Some Important Facts About First Position Commercial Mortgage Notes

Creating attractive interest is a challenge in today’s low interest rate environment. The attractiveness of First Position Mortgage Notes is in the fact that investors (lenders) are held in the first position as a lien holder of the property – so there is a hard asset (real estate) providing the security of their investment.

The 50-year average for homeownership in the United States is about 65%. Most experts see that number reducing as the move to rental communities continue to rise along with the challenges that younger consumers are finding in securing sustainable employment which is directly correlated to one’s ability (and desire) to own a home. The marketing for traditional residential mortgage financing in today’s marketplace has created a higher understanding of how these loans work for consumers. Couple that with the competition in the residential financing market and it is understandable why most adults understand residential financing. But what about Commercial Real Estate?

Each and everyday consumers leave their homes and visit multiple commercial properties – for work – for dining – for shopping – for entertainment – but few understand that differences in the commercial financing marketplace versus the residential financing marketplace. The term “commercial loans” is mainly segmented into “multi-family properties (5 plus units), office buildings, retail centers, industrial and warehouse space, single tenant box buildings (such as Lowes and Walmart), and specialty use properties such as gas stations, schools, churches, etc. Regardless of the use the access to commercial loans is quite different than residential borrowing.

In residential borrowing the normal procedure is for the lender to request 2 years of tax returns, bank statements, pay stubs, credit check, and appraisal of the property. The loan underwriters primary focus is the borrower’s ability (through an income and expense model) to make the monthly mortgage payments including taxes and insurance.

In a commercial loan the lender will first look at the condition of the property and its ability to service the loan out of the cash flow from its day to day operations. The lender will request copies of current leases (rent roll) and two years of the borrowers operating history. In addition, they will review recent capital improvements, internal and external photos of the property, and lien and title searches. With these documents in hand the underwriter will create a debt-to-service coverage ratio (DSCR) to determine if the property can cover the demands that the new loan will carry with it. In addition, the lender will look at third party appraisals paying attention to not only the property in question but also the surrounding area and the trends in the marketplace.

A commercial borrower needs to have strong financials and credit history to qualify for the loan. However, the lender places the greatest weight on the properties ability to sustain the loan over that of the borrower’s personal situation. This is in direct comparison to the underwriting of residential mortgages where the borrower’s personal financial situation is of a higher concern than the property that is part of the mortgage.

There are six sources for commercial real estate borrowing – Portfolio Lenders – Government Agency Lenders – CMBS Lenders – Insurance Companies – SBA Loans – Private Money/Hard Money Lenders.

Portfolio Lenders – these are mostly comprised of banks, credit unions, and corporations that participate in commercial loans and hold them on their books through the maturity date.

Government Agency Lenders – these are companies that are authorized to sell commercial loan products that are funded by governmental agencies such as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. These loans are pooled together (securitized) and sold to investors.

CMBS Lenders – these lenders issue loans called “CMBS Loans”. Once sold the mortgages are transferred to a trust which in turn issues a series of bonds with varying terms (length and rate) and payment priorities in the event of default.

Insurance Companies – many insurance companies have looked to the commercial mortgage marketplace to increase yield on their holdings. These companies are not subjected to the same regulatory lending guidelines that other lenders are and therefore have more flexibility to create loan packages outside the conventional lending norms.

SBA Loans – Borrowers that are looking to purchase a commercial property for their own use (owner-occupied) have the option of utilizing a SBA-504 loan which can be used for various types of purchases for one’s own business including real estate and equipment.

Private Money/Hard Money Loans – For those borrowers that cannot qualify for traditional financing due to credit history or challenges with the property in question – hard money loans may be a viable source of funds for their intended project. These loans have higher interest rates and cost of money than other types of loans. Regardless of the higher costs of borrowing – these loans fill a need in the commercial mortgage marketplace.

Commercial Mortgage Loans can be either recourse or non-recourse in their design. In a typical recourse loan the borrower(s) is personally responsible for the loan in the event that the loan is foreclosed and the proceeds are not sufficient to repay the loan balance in full. In non-recourse loans the property is the collateral and the borrower is not personally held responsible for the mortgage debt. In typical non-recourse loans a provision called “bad-boy clauses” are part of the loan documents which state that in the event of fraud, intentional misrepresentation, gross negligence, criminal acts, misappropriation of property income, and insurance windfalls, the lender can hold the borrower(s) personally responsible for the debt of the mortgage.

Understandably, in commercial mortgage negotiations the lenders prefer recourse loans where the borrowers would prefer non-recourse loans. In the process of underwriting the lender and borrower(s) work to create a loan that meets both parties need and objectives and if an impasse presents itself – the loan is not issued.

The world of commercial mortgages offers investors the ability to participate in a marketplace that can have attractive yields, principal safety through lien positions on real estate assets, and durations (12 months to 5 years) that are acceptable to most. The creation of ongoing monthly interest through holdings such as Commercial Mortgage Notes is attractive to both consumers and institutional investors.

Commercial Real Estate Agent Prospecting Facts and Strategies

When you work as a commercial real estate agent or broker, it is essential that you develop and implement a prospecting program to generate new business leads. It is a personal process and it is not something that you can or should delegate.

I am amused sometimes when I hear that an agent has paid considerable money to a marketing company to ‘cold call’ their entire sales territory or market segment looking for leads and prospects to serve. Delegating the prospecting process to a marketing company or another ‘unskilled person’ is a waste of time and money. Commercial real estate is an industry built around personal relationships and trust; a marketing company or employed canvasser cannot offer that level of communication or service.

