Buy, Sell or Hold?

Robert Withers | May 2020

During these turbulent times, many lenders are suspending activity or taking very conservative views on ongoing business. Investors are in a panic, not knowing what will be their best path forward.

Having navigated previous financial crises from the Savings and Loan scandal to 9/11 to the Great Recession and with more than 30 years of experience in the commercial mortgage industry, I can shed light on what property owners need to understand as they struggle with the financial impact of COVID-19.

While some financial institutions have curtailed loans, revised their parameters or removed certain lending programs from their offerings, this should be temporary. But even after this crisis is over, the concern of valuation and risk margin will linger, hindering a full recovery in the industry at least in the short term. Lenders will undoubtably pull back on the aggressive lending practices they were demonstrating before this crisis hit.

People are understandably worried about the current financial climate and for weeks we have been fielding calls with clients asking if lenders are still lending, is their property still worth what they paid for it, and what happens when tenants don’t pay their rent. They don’t know if they should contact their lenders, and if so, how should they approach them. This is especially critical when dealing with speculative construction loans and debt workouts with current lenders if the relationship has soured.

In these cases, commercial property owners need to have an advocate for structuring or arranging financing for their properties: someone who represents them—not the lenders—and who understands the processes and terms required to negotiate with a commercial lender which is significantly different than a standard residential real estate transaction. This advice also applies to larger investors who have “over-leveraged” their portfolios, landlords burdened with vacancies and businesses of any size who need to refinance their loans. A good advocate can counsel clients on the most important factors to elaborate on when applying for a loan, as well as what information it is best not to mention.

Ways to Take Action

  • For anyone thinking about acquiring a commercial property asset in this environment, consider doing the following:
  • Review the credit quality of the subject property’s tenants with your real estate broker.
  • Identify if the tenants have requested a loan via the CARES Act.
  •  Ensure that retail tenants on commercial and mixed-use properties have solid financials and a “make sense” business model, especially in this economic environment.
  • Secure any prior property reports including appraisals, environmental and engineering inspections that may be available.
  • Have upfront preliminary discussions with a lending professional to understand EXACTLY how financing parameters have been impacted by the current market, including “turn around” time in obtaining a loan.

If you decide to purchase a commercial property, be sure to obtain the best legal representation with in-depth experience in commercial real estate transactions, and ensuring they are available from contract negotiations thru closing.

What questions or information should people consider before calling an advocate?

  • Should I consider a commercial real estate investment during these uncertain times?
  • Does the investment fit into my investment risk tolerances?
  • What are the “hot” markets to consider now?
  • Is the property I am considering a viable investment, long and short term?
  • Will the commercial lending liquidity markets dry up?
  • How will the markets deal with the pent-up demand for products and services once this emergency is over?
  • How will commercial lenders deal with missed mortgage payments if that happens?
  • How can a first-time investor weigh the pros and cons of owning and managing a commercial piece of property as an investment at this time?

During my weekly chat session, Ask Robert, listeners can get answers to these questions or weigh in on the Question of the Week regarding commercial mortgages and how they are affected by the circumstances caused by COVID-19. To submit a question, visit https://www.mortgage1.com/ask-a-private-lender/

Robert Withers
Robert Withers, President and CEO of M1 Capital Corp., is a respected real estate finance professional with a 30-year track record of providing creative solutions for commercial real estate industry clients. M1 Capital Corp has offices in White Plains, New York and New York City and specializes in acquisition, refinancing outstanding loans, restructuring current debt and delivering smart, effective solutions through a variety of loan options: commercial, hard money, SBA 504 and 7a programs, as well as SPEC Construction Financing, multifamily and commercial debt workouts. Withers also authors a popular blog, The Equity Strategist, on the M1 Capital Corp. website, www.mortgage1.com. The blog explores all aspects of the real estate finance industry and he shares his expertise and offers advice to those seeking commercial real estate solutions. He can be reached at 866-990-9559 or info@mortgage1.com.