Commercial Loans Blog

Three or Four Lenders Will Close 75% of Your Commercial Loans

Posted by George Blackburne on Sat, Feb 27, 2016

Relationships.jpgThere are 5,309 commercial banks in the United States.  There are over 35 conduits.  There are 7,165 credit unions.  There are 830 life insurance companies.  Most of these institutions make commercial real estate loans.

Nevertheless, if you look back at the commercial loans that you closed last year, you'll probably find that three or four commercial lenders closed more than 75% of your commercial loans.  These are the commercial lenders that feed you and your family.  Their closings pay for your kid's college tuition.  They are your bread-and-butter.  And you know what?  You're not alone.  This reality is also true for the vast majority of all commercial mortgage brokers and commercial mortgage bankers.

By the way, do you remember the difference between a mortgage broker and a mortgage banker?  A mortgage banker is defined as a mortgage company that either retains or sells its loan servicing rights.  As a result, mortgage bankers typically make a whole lot more money (on the order of ten times more) than the typical mortgage broker.  How many times have I told you that loan servicing income is where the money is?  It's the loan servicing income, stupid! (As a presidential candidate, Bill Clinton had a famous yellow Post-It Note over his desk, 'It's the economy, stupid!'")

 

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The same truth also applies to commercial real estate loan officers for bank, conduits, and hard money commercial lenders.  The typical commercial real estate loan officer working for a direct lender closes 75% of his commercial loans for his six best brokers.  These brokers are his buddies.  He has a relationship with them.  They know what he needs, and they don't waste his time bringing him unsuitable borrowers.  He knows that when they show up at his door with a package that the deal is almost certainly do-able.

"Duh, I'm kinda 'tupid, but I think I want to be one of those six brokers."  You betcha!  You definitely want a relationship with your bank loan officer.  I be dying if I be lying:  I once had an incredibly successful commercial mortgage broker buddy who would bring two hookers and cocaine to his bank loan officer every time he brought him a loan package!  Nooo??!!!  Yup.  This mortgage broker knew the bank's apartment loan program so well that he knew the bank was going to approve the loan, so he brought along the "party favors" ahead of time.  A lot of borderline deals got approved this way.  (Sadly my buddy ended up a drug addict living outside a mission in the Tenderloin District of San Francsico, and the bank ended up failing.)  Please do not bring drugs or hookers to my own loan officers!  Ha-ha!

 

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The reason I'm blogging on this subject tonight is because my sons, George IV and Tom (now both commissioned loan officers), are pretty envious of Alicia Gandy, our top performing loan officer.  Alicia is known as the Loan Goddess because she closes 60% of our company's commercial loans.  How does she do it?  What is she doing right?  How can my sons and you enjoy this kind of success?

Answer:  Alicia has a great working relationship with a half-dozen really successful commercial mortgage brokers.  These six brokers bring her a ton of great loans.  And for each one of these top-producing mortgage brokers, Alicia is no doubt one of their three or four top-producing commercial lenders.

Now we can finally get to the point of today's training article:  As a regular commercial mortgage borrower, commercial mortgage broker, or real estate broker, you need to develop a close working relationship with three or four commercial lenders.  It's all about the relationship.  Remember that old blog article I wrote about my final words to my sons.  "Commercial lenders close loans for their friends."  If you have never read this old blog article, you are missing out on a subject SO IMPORTANT that they were my dying words.

The following is admittedly self-serving, but there is a HUGE reason why you want to develop a close working relationship with my one of my loan officers: Tom Blackburne, George Blackburne IV, Alicia Gandy, or Ed Hupp:

Blackburne & Sons is one of the few commercial real estate lenders
that stayed in the commercial real estate lending market
EVERY DAY 
of the Great Recession.

We're different than other commercial lenders.  We are NOT a mortgage fund (although we sponsor two of them).  I don't like funds.  Instead, we syndicate every single commercial loan with a different group of private investors. And you know what?  Even if a horrible terrorist attack took place today, we could still syndicate the investors to fund your deal.  The rate would obviously have to be higher because of the fear factor, but there is some interest rate that would bring out the wisest private investors. 

Blackburne & Sons is the one commercial lender that is always in the market.  Since 1980.

 

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Topics: Relationships

Commercial Loans and Intentionally Stupid Servicing Departments

Posted by George Blackburne on Tue, Feb 23, 2016

HandcuffsOnce upon a time Bill Badluck borrowed $2 million from a non-prime commercial lender on his office building. His lender was not a commercial bank, a credit union, or even a regular conduit making CMBS loans.  Instead his lender was one of these new commercial lenders making non-prime commercial loans, the same kind of sub-prime commercial loans that Bayview Financial used to securitize before the Great Recession.

