Commercial Loans Blog

Economics:  A Huge Deflationary Tidal Wave is Coming Out of the China in Just Six Weeks

Posted by George Blackburne on Wed, Apr 15, 2020

Dead cat bounceDon't get caught up in this dead cat bounce in the stock market.  To those of you unfamiliar with this old financial saying, a dead cat bounce refers to the fact that even a cat will bounce if it falls from a high enough building.  Please be assured that no sweet, little kitties were hurt in the writing of this article.  Cisca and I have four cats, and they are reasonably decent employers.  Haha!

 

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The stock market fell a whopping 30% from its all-time high a few months ago.  It was never going to fall straight down, and this current rebound is probably nothing more than a rally in a bear market.  Elliott Wave Theory suggests that markets go up gradually in five pretty big waves, and they fall in three larger, faster waves.  These waves are also called legs.

I believe we are likely see the second big leg downwards in the U.S. stock market in the next six weeks.  The reason why is because a deflationary tidal wave is gaining strength in China, and it is poised to drown the rest of the world.  

Money is being destroyed din China at a prodigious rate.  Money can be destroyed? Huh?  What?   At the end of this article, I will explain how it happens; but for now, assume that China has erected huge blast furnaces, and prisoners are shoveling thick stacks of 100 yuan notes into these furnaces by the truckload.  Money in China is being destroyed.

 

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"Okay, George, even assuming that money can be destroyed (really?), how does this affect me?"

For the past few years, Chinese manufacturers and consumers have been a wonderful new market for raw material suppliers (think copper and iron miners) and manufacturers around the world.

If Chinese manufacturers and Chinese consumers soon will have no money left to buy raw materials and consumer goods (those darn prisoners keep burning it), mining companies and manufacturers around the world will soon have lost their second largest customer.  Their sales and profits will plummet, and the value of their stock and your retirement savings will fall precipitously.  Layman's translation:  Stocks markets worldwide are poised to take another huge dump.

 

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The Coronavirus Crisis has traumatized small Chinese business owners.  Did you know that sixty percent of the people in China work for small businesses?

These small business owners have been forced to keep paying their rent and their loan payments to the bank, but their sales have plummeted because so many people have been locked indoors.  Most of these small business owners have burned through huge chunks of their savings.  

If you owned a small business, and you had just spent the last of your savings, would you be in the mood to borrow even more money from the bank in order to expand your business?  Of course not!  And therein lies the problem.

 

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I will explain why further below, but did you know that if a bank takes in a $1,000 loan payment and can't find a willing borrower to whom to re-lend it, that a whopping $20,000 gets sucked out of that country's money supply?  Twenty thousand dollars gets destroyed!  The Multiplier Effect works in reverse to the tune of 20:1.  Note, the starving prisoners didn't even have to use their blast furnaces.  The money just disappeared.  

So Chinese small business owners burned through their savings.  They definitely don't want to borrow more money to expand their business right now.  At the same time, since the very start of this crisis, these small businessmen have been sucking money out of their savings and sending it to their banks for mortgage payments and business loan payments.

These banks have been raking billions of yuan in the form of loan payments, but the banks themselves are scared.  Loan losses are way up.  Even if they could find a ton of brave, qualified borrowers, the banks in China are far too frightened and traumatized themselves to lend much money.

 

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So billions of yuan worth of monthly payments have been flowing back to Chinese banks, but that money is not being re-lent out into the Chinese economy.  Twenty-to-one, bucko's.   (Most of you are much too young to remember the show, Happy Days, starring Ron Howard as Richie Cunningham, the classic, lovable, 1950's-era, Every Man.  Whenever Richie got a little too full of himself, he would call people, "Bucko."  Twenty-to-one, bucko's.  Haha!

But this is serious, guys.  Whole mountainsides of money are being destroyed in China.  Soon the Chinese consumer will have far less money to buy iPhones, Tesla's, GM cars from the U.S. and fancy perfumes, fashions, cosmetics, and wines from Europe.  

Chinese companies will also suffer painful declines in sales, which will lead to layoff's, which will lead to even less demand and even more layoff's.  It becomes a self-feeding negative cycle, like the water speeding up when you flush.

 

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The horrible thing about deflation is that is a very difficult cycle to stop.  Prices will start to fall, as companies, desperate for income, slash pries to the bone.  And once prices start to fall, why buy a new car, a new bicycle, or a new phone today?  Why not hold out for an even lower price.  Deflation can be awful.

And as Chinese companies sell fewer washing machines, the demand for cooper and iron plummets.  Mining companies in Australia, South America, and Africa get gut-punched.  This Coronavirus Crisis has the potential to get awful.

Folks, I am 67 years old, and what little I have saved for retirement, I cannot risk in the stock market right now.  This dead cat bounce may last another five to six weeks; but soon the analysts and the smart money will start to realize that there are few places, other than cash, to hide when the Chinese Deflationary Tsunami comes crashing on our shores.  

 

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A financial writer for Apple News has caught a glimpse of the building deflationary tidal wave; but I assure you that China's new, free, spending vouchers are like using a pea shooter against an M1A1 tank.  They aren't going to be near strong enough against the Multiplier Effect working in reverse (20:1).

How Money is Destroyed:

Deflation?  How is deflation even possible?  Why would anyone ever burn $100 bills?

Currency is just a tiny fraction of a country's money supply, only about 10%.  The vast majority of a country's money supply consists of the proceeds of bank loans.

 

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For example, your bank loans you $1,000 to buy three used desks and a computer.  The seller of that equipment deposits the proceeds of that $1,000 sale into his bank.  The bank keeps around $50 in reserve (5%), and then it loans out $950 to a barber.  The barber spends the $950 for a new cutting chair and some good electric razors.  The $950 end up in the next bank, and this next bank keeps $47.50 in reserve, and it lends out $902.50.  The third bank receives this deposit, keeps $45.13 in reserve, and lends out $857.37.  

