When the coronavirus started to spread around the globe, Ari Rosenblum, co-founder and CEO of Vie Management, was fielding a lot of calls.
“At first, there was a surge in inquiries for investment opportunities into the US because there was a perception that the US was going to be able to do a lot better than Europe and the Middle East,” Rosenblum says.
But over the last few days, “capital is pencils down,” according to Rosenblum. Everything has come to a stop.
“To be clear, every single investor has hit the stop button,” Rosenblum says. “We have had multiple conversations with multiple large sources of capital, and the message is nothing is moving anywhere. There’s no liquidity in the system at this moment.”
To make his point, Rosenblum points out the sudden, surprising illiquid US Treasury market. “You’ve seen the capital markets become completely paralyzed, liquidity dry up, and a rush to the US dollar at the expense of any other asset,” Rosenblum says. “Even US Treasuries late last week couldn’t get a bid. No one would buy a US Treasury. If no one is buying a US Treasury, you know you’ve got a real problem.”
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been closing deals, but that may end, according to Rosenblum. “Last week they were still closing deals,” he says. “But they will not lock rates on new business, and they don’t seem to be taking applications on new deals.” Rosenblum says there are a couple of reasons for this. “If you can’t find a bid for a US Treasury bond, how are you going to sell a bond backed by a multifamily apartment complex, and if there aren’t courthouses open, how can they record a mortgage?”
While the business effects are dramatic, Rosenblum says people must remember the human toll.
“It’s important for our industry to be realistic about what is happening,” Rosenblum says. “This is a humanitarian crisis first. Our industry must make sure first that the human beings we house and serve every day are taken care of to the best of our ability. For right now, that should be our only focus. We must all help stop the spread of this virus. Go the extra mile and do what seems over the top because you’ll be remembered for it, and you’ll help save lives.”