A non-prime commercial loan is a commercial loan offering a long term, a fixed rate higher than a bank but lower than a traditional hard money lender, and an enormous prepayment penalty.  These loan requests are less than perfect, perhaps because the property is in a secondary location or because the borrower's credit score is not high enough.  Perhaps the tenants in the building are financially weak, like a tanning salon or a nail salon, or perhaps many of the existing leases all mature in the next year or two.  If the tenants don't renew their leases, the property could soon be 70% vacant.  There is something about the loan that is less than prime.

What's the difference between a non-prime commercial loan and a sub-prime commercial loan?  There is really very little difference.  Wall Street developed the new name because of the bad press associated with the word, "sub-prime", during the Great Recession.  The only real substantive difference is that non-prime commercial loans are fully-documented.  The non-prime lender asks for all of the same documents as a bank - financial statements, tax returns, leases, etc.

 

Angel

 

Okay, now back to Bill Badluck and his bad luck.  Unfortunately Bill loses a number of his office tenants, and because he's not bringing in much money from the property, he falls behind in his payments.  The non-prime lender starts to foreclose.

Suddenly the U.S. Cavalry arrives and rescues Bill from the... Native American warriors justifiably defending their own homeland from the evil incursions of the European-Americans.  The nearby church school wants to expand, and it has offered Bill $600,000 for his excess parking.  Bill doesn't even use that extra parking area. He has far more parking spaces than what is legally required by the city.

Bill calls the loan servicing department of his non-prime commercial lender and tells them, "Listen, you guys are about to foreclose on my building and take a huge haircut (loss on a loan or investment).  Just allow me to release the extra 1.3 acres, and we can apply that to my loan.  With my loan paid down to just $1.4 million, I will easily be able to make your payments."

The condescending little bureacrat in the loan servicing department says, "I'm sorry, sir.  That's a business decision.  We're not allowed to make business decisions."  "Are you crazy?" asks an exasperated Bill.  "If you continue to foreclose on this building, I am going to stop making repairs.  The tenants will all move out, and once the building is empty, it will be stripped of copper within a week.  You guys will inherit an empty shell, and you'll lose $1 million."  Surprisingly the little bureaucrat replies, "I believe you, Mr. Badluck.  Every time we foreclose on a property, we lose our shirts.  I know this sounds ludicrous, but releasing that extra acreage from our mortgage is a business decision, and we are not allowed to make business decisons."

What the fudge?   Aghhhh!

Indira Investor is pretty wealthy.  Her deceased husband was a renown surgeon, and they invested well.  She owns a shopping center on the premier commercial strip in town, and this shopping center has a vacant pad right on this busy thoroughfare.  McDonalds has come to her and offered to lease the pad for 30 years at a terrific rate.  Indira simply has to build a new restaurant building to company's plans and specifications.

The new building will cost $900,000.  Fortunately, that is not a problem because she has the extra cash just sitting around.  Unfortunately her attorney has spotted a covenant (fancy word for promise) in the her $5.2 million conduit mortgage documents that forbids her from making any changes to the property.  Huh?

Indira calls the loan servicing department for the conduit and explains her situation.  The pad is unused, and Indira will be paying for the new building herself.  Once completed, McDonald's will be paying an extra $21,000 per month.  This will benefit the conduit's security position immensely.  Intead of the shopping center being worth $7.3 million, it will now be worth $9 million!

"I'm sorry," says the sympathetic agent in the conduit's loan servicing department.  "I understand that granting you permission to build will only improve the conduit's position, but we cannot grant you that permission.  Granting you permission to build is a business decision, and we are not allowed to make business decisions."

What the fudge?

 

Indira_Ghandi

 

Okay, here is what is going on.  If your company - probably an LLC - made a ton of money last year, and you didn't suck it all out in salary and bonuses to yourself, your LLC will have to pay income taxes.  Corporations, limited liability companies, and irrevocable trusts are all responsible for paying income taxes, just like a natural person.

When a portfolio of commercial real estate loans are securitized, they are put into an irrevocable trust.  Bonds, backed by these first mortgages, are then issued by the trust and sold to investors - typically pension plan and insurance company investors looking for a fixed rate yield.

When the loan payments come in to the irrevocable trust, the trust first has to pay income taxes of around 50% to the government.  Therefore if the mortgages in the trust were earning 5%, half of those earnings would have to go to the Federal government in taxes.  Therefore the trust would only have 2.5% interest to distribute to the bond investors.  Then the bond investors have to pay 50% of that interest in their own income taxes, so they would only net ...

