Toronto’s Tale of Two Markets Is Hot Condos and Cold Houses

  • New regulations, rising interest rates will mute spring sales
  • Immigration, high-tech jobs to keep floor under market

It’s a tale of two housing markets in the Toronto area as Canada’s biggest city gears up for the crucial spring selling season: sales of big detached homes are slow, while condo deals are booming.

On one side are people like Karen Berends, who put her C$1.5 million ($1.2 million) house back on the market in nearby Oakville this month after two failed attempts to sell in the past year. She reduced her asking price by about C$51,000, but still there are no takers, and she’s kicking herself for not cashing out last spring when the market was in a frenzy.

“We could’ve walked away with a really good amount of money in our bank account if we had taken the money last year, but our head wasn’t in it at that point,” Berends said in a phone interview. “It’s been a complete 360 this time around — it’s absolutely dead.”

Then there’s Beth O’Donoghue, a sales representative at Brad J. Lamb Realty Inc., who says the market is as hot as it’s ever been. Her clients recently lost out in three separate condo bidding wars in a week, including one with 11 offers. That’s convinced O’Donoghue, who’s invested in four new condos herself in the city in the past four years, to hold onto her assets for now.

One she bought in pre-construction for C$420,000 and figures she could sell for close to C$700,000. “If you would have told me three years ago when I bought this place that I would’ve made this much money on it already, I would have said you’re crazy,” she said.

Polar Opposites

After a decade as one of the world’s hottest housing markets, Toronto is moving in two directions. Transactions have certainly cooled since May as the government introduced new rules to tame runaway prices. But the impact has been largely on big, expensive detached homes, with sales plunging 41 percent in February from a year earlier, and prices dropping 12 percent since hitting a record last year. Condo prices, in contrast, soared about 20 percent since last February.

Toronto Market Heat Moves to Condos

The deviation is largely as a result of mortgage regulations that went into effect on Jan. 1 as well as rising interest rates. The rule requires that even people with a 20 percent down payment, who don’t require mortgage insurance, prove they can make payments at least 2 percentage points above the rates under which they go into contract.

That’s pushing buyers out of the detached segment and right into the condo market.

“I’ve been looking at the condo market for years and I’ve been waiting for it to correct and it’s just not happening,” Patrick Rocca, a real estate agent at Bosley Real Estate Ltd., said by phone. “Honestly, this scares me. When you have condos selling at C$1,000 to C$1,200 per square foot for resale, that’s mind-boggling.”

Slower Spring

Real estate agents and economists expect some stabilization in the detached market as the spring selling season swings into full gear, but the price spikes of last year are probably history. The condo market is likely to keep chugging, bolstered by millennials in high-paying technology and financial jobs, strong immigration and pinched supply, according to Bank of Montreal economists.

“Spring will probably take a little more time to get going than years past, but there’s so much demand in the marketplace as Toronto continues to attract people around the country and the globe,” said Christopher Alexander, regional director at real estate firm Re/Max Integra.

Meanwhile, things are getting tough for tenants too. The combination of stress tests, urbanization and high home prices is creating the perfect formula for skyrocketing rents, said Simeon Papailias, co-founder of the Real Estate Center, a Toronto-based real estate management company. Many homebuyers who no longer qualify for a mortgage are turning to renting instead, which in turn attracts investors who want to become landlords.

“This market is creating new monsters — it’s taking a life of its own and it’s creating a new marketplace,” Papailias said by phone.

Chinese Buyers

Berends, the Oakville homeowner, has placed ads in several Chinese media outlets in hopes of attracting foreign shoppers. “Apparently there are still buyers in mainland China, but they’re not really jumping,” she said.

She’s hoping to retire to a home she’s building north of the city in a few years, but she’s waiting for the right price for her existing house.

“I’m thinking we might have to take it off and wait till next year,” she said. “It’s just so difficult to know.”