And so on.  By the time the cycle is complete, that $1,000 new loan resulted in an increase of the money supply of a whopping $20,000 (20:1).  This is the Multiplier Effect and the miracle of fractional banking.

The problem is that the Multiplier Effect also works in reverse.  If a bank gets scared and fails to re-lend a $1,000 loan payment, a whopping $20,000 get sucked out the money supply.  In effect, $20,000 is destroyed.  Yikes.

 

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Think I am an idiot?  I wrote my book, The Reverse Multiplier Effect, in late 2006, right before the deflationary crash of 2008.  At the time, few people believed that deflation was even possible.  Ah, geez, this coming financial crisis has the potential to be awful.

 

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Topics: deflationary tidal wave

New Construction Is Doomed as Banks Stop Making Commercial Construction Loans

Posted by George Blackburne on Mon, Apr 13, 2020

Commerial constrcution loansAre any of you guys savvy stock pickers?  If so, you might want to consider shorting those companies which provide services to the construction industry.  For example, those companies that manufacture, deliver, and/or set up huge construction cranes are likely to face some tough years ahead.

Why?  There may be very little new commercial construction - apartments, office buildings, shopping centers, residential subdivisions - over the next three years.

 

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The reason why is because the banks have stopped making new commercial construction loans.  Banks are terrified right now, and the first thing that banks do when they get scared is to stop all commercial real estate lending.  

This lending freeze is especially true of commercial construction loans.  I have lived through three commercial real estate crashes in my forty years in commercial real estate finance ("CREF") - the S&L Crisis, the Dot-Com Meltdown, and the Great Recession.  Each time commercial real estate declined by almost exactly 45%.  Remember that number - 45%.  Commercial real estate may decline by 45% again as a result of this Coronavirus Crisis.*

It's almost like a game of musical chairs.  Whichever banks are caught with construction loans outstanding are the ones that take the largest losses during the commercial real estate crashes that seem to happen about once every twelve years.

 

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It is important to grasp the concept that local commercial banks make 95% of all commercial construction loans.  Construction loans are are funded gradually, as the work progresses.  If you just gave a developer $5 million to build an apartment building, he's likely to skip the country, along with Lola La Boom-Boom, to some sunny beach to South America.

Because Lola looks awfully good in a string bikini, we simply cannot trust Don Developer with all of the money at once.  Instead, the proceeds of the construction loan are paid directly to Don's subcontractors, and they are paid only after the subcontractors have correctly completed their work.  The bank has to sign off on this work too, after it has made a progress inspection.  A progress inspection is a quick inspection by a bank employee to verify that certain construction work has been properly completed.

Every ten or fifteen days the bank has to send a loan officer out to the construction site to take a look at the progress of construction.  The subcontractors will be clamoring to get paid.  Some huge New York bank, for example, couldn't possibly fly a loan officer all the way out to Phoenix every two weeks to make these inspections.  This is why commercial construction loans are almost always made by local banks.

 

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"But George, if the banks are too scared to make construction loans right now, why can't some other type of enterprising commercial lender start making them?"

There are several problems with this.  First of all, banks offer construction loans at rates as low as 4.25%.  I actually had to look up the current rate on commercial construction loans for this blog article, and do you know where I went?  I actually went to our new Commercial Loan Resource Center, which always shows you the latest interest rates on commercial real estate loans.  Haha!  If you have not checked out our new Commercial Loan Resource Center, you are really missing out.  Totally free.

A competing commercial real estate lender (private money lender) might have to charge 8% to 11% for a construction loan, and that higher interest cost would cut deeply into the developer's profit.  An extra 4% interest on a $5 million construction loan is real money.

 

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The second problem is that construction loans have to be disbursed as the work progresses.  That means that the lender has to sit on his dough, not earning any meaningful interest, until the developer is ready to draw down on his loan.  That's not very attractive for non-bank commercial lenders (think private money lenders).

The private money lender could fund the entire loan proceeds into a builder's control account and demand that the developer pay interest on the entire loan amount from Day 1; but this would be horribly expensive for the developer.  A builder's control account is an independent escrow set up to hold the proceeds of a construction loan until certain work is done.

The last problem with having a private money commercial lender make construction loans is that the lender will often be located too far away to make timely progress inspections.  Suppose the lender is based in San Diego and the project is located in Phoenix.  Progress inspections would be hard... but not impossible.

 

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It has occurred to me that a great many developers across the country have started residential subdivisions, and they personally guaranteed their acquisition and development loans ("A&D").  They had their normal bank all primed to make the construction loan, once the horizontal improvements were in place.

An A&D loan is a loan to a developer to buy the land, to get it properly zoned, and to complete the horizontal improvements.  It's like a pre-construction loan.

Horizontal improvements including the clearing of the land, grading of the land, compacting the land, and installing streets, curbs, water, sewer, and power.

 

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Now imagine you're a very good homebuilder, a responsible guy who tries not to use excessive debt or take too many chances.  You have successfully built out and sold off five previous residential subdivisions.  You have built up a respectable $7 million net worth.  You take out a $4 million A&D loan on your next subdivision.

Suddenly the Coronavirus Crisis hits, and the $4 million balloon payment on your A&D loan, which you have personally guaranteed, is due in just three more months.  Your bank notifies you that they will not be making any construction loans for the foreseeable future.  You contact two dozen other banks, and they all say the same thing.  "Quick, Jack, what do you do?"  (Famous movie line.  Can you name it?  Hint: The bad guy lost a finger defusing a bomb.)

I think there is a real opportunity for some mortgage funds, if any of them have survived, to fund the completion of this project for the developer and to charge him an equity kicker of an absolutely insane percentage (85%?) of the profits.  What choice does the developer have?  He personally guaranteed the A&D loan!  He simply must get out from under that personal guarantee.

 

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An equity kicker is additional interest, in addition to the nominal interest rate, that takes the form of a share of the increased value of the property or a share of the profits upon sale.  A common equity kicker might be 10% to 30%.  The nominal interest rate is the interest rate stated or "named" on the note.  