What?  Huh?

I'm pulling your leg to make a point.  In order to excuse the irrevocable trust from having to pay income taxes on its mortgage interest - thereby creating double taxation - Congress created the passthrough trust. As long as the irrevocable trust just passes through all of its net income to the bond investors, it will NOT be subject to income taxes.

But there is a catch.  In order for the irrevocable trust to maintain its status as a passthrough trust, the trust must not behave like a for-profit entity.  It must NOT make any business decisions, even if by failing to make a business decision the trust loses millions of dollars.  If it makes a business decision, the trust loses its tax-free status!  All a passthrough trust can do is follow exactly the instructions contained in its Trust Agreement.  Passthrough servicing trusts are often forced to make the most absurd of decisions.  They have zero flexibility.

Non-prime commercial lenders can offer lower interest rates because these commercial loans are all securitizied and rated.

But remember, if you accept a loan from a conduit or a non-prime commercial lender, you are putting yourself in a straightjacket.  You cannot divide your property and sell off a piece.  You cannot legally improve your property.  You cannot place a second mortgage on the property to get at the equity that has accumulated.  You cannot refinance the property for five years because of the lock-out clause (absolute prohibition against prepayment).  After five years you still cannot refinance the loan because the prepayment penalty is enormous (almost beyond belief).  

You will also find it hard to sell the property.  The buyer cannot use a second mortgage or a mezzanine loan.  He must put down cash-to-loan.  If there are only two years left on the non-prime loan, any buyer will not only have put down an enormous downpayment, but he must avoid getting freaked out by the fact that he will have a huge balloon payment due in just two years.  Good luck finding such a buyer.

At first blush, non-prime commercial loans and conduit loans sound great because of their low interest rates.  In truth, however, they are horrible loans that you will soon regret.  You will be held in a straightjacket for an entire decade.  Commercial loans from banks and private money lenders - like Blackburne & Sons - are far better because they have no prepayment penalty.

 

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Topics: Commercial Loan Servicing

Commercial Loans and the Size of the Bank

Posted by George Blackburne on Thu, Feb 11, 2016

commercial-loans-US-y-y-growth.pngThere are two different ways to analyze commercial loan production - the total dollar volume of commercial real estate loans and the number of individual commercial real estate loans made.  From now on, whenever I say "commercial loans" I really mean "commercial real estate loans".

In terms of total dollar volume of commercial loans, the life companies, the conduits, and the ten largest money center banks combined probably originate about 60% of all commercial loans.  This makes sense.  These behemoths make the really huge commercial loans - the deals over $5 million.  Commercial loans of $40 million+ are not unusual for these Big Boys.

However, in the land of mortals, where you and I reside, the small banks (under $1 billion in assets) and the regional banks (under $30 billion in assets), make the vast majority of individual commercial loans; i.e., they make the largest number of commercial loans.  In plain English, small banks and regional banks make thousands and thousands of small balance commercial loans.  A small balance commercial loan is one that is less than $5 million.

In contrast, the life companies, the conduits, and the money center banks combined might only make a paltry 600 major commercial loans in an entire year.  Therefore small banks and regional banks are where you and I will place most of our commercial loans.

 

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I have also often told you that you must match the size of your commercial loan request to the size of the bank.  In other words, take your small commercial loans to small banks and your large commercial loans to large banks.

It also helps immensely to bring your commercial loans to the banks located close to the subject property.  Most banks greatly prefer to lend in their own backyard; i.e., to make local loans.

To find the perfect lender for a commercial loan, I like to go to maps.yahoo.com and type in the address of the commercial property that I am trying to finance.  The property will be flagged on a map.  Then in the field entitled "Find a Business", I type in "Banks".  Yahoo will then plot all of the banks and credit unions (credits unions love commercial loans these days) located close to the subject property.  I then submit my deal to these local banks.

"Okay, George, that all sounds great and everything, but how on earth am I going to know the size of a particular bank?  Let's suppose I'm doing a commercial loan in far off Arkansas, and the Bank of Arkansas shows up as having a branch close to my property.  Is the Bank of Arkansas a small bank or a large regional bank?  Will my commercial loan request be too large?"

To find the size of any commercial bank, simply go to BankFind, a wonderful tool developed by the FDIC.  Type in the name of the bank and then press "Search".  When the bank comes up, click on the Financials tab to see the asset size of the bank.  Be sure to bookmark this great tool right now.