By: Nathalie Wong

— With assistance by Erik Hertzberg

29 March 2018

Commercial Real Estate Loan (CRE)

Commercial Real Estate Loan (CRE) is income-producing real estate that is used solely for business purposes, such as retail centers, office complexes, hotels, and apartments. Financing – including the acquisition, development, and construction of these properties – is typically accomplished through commercial real estate loans: mortgage loans secured by liens on commercial, rather than residential, property.

Just as with residential loans, banks and independent lenders are actively involved in making loans on the commercial real estate. Also, insurance companies, pension funds, private investors and other capital sources, make loans for the commercial real estate.

Let’s take a look at commercial real estate loans: how they differ from residential loans, their characteristics and what lenders look for.

Individuals vs. Entities

While residential mortgages are typically made to individual borrowers, commercial real estate loans are often made to business entities (e.g., corporations, developers, partnerships, funds, and trusts). These entities are often formed for the specific purpose of owning commercial real estate.

An entity may not have a financial track record or any credit history, in which case the lender may require the principals or owners of the entity to guarantee the loan. This provides the lender with an individual (or group of individuals) with a credit history and/or financial track record – and from whom they can recover in the event of loan default. If this type of guaranty is not required by the lender, and the property is the only means of recovery in the event of loan default, the loan is called a non-recourse loan, meaning that the lender has no recourse against anyone or anything other than the property.

Loan Repayment Schedules

A residential mortgage is a type of amortized loan in which the debt is repaid in regular installments over a period of time. The most popular residential mortgage product is the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.

Residential buyers have other options, as well, including 25-year and 15-year mortgages. Longer amortization periods typically involve smaller monthly payments and higher total interest costs over the life of the loan, while shorter amortization periods generally entail larger monthly payments and lower total interest costs. Residential loans are amortized over the life of the loan so that the loan is fully repaid at the end of the loan term. A borrower with a $200,000 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 5%, for example, would make 360 monthly payments of $1,073.64, after which the loan would be fully repaid.

Unlike residential loans, the terms of commercial loans typically range from five years (or less) to 20 years, and the amortization period is often longer than the term of the loan. A lender, for example, might make a commercial loan for a term of seven years with an amortization period of 30 years. In this situation, the investor would make payments for seven years of an amount based on the loan being paid off over 30 years, followed by one final “balloon” payment of the entire remaining balance on the loan. For example, an investor with a $1 million commercial loan at 7% would make monthly payments of $6,653.02 for seven years, followed by a final balloon payment of $918,127.64 that would pay off the loan in full.

The length of the loan term and the amortization period will affect the rate the lender charges. Depending on the investor’s credit strength, these terms may be negotiable. In general, the longer the loan repayment schedule, the higher the interest rate.

Loan-to-Value Ratios

Another way that commercial and residential loans differ is in the loan-to-value ratio (LTV): a figure that measures the value of a loan against the value of the property. A lender calculates LTV by dividing the amount of the loan by the lesser of the property’s appraised value or purchase price. For example, the LTV for a $90,000 loan on a $100,000 property would be 90% ($90,000 ÷ $100,000 = 0.9, or 90%).

For both commercial and residential loans, borrowers with lower LTVs will qualify for more favorable financing rates than those with higher LTVs. The reason: They have more equity (or stake) in the property, which equals less risk in the eyes of the lender.

Commercial loan LTVs, in contrast, generally fall into the 65% to 80% range. While some loans may be made at higher LTVs, they are less common. The specific LTV often depends on the loan category. For example, a maximum LTV of 65% may be allowed for raw land, while an LTV of up to 80% might be acceptable for a multifamily construction. There are also private mortgages available for commercial lending.

Debt-Service Coverage Ratio

Commercial lenders also look at the debt-service coverage ratio (DSCR), which compares a property’s annual net operating income (NOI) to its annual mortgage debt service (including principal and interest), measuring the property’s ability to service its debt. It is calculated by dividing the NOI by the annual debt service. For example, a property with $140,000 in NOI and $100,000 in annual mortgage debt service would have a DSCR of 1.40 ($140,000 ÷ $100,000 = 1.4). The ratio helps lenders determine the maximum loan size based on the cash flow generated by the property.