Conclusion:

If your brother-in-law is a union carpenter, he would be smart to apply right now for a job delivering goods for Amazon or Wal-Mart.  His construction job is not coming back.  There will be very few commercial construction loans funded over the next three years, which translates to very few required construction jobs.

*President Trump and the Fed are determined not to let commercial real estate fall by 45% again, so they are using massive deficit spending and even more massive quantitative easing to keep the U.S. economy from deflating like a pierced balloon.  The problem is that China is not taking similar inflationary steps.  I fear a deflationary tidal wave coming from China later this year, and that wave will impair much of Trump's and the Fed's inflationary efforts.  I will blog on what this deflationary tidal wave might look like later in the week.

 

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Topics: commercial construction loans

New Commercial Loan Resource Center

Posted by George Blackburne on Fri, Apr 10, 2020

Commercial Loan ResourcesBefore we go any further, please click on this link and listen a beautiful rendition of the song, Hallelujah, played on a cello, on a gorgeous, snow-covered mountaintop.  You can listen as you read.  

I just have created for you a wonderful new tool, our Commercial Loan Resource Center.  There you will always find the latest interest rates being quoted by banks and by conduits on their commercial real estate loans.

 

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You will be able to apply directly to 750 commercial lenders in just four minutes.  Going forward, you need to appreciate that it is going to be very difficult - but not impossible - to find a bank willing to make a conventional commercial real estate loan.

You may have to submit your bank-quality commercial loan request deal to scores and scores of banks before finding just one willing to take a chance during the severe recession that will surely follow gate Coronavirus Crisis.  C-Loans.com is ideal way to quickly submit your deal to fifty banks, six banks at a time.  It takes just four minutes to create the mini-app, and all 750 of our commercial lenders will accept it.

Next you will find four different databanks of commercial lenders.  You don't need to go anywhere else to find thousands of commercial lenders to whom you can submit your deal.

 

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Next you fill a glossary of commercial of real estate finance terms, like senior stretch financing, mezzanine loans, preferred equity, B-pieces, venture equity, defeasance, CTL financing, lockout clauses, Bad Boy Acts, the debt yield ratio (different from the debt service coverage ratio), shadow banking, standby takeout commitments, and hundreds of other very sophisticated commercial real estate finance ("CREF") subjects.  This is all free in our Commercial Loan Resource Center.  I urge you to bookmark the page right now.

Lastly, we have extensive answers to about a dozen Frequently Asked Questions relating to commercial real estate finance.  No matter how experienced you are, the industry is constantly new types of commercial real estate financing and new terminology.  

 

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Special Note to Wealthy to Investors:

Now is the time to jump in with both feet into our 8% to 13% commercial first mortgage investments.  Why?  Because just about every competing commercial mortgage lender in the country is now out of the market.  Where else are good borrowers going to go?

Investing in commercial real estate first mortgages will always involve substantial risk.  You definitely need to read our Offering Circular and study the Risk Factors section carefully before investing; BUT never again will we get to dance with such beautiful girls.  By beautiful girls, I mean, of course, less-risky loans:  stronger borrowers, better-credit borrowers, and nicer properties.  We never, ever use the word "safe"; but some first trust deeds are certainly less risky than others.  We get to cherry pick only the less-risky loan right now.

 

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Special Reminder to Commercial Loan Brokers:

Instead of sitting around at home watching Netflix, I know that you commercial loan brokers are hard at work calling at least thirty nearby business owners every working day, looking for guys who own their buildings.

You find them on Google Maps.  Start by typing in your company address.  You'll see the nearby businesses listed right on the map.  See the example below:

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You don't have to ask these small business owners whether they need cash.  Duh!  Of course they need cash!  Every business owner in the country needs cash right now, and you know one of the only commercial lenders in the entire country who is still in the market - Blackburne & Sons.

 

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Topics: commercial loan resource center

Almost Every Commercial Lender in the Country is Now Out of the Market

Posted by George Blackburne on Fri, Apr 3, 2020

Closed BankIf you need a commercial real estate loan right now, there are very few remaining commercial lenders from whom to choose.

Because of the Coronavirus Crisis, almost every commercial bank in the entire country is out of the commercial mortgage market. 

 

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Commercial banks are herd animals, and they are easily frightened.  They are all waiting for the danger to completely pass before venturing timidly back into the market.  "Oh, my Goodness, are we going to have a depression?"  (Actually, we might.)

If you are a real estate developer, and you will be trying to get a commercial construction loan later in the year, you may really be screwed.  I just can't see the banks coming back into the commercial real estate loan market for a very long while.

Quick Training Note:

In the first paragraph, I used the term, commercial bank, rather than just bank.  This is to contrast a commercial bank from an investment bank or a merchant bank.  Investment banks (think Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley) sell equity investments (stocks) and help companies to go public.  

 

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A merchant bank is a very different animal.  Merchant banks today make very high interest rate loans (mezzanine loans, preferred equity investments, and venture equity), or they make direct equity investments in start-ups and young companies.

Merchant banks are often subsidiaries of bank holding companies and life insurance company holding companies.  They are where the super-rich owners of banks and life companies speculate and gamble in high finance.  There are probably fewer than 50 bona fide merchant banks remaining in the entire country.  If you are ever at a commercial real estate finance trade show, and some guy describes himself as a merchant banker, 99% of the time he is full of poop.

The second training note is that 95% of all construction loans are made by commercial banks.  This means that very few commercial construction loans will be made over the next three years.  If your brother-in-law is a union carpenter, working in commercial construction, he may not be working for awhile.

 

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Okay, Back to the Destruction of the Commercial Lending Market:

Last week I wrote that the asset-backed securities ("ABS") market is drying up.  This means ABS commercial lenders, like Silver Hill, Velocity, and Cherrywood, are likely to remain out of the commercial loan market for a very long time.