 

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We are now finally getting to the point of today's training article.  Regulators want banks to have a diverisified portfolio of loans, not just one giant loan upon which the bank rests all its hope.  Can you imagine the risk to the financial system if a $250 million bank were to make a single loan of $250 million on an office tower in New York City?  Banks are therefore limited as to the size of any single commercial loan that they can legally make.

It is much easier to place a commercial loan if the loan amount is well below that bank's maximum loan size limit; otherwise the Board of Directors will be wringing its hands and demanding an absolutely perfect loan.  In the history of mankind, there has never been an absolutely perfect commercial loan.

So what is the maximum commercial loan size that any particular bank can make?  It all depends on the asset size of the bank.  The assets of a bank are its cash on hand, its cash on deposit with the Fed, and its investments, which includes all of its outstanding loans.  As I have shown you above, you can easily find the asset size of any commercial bank in America using BankFind.  By the way, the liabilities of a bank are its customer deposits, which have to be paid back upon request.

Now Federal regulators require a bank to have a capital account equal to at least 6% of assets, and most banks enjoy a capital account of between 6% to 8% of assets.  The capital of a bank is the sum of the dough the founders originally put into the bank plus all of its accumulated retained earnings (profits that the bank has made and not yet sucked out).  A well-run bank operates fairly close to that 6% number because it maximizes the profit to the stockholders.

Example:  The Bank of Arkansas has $250 million in assets (found on BankFind).  What is its minimum capital?

Minimum Capital = Total Assets x 6%

Minimum Capital = $250,000,000 x 6%

Minimum Capital = $15,000,000

Hilarious note:  I picked the name Bank of Arkansas out of the blue, but it turned that there really was a Bank of Arkansas.  Unfortunately, probably during the Great Recession, the bank took so many losses that its capital dipped below 6% of assets.  The Feds closed the bank down!

Just in case you've forgotten, we're trying to find out the largest loan that the Bank of Arkansas is allowed to make.  This is a gross simplication, but in general, the maximum loan that any bank can make to a single borrower is 15% of its capital.

Example:  To find out the largest loan that the Bank of Arkansas can make, assuming it hadn't crashed and burned during the Great Recession:

Maximum Legal Loan Size = Bank Capital x 15%

Maximum Legal Loan Size = $15,000,000 x 15%

Maximum Legal Loan Size = $2,250,000

Therefore, if you needed a $3 million commercial loan, you would probably wouldn't apply to the Bank of Arkansas.  In practice, I would limit the size of my commercial loan request to just 60% of a bank's maximim loan size limit; otherwise the Board of Directors is likely to be all freak-deaky, picking at every flaw.

It's time for you to finally learn commercial real estate finance.  You can learn most of it in one long day (9 hours).

 

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If you can't afford $549, you should at least download my free $199 Commercial Mortgage Underwriting Manual.  All you have to do is register on C-Loans.com.  (Once you've registered, you're far more likely to enter your next commercial loan into C-Loans.com) 

 

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Topics: Bank Size

Commercial Loans in Bankruptcy

Posted by George Blackburne on Thu, Feb 4, 2016

Bankruptcy-1.jpgSuppose you are trying to refinance your client's balloon payment on his office building, but you run out of time. At the advice of his attorney, he files a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. The moment he does this, the foreclosing lender becomes subject to an automatic stay. In other words, the foreclosing lender must immediately freeze in his tracks. "Sit, Oboo. Stay!" He can't call and harangue the borrower, nor can he continue his foreclosure until a bankruptcy judge grants his Motion for Relief From the Automatic Stay. (C'mon, Judge, let me finish off this foreclosure.)

If this was a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy - a complete liquidation of the debtor's assets in order to (partially) repay his creditors - a bankruptcy trustee would be appointed to marshal the debtor's assets. Liquidation is just a fancy legal term that means "sell the asset and convert it into cash". A bankruptcy trustee is typically an attorney paid by the court out of the assets of the debtor's estate (and who almost never returns phone calls). To marshal the assets means "to gather up the stuff that the debtor owns", like a French general assembling his troops before he attacks.

 

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Sometimes it is not necessary to sell off everything that the debtor owns in order to satisfy his creditors. Sometimes the debtor just needs some time to reorganize his assets; i.e, to sell off some assets (maybe a rental house or a valuable stamp collection) or to refinance some buildings. In such a case, your borrower will merely file a Chapter 11 Reorganization Bankruptcy

Even though a bankruptcy trustee will still be appointed in a Chapter 11 case to be the eyes and ears of the court, title to all of debtor's assets still remains in the name of the debtor.  This is in stark contrast to a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. In a Chapter 7 case, the instant the debtor files his bankruptcy, his assets immediately become the property of the bankruptcy estate.  This is why the debtor in a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy case is often called a debtor-in-possession.  He still technically owns his stuff.

