Commercial Loans Blog

The Pricing of Mezzanine Loans

Posted by George Blackburne on Sun, Mar 27, 2011

Mezzanine Loans Are More Expensive Than Mortgage Debt But They Are Much Cheaper Than Equity

This is another blog article that was written in late 2005, long before the Great Recession. Since the financial crisis started, mezzanine financing has declined by 85%; but it has not disappeared. The pricing of mezzanine loans has surely changed since late 2005, but this article should give you a starting point.

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There are two main types of mezzanine loans - mezzanine loans on standing property and mezzanine loans on construction projects. We shall use the terms standing mezz and construction mezz.

Let's suppose an investor bought an office building 8 years ago for $10 million, and the building is now worth $18 million. He originally obtained a $7.5 million permanent loan from a CMBS lender that is paid down to $7 million. Therefore he owes just $7 million on an $18 million property, and he wants to pull out some cash to buy another building.

CMBS lenders do not permit second mortgages, and their prepayment penalties are ghastly. Therefore the investor will need to get a mezzanine loan to pull out his equity. Today mezzanine lenders are very agressive, so he should be able to easily obtain a standing mezz loan of $7.4 million (80% LTV).

What would this loan cost him? He has two options. One option would be to get a floating rate, standing mezz loan. The other option would be a fixed rate loan.

A floating rate deal would probably cost him one-month LIBOR plus 400 to 500 basis points (bps). Lenders sometimes use the expression, "400 to 500 bips over". In structured finance, one-month LIBOR is so common that lenders don't even have to make reference to the name of the index. Today one-month LIBOR is around 4.4%, so the cost of his loan would be 8.4% to 9.4%.

The typical loan fee would be one point, plus maybe an exit fee of one point.

The term of the standing mezz loan would be coterminous with the first mortgage; i.e., they would mature on the same date. Since the original CMBS loan had a term of ten years, and since the CMBS loan was originated eight years ago, the standing mezz loan would have a term of two years.

Standing mezz loans typically have a term of one to three years, but extention options are often available. Some mezzanine lenders are even willing to go out five to ten years.

In our earlier example, the total debt stack on the office building was 80% loan-to-value. The debt stack includes all of the mortgages, mezzanine loans, and preferred equity investments directly or indirectly secured by the property. Did you know on some very large commercial projects that there will be a first mortgage piece, a senior mezz piece, a junior mezz piece, and a preferred equity piece? That pie is sliced and diced every which way from Sunday.

If a new buyer wanted to buy the office building and assume the $7 million first mortgage loan, he might want a mezzanine loan up to 90% of the purchase price. This way he would only have to put 10% down.

A mezzanine loan of 90% loan-to-value is more risky than one that is 80% LTV. Mezzanine lenders will often use the term loan-to-cost here because appraisals are mistrusted and the building is actually costing the buyer $18 million. A mezzanine loan of 90% LTC might cost 500 to 700 bips over. In this case the cost to the buyer would be 9.4% to 11.4%.

Fixed rate standing mezz deals are typically priced at 450 to 550 basis points over ten-year Treasuries. Ten year Treasuries today are around 4.5%, so fixed rate mezzanine loans up to 85% LTV might cost the borrower 9% to 10% interest. If a buyer needed 90% LTC financing, a fixed rate mezzanine loan might cost 550 to 750 bips over 10-year Treasuries, or 10% to 12% interest.

Construction mezz is typically priced on a floating rate basis with some sort of profit participation. The developer almost always needs at least 90% LTC financing. Therefore a typical deal might be priced at 600 to 700 bips over with a 10% to 25% participation. Since one-month LIBOR is 4.4%, the interest rate might be around 10.4% to 11.4%, plus the profit participation.

Sometimes mezzanine lenders may even go up to 93% to 95% of cost, but these loans are so risky that they are almost joint ventures. As a result, they are very costly. The developer will pay at least 11% to 13% interest plus up to 50% of the profits.

Equity investments from partners and merchant bankers usually cost in the range 18% to 30% annually; therefore in most cases mezzanine debt is much cheaper than equity.

