As maturities are creeping up on multifamily borrowers around the country, they’re often faced with how to deal with the lenders. The best approach, according to industry experts, is to move first.
“It’s key for the borrowers to take the first step,” says Jeffrey Patton, a senior vice president with Charlotte-based Grandbridge Real Estate Capital.
But taking that step isn’t all they have to do. Borrowers need to make a compelling argument when they initiate discussions with lenders. “When you’re being proactive and making the first call, everything has to show your strength and value proposition,” says David Rifkind, principal and managing partner with Los Angeles-based George Smith Partners.
And you have to know what your lender's motives are. “The more intelligently you’re able to understand you’re bank, the higher the percentage of success,” Rifkind says.
Sometimes, your bargaining position depends on the size of the lender, according to Jim Sari, CEO of Winston-Salem, N.C.-based The Landmark Group. If the lenders are smaller, they’re more amenable to helping. “I have found it easier to negotiate with a lender who has a lot more to lose than if I go to an agency,” he says.
The reaction may vary depending on whether you’re dealing with a conventional lender or special servicer. Conventional wisdom indicates that special servicers can be rigid and difficult. Rifkind disagrees. “The special servicer has a fairly broad range of discretion,” he says. “We have been dealing with a broad range of special servicers. We have been able to move to solutions pretty quickly.”
But there isn’t a lot of consistency. “It’s an ever-evolving playbook,” Rifkind says. “Within the special servicer group, there’s not a lot of consistency.”
Again, it’s imperative for the buyer to know what’s going on with their loan, even though the documents can be long. “Having an understanding of the 1,000-page loan document you signed in imperative when coming up with an approach to special servicers,” Rifkind says.
And it doesn’t hurt to know the special servicers' motives either. “If it’s a special servicer loan, chances are it will go into REO before they sell at a discount,” Rifkind says.
The agencies are also working hard and staffing up to get out in front of maturities, according to Patton. But they do have different tactics. Freddie, for instance, is doing three to seven years interest-only deals, while Fannie limits their interest-only strategy.
“Fannie and Freddie are taking opposite stances,” Patton says. “The two agencies have taken different approaches as to how they're doing loss mitigation.”