Showing posts with label real estate finance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label real estate finance. Show all posts

Monday, February 8, 2021

Why Most People Don't Get Rich In Real Estate

Initially, I intended this post to be a continuation of my prior post on how to get rich in real estate. I was going to address the barriers to entry that most people confront when attempting to begin a career in real estate and offer some suggestions on how to get around them. I am still going to address some of those barriers, but upon further reflection, I think that there is a common theme amongst most of the reasons why most people do not succeed in real estate when they wish to do so—motivation.

This may seem harsh, but please let me qualify my statement by saying that it is not easy to maintain consistent motivation. Having sufficient motivation to push through real estate losses, market downturns, bankruptcies or even years of unfruitful prospecting takes inner strength. During down times and after particularly difficult lessons in real estate, it can often feel like the experience was a sign to quit or move in a different direction. It takes true motivation, self-confidence and some self-delusion to look at a negative real estate experience, learn from the experience and continue on. This motivation is intrinsic and it only comes from a goal-driven approach to make it in a real estate. Quitting can never be an option. To that end, I want to share the following link to “The Strangest Secret” by Earl Nightingale, in the hopes that it is helpful to someone.

The Strangest Secret: Earl Nightingale

Having addressed the role of motivation, let’s take a look at the primary reasons for not succeeding in real estate and address them:

Not Enough Money, Credit, Funding

The financial barrier to entry into real estate deters most people trying to enter the market. I have written about this many times, but I have no problem reiterating that there are many ways to get started in real estate without using money or credit. I want to be clear, however—real estate investment is not the only way to make money in real estate. I definitely believe it to be the most lasting and transferable way to accumulate real estate wealth, but there are other ways to make money in real estate. Obtaining a real estate license or securing employment in as a real estate professional are both ways to begin a real estate career with little or no financial investment. A career as a loan officer, appraiser, attorney, property manger or any other real estate service professional will not only expose you to real estate markets and provide you with an invaluable real estate education, but can also lead to wealth through hard work. This wealth is bounded by the amount of hours that you can work and is not necessarily transferable, but it is feasible and requires a much smaller financial investment upfront. Moreover, the knowledge and experience gained in a real estate service career can lead to a transition to a more informed investment career.

Focusing on the real estate investment arena, there are a number of ways that you can begin with little or no money upfront. Birddogging and whole selling are both real estate investment methods that can require little to no money down. If your sphere of influence includes people with disposable income, creating a presentation and requesting investments from those that know, also takes a minimal financial investment. It may take an emotional investment to try to make such a presentation, but such experiences are part of growth. You can also save up over time, work on your credit place yourself in a position to invest in the future. Keep in mind the quote by Bill Gates: 

    “Most people overestimate what they can achieve in a year and underestimate what they can achieve in ten years.”

No matter what your financial position right now, you can become a viable real estate investor with a down payment through focus and determination. If ten years seems like a long time, plan to do it in five or three. The bottom line, however, is that three, five or ten years will pass even if you don't work to improve your financial situation, it only benefits you to make sure that you do so while this time is passing.


The Market Is Bad

Markets are cyclical and we inevitably find ourselves in a down market at some point. A down market, however, is never an excuse not to start your real estate career. Although down markets may affect real estate hiring and the availability of funding, there are opportunities to invest and enter the real estate service market during any market. A down market merely signals a shift in strategy. I have written previous posts about how to navigate a real estate downturn. Please feel free to scroll through this blog and read them. As reminder, however, the lack of funding that usually takes place during a down real estate market necessitates creative financing like seller financing, buy-leasebacks (commercial real estate only), private lenders and syndications. Landlords can avoid pitfalls during these downturns by keeping reserves during times and prosperity, being very meticulous at all times with vetting tenants and by searching for ways to improve expenses and management during the lean times.

I Don’t Have the Time

This reason is a very popular one. Many people feel that they have the desire to succeed in real estate, but lack the time. For this reason, I have one question:

What occupies your time?

We certainly make time for the things that we deem essential. Many times, however, the non-essential items can inadvertently sap our time and energy. To that end, its important to be acutely aware of things that slowly leech away your time like TV, Netflix, and mobile games. It is also very important to take the time to truly self assess and make sure that you are not prioritizing items falsely labeled as essential. Committing to success in real estate will require a serious level of candor during this time of reevaluation. 