CMBS bonds - investments secured by large first mortgages on shopping centers, office towers, and industrial centers - have taken a beating since the start of the Coronavirus Crisis.  I think the plunge in CMBS bond values must be more than 20%.  I can't see bond buyers rushing back into a low-yield market, where they just lost 20% of their principal.

As a result, no new CMBS loans are being closed... at all... period.  The CMBS industry never completely recovered from the Great Recession, and this new setback may leave the industry without even the slightest wind in its sails for several more years.  

 

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It's really a shame.  The CMBS loans written over the past five years have truly been of superb quality.  "Hey, Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department, you can buy CMBS bonds right now, save the entire industry, and earn some really nice yields, all at no real risk to the U.S. taxpayer!"

But commercial real estate income has coodies right now.  Eeeuuu.  Don't touch it.  

The abhorrence of any type of commercial real estate income is so bad that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, in their SBL apartment loan programs, won't let their underwriters use one penny of income from any commercial units.  Let me explain this more clearly.

SBL stands for Small Balance Loans.  Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have competing apartment loan programs with terrific, low interest rates.  Their Small Balance Loan programs are for apartment loans of between $1 million and $7 million.

 

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Many apartment buildings in big cities are built as relative high-rises, and they have retail units on the ground floor.  Perhaps one of the retail units will have a convenience store, a hairdresser, or a clothing store.  

This type of building, with retail units on the bottom floor and apartments above them, is known as a mixed use building.  Mixed use does not mean a mixed combination of office and retail units, nor does it mean retail units on the street and self storage units in the back.  That is known as a mixed commercial center.

Historically, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will finance mixed use buildings, as long as the income from commercial units does not exceed 20% of the total scheduled income.  But no longer.

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While Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will still finance mixed use buildings, they will not use even one penny of scheduled commercial income.  The deal has to fly based solely on the income coming in from from the residential units.  In other words, they will only go around 12% loan-to-value on mixed use properties right now.  I'm kidding, of course, about the 12% LTV.  They might even go 13% LTV.  Haha!

Income from commercial real estate has coodies.  Eeeuuu!

But then the bombshell dropped this week about hard money lenders.  With the banks, the CMBS lenders, and the ABS commercial lenders out of the market, you would think that the hard money lenders would be making a killing.

A dear friend of mine, a fellow old veteran, read to a list to me this week of twenty-one of the largest commercial hard money lenders in the country that had either dropped out of the market or completely closed their doors.  The list was a veritable bloodbath.  

 

 

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Each of these failed commercial hard money lenders had one thing in common.  They were funds.

I have written extensively over the years that most hard money mortgage funds are almost Ponzi schemes.  In order for the sponsor of a hard money mortgage fund to survive, it needs to be constantly bringing in new deposits and making new loans.  It needs those new loan fees to make payroll and to pay for loan servicing and for the management of the inevitable foreclosed properties.

But here's the thing.  Every twelve years or so (four times now since 1980), commercial real estate crashes by 45%.  We had the S&L Crisis, the Dot-Com Meltdown, the Great Recession, and now the Coronavirus Crisis.  Am I saying that commercial real estate will crash by 45% in this crisis?  No one knows for sure, but if history holds true to form...

So when commercial real estate crashes, the private investors in these hard money mortgage funds all line up to withdraw.   Yikes, there is no new money with which to make new loans.  Any payoff's go to the investors lined up around the block to withdraw.  No loan fee income is flowing into the sponsor of the hard money mortgage fund.  He has no money with which to pay his loan servicing, property management, and accounting staff.  Bam!  The company goes belly-up.

 

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So twenty-one of the largest commercial hard money mortgage funds have gone belly-up in the past three weeks.  Who does that leave to make commercial loans?

Blackburne & Sons is one of about forty surviving commercial hard money shops that syndicate every loan that they make.  We do not use a pool to fund our loans.  We send out an announcement to our wealthy private investors, and then we assemble a syndicate of these guys to fund each loan.  Every deal uses its own syndicate, and every syndicate has different members than the deal before.

I know that this sounds painfully slow, but the truth is that with email and DocuSign, it can be a very speedy process.

Summary:

Well over 98% of all commercial real estate lenders in the entire country are out of the market, and they are likely to remain out of the market for several years.

Even hard money lenders have gotten crushed.  Fortunately, about forty hard money shops that syndicate every commercial loan have survived to help out through the Coronavirus Crisis.

 

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Heavens, the world was doing so well.  A trade deal had been reached with China.  Unemployment was at fifty year lows.  Real wages were increasing by over 3% per year.  And then, bam!  "Man plans, and God laughs."  -- old Yiddish saying

Attention Commercial Loan Brokers:

My Heavens, this is the greatest time in the history of commercial loan brokerage for you to make money.  You could make hundreds of thousands of dollars this year brokering commercial loans; so turn off Netflix and get your tail to work!

You can't rely on referrals in this market.  Your will have to find the commercial borrowers yourself.  But here's the thing - every business owner in the entire country needs cash right now!  It's like shooting ducks in a barrel.

 

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Go onto Google Maps.  Plot your home or office address.  Surrounding your office you will see scores of businesses.  Call them!!!!!  Speak to the owner.  Does he own his commercial building?  If so, you already know he needs cash.  Start gathering up his loan package and get it to a commercial hard money shop that syndicates its investors to fund deals.

Naturally, I recommend Blackburne & Sons.  Oh, my goodness, you could make soooo much money right now.  American businessmen desperately need you because you know the one place to get money.  Work! 

 

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How to Spot an Advance Fee Commercial Loan Scammer

Posted by George Blackburne on Tue, Mar 31, 2020

Con manEvery year hundreds of commercial property owners get conned out of millions of dollars by advance fee scammers.  

An advance fee scammer is a criminal pretending to be a commercial mortgage lender.  He will issue a very fancy-looking conditional commitment letter, which will call for some huge "good faith deposit" or "third-party report fee".  Once he gets the deposit, he will disappear with your dough and stop returning phone  calls.

 

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These advance fees could be anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000.  We are talking about serious money.