You can apply to scores of mezzanine lenders on C-Loans.com.

Topics: commercial financing, commercial mortgage, preferred equity, structured finance

Understanding Mezzanine Loans

Posted by George Blackburne on Sun, Mar 27, 2011

Mezzanine Loans Are a Way to Achieve Extraordinary Leverage on Huge Commercial Projects

This blog article was first written in late 2005, long before the start of the Great Recession. Mezzanine lending has not completely disappeared, but the volume of new mezzanine loans has declined by 85% since then. Nevertheless, this blog article was worth saving, as I rearrange articles on my blog.


Mezzanine loans are similar to second mortgages, except a mezzanine loan is secured by the stock of the company that owns the property, as opposed to the real estate.

If the company (usually a LLC) fails to make the payments, the mezzanine lender can foreclose on the stock in a matter of a few weeks, as opposed to the 18 months it often takes to foreclose a mortgage in many states. If you own the company that owns the property, you control the property.

Our own hard money company once had to foreclose a mortgage in New York, and it took almost two years. Yikes! In contrast, a mezzanine loan is secured by the stock of a company, which is personal property and can be seized much faster.

Mezzanine loans are also fairly big. It is hard too find a mezzanine lender who will slug through all of the required paperwork for a loan of less than $2 million. It is occasionally possible to obtain mezzanine loans as small as $1 million.

In addition, mezzanine lenders typically want big projects. If the property you are trying to finance is not worth close to $10 million, you may have a hard time attracting the interest of any mezzanine lenders.

There are three typical uses for a mezzanine loan. Suppose the owner of a $10 million shopping center has a $5 million first mortgage from a conduit. The owner wants to pull out some equity, but he cannot simply refinance the shopping center because the first mortgage has either a lock-out clause or a huge defeasance prepayment penalty. In this instance, he could probably obtain a $2.5 million mezzanine loan to free up some cash.

Suppose an experienced office building investor wanted to buy a partially-vacant office building in a fine location. Once again, assume that the purchase price is $10 million (when the office building is still partially-vacant) and that the conduit first mortgage is $5 million.

This may surprise you, but the right mezzanine lender might be willing to lend a whopping $4 million! But isn't that 90% loan-to-value? Yes, but when the vacant space is rented - remember, our buyer is a pro - the property will increase to $12 million in value. Suddenly the mezzanine lender is back to 75% loan-to-value and his rationale is obvious. This kind of deal is called a value-added deal.

The third and final use of mezzanine loans is for new construction. Suppose a developer wanted to build a 400 room hotel across the street from Disneyland. Hotels today are out of favor, and a commercial construction lender might only be willing to make a loan of 60% loan-to-cost. If the total cost was $20 million, the developer would ordinarily have to come up with 40% of $20 million or $8 million. That's a lot of dough.

A $3 million mezzanine loan solves the developer's problem. The commercial construction lender would advance $12 million, the mezzanine lender would make a $3 million mezzanine loan, and the developer would "only" have to come up with $5 million.

There are about 150 mezzanine lenders active in the country today, and you can apply to most of them by just clicking here.

Topics: commercial financing, commercial mortgage, mezzanine loans, preferred equity, structured finance

Commercial Real Estate Loans Are The Kiss of Death for Banks

Posted by George Blackburne on Thu, Oct 28, 2010

The More Commercial Mortgages a Bank Has in Its Portfolio, the Higher Its Chances of Being Closed By the Feds

I read today a terrifying statistic about commercial real estate loans. Of the 100 commercial banks with the highest percentage of commercial real estate loans in their portfolios, 42 of them have already failed. In the eyes of the regulators, commercial real estate exposure has become a frighteningly accurate predictor of bank health.

No wonder its so hard to get a commercial loan from a bank these days!

Foreclosed building

So what should a borrower or a commercial mortgage broker do?  He will probably have to submit his commercial loan request to scores and scores of banks before finding a commercial lender willing to make the loan.