Becoming successful in real estate also will require a change in lifestyle. It is also necessary to look at which time commitments you hold perpetuate your current situation. Every lifestyle consists of habits that perpetuate it. Keep in mind that changing some of these habits may even prove to be uncomfortable, as there is a certain level of comfort in predictability. Perpetuating success in real estate will require habits that create success. The habits may seem different, strange or even uncomfortable at first, but they will become second nature over time and will bring you toward your intended goal

I Can’t Find Deals

Finding investment opportunities is certainly a large concern for new investors. It can take some time to find the first set of deals, but consistency definitely yields results. In my experience, very soon after the first few deals come in, continued consistency leads you to a point where it feels like the floodgates have opened and soon the issue becomes that there are too many deals to be serviced. That said, below are a few ways that you can find your initial deals. This is by no means an exhaustive list:

  • Check the local MLS;
  • Post “We Buy Houses” signs (where permitted);
  • Check/mail to the filings of lis pendens for foreclosures;
  • Check/mail to divorce and probate filings;
  • Attend garage sales;
  • Contact for sale buy owner properties;
  • Market to owners of vacant or high-grass properties;
  • Check the listings for foreclosure sales;
  • Sign-up for/attend tax lien sales;
  • Call/contact owners advertising for tenants;
  • Attend/join local real estate investment associations;
  • Advertise online.

I am happy to explain these strategies in more detail in the comments, if you have any questions. I also want to mention that realtors and attorneys are restricted from undertaking some of the strategies.

Real Estate Is Not For Me

Now, this is the reason that I respect the most and my answer is very simple—“Don’t waste your time with real estate.” There are many ways to build wealth and real estate investment requires a certain level of passion and motivation, as described above. Real estate should be a path to and not a distraction from wealth generation. Realizing that real estate isn’t your arena is important step to finding your true area of interest. I encourage you to seek that arena and pursuit with your whole heart. 

In the words of Kevin Garnett, “Anything is possible!” Motivation is key. The best thing that a new or seasoned real estate investor can do is to find ways to kindle and feed that spark. Regularly revisit your "Why" and remind yourself of why you are seeking to succeed in real estate. Join a group of like-minded individuals and to continue to motivate one another. Read, attend classes, continue to learn and continue to improve.

Well, that is my take on the impediments to success in real estate. Please feel free to comment below.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

How To Get Rich In Real Estate: The Proven Method

Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels
Welcome the first post of the New Year! A number of years ago I wanted to start a business purchasing residential mortgages in the secondary market. This was a significant time after the Great Recession of 2009 and although the smoked had cleared from that downturn, enthusiasm in the mortgage secondary market had not yet fully recovered. I knew that if I were to market my business idea, which I was positive was sound, I would have to not only formally document it in a presentation and a business plan, but would also have to show actual positive implementation results. I realized that I would have to raise a small amount of capital to implement this strategy on a small scale, so that I could present it to larger investors upon its successful completion.

In service to this idea, I spent a few weeks attending business classes and drafting a business plan in order to present the idea to potential investors. Once the business plan was complete, I brought it to the Small Business Administration to have another set of eyes on it. The plan was essentially complete and required some quick format changes to meet the SBA’s format. The changes were made quickly and the submission process was promptly completed. A few days later, the SBA gave me a final opinion on the business plan. The review wasn’t groundbreaking—it merely confirmed that the plan was complete, but the necessary next steps were Earth-shattering in their simplicity.

The SBA suggested that I seek out angel investors and pitch my idea to my sphere of influence, however, it also offered an alternative:

  •    Save up enough money to put 10% - 20% down on a house in a local    market;
  •    Purchase an undervalued or affordable property;
  •    Prepare the property for rental;
  •   Find tenants to rent the property;
  •   Use the rent to pay the mortgage and build up equity;
  •   Refinance or sell the property at the first available opportunity, using   the cash to fund your next venture.