How can desperate commercial property owners be so foolish?  Forty-five years ago, I worked at an old-time finance company, where we made personal loans, secured by cars, vacuums, and sticks - the personal property (furniture, TV's, etc.) - of working people.

My old branch manger, my very first boss, taught me a very important lesson about con men. "If you are in a room with one-hundred people, pick out the one person who you are absolutely sure is not the con man.  He will be your con man."  Con men are very, very good.

 

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Okay, but how can a commercial property owner or commercial loan broker spot one of these advance fee scammers?  Here are some techniques:

  • Are the rates that this commercial lender is offering very low or very high.  If your deal has been turned down by three of four other lenders, and yet this "commercial lender" is offering you a very low rate and low points, there is a superb chance that this "commercial lender" is just a con man.

  • On the other hand, if the interest rate and the points are brutally high, this commercial lender might legitimately want to make a commercial loan to you.  He'll fund your loan, when nobody else will, because he is desperate for borrowers.

 

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  • Take a close look at this lender's website.  The first thing to look for is an actual physical address, as opposed to just a P.O. Box.  In order for a process server to serve a complaint at the start of a lawsuit, he needs to able to find the defendant.  If the con man refuses to provide a street address, it is because he is ducking other process servers.  If he has no street address, you should run for the exit!

  • Look up the lender's address on Google Maps.  You should see a picture of the property.  Is it some gleaming office tower or just a little rental house?  If a commercial lender has the dough to make multi-million-dollar commercial loans, he should have a pretty nice-looking office.

  • Does a receptionist or the loan officer answer the phone every time you call, or are you always forced to leave your name and number for the loan officer to call back?  Any legitimate commercial lender, who has the dough to lend millions of dollars, can afford a receptionist.  If you have to leave a phone number each time, it suggests the con man may be screening his calls from prior, pissed-off marks.

 

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  • Please grasp this critically important concept.  In order to make multi-million-dollar commercial loans, the lender needs dough to lend.  So many people forget this!  A life company gets its dough to lend from life insurance premiums.  Commercial banks, credit unions, and Federal savings banks (former S&L's) get their dough to lend from their depositors.  Real estate investment trusts (REIT's) get their initial capital to lend by selling shares in their corporation.  (They then borrow from banks to achieve additional leverage.)  Hard money mortgage funds have depositors (although these hard money funds are rapidly going the way of the dinosaur.)  Blackburne & Sons, my own hard money shop, gets it dough by assembling a different syndicate of wealthy private investors on every loan.  There are always savvy investors willing to make prudent loans during a crash, as long as the rate is a little higher and the LTV is a little lower.

  • So ask your con man straight out.  Where do you get your dough to lend?  In most cases, the con man will mumble something about "various investors" or the fact that he doesn't reveal his sources.  Uh, huh... sure.  Miserable butt-wipe!  Heavens I love owning my own company.  I get to say stuff like that.  Haha!  That expression, "various investors", is a red flag for either a con man or a commercial loan broker masquerading as a commercial lender.

  • Looking at the lender's website again, can you find an Investor tab?  I find that very, very reassuring.  REIT's and mortgage funds have shareholders and depositors who provide the capital to lend.  Is entry into the Investor tab even protected by a password requirement?  If so, I am feeling even warmer and happier.

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  • Is there a Loan Servicing Department tab.  Such a tab really, really warms the cockles of my heart.  It suggests that this commercial lender actually services its own loans.  That is a huge, positive indicator.

  • Is there a News Releases or Press Releases tab on his web site.  Do the press releases look legitimate?  If so, I am feeling better.

  • Is there a tombstone section on his web site?  Many legitimate commercial lenders have such closing announcements; but it's always possible that a really smart con man might have created such a fake section to seduce you.

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  • Life companies are the only class of commercial lenders who have correspondents to originate and service their loans in certain areas, like Chicago or Los Angeles.  Every other legitimate class of commercial lenders services its own loans.

  •  So ask your con man, do you service your own loans?  If not, run for the exit.

  • How narrow is your commercial lender's lending niche or area?  If he tells you that he only makes commercial loans, between $1 million and $7 million, on convenience stores in the Northeast, that sounds very legitimate.

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  • On the other hand, if he makes loans from $100,000 to $50 million, on any kind of commercial property, located anywhere in the country, at best he is just a commercial loan broker masquerading as a lender.  If the deposit is huge, he is surely a con man.

  • Google the company name of the commercial lender, along with that of the loan officer, the company president, and the company owner.  Lots of juicy stuff will often show up about con men.

  • But here's the thing:  If you looked up this article on the internet, you already know the answer.  Your commercial lender is too good to be true.  He is too sweet of a talker.  Your subconscious mind has picked up some clues.  Trust such warning signs!  Your commercial lender is a con man - an advance fee scammer.

 

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Is the ABS Commercial Loan Market Drying Up?

Posted by George Blackburne on Mon, Mar 30, 2020

Asset Backed Securities Commercial LoansOne of my loan officers got a call on Thursday from a frantic commercial loan broker.  He had four commercial loans in process with Cherrywood Mortgage, a small balance, non-prime commercial real estate lender.  Cherrywood had "temporarily" dropped out of the market. 

Like Monte Hall, of the Let's Make a Deal show, we told him to "come on down" and bring his four commercial loans.  Blackburne & Sons is very much in the small balance commercial loan market right now.  But this article is far more than just a plug for our 15-year commercial hard money loans.  A whole class of commercial lenders may soon be exiting the market.

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I think the problem for Cherrywood and the other ABS commercial lenders is that their normal bond buyers no longer have an appetite for the type debt they are issuing.  For the record, ABS lenders make small, junky commercial real estate loans.  I say junky because a bank wouldn't make most of these loans.

The ironic thing is that I think these "small, junky commercial loans" are terrific.  I am not criticizing Cherrywood at all.  In fact, I very much approve of Cherrywood's loans.  My own hard money shop, Blackburne & Son, has specialized in such small balance, non-prime commercial loans for forty years.  

