Tough times and exciting innovations
One of my clients, a commercial developer, tells me that even up to a year ago, when he began a project, he'd have five or six banks competing for his business. Now, however, he has to aggressively search out his own lenders and is lucky to find even one willing to make the loan.
Given this credit drought, I see innovative developers looking for new ways to get the funding necessary to complete their projects. In fact, I'm working with one client to come up with new methods of funding in these difficult times. What are some areas to consider?
1. Private financing. This has been around for a long time. There have always been private individuals or small companies willing to loan money. With large development transactions, I see a few practical issues with this. First, are you going to find any one person or private organization willing to loan you the amount of capital needed--not, say, $100,000 for a house, but perhaps two, three, four, or five million dollars? If not, are you going to have to procure multiple lenders? How will they each be equally secured? Even in boom times, private lenders typically charged a premium interest rate to cover what typically was a higher risk (i.e., if the venture was less risky, the thinking goes, it could've gone to a bank and paid bank rates). I recently saw a loan with a 50 percent interest rate! Most states have interest rate ceilings that mandate maximum interest rates chargeable on loans, but at least in North Carolina, that does not apply to non-consumer development loans.
2. Venture capitalism. I've written in other blog posts about venture capitalism, and v.c. has had a role, and will likely now have an even greater role, in real estate development. The main difficulty for developers is to price the increased cost of this money into its budget plan.
For example, perhaps a developer was creating a build-to-suit lease with an option to purchase for an 80,000 square foot commercial building, with a tenant lined up. The sales price, if the option is exercised, is $4,000,000. Previously, the developer would've created a pro forma (a projection of costs and income), and perhaps the developer worked out that the initial building costs would run at $3,000,000. The developer would also add into this the "carry costs"--i.e., what the loan payments would be. This figure would be pretty easy to figure out, based on standard loan rates or--even better--a promised loan rate from a particular lender.
But what about now? Just to make up numbers, the venture capitalist, approached to enter the deal, may have the money to loan, but may loan the money at a premium rate--i.e., instead of, say, six percent interest, the capitalist is charging 15 percent interest--which means that the carry costs will be higher. In addition, perhaps the venture capitalist wants 25 percent ownership. In such a tough time, these aren't necessarily costs that can be passed on to the tenant through increased rent or purchase price. In the previous example, the developer could count on $1,000,000 profit for taking on a $3,000,000 risk. Now, however, the profit will be less because of the increased carry cost (let's say, hypothetically, $100,000 more costs), and the net profit will then be shared with the v.c., leaving the developer, instead of $1,000,000, $675,000. This is still worth doing, hopefully, but the margins have decreased by one-third, in this example.
3. Stock offerings. Developers will also turn to stock offering in these days to raise capital. Instead of one venture capitalist providing funds, it will be numerous investors. One benefit of such an offering is that the developer's risk is reduced because the money is not a loan but is equity. On the down side, to raise the money necessary for a good sized development, the developer will have to part with a large share of the ownership. Going back to the previous example, if a developer only offered to sell 25 percent of its venture for the $3,000,000 it needs, those stock holders would be entitled, as a whole, to 25 percent of the final profit. Assuming again that the profit was $1,000,000, the stockholders' share would only be $250,000. Are stockholders collectively going to pony up $3,000,000, for a chance at $250,000 (or about eight percent) profit? Probably not. Instead, the developer will have to strike a balance by providing enough of his venture to make stock purchasers want to buy, but leave for himself enough to make it personally worthwhile.
Where will it end? Who knows. If you need advice about investment vehicles for your real estate development, and how to legally structure these vehicles, please contact me at 704-735-0483.
Labels: real estate investment vehicles