Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced new lending caps last month. Starting October 1, the agencies have new caps of $100 million for each agency. At the GlobeSt Apartments conference this week in Los Angeles, speakers on the Financing Strategies: Developing an Approach that Meets your Goals panel said the announcement has revived certainty in the market. The panel conversation included Jeff Burns, managing director at Walker & Dunlop; Jerry Fink, managing partner at The Bascom Group; Greg Reed, SVP of originations at Capital One Multifamily Finance; Ron Rossi, VP of investor management services; Jim Wiegandt, EVP and head of real estate banking at Banc of California.
“It is fantastic for everyone in this room to have the certainty in place for the next five quarters,” said Burns on the panel. The agencies have a new regulator, and there was nervousness in the market about how the regulator would approach the business. In fact, there was such uncertainty, lending activity came to a screeching halt in the agency business. “Now, they have set out clear guidelines,” added Burns.
The new guidelines include getting rid of the separate green program so that all lending is under the lending caps. They also put a mandate that 37.5% has to qualify as affordable housing, which is roughly in line with the current rate. The new announcement has been well received by the market. “There is certainty now, and we have seen in the last few weeks that they have turned the spigot back on,” said Burns.
According to Reed, the new announcement will fuel lending activity through the end of the year and will ensure there is good liquidity in the market. “The approach simplifies the way that they are giving capital, and makes them a little more like a life company in the way that they are deploying capital,” he said.
Fink, on the other hand, wasn’t overly concerned about the agency lending caps because there are so many debt sources today. “People have a fear that if the agencies go away, the market will go away,” he said. “But, there are a lot of other lending sources out there with different products.”
Reed also said that while lending activity plummeted for the agencies, loan volumes didn’t dip. Most borrowers found alternative sources of capital. “In a better normal functioning market, like we have now, you didn’t see dislocation,” he said. “We still saw our top customers finding alternatives.” However, in tertiary markets, buyers were forced to take higher spreads. “The deal still made sense, but that is where you saw spreads increase,” he said.
Burns also saw borrowers going to alternative lending sources during the period of uncertainty. “We lost a deal to CMBS, which hasn’t happened since 2009,” he said. “A few years ago, this would have been a big deal. Now, you saw a lot of other lenders step in.”