’t lend to just anyone, but the underwriting is much more straight forward.

Loan-to-Value (LTV)

Banks used to lend up to 80% of a buildings value and allow a 10% second position loan, allowing sponsors to borrow as-much-as 90% of a deals value. Those days are gone. Now even the largest, strongest banks won’t lend more than 75% LTV and they discourage second loans. 65% is typical unless a borrower has a very strong balance sheet and a large liquidity position.

Private lender will not exceed 65% LTV even for properties that have excellent cash flow. Underperforming or vacant buildings will receive offers in the range of 50%-60% and land loans will come in at well under 50% LTV.

In a perfect credit environment bank loans or loans from other large money centers are the most desirable. They offer the best terms, lowest rate and fewest points. Any one who can qualify should seek funding from these powerful institutions. However, we are not in a perfect credit environment. We are in a mess.

Banks have tightened their standards, property values are dropping and the secondary mortgage bond market has completely collapsed. These circumstances have made it difficult or impossible for people to secure a conventional loan. Private lenders are more expensive and offer only short term financing, but they are filling a vital need and should be considered by borrowers if the bank has turned them away.

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Private and Institutionally Funded Commercial Mortgage Loans – Borrowers and Investors can Apply Online – Simple 1 Page Commercial Mortgage Loan Application – Answers in 1 Business Day – MasterPlan Capital LLC; Commercial Real Estate Investment Banking

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