So why would a real estate agent employ such a ‘marketing firm’ to make prospecting calls? The answer in most cases is glaringly obvious; the agent doesn’t have the skill or the discipline for the prospecting process to be successful.

If you want to win the new business, then you will need to do it yourself. Yes, it takes time to get results and you will need to develop some new skills, but discipline will help you get to the results that you are seeking.

One thing should be said here; commercial real estate brokerage is tremendously rewarding for the sales people that can work hard and to a system or plan. Looking for leads and opportunities is part of the process or game. It’s a personal thing and it can’t be delegated.

Here are some way’s to find new business, better property listings, and good clients:

  • Redundant Properties – Some properties will move to a level of redundancy due to age, deterioration, change of zoning, or lack of tenants. When this happens it is time to move to the next phase of the property ‘lifecycle’. A good real estate agent can see the signs early and work closely with a property owner as they start to deal with the issue of investment change.
  • Vacant Land – As a city expands or suburbs change, vacant land will be rezoned for new development. Keep ahead of this opportunity by monitoring the planning and development applications at your local planning approvals office. Get copies of the public minutes of the planning committee meetings.
  • Old Listings – Some listings don’t sell or lease at the first attempt. What you can do here is withdraw the property from the market today and then revisit the property marketing effort a few months later in another and perhaps different marketing approach. Refreshing a listing is a valuable business process.
  • Open Listings – The best way to sell or lease a property is through an exclusive listing process. Open listings are very much a process of luck; most open listings stay on the market for a very long time and on average are far less successful when compared to the dedicated marketing efforts of an exclusive listing. Revisit old open listings to see if they can be optimised for a fresh marketing effort.
  • Larger Businesses – Local businesses are involved in property either as tenants or as owner occupiers. Business owners will need help with property from time to time. The best way to tap into that opportunity is through direct and ongoing contact. Cold call every business in your town or city and speak to them regularly about property needs and changes.
  • Surrounding Other Listings – When a competing agent puts a property on the market, you can use that listing as a reason to talk to all adjacent and nearby business and property owners. One property listing can be the catalyst to talk to others to see if they would like to compete or do something themselves.
  • Street Canvass – On a street by street basis, systematically move through your sales territory and research all property owners. Eventually you will create a good list of owners for your database. Ongoing contact will allow you to build valuable client relationships and the levels of trust that help grow commissions and listings.
  • Cold Calling – The telephone remains the most effective business tool that we have. Direct calls handled in a professional way will help you reach out to new people. Selectively researching the property owners and business people in your area will support the cold calling process.

A simple list like this will give you an abundance of property leads and opportunities. The secret to making things work for you is in doing it yourself.

Commercial Property Leasing – Know These 4 Key Facts About Your Property Market

In commercial and retail real estate today the leasing process is critical to the income achieved by landlords and property investors. It is wise for a commercial real estate agent or broker to offer a comprehensive leasing service as part of specializing in Investment Property. There are plenty of lease deals to be done; it is just a matter of finding them.

Many times you will see market pressures on vacancy, lease occupancy, and rental levels entering into the lease negotiation between the tenant and a landlord. Make sure that you as the leasing agent have a total and comprehensive awareness of the prevailing market conditions and that you share that information directly with your client as the landlord. Prepare them for the real facts of a rental negotiation.

The landlord must be thoroughly briefed about the property market conditions prior to any negotiation with a tenant. Realistic rental levels together with appropriate lease terms and critical dates should apply to any lease negotiation in today’s business environment. Every lease negotiation becomes a strategy taking into account the conditions of the property and its improvements, the current vacancy levels, market rentals, and the requirements of investment performance.

Here are some tips to help you with understanding the property market today and the prevailing lease conditions:

  1. The levels of vacancy relating to your town or city and the property type will have an impact on incentives and market rents. Look at the potential for oversupply and understand how it may impact the future rentals and investment performance. New property developments coming into the market will shift the balance when it comes to vacant space and the quality of buildings offered for occupancy.
  2. Review the market rentals that apply within the property type and your location. Those rentals will need to be tracked and monitored for future lease negotiations and the conditioning of your clients when it comes to lease is under negotiation. Understand the impact and the relationships between market rentals, outgoings, and incentives.
  3. There are different rental strategies when it comes to outgoings recovery. In any new lease, there will be decisions to consider relating to outgoings recovery and therefore the setting of gross or net rental. Levels of market rental will apply in each case so you will need to understand the averages that apply to outgoings within the property type given your location, your town or your city.
  4. Talk to business owners and tenants regularly. Ask questions about lease occupancy and lease termination. You will soon find tenants considering property change due to the pressures of expansion or contraction within their business today. You can track all the tenants locally through specific processes of direct contact, database, cold calling, and door knocking. Every leasing agent should have a comprehensive awareness of the leasing intentions of every business within their territory. In understanding the leasing intentions of tenants locally, your professional leasing services become more valuable to the landlords of the area. That will then help you in closing more leasing opportunities and listings.

So these are some important factors to understand when it comes to leasing property locally. Take the time to connect with tenants in your market today and review the prevailing market conditions when it comes to rental, incentives, lease documentation, and property improvements. Track the enquiry rates coming to your office regularly so that you can profile tenant leasing requirements for today’s market.