It really is that simple…at least in theory. Believe or not, it is also very possible for most. This strategy is an expanded version of the popular BRRRR-Buy, Repair, Rent, Refinance, Repeat, strategy that is frequently discussed on the Internet and in real estate investor circles around the country. I didn’t receive it from a local investor or from a get-rich-quick website or even from a seasoned member of the real estate community trying to market a coaching program, however, but instead from the federal government. There can be no greater confirmation of the reliability of this strategy.

There it is. I’m definitely not the first to reveal this to the world and I won’t be the last, but let’s explore each step of the process more in depth:

Save Enough Money

The cost of entry is and lack of credit are the most popularly used reasons cited for not investing in real estate. According to the NAR, the National Association of Realtors, the median home price in the United States is $310,880. Admittedly, saving $63,000 can be outside of the means of most, but there are many local markets which have properties for sale for less than $200,000.  If saving $20,000 to $40,000 seems to be an untenable amount, the average cost of a new car in November of 2020 was $39,259, according to Kelley Blue Book. Assuming a poor/fair credit, causing a higher interest rate of 6%, a new car financed at 100% for the typical 5 year term, would cost $682 a month. A used car costing $20,000 with the same interest rate and no down payment would cost $387 a month. If those payments sound to high, a $17,000 car under the same circumstances would cost $329 a month. Due to the interest built into those monthly payments those hypothetical cars would be purchased at a near 16% mark-up. Interestingly, placing $333.34 a month in a savings account with 0% interest would allow a person to save over $20,000 in 5 years. If five years seems like a long time to save, please keep in mind that five years will pass whether or not you save at all. Furthermore, most people have bills that they have paid consistently for more than five years for services, cars, cell phones, etc. If necessary, a down payment can simply be thought of as another bill—your Independence bill. There are certainly quicker ways to amass a down payment—credit, borrowing from friends and family, birddogging, whole-selling, but one things is clear, the barrier to entry is not an impossible hurdle.

Purchase An Undervalued/Affordable Property

This is probably the second easiest step of this the method. I don’t want to be misleading, it certainly takes a great deal of effort to locate a property that works best for your personal situation, but this is the step during which the most support is usually offered. Finding a real estate agent with whom you can work is essential to this process. Although it is both possible and likely that the property that is chosen for investment is not found through an agent, the access to market information that  good agent has, as well as the benefit of their transaction experience can be invaluable. That said, it is important to look for a property that is at least in your price range and at best is undervalued. It is also essential to stick with an area of familiarity, if you have any. If you are a businessperson or are familiar with a certain type of industry, then commercial real estate may be your forte. In most instances, however, residential rental real estate is the easiest way to enter into the market as most people are familiar with either living as a tenant or living in residential real estate.

Although I highly recommend using a real estate agent, it is important to seek off-market properties sales, as well. Estate sales, for-sale-by-owner, speaking with local investors, tax lien sales and even memberships to local real estate investment clubs are all viable ways to find deals. REO sales are also a great way to find value, but those sales are very much on market and are always listed with an REO broker. I generally recommend not approaching a large REO broker directly as a new investor, as they typically have a long list of investors with whom they already deal and usually to whom they steer business. Anything that a new investor receives from such a broker has usually been passed by numerous times by other investors and for good reason. Establishing a relationship with small or “up-and-coming” REO broker, however, could prove to be very valuable, provided that their REO vendors are truly servicing that agent and not merely using him or her to test the market for their properties. Tax liens are also a great opportunity for investment, so long as you have time to investigate the property and a good title company and a good ESA company to ensure that there are no serious restrictions or environmental issues with the property.

  • In your search, please make sure to avoid properties with the following issues:
  • Located in an area that is unfavorable to rentals;
  • Cannot be rented;
  • Cannot be easily financed;
  • Has really high taxes;
  • Has serious repair issues;
  • Has title issues;
  • Has environmental issue. 

A good lawyer, mortgage professional and home inspector will ensure that you avoid any and all of those pitfalls. If you don’t know where to find reputable real estate professionals, an experienced realtor or real estate investor can provide you with contacts to professionals willing to assist you. Above all, it is important to maintain a balance of not rushing into a purchase, while not indefinitely sitting on the fence and never closing a deal. Although the old real estate adage—“The money is made on the buy,” is true, it is very important not to develop analysis paralysis.