The easiest way to submit a single commercial loan application to scores of banks is to use C-Loans.com. C-Loans is a commercial mortgage portal with 750 participating commercial lenders. The user simply completes a four-minute mini-app and then asks the system to display suitable commercial lenders.

He then puts a check mark next to six banks and presses, "Submit." Within minutes bankers will be calling him or emailing him offers.  And C-Loans.com is free!

Topics: commercial real estate loan, commercial loan, commercial mortgage rates, commercial loan rates, commercial mortgage, commercial foreclosure

Debt Yield Ratio

Posted by George Blackburne on Wed, Oct 6, 2010

This New Financial Ratio Has Replaced the Debt Service Coverage Ratio

For over 50 years commercial real estate lenders determined the maximum size of their commercial mortgage loans using the debt service coverage ratio. For example, a commercial lender might insist that the Net Operating Income (NOI) of the property be at least 125% of the proposed annual debt service (loan payments).

But then, in the mid-2000's, a problem started to develop. Bonds investors were ravenous for commercial mortgage-backed securities, driving yields way down. As a result, commercial property owners could regularly obtain long-term, fixed rate conduit loans in the range of 6% to 6.75%.

At the same time, dozens of conduits were locked in a bitter battle to win conduit loan business. Each promised to advance more dollars than the other. Loan-to-value ratio's crept up from 70% to 75% and then to 80% and then up to 82%! Commercial property investors could achieve a historically huge amount of leverage, while locking in a long-term, fixed-rate loan at a very attractive rate.

Not surprisingly, the demand for standard commercial real estate (the four basic food groups - multifamily, office, retail, industrial) soared. Cap rates plummeted, and prices bubbled-up to sky-high levels.

office buildingWhen the bubble popped, conduit lenders found that many of their loans were significantly upside down. The borrowers owed far more than the properties were worth.The lenders swore to never let this happen again. The CMBS industry therefore adopted a new financial ratio - the Debt Yield Ratio - to determine the maximum size of their commercial real estate loans.

The Debt Yield Ratio is defined as the Net Operating Income (NOI) divided by the first mortgage debt (loan) amount, times 100%. For example, let's say that a commercial property has a NOI of $437,000 per year, and some conduit lender has been asked to make a new first mortgage loan in the amount of $6,000,000. Four-hundred thirty-seven thousand dollars divided by $6,000,000 is .073. Multiplied by 100% produces a Debt Yield Ratio of 7.3%. What this means is that the conduit lender would enjoy a 7.3% cash-on-cash return on its money if it foreclosed on the commercial property on Day One.

Please notice that this ratio does not even look at the cap rate used to value the property. It does not consider the interest rate on the commercial lender's loan, nor does it factor in the amortization of the lender's loan; e.g., 20 years versus 25 years. The only factor that the Debt Yield Ratio considers is how large of a loan the commercial lender is advancing compared to the property's NOI. This is intentional. Commercial lenders and CMBS investors want to make sure that low interest rates, low caps rates, and high leverage never again push real estate valuations to sky-high levels.

So what is an acceptable Debt Yield Ratio? Ten percent - this is the lowest number that most conduit lenders are using to determine the maximum size of their advances. In our example above, the subject commercial property generated a NOI of $437,000. Four-hundred thirty-seven dollars divided by 0.10 (10% expressed as a decimal) would suggest a maximum loan amount of $4,370,000.

Typically a Debt Yield Ratio of 10% produces a loan-to-value ratio between 63% and 70%, the maximum level of leverage that the current CMBS B-piece buyers are requiring.

It is the money center banks and investment banks originating fixed-rate, conduit-style commercial loans that are using the new Debt Yield Ratio. Commercial banks, lending for their own portfolio, and most other commercial lenders have not yet adopted the Debt Yield Ratio.

You will notice in my definition of the Debt Yield Ratio that I used as the "debt" just the first mortgage debt. The reason why I threw in the words first mortgage is because more and more new conduit deals involve a mezzanine loan at the time of origination. The existence of a sizable mezzanine loan behind the first mortgage does NOT affect the size of the conduit's new first mortgage, at least as far as this ratio is concerned.

