Commercial Loans Blog

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

Foreclosures and Junior Liens

Posted by George Blackburne on Mon, Jun 29, 2009

Just Learned an Interesting New Term of Art - Lien Clearing

As a hard money commercial lender, Blackburne & Brown has to foreclose on about ten to fifteen commercial properties every year. Contrary to what you may think, we never make money when we foreclose on property - never. I wish we didn't have to do it, but it's a necessary evil in this industry.

After foreclosing on ten to fifteen properties every year for the past twenty-five years, I have noticed an interesting fact. Hardly no one ever bids at commercial foreclosure sales. We have sold a commercial property at a foreclosure sale just once in twenty-five years.

Therefore, if you are the holder of a junior lien on a commercial property that goes to a foreclosure sale by the first mortgage ... well, you're toast. No one is going to over-bid the amount of the first mortgage. You will almost surely be wiped out by the foreclosure.

This week we foreclosed on an office in the foothills of the Sierras. It's a beautiful building. There was a $2 million second mortgage behind our $3.3 million first mortgage, and this second mortgage loan was completely wiped out.

We also wiped out a $350,000 mechanics lien that was junior to our loan.

As we prepared for the foreclosure, one of our attorneys used an interesting term: lien-clearing. Our successful foreclosure cleared off the title to the property and left us owning the property free and clear of any competing claims for the property.

The junior lienholders, in my opinion, made a fatal error when they failed to cure our senior loan. The second mortgage holder and the mechanics lien holder should have banded together and each chipped in enough dough to payoff our first mortgage.

Instead, they went to the foreclosure sale hoping that someone would over-bid our first mortgage. In real life, this never happens.

Topics: commercial real estate loan, commercial loan, commercial mortgage loans, commercial mortgage rates, commercial lender, foreclosure of a second mortgage, commercial financing

SBA Loan Gossip

Posted by George Blackburne on Tue, Mar 31, 2009

The Latest Skinny on SBA Loans and SBA Lenders

A buddy of mine in the SBA loan business called me today, and we chatted about a number of very important changes to the SBA loan program. The Federal government is trying to get credit flowing again to the economy, so they have made SBA loans much more attractive.

First of all, until the end of the year or until money runs out, the SBA is now waiving its guarantee fees (points) on 7a loans and on the debenture portion (the second mortgage portion) of 504 loans. You will recall that the 504 loan program involves a conventional first mortgage loan from a bank up to 50% loan-to-value and a piggy-back second mortgage loan from a certified development corporation up to 90% loan-to-value.

The second thing the Federal government has done to make SBA lending more attractive is that the SBA has increased its guarantee of SBA loans from 75% of the loan amount to 90% of the loan amount. This should encourage SBA lenders to start approving more deals.

The third incentive is the SBA has effectively extended the repayment term of its loans. In the past, the real estate portion of an SBA loan had a term of 25 years, but that portion of the loan used to finance the acquisition of machinery or equipment had a term of just 10 years. If the borrower also wanted some working capital, the repayment of this portion of the loan had to be amortized over just 7 years. A weighted-average loan term was used. Now, if more than 50% of the loan is being used to acquire real estate, the entire SBA loan can be amortized over 25 years.

The SBA also announced two weeks ago that 504 loans can now be used for refinances, as opposed to just the purchase, of real estate and/or equipment. The announcement was somewhat unclear, however, and further clarification is expected from the SBA.

In general, the volume of SBA lending is way down. CIT Financial, the largest SBA lender in the country, is back in the market. CIT is now a national bank with one branch in Utah. More importantly, CIT, as a bank, now has access to the discount window at the Fed.

Banco Popular, the second largest SBA lender, has severely trimmed its SBA lending infrastructure. While the bank is still in the market for SBA loans, their SBA loan volume is down by more than half. So is the SBA loan volume of Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase.

Former giants in the SBA lending market - Temecula Valley Bank, UPS Financial, Small Business Loan Source, and Business Lenders - have all closed down their SBA lending divisions.