A DSCR of less than 1 indicates a negative cash flow. For example, a DSCR of .92 means that there is only enough NOI to cover 92% of annual debt service. In general, commercial lenders look for DSCRs of at least 1.25 to ensure adequate cash flow. A lower DSCR may be acceptable for loans with shorter amortization periods and/or properties with stable cash flows. Higher ratios may be required for properties with volatile cash flows – for example, hotels, which lack the long-term (and therefore, more predictable) tenant leases commonly to other types of the commercial real estate.

Interest Rates and Fees

Interest rates on commercial loans are generally higher than on residential loans. Also, commercial real estate loans usually involve fees that add to the overall cost of the loan, including appraisal, environmental report, legal, loan application, loan origination and/or survey fees. Some costs must be paid up front before the loan is approved (or rejected), while others apply annually. For example, a loan may have a one-time loan origination fee of 1%, due at the time of closing, and an annual fee of one-quarter of one percent (0.25%) until the loan is fully paid. A $1 million loan, for example, might require a 1% loan origination fee equal to $10,000 to be paid up front, with a 0.25% fee of $2,500 paid annually (in addition to interest).

Prepayment

A commercial real estate loan may have restrictions on prepayment, designed to preserve the lender’s anticipated yield on a loan. If the investors settle a debt before the loan’s maturity date, they will likely have to pay prepayment penalties. There are four primary types of “exit” penalties for paying off a loan early:

  • Prepayment Penalty. This is the most basic prepayment penalty, calculated by multiplying the current outstanding balance by a specified prepayment penalty.
  • Interest Guarantee. The lender is entitled to a specified amount of interest, even if the loan is paid off early. For example, a loan may have a 10% interest rate guaranteed for 60 months, with a 5% exit fee after that.
  • Lockout. The borrower cannot pay off the loan before a specified period, such as a 5-year lockout.
  • Defeasance. A substitution of collateral. Instead of paying cash to the lender, the borrower exchanges new collateral (usually Treasury securities) for the original loan collateral. High penalties can be attached to this method of paying off a loan.

Prepayment terms are identified in the loan documents and can be negotiated along with other loan terms in commercial real estate loans. Options should be understood ahead of time and evaluated before paying off a loan early.

The Bottom Line

With commercial real estate, it is usually an investor (often a business entity) that purchases the property, leases out space and collects rent from the businesses that operate within the property: The investment is intended to be an income-producing property.

When evaluating commercial real estate loans, lenders consider the loan’s collateral; the creditworthiness of the entity (or principals/owners), including three to five years of financial statements and income tax returns; and financial ratios, such as the loan-to-value ratio and the debt-service coverage ratio.

By: Daniela Peeva |  June 26, 2017

Global Economy Outlook

Just when you thought it was safe to get back into the pool….

Wednesday’s post-Fed minutes equity rally reversed sharply on Thursday as investors focused again on the outlook for the global economy.  ECB (European Central Bank) chief Mario Draghi added fuel to this week’s fire with a warning about the troubled euro zone.  Toss in Ebola, ISIS, and Hong Kong protests and there is a lot for markets to think about.  Hopefully, with the long weekend in Canada and the US (Columbus Day), markets will have plenty of time figure it all out before Tuesday.

The good news for mortgage borrowers is that bond rates are back down to recent lows thanks to the general dovish tone of the FED.   Unfortunately, credit spreads are under pressure given the recent blood bath in equities, but Canada Mortgage Bonds did outperform the rest of the credit spectrum, so we’ve got that going for us.

Fun Thanksgiving fact: Benjamin Franklin preferred the Turkey over the Bald Eagle (“a bird of bad moral character”) as the American national bird.