Will conduit's ever accept a Debt Yield ratio of less than 10.0%? Yes, if the property is very attractive, and it is located in a primary market, like Washington, DC; New York; Boston; or Los Angeles - an area where cap rates are exceedingly low (4.5% to 5%) - a conduit lender might consider a Debt Yield as low as 9.0%.


Need a commercial mortgage loan right now? You can apply to 750 commercial lenders - including several dozen conduit lenders - in just four minutes using C-Loans.com And C-Loans is free!

Topics: commercial loan, commercial mortgage rates, commercial lender, commercial mortgage, CMBS loan, conduit loan

Future of Commercial Lending

Posted by George Blackburne on Mon, Sep 27, 2010

A Few Commercial Lenders Must First Make Some Outrageous Profits

A banker, preparing to give a speech on the future of commercial real estate lending, called me last Thursday and asked for my opinion. Below is what I told him.

The banks are only making a handful of commercial real estate loans. The commercial loans that banks will fund today are those with either 40% down payments or those commercial loans where the borrower maintains huge deposits with the bank. The normal commercial loan to a mere mortal - a regular investor with just 25% to put down - no longer exists.

So where does that leave us?

If we want commercial lending to recover to a healthy and vibrant level, a handful of commercial lenders need to start to making an outrageous profit. Once this happens, it is a fundamental maxim of capitalism that, "Outrageous profits breeds competition." Seeing the competition enjoy outrageous profits will tempt the banks back into the market.

So are any commercial lenders making an outrageous profit? This year we have seen the birth of several opportunity funds, whose target yields are in the range of 16% to 18%. If these funds achieve their targets, these are the types of yields that will cause some bankers to yearn to return to the market.

What is an opportunity fund? An opportunity fund is pooled investment vehicle, like a mutual fund. A hard money broker might put together a mortgage investment fund that consists of the pooled investment funds of several hundred private investors. Although such a mortgage investment fund is very similar to an opportunity fund, there is a difference.

The investors in an opportunity fund are typically not private investors, but rather they are institutional investors, such as pension funds, college endowment funds, hedge funds and wealthy family trusts. Opportunity funds therefore tend to be larger than hard money mortgage investment funds, so the deals that these lenders do are also larger.

Right now these opportunity funds are financing the purchase and renovation of REO's (bank foreclosures) and the purchases of discounted notes. They are also helping large developers buy out their current lenders at a substantial discount (discounted pay-off's).

You can apply to scores of hard money mortgage funds and opportunity funds by using C-Loans.com.

Topics: commercial loan, commercial lending, commercial mortgage

Commercial Loan Brokers Are Starving

Posted by George Blackburne on Tue, Apr 27, 2010

I Just Spoke at Crittenden's Commercial Financing Conference and Even the Top Commercial Loan Brokers Are Closing Nothing

I am writing tonight from the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas, where I spoke on the chaos in the private money commercial loan market at the Crittenden Commercial Financing Conference.Ouch! The news on the commercial mortgage financing front was grim.

The Royal Bank of Scotland recently went to market with a CMBS (commercial mortgage-backed securities) offering totaling around $600 million. The good news is that the offering was oversubscribed 2.76 times. The bad news? There were only six loans in the pool, meaning the average loan size was around $100 million. Such huge loans seldom fall into the laps of guys like you and me. Could smaller CMBS loans soon become available to us mere mortals? From the sounds of it ... no.

The only commercial mortgage deals that appear to be closing are Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and HUD apartment loans. The delinquency rate on such loans is still tiny. Apartment owners at the conference reported that over the last year their occupancy rates have increased from 85% to well over 95%. Apparently it has become fashionable to rent.

The only apartment construction loans that are being made are being made under one of the HUD programs. The problem is that these loans took 9 months to process at the best of times, and now the backlog has grown to a year. To slow down the number of apartment construction loan applications, HUD recently increased its required debt service coverage ratio from 1.10 to a whopping 1.30. This forces the developer to contribute 15% to 20% of the total project cost. Nevertheless, HUD is still the only game in town.

