This article is the fourth in my series on commercial second mortgages. In my first article I pointed out that commercial second mortgages are rare because most commercial second mortgage lenders got wiped out in the real estate depression of 1987 to 1991.
In my second article I pointed out that most bank commercial first mortgage loans have a due-on-the encumbrance clause, making it very risky for commercial lenders to make commercial second mortgages. In my third article I pointed out even mezzanine loans were difficult because modernly most bank commercial loan documents contained an alienation clause, which forbids even mezzanine loans.
In this article we will talk about the relative size of the second mortgage compared to the first mortgage. For the reasons I will outline here, it is imprudent for a commercial lender to make a second mortgage that is too much smaller than the underlying first mortgage.
The New-Money-to-Old-Money Ratio holds that the ratio of the second mortgage to the first mortgage should never be smaller than 1:3. In this ratio, the new second mortgage is the "new money", and the existing first mortgage is the "old money".
Why? Suppose a second mortgage lender made a $200,000 commercial second mortgage behind a $1.5 million first mortgage. Remember, if a borrower defaults on his first mortgage, the second mortgage holder has to keep the first mortgage current while he forecloses; otherwise, the second mortgage holder risks being wiped out by a foreclosure of the underlying first mortgage.
Now suppose the borrower defaults on both the first and second mortgages. The second mortgage lender would have to keep the first mortgage current. For this example, let's suppose the monthly payments on the underlying first mortgage were $15,000 per month. If the foreclosure took 18 months*, the second mortgage holder would have to advance 18 monthly payments of $15,000 or a whopping $270,000 - just to protect a tiny $200,000 second mortgage. Yikes! In real life, most second mortgage lenders would just walk away.
So what would be a more reasonable second mortgage? The New-Money-to-Old-Money Ratio suggests that the first mortgage should never be more than three times larger than the proposed first mortgage. In our example, the first mortgage is $1.5 million. Therefore the smallest second mortgage that would be economically justifiable would be $500,000. Most lenders would advance $270,000 to protect $500,000.
* Above I mentioned that the foreclosure might take 18 months. Many states use mortgages, rather than deeds of trust. In a mortgage foreclosure, the process has to take place in court. Courts can often be backed up and extremely slow. If the subject property is located in a trust deed state - like California or Arizona - the foreclosure process does not involve the courts and is usually much faster.
In addition, many times a second mortgage lender doesn't realize that the borrower has defaulted on the underlying first mortgage until the borrower is four to five months behind on the first mortgage. The second mortgage holder would have to cure the first mortgage before he even starts his foreclosure, if he wants to keep the first mortgage lender's late charges, default interest, and legal fees to a minimum. Yikes!
Lastly, if the property enjoys protective equity, a great many borrowers will file a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy to delay the foreclosure sale. This means even more months of keeping the first mortgage current.
Later in the week we will talk about preferred equity and then later equity, a fairly sophisicated subject.
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