Prepare The Property For Rental

Although I do not want to gloss over this step, as is it is a key step to this process, to ensure that this post doesn’t turn into a book, I will keep it short. Careful purchasing will ensure that the necessary repairs are not substantial. In order to ensure that you can handle minimal repairs, it is advisable to save an additional $5,000 to $10,000 for repairs. If this additional amount to save seems to be prohibitive, then please reduce the intended purchase price by $5,000 to $10,000.

Further, a reputable contractor is key to this step, however, there is no substitute for attentiveness. An owner’s presence during this phase of investment is key, both to show engagement and also because this is an important time for an early investor to learn more about the process of rehabilitating property.

Find Tenants To Rent The Property

If money is made on the buy, then finding tenants is where the money is secured. Tenants can be found through effective advertising and real estate agents. It may take some time to find the strategy that works best for you and the property’s market, but it is possible to create a pipeline of tenants for your rental or future rentals. It is also equally as important to vet your tenants to increase the likelihood that they will pay on time. Credit and reference checks are important to this process. You can either learn to how to perform these checks, which are not difficult to learn, or hire a vendor to do so. There are a few tricks of the trade, like never calling the current landlord of a potential tenant, as they are never honest about a bad tenant, but this can all be learned with time and research

Use The Rent To Pay The Mortgage And Build Up Equity

The beauty of owning a cash-flowing asset is that it pays for itself. Even if you were to break even with the rent after the mortgage payments is factored in, equity would still accumulate. In some instances, it may even be worth taking a loss merely to build equity, because appreciation works in tandem with equity accumulation. I would be very careful, however, not to take losses on a property in a depreciating market. That said, if you have acquired and rented correctly, this step is very passive.

Refinance Or Sell The Property At The First Available Opportunity

This is the payout. Just like the purchase, this is also a step where you will find a great deal of support. Every real estate professional loves working for a motivated seller and profit will be your motivation. Although any number of things can happen to delay a sale and marketing times may be longer than expected, depending on the market conditions, the finish line is in sight at this point. It is important to remember that all pricing should be well-informed and aggressive, if possible. It is always greater to take a hit of a few thousand on the asking or purchase price than bare the risk and cost of additional carrying charges, especially when a deal is imminent. Flexibility and creativity in closing terms and financing may also be helpful in avoiding unnecessary standoffs and allow both parties to walk away feeling like their needs were met through the transaction.

If the opportunity presents itself sooner, it might even be best to skip steps 4 and 5 and merely flip the property. That decision is entirely up to you. The most important part is that profits gained are used wisely and hopefully to buy more real estate.

Well, that’s my take on how to get rich in real estate. As I said earlier, the concept is simple, but the execution takes effort. Feel free to leave your comments below and please stay tuned for my next article—“Why Most People Don’t Get Rich In Real Estate."

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The End of 2020: Now What?

2020 has been a life-changing year for everyone, literally everyone. From the global pandemic, to the fluctuating economy, not to mention the seismic shift in the perception of "going to work," it is safe to say that the world is different place than it was 12 months ago. Now what?

Every year Bloomberg Business Week puts out its "Bloomberg 50"--a list of 50 individuals that have made their mark during the prior year. Although this year's list contains a number of impressive men and women who were able to quickly mobilize and make moving, positive contributions during this tumultuous year, it is notable that not one member of this list was mentioned for contributions to the real estate market. In fact, there are many executives on the list that are touted for reducing the size and/or the footprint of their companies, which in many instances includes real estate divestment. Furthermore, Blackrock, a private equity that is well know for its real estate investments, has made the list, not for real estate, but for its renegotiation of national debts in South America.

The lack of presence of real estate in this list is yet another illustration of what was obvious to all real estate professionals--2020 was not the year of the major real estate transaction. As people hunkered down during to quarantine, the economy fluctuated and work-from-home became the norm, the real estate market dramatically changed. Mortgage delinquencies rose, office spaces became more available, the cost of materials trended upward and permits for new projects trended downward. Migrations from urban areas also took place en masse in March and April as those with the means and desire to seek less crowded surroundings during the spread of the pandemic did so. Although the amount and duration of this recent migration may be disputed, the effects of this exodus have noticeably shifted the dynamic in many local real estate markets, for better or for worse.