I spoke at length to a number of the country's top commercial mortgage brokers, and they are dying. A number of them confessed that they had not closed a loan in 12 to 18 months! This is a tough time to be a commercial loan broker. Fortunately Blackburne & Sons is a private money lender, and we are still closing deals.

Need a commercial loan?  Please call me, George Blackburne, at 574-360-2486, or email me at george@blackburne.com.

Topics: commercial real estate loan, commercial loan, commercial mortgage rates, commercial financing, commercial mortgage

Commercial Financing Frozen Solid

Posted by George Blackburne on Wed, Mar 3, 2010

Neither Banks Nor Borrowers Want Commercial Loans

I have been in the commercial mortgage business for 30 years now, and these are the worst of times.

I used to think that 1982 was bad. In 1981 Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, determined to break the back of inflation, raised the prime rate to 21.5%. Surprisingly, borrowers still sought commercial loans. Real estate was still appreciating, and cash-hungry borrowers were still willing to accept a commercial loan at 16% to 23%. At the same time, the banks and thrifts (savings and loan associations) would still consider a commercial loan, if the commercial loan made sense.  Nevertheless, business was horrible.

But as bad as things were in 1981, the commercial loan market simply disappeared in 1982. By then the Fed had broken the back of inflation. The inflation rate tumbled from 16% to less than 6%. At the same time, the Fed started to quickly ease. The prime rate began to fall at the rate of 1/2% to a full 1% per month.

I hate it when interest rates fall! No one wants to borrow. Why borrower at 15% today when the rate will be 14% or maybe even 13% in six more months. So borrowers procrastinated. Our commercial loan office became a tomb. I called my old buddy, Bill Owens of Owens Financial Group, and begged him to tell me what I should do. "George," Bill commented with his wry humor, "sometimes all you can do is go fishing." For the rest of the year commercial lending activity was almost non-existent.

But at least in 1982 the problem was just on one side.  Borrowers were procrastinating.

What about today? "It's deja vu all over again."  Except this time, neither lenders nor borrowers want commercial loans.

The banks don't want any more commercial real estate loans for obvious reasons. They've lost tens of billions of dollars as thousands of commercial loans nationwide have gone bad. In addition, commercial real estate has already fallen 35% to 40% in many areas. Many experts expect the declines to get worse.

Borrowers don't want commercial loans because they are not investing. Why buy commercial real estate today when prices will only be cheaper tomorrow? Business owners aren't pulling cash out of their buildings because they are already cutting back on their existing manufacturing capacity. Why invest more in plant and equipment?

"But George, what about the hundreds of billions of dollars in ballooning commercial loans that we keep reading about?" The banks and conduit loan servicing agents are simply extending these loans for a few years.  Why foreclose on an otherwise performing loan? Commercial lenders don't need any more commercial properties to manage.

So where does this leave us? The commercial loan market is now frozen to a standstill. Very few new commercial permanent loans are being written, and commercial construction lending is essentially non-existent.

If you do happen to need a commercial loan:

1. If it's a bankable deal, you can submit your deal in just four minutes to hundreds of commercial lenders by using C-Loans.com.

2. If you need a commercial permanent loan of less than $1.5 million, please call me, George Blackburne III, on my cell at 574-360-2486 or email me a package at george@blackburne.com

Topics: commercial real estate loan, commercial loan, commercial mortgage rates, commercial lender, commercial loan rates, commercial financing, commercial mortgage

Partial Release Clauses on Commercial Loans

Posted by George Blackburne on Thu, Dec 17, 2009

Lenders Use Release Clauses So Developers Can Sell Off Lots, Homes or Condo's

Let's suppose a commercial lender - a bank - makes a $2 million commercial loan to a developer on a residential subdivision. The developer uses the proceeds of this commercial loan to obtain an approved subdivision map, to install the horizontal improvements (streets, curbs, gutters, water, sewer, power, etc.) and to market the 100 residential home sites. Now the developer is done, and he is ready to sell off his first residential lot for $40,000.

