How a Syndicator Secures Financing for an Apartment Deal
Once a syndicator puts an apartment deal under contract, concurrent with the due diligence process is the process of securing financing. Generally, debt is a part of the apartment syndicator’s business plan because of the benefits that arise from leverage. Rather than purchasing the apartment community with all cash, they obtain a loan for upwards of 80% of the value while benefiting from 100% ownership.
However, not all debt and financing are the same. The type of debt and financing an apartment syndicator puts on the asset is highly dependent on the business plan. Also, different types of financing bring different levels of risks. Therefore, as a passive investor or an apartment syndicator, it is important to understand 1) the different types of debt and 2) the different types of financing. In doing so, you will be able to identify which combination of debt and financing is in your best interests based on the business plan.
Two Types of Debt: Recourse and Nonrecourse
Before diving into the two main types of loans, it is important to first distinguish the two types of debt – recourse and nonrecourse. According to the IRS, with recourse debt, the borrower is personally liable while all other debt is considered nonrecourse. In other words, recourse debt allows the lender to collect what is owed for the debt even after they’ve taken the collateral (which in this case is the apartment building). Lenders have the right to garnish wages or levy accounts in order to collect what is owed.
On the other hand, with nonrecourse debt, the lender cannot pursue anything other than the collateral. But, there are exceptions. In the cases of gross negligence or fraud, the lender is allowed to collect what is owed above and beyond the collateral.
Apartment syndicators almost universally prefer nonrecourse debt while lenders almost universally prefer recourse debt. But, while nonrecourse is advantageous to the borrower for the reasons stated above, it generally comes with a higher interest rate and are only given to individuals or businesses with a strong financial history and credit.
Two Types of Financing: Permanent and Bridge Loan
Generally, an apartment syndicator will secure one of two types of loans: a permanent agency loan or a bridge loan.
A permanent agency loan is secured from Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and are longer-term compared to bridge loans. Typically loan term lengths are 5, 7 or 10 years amortized over 20 to 30 years. For example, with a 5-year loan amortized over 25 years, the syndicator would make payments for 5 years at an amount based on a loan being paid off over 25 years. At the end of the loan term, the syndicator will either have to pay off the remaining principal, refinance into a new loan or sell the asset.
The permanent agency loan is an LTV (loan-to-value) loan at 75% to 80%, which means the lender will provide funding for 75% to 80% of the value of the apartment and the syndicator provides the remaining 20% to 25%.
Generally, permanent agency loans are nonrecourse. However, value-add or distressed investors likely won’t be able to have the renovation costs included in the loan. Additionally, depending on the physical condition and operations, the asset may not qualify for permanent financing.
Compared to bridge loans, the interest rate is lower, and you may be able to get a few years of interest-only payments. Also, since these loans are longer-term in nature, they are less risky. The permanent loan is a set it and forget it loan where you won’t have to worry about a balloon payment or refinancing before the end of your business plan.
The other most common type of loan is the bridge loan. A bridge loan is a short-term loan that is used until the borrower secures long-term financing or sells the property. This loan is ideal for repositioning an apartment, like with the value-add or distressed apartment strategy.
Typically bridge loans have a term of 6 months to 3 years with the option to purchase an extension of a year or two. They are almost exclusively interest-only. For example, with a 2-year bridge loan, the investor would make interest-only payments for two years, at which point the investor must pay off the loan, refinancing, purchase an extension or sell the property.
The bridge loan is an LTC (loan-to-cost) loan at 75% to 80%, which means the lender will provide funding for 75% to 80% of the total project cost (purchase price + renovation costs) and the syndicator provides the remaining 20% to 25%.
Generally, bridge loans are nonrecourse to the borrower and have a faster closing process. Also, since they are interest-only, the monthly debt service is lower. However, the disadvantages are that they are riskier than permanent loans because they are shorter term in nature. Before the end of the term, which will likely occur before the end of the business plan, the syndicator must refinance or sell. And if the market is such that permanent financing isn’t available or if the business plan didn’t go according to plan, the syndicator is in trouble.
When securing financing, the most important thing is that the length of the loan exceeds the projected hold period, which is law number two of the Three Immutable Laws of Real Estate Investing. In doing so, as long as the syndicator follows the other two laws (buy for cash flow and have adequate cash reserves), the business plan is maintainable during a down turn. This law will usually be covered with the permanent loan. However, if the syndicator secures a bridge loan that will come due in the middle of the business plan, they better have a plan in place well ahead of time, whether that’s an early refinance or purchasing an extension.
Overall, the type of debt and financing a syndicator secures is based on their business plan. Bridge loans can be great for value-add investors, as long as they buy right, plan ahead and have an experienced team in place. And permanent financing is great because it is less risky and is a set it and forget it type of loan.
But regardless of the business plan, the syndicator should always have a conversation with a lending professional before securing financing for a deal.
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