 

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I have often written about how commercial real estate fell by exactly 45% during the S&L Crisis, the Dot-Com Meltdown, and Great Recession.  Most of our portfolio was therefore upside down; i.e., our borrowers owed more against their properties than their properties were worth; during these three crashes.

 

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You know what?  A great many - dare I say most? - of our small balance commercial loans remained roughly current through the depths of these crashes.  Cherrywood was therefore probably making very good loans.

But here's the thing.  Many non-prime commercial lenders sell their paper to the issuers of ABS bonds.  This is why I call commercial real estate lenders, like Cherrywood and Silver Hill Funding, ABS lenders.

What on earth is an ABS bond?  ABS stands for asset-backed securities.  To understand asset-backed securities, think of a trust created to pool (collect) a whole bunch of different types of loans.

 

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One type of loan you'll find in most ABS pools is the scratch-and-dent residential loan - a home loan kicked out of a securitization pool because, perhaps, the debt ratio or loan-to-value ratio was too high, or the property was too junky.  

Another type of loan that often goes into an ABS pool is the subprime car loan.  Then there are equipment loans, aircraft loans and leases.  You will often find credit card loans in ABS pools too.  Lastly, of course, are non-prime (sub-prime) commercial real estate loans.

Now the issuer of an ABS loan pool - say, of four-hundred-million dollars worth of these various loans - gets the loans in its portfolio rated by a rating agency.  Then it has the trust issue rated bonds, backed by the loans in this trust.  Investment bankers then sell these bonds off to life insurers, pension plans, family trusts, and high-net-worth individuals.

 

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The advantage of ABS bonds to investors is that they are diversified.  Their bonds are backed by lots of different types of collateral - homes, cars, equipment, aircraft, credit cards, and commercial properties.  If, for example, commercial real estate went into a mild slump, the home loans and car loans might carry the portfolio through a slump.

Before the Great Recession, a company named Bayview Commercial Mortgage Finance, through its subsidiaries, Interbay Financial and Silver Hill Funding, made a large number of sub-prime commercial real estate loans.  As soon as the Great Recession hit, Bayview stopped lending because no one wanted to buy the ABS bonds and the small balance, non-prime commercial loans that went into their portfolios.

"Oh, my goodness, a sub-prime commercial loan!  Yuck.  Dump my ABS bonds immediately, no matter what the price."  The price of ABS bonds fell through the floor, and no new ABS bonds were issued for five years.

 

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But then a funny thing happened.  Someone with some brains started to look at the junky little commercial loans in these failed ABS portfolios.  "Hmmmm.  The home loans, car loans, aircraft loans and credit card loans in these portfolios got smashed; but these junky little commercial permanent loans did surprisingly well.  Most of the borrowers kept making their payments, and eventually commercial real estate values recovered to new highs.  Hmmm."

As a result, ABS commercial lenders eventually returned to the market and kicked the butts of hard money lenders like Blackburne & Sons.  Dang.  Haha!  The new loans were called "non-prime", rather than "sub-prime"; but they were largely the same kind of commercial loan.  They were small commercial permanent loans that did not quite qualify for a bank loan.

Pop Quiz:

Q:  What is a permanent loan?

A:  A permanent loan is a first mortgage, secured by a commercial property, with a term of at least five years and with at least some amortization.  The typical amortization is 25 years.

 

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Finally We Get to the Point of Today's Training Lesson:

I am pretty sure that the ABS bond market has dried up for new issues due to the Coronavirus Crisis.  This means that a lot of ABS commercial lenders may soon be dropping out of of the small, junky commercial real estate loan market.

If you find that your own commercial lender has dropped out of the market, do as ole' Monte Hall used to say, "Come on down to Blackburne & Sons."

 

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Topics: ABS commercial loans

Economics - Will the Coronavirus Crisis Be the End of Democratic Capitalism?

Posted by George Blackburne on Fri, Mar 27, 2020

DachaYou need to pay special attention to this article, especially if you intend to retire in the next fifteen years.  The current stock market rally is just a temporary reprieve against the irresistible power of the second big decline (of three) in the US stock market.

The current Federal Reserve Chairman, Jerome Powell, gets a call from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, "Hey, Fed Chairman Powell, the economy is on the verge of a complete collapse.  Would you please convince the Governors of the Federal Reserve Board to buy $2.2 trillion of newly-issued Treasury securities to fund the rescue of the U.S. economy?"  (Get your own dacha!  See below:)

 

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Of course, this move by the Treasury Secretary was absolutely required.  I am going on record as saying that a lousy $2.2 trillion will not be enough to reverse the Second Great Depression.  The Fed and the Treasury will eventually be required to fund a whopping $8 trillion to check the huge deflationary tidal wave crashing in from China.

This deflationary tidal wave from China will NOT be some effort by the "evil" Chinese to hurt America.  The deflationary tidal wave coming out of China will be caused by the fact that the Chinese economy got crushed by the Coronavirus Crisis.  The Chinese will be buying far less raw materials from the world and far fewer products from U.S. companies because they simply don't have the money.

When hundreds of millions of Chinese got quarantined in their homes, Chinese consumers lost their wages, and they stopped buying goods.  Chinese small business owners lost three months' worth of income.

 

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Chinese small business owners employ sixty percent of Chinese workers, and they have been absolutely crushed by the Coronavirus Crisis.  Even if their tiny businesses survived the collapse (many will not), they have burned through their savings.  Far from borrowing more money from their banks, these small business owners will be on a crusade to restore their savings.  

The last thing that a Chinese small business owner is going to do is borrow more more money from his bank to expand his business.  "Aye, there's the rub."  If a Chinese bank takes in a $1,000 payment from a Chinese small business, and it can't find a different business to accept a $1,000 new loan, a whopping $20,000 gets sucked out of the Chinese money supply (20:1 The multiplier effect works in reverse).