As asked earlier, "Now what?" Anyone that has paid even a little bit of attention to this blog over the years knows that I do not "do" doom and gloom. There is always opportunity in change and if there is one thing that 2020 has done well, it is that it has exposed a number of opportunities. From the rise of Special Purpose Acquisition Companies to the consideration of rezoning in urban areas, opportunities to add value, create wealth and thrive in the real estate market are going to present themselves throughout 2021. Rather than make a brief list of some of these opportunities in this post, I will attempt to explore them more in depth in posts throughout the upcoming year. 


Instead of looking back on notable movements in the real estate market during an unprecedented time, I have decided to look forward to the apparent opportunities of the upcoming year. So, please join me as The Real Estate Think Tank.com celebrates its 10th year in existence in 2021. It has been a wild ride thus far, let's conquer next year together. 

See you in 2021.

Friday, July 27, 2018

How To Approach A Defaulting Second Mortgage


Default happens, hopefully not often, but it is a fact of lending. Upon default, however, a holder of a second mortgage must find an objective, value-driven manner in which to evaluate its options. Unfortunately, in many instances second position lienholders opt for one of two extreme approaches—accepting a nominal amount in exchange for the release of the lien or demanding an unreasonably high sum for satisfaction of the lien. Both approaches are harmful for different reasons. Despite such prevalent behavior, with proper management, a defaulting second mortgage can provide a lienholder with a number of options.


So, You Agreed To Be Second

Financing a second mortgage is making a conscious decision to maintain an interest in a property that is subject to the interests of the first lienholder. The most cogent concern of a second lender is that upon default of the first mortgage, all of the second lienholder's interest can be extinguished. Such subordination is not only a concern at default, but an ongoing concern, as any changes to the property or its rights that the second position lender would like to make may possibly trigger a default in the first mortgage. 

Upon default, the relationship between the first and second lienholders undergoes a slight alteration. To understand this shift, it is probably most beneficial to think of a second position lien as converting into an option or right of first refusal upon default. When either mortgage is in default, the second lien holder has to assess whether it wishes to incur the cost of litigation, in the case of the second lien’s default, or satisfaction, in the case of a default on the first mortgage. In the same manner, the money lent for the second lien can similarly be seen as the cost of the option, which bears interest for the lender. Viewing its lien from this property rights perspective will enable the second lien holder to conduct an objective risk-weighted cost-benefit analysis of the second mortgage.

Which Approach Should Be Taken Upon Default?

When it comes to defaulting second mortgages, objectivity is essential. Accepting a nominal payoff leads to lost profits. Alternatively, overly aggressive demands for a payoff will lead to either foreclosure of the first lien position and extinguishment or a longer period of nonpayment, followed by ownership of the property subject to the first mortgage. An active approach is necessary to avoid entering either situation unwillingly. Second lien holders should assess the value of the property and determine if the remaining equity after satisfaction of the first lien and additional litigation/acquisition costs makes the exercising of the lien holder’s rights worth the cost of doing so. In addition to this course of action, it is important for the second lienholder to understand the secondary market pricing for performing second mortgages, defaulting mortgages and the typical payoff discount for defaulting second mortgage in the property’s local area. The state of title of property is also an important determining factor. Armed, with this information, a second position lienholder can make an informed decision on how it will proceed upon default.

Unfortunately, second lienholders and their authorized agents are not always optimally informed at the time of default, leading to frequent instances of idiosyncratic behavior. That said, I thought it prudent to provide my take on how to approach the default of a second position mortgage. Please feel free to provide your prospective on the matter below.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Real Estate Crowdfunding

Real estate crowdfunding has been a hot topic for the past few years and continues to gain notoriety. Praised for its flexibility and low barrier to entry, crowdfunding enables investors to directly invest in real estate properties without having to amass the funds necessary for a mortgage down-payment. For an amount as low as $500, in some instances, investors can contribute to a pool of investor capital that will enable a real estate entity to acquire a property. Open to both accredited investors and the public at large, crowdfunding offers access to the risks and rewards of direct real estate ownership in a passive manner with relatively little out-of-pocket costs.

Why Didn’t This Happen Sooner?