But wait. The lot buyer isn't going to fork over his $40,000 unless the developer is prepared to hand over the lot free and clear of any mortgages. The bank has a $2 million loan against the lot (and admittedly the other 99 lots). How do we get rid of the $2 million bank loan with the proceeds of just a $40,000 lot sale?

 

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The sale will be accomplished using a partial release clause in the loan documents. A partial release clause is an agreement between the commercial lender and the borrower whereby a mortgage that blankets two or more parcels will be released from a particular parcel upon the payment to the commercial lender of a previously-agreed amount of money. For example, "The commercial lender agrees to release its mortgage against residential lot number 17 upon the payment $20,000." The bank gets $20,000 from the sales proceeds of lot number 17 (a nice culs-de-sac lot), and the developer gets to pocket the remaining $20,000 as his profit.

But be careful here. What if this new residential subdivision has just 15 culs-de-sac lots and 10 nice lots with views? What if the rest of the lots are stinky? Suppose the developer is able to sell all 25 premium lots for $40,000 each and gives the bank half the proceeds. That's $500,000 for the bank and $500,000 for the developer. Now the bank is owed $1.5 million, and its loan is secured by the 75 remaining lots.

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What happens if the non-premium lots cannot be sold for any more than $18,000 each? If the initial release price per lot was set at $20,000 the problem soon becomes apparent. The developer cannot sell any of the remaining lots. Even if the bank cooperated and let him sell the lots for $18,000 each, this would only bring in another $1,125,000. The developer would still end up owing the bank $375,000, and all of the collateral would be gone!

Okay, obviously the bank needs to do something in order to protect itself. One way the bank will protect itself is that it will ask the appraiser to assign an anticipated sales price per lot. The release price per lot will no longer be a uniform $20,000 per lot. Instead, the premium lots might have a release price of $30,000 each and the non-premium lots might have a release price of $17,000 per lot.

But what if some of the lots cannot be sold for any reasonable price? What if consumers pick over the subdivision and leave 35 non-premium lots unsold? The developer would still owe the bank almost $600,000 and the bank would only have as collateral a bunch of undesirable lots.

To make sure that the bank does not end up with a bunch of unsalable lots (or condo's), the typical partial release clause will have a provision whereby the developer must pay down the construction loan or land development loan by 115% to 125% of the release price before the bank will release a unit. Therefore, in our example, the developer will have to pay down the land development loan by 120% of $30,000 ($36,000) in order to get a premium lot (culs-de-sac or view lot) released. This way a developer does not get to keep a lot of the profit and leave the construction lender with a bunch of crumby, unsellable lots or units.

 

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Topics: commercial real estate loan, commercial loan, construction loan, commercial mortgage rates, "partial release clause", "partial release provision", commercial financing, commercial mortgage

Commercial Financing for Large Projects

Posted by George Blackburne on Wed, Nov 4, 2009

Large Commercial Loans Today Are Being Written as Floaters with Collars

The days of long-term, fixed rate commercial loans are gone for awhile. Sure, a few life companies will still make commercial real estate loans between $5 million to $25 million at a long term, fixed rate; but commercial loans from life insurance companies seldom exceed 55% LTV today.

Most large, commercial loans getting funded these days are floaters - adjustable rate mortgage loans - on standing properties. Very few large commercial construction loans are getting funded these days, unless the loan is an apartment construction loan from the FHA.

Large land loans (over $2 million) are essentially impossible today too. No one is making them. In the years leading up to The Great Recession, large land loans were usually made by hard money lenders with large commercial mortgage pools. Unfortunately, almost every large commercial mortgage pool in the country is now either in bankruptcy or winding down.

The only large commercial loans being made today are loans on standing and almost fully-leased commercial properties.

When these loans are made, they are using being made by the money center banks as floaters. Floaters are adjustable mortgage loans with a term of usually only five years. They are usually readjusted monthly according to changes in one-month LIBOR. A typical margin is 300 to 400 basis points.