The secondary market for the conventional portions of 504 loans has completely dried up. These attractive first mortgage loans used to sell for 6 to 15 point premiums because of the implicit guarantee of having the SBA in a second mortgage position. The good news is that the Obama administration has earmarked a sizable amount of money aimed at buying up these 504 first mortgages in hopes of jump-starting this market.

The second mortgage portion of 504 loans are being written at a fixed rate of 5.67% today (3/31/09) for 20 years. The underlying first mortgages are typically written at an interest rate that is 1% to 1.5% higher than the 504 second mortgages. Wait a minute? Higher than the second mortgage? Yes, because unlike the second mortgages, these first mortgages are not credit-enhanced by the SBA.

I learned today that SBA 7a loans have a modest prepayment penalty during the first three years. It's a declining prepayment penalty of 5% in year one, 3% in year two, 1% in year three, and no prepayment penalty thereafter.

The SBA 504 program has a stiffer prepayment penalty. The bank making the underlying first mortgage is not allowed to charge a prepayment penalty. The second mortgage, however, has quite a stiff prepayment penalty - 10% in year 1, 9% in year 2, 8% in year 3, and so on. There is no prepayment penalty on the second mortgage after 10 years.

Gas station loans are still not being guaranteed by the SBA.  (Blackburne & Brown is happy to finance gas stations right now.)

While the SBA will still guarantee hotel loans, very few SBA hotel loans are being made by SBA lenders. SBA lenders are worried about declining trends. In other words, they are comparing this year's revenues to last year's revenue - and the trend is usually too negative. The expression - declining trends - is the hot, new buzzword in SBA lending.

If an SBA lender were to finance a hotel today, it would probably be a hotel highly visible from a busy highway. Many more business travelers are driving rather than flying because of the recession. The hotel lucky enough to get SBA financing would probably be a limited service hotel, typically without a restaurant and with far lower nightly rates. It would probably have less than 100 units.

The more expensive full service hotels, typically close to airports, are suffering far worse than the cheaper limited service hotels off of busy highways. These full service hotels would also require large loans, and lenders are loathe to make large hotel loans today.

Finally, if an SBA lender were to finance a hotel today, it would probably be a hotel with interior corridors. Older hotels and motels usually have exterior corridors, and women traveling on business today are likely to avoid such hotels due to security concerns.

The maximum SBA 7a loan is $2 million. Therefore, if a borrower wanted more than $2 million or if he wanted a fixed rate loan, the SBA 504 program would be the right program.

C-Loans recently received a loan that otherwise would have been perfect for the SBA; however, the borrower was a non-profit organization.  The SBA will not guarantee loans to non-profit organizations.

Conventional commercial real estate lending is down by more than 80% from early last year. SBA lending is also down by 60% or more. The Federal government's efforts to increase SBA lending is a noble effort. Let's hope it works.


Need an SBA loan? You can apply to dozens of different SBA lenders in just four minutes using C-Loans. And C-Loans is free!

Topics: commercial loan, commercial mortgage loans, SBA loan, small business loan, commercial mortgage rates, commercial lender, SBA lender, commercial mortgage

Commercial Loans and Subchapter S Corporations

Posted by George Blackburne on Mon, Feb 2, 2009

Title to Many Commercial Properties are Held by Subchapter S Corporations

About 25 years ago some thief was climbing on the roof of a commercial building in New York. He was trying to break into the store to steal stuff, and he had no business being on the roof. The roof was near the end of its useful life, and the thief fell through the roof and severely injured himself.

The thief must have had unbelievable audacity because he actually sued the owner of the commercial building for negligence for failing to maintain the roof. To the shock and awe of commercial property owners everywhere, this miserable thief won his lawsuit and was awarded over a million dollars in damages.

The property owner held title to the building personally, and he was personally wiped out when the judgment debtor took virtually everything the poor man owned.

From that moment on, commercial property owners across the country desperately sought a way to insulate themselves from liability. They could not hold title as a regular "C-corp" because they would be taxed twice - once as a corporation and another time when the owners drew out their profits as dividends. Limited liability companies had not yet been invented.

