Commercial Loans Blog

Commercial Loan Gossip, History, and New Developments

Posted by George Blackburne on Thu, Mar 28, 2013

Our private money commercial mortgage company lost a $975,000 commercial loan this week to a credit union, of all lenders!  This crazy credit union wrote a 5% loan with no appraisal and no toxic report.  That's insane!

Every decade or so a new class of commercial lender enters the market and starts making goofy commercial loans.  Most recently it was the conduits who were making 82% loan-to-value commercial loans, with a two-year interest-only period before the loan started to amortize, all based on projected rents.  Absolute lunacy!  Not surprisingly, almost 9% of all conduit commercial loans are now in default.

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Before the conduits, the S&L's were making huge commercial construction loans on new office buildings with no pre-leasing.  Not surprisingly, the country ended up with a lot of empty, "see-through" office towers.  The country also got to bail out the whole S&L industry.

Before that, it was a small group of industrial loan companies acting like crazy people.  Back in the 1980's, the State of California allowed the formation of a new class of tiny bank-like entities called thrift and loan associations.  (Be careful here not to confuse a thrift and loan association with a  "thrift", which is a slang term for a savings and loan association.)

This was back in the days before Reg Q was replealed.  Regulation Q limited the interest rate that banks and S&L's could pay on federally-insured deposits.  For example, the Fed might say that the highest rate on deposits that a bank could pay was 4.0%.  Savings and loan associations could pay 0.25% higher on deposits, but those deposits were tied up in a CD.  Therefore, Home Savings, for example, could pay 4.25%.

Thrift and loan associations were only licensed to accept deposits in California, but they could (eventually) make commercial loans nationwide.  Since their deposits were only insured by a state fund, rather than the FDIC, they offered even higher rates of interest on deposits, say 6% in a 4% CD market.

For 15 to 20 years, all was good.  These thrift and loan associations wrote fairly conservative loans, and they paid their depositors the promised 6% interest rate.  But then a few of the owners started to get greedy.  They started to make poor-quality commercial loans at outrageous interest rates.  I am talking about commercial real estate loans that would terrify even an experienced, commercial hard money broker.  In some cases, the APR's charged by these thrift and loan associations exceeded 24%!

Not surprisingly, the loans went bad.  Several of the thrift and loans became insolvent.  Their losses soon used up the entire state deposit insurance fund, so a run on the solvent, well-run thrift and loan associations began.  The governor declared a thrift and loan holiday.  The weak thrift and loans were dissolved, while several of the well-run thrift and loans were allowed to change their charters to become "Federal Savings Banks".  The new charter allowed them to obtain FDIC insurance, and a few of these these well-run thrift and loans actually survived.

Now we get to the point of today's blog article.  Every decade a new class of stupid commercial lender enters the marketplace.  This decade the new idiot on the block is the credit union.  These new guys don't know what they are doing - like making a $975,000 commercial loan with no appraisal and no toxic report.  Mark my words, within seven or eight years the credit union industry will take immense losses in commercial real estate lending.

But if you are a borrower or a commercial mortgage broker, do you really care?  Maybe not.  If these guys are idiot enough to make such high-risk commercial loans, why not bring them some loans?

So where can you find some credit unions making commercial loans? has a number of participating credit unions.  And let me make one final point.  It's actually smart of the credit union industry to start making commercial real estate loans.  The banks are leaving too many good deals on the table.  But hey, at least get an appraisal and toxic report.  Geesch!


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