Crowdfunding is not a new idea, real estate investors for decades have pooled money to purchase properties, in an attempt to share risk and/or acquisition costs. These attempts at crowdfunding typically took the form of private “offerings” of shares or interest in a real estate holding entity, such as a limited partnership, LLC or corporation. Such private offerings were frequently limited to the immediate network of the party organizing the offering for one primary reason—securities laws made offering such investment opportunities to the public onerous and costly.

The various federal and state securities laws that regulate investment opportunities in the United States all share one common motivation—to ensure that investors are given enough information to make a informed investment decisions during the offering of an investment opportunity. In an attempt to protect the public from overly complex investment opportunities that it may not fully understand, federal and most securities laws have classified certain classes of investments as too complex to be offered to the public. All other investments must undertake numerous steps to retain the transparency necessary for public investment, including distributing an investment prospectus, filing IRS form 10-K's annually and adhering to certain required accounting procedures, among other requirements. Complying with the various requirements of public offerings can be time consuming and costly, thus federal securities law offers certain exemptions from these requirements for certain non-public offerings. Most states offer similar exemptions in their investment laws, as well.

In the past, offerors of real estate investment opportunities were careful to ensure that their real estate offerings were structured in such a way that they qualified for the federal and state exemptions, as non-compliance with these laws could lead to stiff penalties and even criminal prosecution. In so doing, such offerings were limited to investor that fit the federal and state definition of “sophisticated.” This all changed, however, with the passing of the JOBS Act in 2012. This act expanded the exemptions offered under federal securities laws to include crowdfunding. Coupled with the 2015 SEC regulations on crowdfunding, the JOBS Act has served to facilitate the explosion of crowdfunding in general and real estate crowdfunding in particular.

Crowdfunding for All?

Real estate crowdfunding, with its open access to funding from the public at large, may seem the answer to all real estate funding needs. In fact, many crowdfunded projects are funded with equity or no-interest debt. This form of financing, however, is by no means a panacea for all real estate capital woes. First and foremost, all crowdfunding is limited by SEC regulations, which means that a crowdfunding offering cannot raise more than the current SEC limit of $1,070,000.00 within a 12-month period. Any additional funding needs will have to be obtained through other fundraising or financing efforts. Furthermore, crowdfunding offerors must also comply with various SEC and tax reporting requirements.

Types of Crowdfunding

There are many different types of crowdfunding offerings. In exchange for their investment, investors are able obtain equity in a real estate entity that acquires a property, provide loans or debt financing to an acquiring company or even become a limited partner in a small investment collaboration. Real estate companies have used crowdfunding in a myriad of ways from individual residential property acquisition to purchases of commercial property portfolios. Despite the various uses of the capital raised by crowdfunding, regulations on these offerings have led to similarities in the appearances and investor interfaces of most real estate crowdfunding portals. As such, most crowdfunding investors need only visit a crowdfunding portal to browse real estate investment opportunities available to fund. Companies such as Fundrise, Rich Uncle, RealtyMogul and Lending Home, among others, all offer access to real estate crowdfunding opportunities. The following articles provide more information on the most well-known real estate crowdfunding sites:



Not Crowdfunding, but…

In addition to crowdfunding, full-service real estate investor websites have also begun to gain popularity. These websites provide listings of properties available for real estate investment along with access to a myriad of support services to facilitate the purchase of the listed properties, such as financing, property management, etc. Companies like Roofstock, Own America and HomeUnion offer such investor listing services. Please feel free to check out the article below on real estate investor listing websites:


The key difference between investor listing websites and crowdfunding websites is that listing websites offer properties for purchase, whereas crowdfunding websites offer opportunities to invest in a real estate entity without directly owning a property.
At this point, it may be prudent to mention that passive investment in the real estate market is still possible through more traditional methods, such as real estate investment trusts (REIT’s), government sponsored entity debt (Ginnie, Fannie and Freddie debt) and mortgage-backed securities (MBS). Crowdfunding, however, is distinguished from these methods in its ability to provide direct exposure to real estate acquisitions and direct access to the acquiring entities.

Well, that is my take on real estate crowdfunding, please feel free to provide your prospective on the matter below.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

My How Local Lending Has Changed!