 

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In our imaginary example, your client is now in bankruptcy. He needs to find a commercial lender who will refinance his balloon payment while he is in bankruptcy, thereby allowing him to dismiss his Chapter 11.  Unfortunately very few commercial banks (practically none) will finance a debtor who is in bankruptcy, even if the cause is merely being late to pay off a balloon payment.

The debtor needs to find a bridge lender to refinance his balloon payment.  Once the ballooning loan is paid off and the Chapter 11 Bankruptcy has been dismissed, then the debtor can go back to an understanding bank and refinance the more expensive bridge loan with a cheaper bank loan.  Blackburne & Sons (my own firm) is an example of a private money lender that will make commercial real estate loans to debtors in bankruptcy.

 

Apply For a Commercial Loan to Blackburne & Sons

 

Okay, so you find the debtor a commercial lender willing to make him a quick loan to pay off his ballooning commercial loan, even though your debtor is still in bankruptcy. You can now simply trot your commercial borrower down to the title company and have him sign off, right?

No! If a borrower is in bankruptcy, the new lender needs the bankruptcy court's permission to make the debtor a new loan. "But the bankruptcy trustee said it was okay!" The bankruptcy trustee's permission is not enough. Lots of small hard money shops make this mistake.  They get the bankruptcy trustee's permission to refinance but not the court's permission.  No commercial mortgage loan signed by the debtor in bankruptcy is enforceable unless the bankuptcy judge has signed an order granting the debtor permission to sign the loan documents.  The debtor's bankruptcy attorney will handle this order in a motion format that includes the term sheet of the commercial lender (Blackburne & Sons).

Earlier I used the term debtor-in-possession.  This is the debtor in Chapter 11 who retained title to his stuff.  There is a special kind of bankruptcy financing called debtor-in-possession financing (DIP Financing).  This refinance of a past-due balloon payment by Blackburne & Sons is technically NOT debtor-in-possession financing.  Why?  Because when we close our refinance, the debtor is no longer in bankruptcy.  We've paid off the balloon payment, so the debtor has no reason to remain in bankruptcy.  The bankruptcy is dismissed.

Anybody out there know the difference between a bankruptcy discharge and a bankruptcy dismissal?  When you dismiss a bankruptcy, you're saying that the time-out is over.  The automatic stay of your creditors is instantly lifted.  Oboo no longer has to keep sitting.

In contrast, debts are discharged in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.  They are wiped out.  The debtor no longer owes those debts.

Okay, now let's finish up with debtor-in-possession financing.  (Blackburne & Sons makes these commercial loans too!).  DIP Financing is when the debtor stays in the Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, and some existing lenders are forced to subordinate to a fresh injection of cash.

Example:  The Blackburne Bakery has been in business for 50 years.  We make good money.  Sadly one of our bakers chops off a finger, and the finger ends up in the pie of Nervous Nellie.  Nellie bites down, swallows half the finger, and then faints.  Even though it was healthy protein, the jury awards Nellie the Swooner a whopping $750,000.  In the meantime, our reputation is temporarilly damaged, and sales plummet.  (My goodness, it was just a finger!)

Unable to make payroll, the company president puts the bakery into a Chapter 11.  The good news is that our specialized pie factory is huge, and we only owe $500,000 against it.  The bakery needs $750,000 to pay Nellie, $250,000 for payroll, and another $300,000 to carry the bakery until all of our loyal customers forget that our baked goods come with surprises inside.

If a lender made the bakery a $1.3 million new first mortgage on the factory, and the existing first mortgage holder was ordered by the bankruptcy court to subordinate, this would be an example of debtor-in-possession financing.

Here's a great deal for you:

 

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Are you registered on C-Loans yet?  Here's the reality.  You are far more likely to enter a new commercial loan into C-Loans.com if you have already registered on the site (filled in your name and address).  In order to bribe you to finally register on the site, I will send you a free copy of our $199 Commercial Mortgage Underwriting Manual if you register.

 

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Keep looking for the business card of a bankers making commercial real estate loans.  We'll trade you the contents of just one business card for a free directory of 2,000 commercial real estate lenders.  We solicit these bankers to refer their turndowns to C-Loans.  Or you can buy this same directory here for $39.95.

 

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In the 300-year history of commercial real estate finance (CREF), there has never been a better time to be a commercial mortgage broker.  More commercial loans are ballooning in 2016 than in any year in history.

 

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Topics: bankruptcy and commercial loans