When the Chinese money supply starts collapsing like a black star, the Chinese will reduce their purchases of raw materials from the world by at least 50%.  Their purchases of finished goods from U.S. companies, like Apple, GM, and Tesla, will decline equally.

 

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Now to the point of today's article:

In order to stave off the Coronavirus Depression (notice the use of the term, "Depression,"), the Fed and the Treasury will fund this $2.2 trillion rescue plan.  Maybe it will be enough.  (Haha!  Just two-and-a-half trillion dollars will be woefully insufficient.  It will take at least $8 trillion.)

The Fed will end up buying up $8 trillion worth of new US Treasuries and other assets.  The economy will be temporarily rescued.  But here's the problem:

 

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Politicians like Andrew Yang will soon say, "The US government only sent you a lousy $1,200.  The rich kept the rest and partied in their dachas (see the pic at the top), with their mistresses, and drank expensive wines.  They could have sent each of you $3,000.  Elect me!"  

"No, that Andrew Yang dude is a scrooge.  Elect me!  I'll give you $4,000 per month."  "No, wait, I'll give you $5,00 per month."

Folks, we're screwed.  Back in 1811, a famous Scottish economic professor, Andrew Tytler, once wrote: 

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government.  It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury.  From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship."

"The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence:  From bondage to spiritual faith; From spiritual faith to great courage;  From courage to liberty;  From liberty to abundance;  From abundance to selfishness;  From selfishness to apathy;  From apathy to dependence;  From dependence back into bondage.”

 

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Exactly How To Get Commercial Loans in This Crisis

Posted by George Blackburne on Mon, Mar 23, 2020

Screen Shot 2020-03-22 at 10.04.43 PMWrap your head around the concept that every business owner in the entire country needs cash right now.  His bank is definitely not going to loan it to him.  Banks today are terrified.  Here is exactly how to find some small commercial real estate loans during this Coronavirus Crisis.

 

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I want to emphasis the word, "small" commercial loans.  Small commercial loans close.  Commercial loans larger than $1.5 million have a closing rate that is 1/20th of smaller deals.  One-twentieth (1/20th)!  You are foolish to work on commercial loans larger than $1.5 million right now, when every large commercial lender in the country is hunkered down in his bunker.

Go to Google Maps and type in the address of your office.  You will notice on the map a number of businesses plotted close to your office.  Ignore the big businesses, like the huge car dealerships and the huge national banks, like Chase.

Instead, focus on the small restaurants, the mobile home parks, the auto repair shops, the hairdressers, the RV parks, and the little retail shops.

 

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Then call them up and ask to speak with the owner.  At first the receptionist might try to protect him from you, thinking that you are a salesman.  Explain to her that your company loans money to businesses, and right now her boss' business almost certainly needs money.  You might also mention that you are located right around the corner from her boss' business.

Perhaps the first time you will be sent to voicemail, but that's okay.  Make your pitch and leave your phone and email address.  You might call the receptionist back and explain that you left your name and number on his voicemail; but if she will please give you her boss' name and email address, you can send him more information about a coronavirus business support loan.  

I just invented that term tonight.  Sounds pretty good, huh?  A coronavirus business support loan.  If the receptionist fights you, you might politely remind her that her job might depend of her boss getting some business support cash right now.

 

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Now the first time you reach out to the boss of the auto repair shop, he might not respond.  Keep leaving messages.  Make a call list, and try to call thirty small, nearby businesses every day.  Explain that your mortgage company is located right just down the street, but that you are working from home right now due to the crisis.

Send the business owner a new email every four days, personally addressed and referencing his particular business.  "Hey, Steve, this is Don from Jackson Mortgage, right around the block from you.  I drive by your auto repair shop there on Madison Avenue almost every day.  You must need cash right now, and I may be able to help."

As the days go by, slide left and right on Google Maps to find even more businesses to solicit.  It is important that your potential customers - and their receptionists - understand that you are located very close to them.  You are not some call center located in the Philippines.

 

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When you get a deal, please do NOT call or email me.  I'm retired.  Phew!  Stressful times.  Haha!  Instead, please call Alicia Gandy, our largest commercial loan originator, at 916-338-3232 x 310.  We call Alicia our Loan Goddess.  Yes, she's that good.  You can also call my wonderful, first-born son, George Blackburne IV, at 916-338-3232 x 314.  

Remember, because you know Blackburne & Sons, you know one of the only conventional commercial lenders in the entire country still making commercial real estate loans.  We just closed a $1.65 million commercial loan on a hotel in the heartland on Friday.

Final lesson:  Alicia Gandy - we call her our Loan Goddess - will be absolutely killing it over the next two years.  Her fastest and best service will go to those commercial loan brokers who brought her deals when the market was saturated with competing hard money mortgage funds.  These loyal commercial loan brokers have a relationship with her.  

 

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Haha!  My own hair is getting as long as a hippy, but I don't dare
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High blood pressure is what is the death sentence for us old farts.

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If I do die, remember my immortal words.
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Those competing hard money mortgage funds are all gone now - along with the dinosaurs and the dodo birds.  Going forward, you also need to develop a relationship with Alicia and George IV, so they will be especially loyal to you when the proverbial stuff hits the fan.  

Remember, Blackburne & Sons put together a fresh syndicate* of wealthy private mortgage investors on every deal.  There are always savvy investors willing to invest when blood is running in the streets.  It's just a matter of price (interest rate).  Therefore, we were able to stay in the market every single day of the S&L Crisis, the Dot-Com Meltdown, and the Great Recession.

We are a small family company, and only a handful of brokers know us.  That's huge for you!  So get out there and feast.  Every business owner in America needs money right now.

 

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*Hard money mortgage funds rely on fresh deposits to make new loans.  When the financial markets are in turmoil, not only do new deposits dry up, but existing investors line up to withdraw.

Remember, every business owner in America needs money right now.