The solution was the subchapter-S corporation. A subchapter-S corporation can only be used for new business ventures, and there is a limit of 35 shareholders. You can therefore never take a subchapter-S corporation public.

The big advantage of the subchapter-S corporation, however, was that it was not taxed twice. The net income of a subchapter-S corporation passes directly through to the owners of the corporation without taxation. The shareholders only pay taxes once on the profits, as they are added to their personal income on their 1040's.

As a result, for about 15 years, title to a great many commercial properties was held by a subchapter-S corporation.

Modernly, subchapter-S corporations have been replaced by limited liability companies (LLC's). LLC's do not have to be new ventures, and ownership is not limited to 35 shareholders.

As a commercial mortgage broker, however, you will still occasionally see subchapter-S corporations. You will need to gather Articles of Incorporation (summary of the key organizational facts - like the name of the corporation, address, etc. - that is filed with the state), the Bylaws (detailed instructions on how to run the corporation), and a Corporate Resolution to Borrow (the minutes of the Board meeting authorizing the president to borrow money on behalf of the corporation).


Need a commercial loan? You can apply to 750 commercial lenders in just found minutes using C-Loans.com. And C-Loans is free.

Topics: commercial loan, commercial real estate financing, commercial mortgage loans, subchapter-S corporations, commercial financing

Use Demographics to Check Out Your Commercial Loan Applications Early

Posted by George Blackburne on Thu, Dec 4, 2008

Free Online Demographics Tools Warn You When Your Loan is in a War Zone

Your commercial lender will be pretty sore at you if he spends two hours to drive out to inspect your client's commercial property, only to find out that his life is in danger because the area is a war zone, with hookers and drug dealers on every corner. That's your fault - the commercial mortgage broker - for not warning him in advance.

It's pretty easy these days to determine online whether or not a commercial property is located in a tough area. Just go to City-Data.com and read the free demographic information they provide. The income levels, the education levels, and the crime statistics will all help paint a fairly accurate picture of the neighborhood.

The wise commercial mortgage broker will turn down commercial deals in low-income, high-crime, high-drug-use areas. These loans are almost impossible to place. Instead, he'll use his precious time to work on his marketing and his mailing lists.


Need a commercial real estate loan right now? You can apply to 750 different commercial lenders for free in just four minutes using C-Loans.com.

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

Commercial Real Estate Lenders Are Disappearing

Posted by George Blackburne on Sun, Oct 12, 2008

Even Small and Regional Commercial Banks Have Cut Back Sharply on Commercial Real Estate Loans

As the sponsor of the C-Loans Commercial Mortgage Lender Databank, we have our fingers on the pulse of the commercial real estate lending market. The CMBS lenders started to die late last year and now they are not lending at all.

Most of the mega commercial banks got crushed in the subprime residential lending debacle. Their balance sheets are so underwater that they are making at most 2% of their 2007 volume of commercial real estate loans. Essentially the mega-banks are out of the market.

Until this last week, however, the smaller banks were still making some commercial real estate loans.  We were greatly disturbed last week, however, when several smaller commercial banks - lenders with no exposure to the subprime crisis - contacted us and confided that their balance sheets were so troubled that they too had stopped making any commercial real estate loans.

We are pretty sure that this is a trend that will continue among the surviving small and regional commercial banks. As their commercial loans to local industrial companies start to go bad (sales of widgets and other industrial products are cratering), soon most commercial banks will stop making commercial real estate loans completely - even permanent loans on standing commercial properties.

If any of your "A" borrowers are delaying their plans to pull equity out of their commercial properties, tell them that this is the last call for commercial loans from banks. If they don't close their loans in the next 90 to 120 days, they may have to wait five to ten years before commercial loans with decent interest rates reappear.

If you need a commercial real estate loan right now, please click here.

Topics: commercial real estate loan, commercial loan, commercial real estate financing, commercial lending, commercial mortgage loans, commercial financing, commercial mortgage