The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), a $2 trillion economic stimulus designed to help bolster the United States economy, is set to impact every industry nationwide, including real estate. But with only rumors of another stimulus on the way, the CRE industry could use more help right now.
Jeff Holzmann, CEO of real estate asset management firm IRM, says there are other programs out there that the CRE firms can access in these trying times.
IRM is working with the Small Business Administration on an Economic Injury Disaster loan and a Paycheck Protection Program loan. “You have to file the right forms and collect the right information,” Holzmann says. “This is not something that’s automatically going to kick into your bank account.”
IRM has also spent resources working with its insurers and lenders, as it attempts to seek relief.
Early on, IRM was communicating with insurers about business interruption protection to see what is covered. “We had insurance on many of our properties,” Holzmann says.
“We’re working with the insurance carriers, and we’re going to end up working with the court system eventually because this will come to suit as a natural disaster.” While the forbearance is available from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, private lenders are under no obligation to offer relief.
“The federal government cannot tell private lenders that they have to forebear,” Holzmann says. “It doesn’t work this way. You can’t tell a private lender what to do.”
But that doesn’t mean IMT can’t approach lenders and seek forbearance agreements.
“What we end up doing is we negotiate on the basis of the CARES Act,” Holzmann says. “We essentially approach all of our lenders, and we say, ‘Hey, you’ve seen the national guidelines [from CARES]. You’ve seen what the government is doing. We are looking for the same kind of relief.’”
Holzmann admits that the size of his firm, which operates 250 assets across the country helps it identify programs and opportunities for negotiation.
He recommends checking in with professionals, such as attorneys, on a daily basis, to keep abreast of regulatory changes. “We spend a couple of hours every day analyzing the SBA and PPL,” he says. “But not everybody has the resources to do that.” If firms can’t check in daily, Holzmann says they will fall behind.
“When the time comes to start with these business interruption insurance claims, SBA loans and other things, you are going to be so far down the line that they may get to you in June,” Holzmann says. “You need to be on top of it.”
One thing that’s common across the spectrum is the impact of COVID-19 on all parts of CRE.
“It’s almost unheard of to have something that impacts all of our properties in all different states in all different sectors,” Holzmann says. “It takes something this big, and this rare, to literally shake everything to the core. Usually, there’s some kind of hedging. If one market is down, another is up. This is across the board. It’s absolutely dreadful.”