The borrower will usually want some sort of interest rate ceiling or cap. The lender will usually want some of floor on the loan. These interest rate caps cost money - usually an extra point or two. Sometimes a borrower can "pay" for his cap by agreeing to a floor. For example, a borrower can pay two extra points for a 4% ceiling; but if he agrees to a floor equal to the start rate, the lender might waive the two-point cap fee.

A loan with both a cap and a floor is said to have a collar.

If you need a large commercial loan today on a standing property, please write to me, George Blackburne, at george@blackburne.com or call me at 574-360-2486.

Topics: commercial real estate loan, commercial loan, commercial mortgage rates, cap, collar, floater, commercial financing, commercial mortgage

Commercial Lenders Are Finally Calling Their Commercial Loans

Posted by George Blackburne on Mon, Oct 5, 2009

Is Extend and Pretend Finally Over?

It is very rare for a commercial lender to make a fully-amortized commercial loan. Most commercial real estate loans are amortized over 20 to 25 years, and they have a large balloon payment due after either five or ten years.

When Lehman Brothers collapsed in September of 2008, the market for commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) also collapsed. At its peak, over half of all commercial real estate loans (by dollar volume) were originated by conduits to enter the pipeline to become commercial mortgage-backed securities. Then, without warning, "Boom!" (as John Madden might say) the entire CMBS industry suddenly disappeared.

Not surprisingly, since September of 2008, it has become far, far more difficult for borrowers to refinance their ballooning commercial mortgage loans. Rather than force their borrowers into foreclosure and bankruptcy, the securitization trusts and commercial banks, which own most of these maturing commercial real estate loans, have been either extending their loans or patiently forbearing from filing foreclosure.

This industry-wide practice has become know as extend and pretend or delay and pray.

The "pretend" part of that phrase acknowledges the reality that a vast number, if not a majority, of all commercial real estate loans are greatly over-leveraged. Suppose a five-year commercial real estate loan was written in late 2004 at 75% loan-to-value. Commercial property values since 2004 have probably fallen in the neighborhood of 35%. This ballooning loan has therefore probably soared from 75% LTV to around 113% loan-to-value.

As long as the borrower keeps making his monthly payments, however, commercial real estate lenders across the country have been extending their loans and pretending as if these loans were still adequately secured.

Is this a crazy strategy for the commercial banks? No. This is a perfectly rational decision. The same thing happened to Blackburne & Brown, our hard money commercial lending company, during the commercial real estate smash-up in California in 1991. For years we had made first mortgages on commercial real estate up to 65% loan-to-value. When commercial real estate values in California fell by 45%, two-thirds of our commercial loan portfolio was upside down. Our borrowers owed more on the property than the commercial real estate was worth.

Nevertheless, most of our commercial real estate borrowers just continued to make their payments. By 1994 commercial real estate values had recovered, and our most of our commercial loans were back to being right-side up. No one should find this terribly surprising. Poor people don't own commercial real estate. Rich people do. And most of these wealthy commercial borrowers could afford to just keep making the payments. Therefore I have no disagreement with those securitization trusts and commercial banks who have elected to extend and pretend or delay and pray.

However, the commercial loan officers at Blackburne & Brown are starting to report that more and more banks are finally demanding that their commercial real estate borrowers pay off their ballooning commercial real estate loans. They will extend and pretend no longer.

Suppose one of your commercial borrowers has a ballooning commercial real estate loan of $750,000 but he can only qualify for a $600,000 refinance.  Blackburne & Brown Equity Preservation Fund may be able to help. The Fund will invest $150,000 in your borrower's property and pay down his ballooning loan from $750,000 to $600,000. In return, the fund will take a share of the ownership of the property. Your borrower will still run the property.

Got a commercial real estate deal where you need equity? Please email E.J. Ridings at ejridings@gmail.com.

Topics: commercial real estate loan, commercial loan, commercial mortgage loans, delay and pray, extend and pretend, commercial financing, commercial mortgage