 

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Commercial Lending During a Market Crash

Posted by George Blackburne on Fri, Mar 20, 2020

CrashThe Coronavirus Crisis is now the fourth commercial real estate crash that I have experienced in my forty years of running our family commercial mortgage company, Blackburne & Sons.  They seem to happen about once every twelve years.  Each time commercial real estate fell by exactly 45%.

To those of you who are commercial loan brokers, you should keep working!  There is some serious money to be made during these crashes.  The old, savvy real estate investors know that the best time to invest is when blood is running in the street.

 

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The first commercial real estate crash began in 1986, when President Reagan changed the income tax laws to eliminate the tax shelters previously provided by commercial real estate.  

Prior to 1986, a surgeon earning, say, $500,000 per year could shelter, say, $150,000 of his income from taxation by buying highly-leveraged apartment buildings or commercial properties.  The depreciation from these rental properties provided a paper loss - often without too much of a negative cash flow.  These paper losses could be used to reduce the amount of the physician's taxable income.

When rich guys could no longer use depreciation to shelter their earned income - bam - the value of commercial real estate suddenly plunged like a falling rock.  By the time the crash was over, commercial real estate values had fallen by a whopping 45%.  Please remember that number - 45%.

 

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Savings and Loan Associations ("S&L's) were heavily invested in first mortgages on commercial properties.  By 1992, one-third of them had failed.  The Resolution Trust Corporation ("RTC") came in, closed up 3,234 of these S&L's, and then sold off their foreclosed apartment buildings and office buildings at fire-sale prices.  

The RTC offered these buildings at just 50% of an already-depressed fair market value, but the purchase had to be for all cash.  Since 95% of banks in the country were out of the commercial real estate loan market, hard money brokers had an absolute field day.  So did the commercial loan brokers who stayed in the market, originating commercial loans for them.  (Please read that last sentence again.)

In October of 2002, the NASDAQ crashed by 78%, when most of the big dot-com stocks melted down.  Commercial real estate crashed by 45% during the Dot-Com Meltdown.  Once again, there is that magical number:  45%.

 

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Once again, almost all of the banks pulled out of the commercial lending market in 2002, and they stayed out for more than four years.  Banks are nothing but a bunch of frightened herd animals.  Once the bottom (nadir) of the real estate cycle had been found, banks should have been making commercial loans like crazy.

During every one of the commercial real estate crashes in my lifetime, commercial real estate fell by 45%.  After hitting a bottom about two-and-half years into each crisis, commercial real estate recovered to new highs within three years.

But I was thrilled that the banks were a bunch of scarety-cats.  Surviving hard money shops ("Aye, there's the rub,"), like Blackburne & Sons, made a killing after the Dot-Com Meltdown.  We were the only guys at an all-girls school dance.  Our best commercial loan brokers, who brought us all of our deals, made a killing too.

 

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During the Great Recession, commercial real estate once again fell by 45%.  There is that number, 45%, again.  Just as during the previous crises, the banks immediately dropped out of the commercial loan market, and they stayed out of the market for far too long.  

Hundreds and hundreds of hard money mortgage companies also closed up shop during the Great Recession, leaving Blackburne & Sons, and just a handful of others, as the last men standing.  Once again, as the only guys at the dance, we all found lots of dance partners.  We made a ton of superb quality loans.  The commercial loan brokers who brought us these deals made a fortune.

Why did so many competing hard money shops close their doors?  Answer:  Because most of them were structured as funds.  As soon as the crises hit, all of their investors lined up to withdraw their investments.  Previously, these mortgage funds made 85% of their money by making new commercial loans and earning new loan fees.  With no new money flowing into their funds, these hard money shops had no dough with which to make new loans and to earn new loan fees with which to make make payroll. 

 

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The situation is even worse today for hard money shops.  Ninety-five percent of them are structured as mortgage funds - as opposed to just 55% of them before the Great Recession.  Your favorite hard money commercial lender?  I'd be surprised if it ever made a commercial loan again.

Do you own a hard money commercial mortgage fund.  Don't be pissed at me for telling the truth.  You're screwed, but you can still save your company.  Announce to your investors immediately that you are now charging 390 basis points (3.9%) for loan servicing fees and property management fees.  

The single best thing you can do for your hard money investors is to stay in business -  calling for late payments, force-placing fire insurance, exercising your assignment of rents, getting receivers appointed, moving properties out of Chapter 11, hiring property security companies, cleaning up the properties, winterizing the properties, renovating the properties, renting the properties, and selling the properties.

 

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Yeah, your private investors will be pissed at you for awhile.  Remember, however, that most of then are invested in several different hard money mortgage funds.  When their other hard money shops close up entirely, their whole attitude will change.  The portfolios of these competing mortgage funds will get devastated by vandals, breaking pipes, and even worse, by greedy attorneys and their fees.  Your investors will bless you for raising their loan servicing fees and property management fees, thereby staying in business.

Anyway, now back to the needs of our commercial loan brokers.  Blackburne & Sons doesn't use a mortgage fund.  We syndicate every new commercial loan that we make - maybe 30 investors or so per deal.

Now the sexy thing about being a syndicator is that wealthy private investors always have dough to invest.  It's merely a matter a price (interest rate).  Therefore Blackburne & Sons intends to stay in the market, making commercial real estate loans, every single day of the Coronavirus Crisis - just like we did during the S&L Crisis, the Dot-Com Meltdown, and the Great Recession.

 

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If you are a commercial loan broker, your eyes should be seeing dollar signs right now.  The banks are now out-of-the-market, and so are 95% of the commercial hard money mortgage funds.  Commercial loan brokers by the tens of thousands have probably resolved to find another occupation.

Because of the Coronavirus Crisis, commercial real estate is likely to once again fall by 45%.  All of the banks will soon be out of the market.  They will no longer be competing against you.  You have broken into the clear.  The businessmen near you who own commercial real estate surely need money, and you know one of the few commercial lenders still making loans.   Go feast!

Contact every business owner you know who owns commercial real estate.  Do you need cash?  Seriously, who doesn't need cash right now?

 

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Topics: Commercial real estate crash

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