Today's banks are unabashedly international businesses which thrive on providing services and taking advantage of opportunities throughout the world. Long gone are the days of the local Savings and Loan as the provider of the community's mortgage needs. Instead, behemoths of consolidations dominate today's lending scene, thriving off of large economies of scale that make any potentially smaller competitors shutter. This change in the role of banking in the community, although the largely the product of intentional moves by the banking industry and Congress, is not without its effects on the real estate industry, particularly the residential market.

In order to explain the effect of big banks on the residential real estate market, one must understand the role of local banks prior to the expansion and consolidation of banks that led to the current situation. Until the 1980's, US mortgage lending was dominated by small local banks and Savings and Loan Associations (S&L's), local banking entities that engaged in lending and offering savings deposit accounts. Initially, S&L's were heavily regulated and restricted from offering consumer loans and investing deposits in most of the investment vehicles available in the market. The Savings and Loan model relied on a favorable treatment by the Federal Reserve to allow for an increased spread between the rate charged on mortgage lending and the rate offered on deposit accounts. S&L's also frequently managed underwriting risk with local market knowledge.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Monte Carlo Mortgages


In his book Mortgage Wars, former CFO of Fannie Mae, Timothy Howard explains how Fannie's realization that mortgages behave like bonds with embedded call options revolutionized its ability to value its portfolio and manage risk. Prior to this change in thinking, Fannie Mae's methods for reserving capital were consistently shown to be inadequate. Today, the valuation of mortgages and mortgage-related securities as bonds with embedded calls is nothing new.

A call option is a type of derivative, which conveys the right (but not the obligation) to purchase another financial instrument (the underlying asset) for a specified price (the strike price) at a specified time (the expiration date). Purchasing a call option offers the right to purchase the underlying asset and selling a call options impose the obligation of delivering the underlying asset at the strike price on the execution date.

Mortgages are freely refinanceable at any point. In this way, they function as bonds in which the payments from the homeowner serve as the coupon payment and the ability to refinance serves as a call option sold to the homeowner by the mortgage holder. Typically the refinance rates increase as interest rates decrease. Although mortgage prepayment penalties are included in mortgages to discourage refinancing, a large enough drop in interest rates can make refinancing worthwhile to a property owner in spite of the prepayment penalty. For mortgage and MBS investors, prepayments are undesirable. Given that most mortgage investors look to invest anywhere between 5 and 30 years, an early decline in interest rates can leave many investors with cash from prepayments that must be invested in a market offering lower interests rates. This undesirable situation is the double-edged sword of prepayment risk for mortgages.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Second Mortgages: Why They Are Less Prevalent In Commercial Real Estate Than In Residential Real Estate

Early in my whole loan trading career, an investor once offered to fund a partnership that would purchase second position liens, also known as second mortgages, secured by commercial real estate. The investor promised to pledge a substantial amount of capital, if I was able to assemble a portfolio of target assets. Understanding the risk/reward profile of such an investment and desiring to deliver for what seemed to be a potential source of new business, I quickly began to work on finding commercial seconds to underwrite and select. After a few days on the phone with a number of commercial lenders, real estate debt funds and large financial institutions, I began to realize that commercial real estate second mortgages were not easy to find. Finally, after a few weeks of searching, I informed the investor that I was unable to find any asset worth purchasing that met his mandate.

Nearly ten years later, I now understand why the second mortgage, an established method of financing in the world of residential finance, is so infrequently used in commercial real estate. To state it plainly, the property-income focus of commercial real estate, makes commercial seconds more of a liability than an asset. It is this income focus that leads most commercial lenders to emphasize property performance over the qualifications of the borrower. As a result, most commercial financing is offered with no recourse to the buyer upon default, giving the lender as much control over a distressed asset as possible and incentivizing the owner of a distressed property to “walk away” when there are no more options. In order to maintain as much control over the property as possible, most commercial real estate lenders will insist that they be on the only creditor of the property and that the property be structured in such a way that it is remote from the bankruptcy of the borrower. These goals are typically accomplished by establishing a holding entity for the property to be financed, placing the borrower in the equity position of the entity and making the lender a creditor of the entity, secured by its largest asset.