To add a little oomph to business these days, LO’s are turning away from the residential realm and focusing their efforts on potentially bigger fish – the commercial arena. Find out the differences between the two markets – from documentation to financing – and why you should line up to tap these unchartered waters. As a bonus, a commercial originator in action shares his words of warning before stepping into bigger territory.
With the subprime fallout, amped up regulation and a slowing residential market, many originators are feeling the squeeze of increased competition and fewer deals.
“Many brokers are making the transition into small commercial lending as a way to serve their existing clients better, and to branch out into a growing market,” said Reed Larsen, vice president of Homeland Mortgage Inc. and Homeland Funding Corp. “Many mortgage brokers have worked hard to build good relationships with their clients over the years, particularly with small business owners and self-employed borrowers who need the kind of expertise and the level of service that good brokers provide. These entrepreneurial clients often ask their brokers about commercial loans, and brokers would rather close those loans than send their hard-earned clients down the road to a competitor.”
What’s the difference?
While both residential and commercial brokers seek to find loan deals for individuals buying property, the methods to get these loans are very different.
According to Kristin Williams, of Silver Hill Financial LLC, residential deals all require the same forms.
“It’s very standardized,” she said. “1003, 1008, VOD, VOE, etc. But in commercial, each company has their own separate set of documents they require.” In commercial, the deals are all non-standardized and individualized.
When it comes to finding comparable in the residential realm, Williams said it is usually easy and quick.
“Traditionally, residential properties are very cookie cutter so you can get several appraisals done very quickly — because there are so many comparable properties out there,” she said. “In commercial, buildings are extremely unique. Appraisal time takes much longer because it’s harder to find similar property types.”
This can lead to more complex, more thorough appraisals — up to 100 pages long — which can take up to four weeks and cost between $1,500 and $4,000.
Calculating loan amounts
According to Williams, residential loans consider extensive loan-to-value (LTV) ratios, sometimes 100 to 115 percent.
However, in commercial, “traditionally, LTVs are very limited just because of the riskiness of the transaction,” she said. “They offer lower LTVs to lower their risk. About 75 percent, sometimes 80 percent is the highest LTV for commercial.”
Also, residential originators consider a borrower’s debt-to-income (DTI) ratio by assessing the individual’s personal income. In a commercial transaction, however, a debt service coverage ratio (DSCR) is assessed, which considers how much a property or business occupying the space must have to cover its debt.
What can be financed?
While every financial institution is different, many consider the following to be eligible property types for funding: Multifamily, mixed-use, office, retail, self-storage, light industrial, bed and breakfast, warehouse, mobile home park, industrial, funeral home, flagged hospitality, rooming house, health care, day care, RV park, unflagged hospitality, restaurant, and gas stations.
In Silver Hill’s case, the following are considered ineligible properties and it would not provide funding: traditional churches, raw land and farms, construction, development, rehab and adult entertainment facilities.
It is best to ask your lender before continuing with the transaction.
How does financing work?
While traditionally, residential brokers can obtain funding with a local lender, LOs need to do a little investigative work to find the best deals for their client. What financing sources are available to commercial brokers?
“Traditional banks and credit unions are great at offering loans at very competitive rates for your higher-credit-score client,” Williams said. “However, they do have some specific guidelines of the types of properties and the loam amounts. Lots of times, the riskier the property type, the less opportunity you have at a traditional bank.”
Banks also charge a large good faith fee before the loan is even processed, sometimes upwards of $5,000.
SBA loans are multi-faceted if someone wants to pay for the building, business or equipment all in one. It is also good as a standard business loan to provide funding for disaster relief. However, SBA loans take a lot of time — up to 3 months — to finish and requires a lot of documentation.
Private/hard money lenders
Private/hard money lenders are the last-stop shop that is great for high-credit-risk clients, Williams said. They are also bankruptcy or foreclosure friendly.
“They get the loan done quickly,” Williams said. “However, the loan terms are the least favorable with extremely high interest rates — upwards of 15 percent — and the loan balance will come due at a very short period of time.”
There is also a lock-out period that freezes the client from refinancing.
Small-balance commercial lenders
“The credit requirements are a little more acceptable (with a small-balance commercial lender),” Williams said. “They will provide your clients more options and get your loans done quicker.”
Williams did say, however, that all small-balance commercial lenders have their own set of requirements and procedures and it is important to research them and educate the client before going forward.
Finding a good commercial lender may be easier than originators think, as many are reaching out to brokers — teaching them how to make the residential-to-commercial change and establishing referral relationships.
“As small business in America continues to expand, commercial lenders are reaching out to educate and train mortgage brokers on how to originate commercial loans both as a way to build a viable sales channel into the small commercial market, and as a way to leverage the good relationships brokers have already built with their entrepreneurial clients,” Larsen said. “Lenders are making it easier for brokers to make the transition, by simplifying the application requirements, providing classes, distributing marketing materials and program information, and coaching brokers through the commercial loan process from start to finish.”
Benefits of going commercial
“(Commercial) is the ideal arena for accommodating the skills and experiences of residential mortgage brokers,” said Joe Mardesich, president and CEO of Nationwide Commercial Funding, a national mortgage brokerage. “There are numerous advantages for being in the commercial mortgage business.”
Less sensitive to interest rates
The residential loan business is highly sensitive to interest rates, Mardesich said. The higher the rates, the lower will be the number of homeowners who refinance, take out equity loans or consolidate debt. And though the purchase loan business is still available, it may eventually slow if rates rise to a point where fewer people will be able to qualify as home purchasers.
In the commercial mortgage sector, however, rising rates do not have the considerable negative impact that exists in the residential mortgage sector.
“First, most commercial mortgages have balloon payments,” Mardesich said. “Most commercial borrowers have no choice but to refinance or to sell, regardless of where rates may be, every 5 to 10 years. Both selling and refinancing result in new loans, which of course. mean income for the commercial broker.
“Second, commercial real estate owners and investors make their money by buying, selling, exchanging, developing and refinancing. They don’t stop doing deals as rates move up or down. They find ways to have increased interest costs covered by their tenants or other end-users of their properties. Homeowners, by contrast, want to buy a place in which to live and must factor interest costs into their budgets. If interest rates put homeownership out of their reach, they will remain renters, tenants of those who utilize commercial mortgages.
“Third, as indicated above, rising rates can actually increase rental demand and revenue for the owners of apartments, mobile home parks, and certain other types of properties. The beneficiary is not only the owner, the developer of apartments, and the developer/owner of mobile home parks, but also the mortgage brokers who help to finance those properties.”
Growing competition in the residential mortgage business
According to Mardesich, more and more real estate agents are competing with mortgage brokers.
“The numbers increase daily,” he said. “With the Internet, people can shop online and have 5 or 6 lenders or brokers competing for their business with a mouse click. The loan products you and your competitors sell are all the same, because the secondary market is so consolidated in the residential industry. The residential mortgage business has become a frantic ‘commodity’ business, providing revenue to the lowest bidder.”
In the commercial mortgage business, however, the lowest bidder is not necessarily king. There is much less competition than in residential real estate. And there are many portfolio lenders who do not sell their loans to a consolidated secondary market, i.e. there are a great variety of available programs from one lender or broker to another. As a result, by specializing and developing a niche, you can develop a meaningful competitive edge, Mardesich said.
Less regulation in commercial
The residential industry is chock full of rules and regulations.
However, in the commercial mortgage business, you don’t have to worry about the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. There are no Good Faith Estimates. No TILAs. You can pay referral fees to anyone, regardless of the service they may perform. Yield spreads are generally not disclosed. Most states do not require any licensing for commercial mortgage brokers, Mardesich said.
The rewards of commercial
The rewards of the commercial mortgage business can be substantial, impacting income and lifestyle. Yet, comparatively few residential brokers are reaping the rewards that await them in the field of commercial mortgages.
According to Williams, commercial brokers who close with Silver Hill average a commission of $10,400, compared to the $3,000-$8,000 with a residential loan.
“Brokers know that the market is strong and growing,” Larsen said. “They see commercial lending as a great way to serve their existing clients better, provide a more complete array of lending products to new customers, and continue to grow despite the recent woes of the residential lending market. It has never been easier for a good residential loan broker to step up to commercial lending.