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ORLANDO-For financially stable developments and projects with a realistic strong cash-stream potential, this may be the best time in a decade to obtain a long-term loan at favorable interest rates, brokers, lenders, developers, bankers and analysts tell GlobeSt.com. In many instances and in several markets, supply is chasing demand.

“We have a demand problem,” Robert Stone, senior vice president, Guaranty Bank, Chicago, told a National Association of Industrial and Office Properties conference last week in Chicago.

Neil Bluhm, principal, Walton Street Capital Opportunity Fund, Chicago, told the same conference, “There’s a lot of liquidity (in the marketplace), but it’s not moving.”

Leading the lending convoy are private equity, opportunity funds and investment banks, Bluhm says. Insurance companies, however, are focusing on making mortgages rather than buying assets.

“Notwithstanding the tragic events of Sept. 11, long-term interest rates are down to the low 7% range, making it an excellent time for investors to lock in their fixed-rate permanent financing for up to 15 or 10 years,” David J. Patten, president, Interlachen Commercial Mortgage, Orlando, FL, tells GlobeSt.com. “It’s a good bet that we’re in for another year of favorable permanent financing for qualified properties.”

In Portland, OR, Luther Barker, vice president, U.S. Bank, tells GlobeSt.com Northwest Bureau Chief Brian Miller construction loans and other short-term debt are all tied to the London Interbank Offered Rate, now in the 6% range. “Long-term fixed is closer to 7%-plus,” Barker says.

One of the lowest rates that GlobeSt.com Midwest Bureau Chief Mark Ruda reported last week is a 6.7%, 10-year, $14 million loan Arbor Commercial Mortgage of Uniondale, NY provided for a 530-unit apartment complex near Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI. The loan carries a 30-year amortization schedule.

In Texas, “equity requirements have changed significantly,” Ben Loughry, managing director in Ft. Worth for New York-based Integra Realty Resources Inc., tells GlobeSt.com Southwest Bureau Chief Connie Gore. Loan-to-value ratios of 80% are down to 70% to 75%. Loans are available for under 7%.

Unlike some of his colleagues, Loughry feels demand remains strong. “There’s more money out there and there are buyers looking for good deals,” he tells Gore.

In metro Chicago, even hotel loans, the least-favored sector among lenders, are beginning to move. For example, the 386-room Sheraton North Shore Hotel in suburban Northbrook, IL, owned by Memphis, TN-based Davidson Hotels, has won a $6.5 million mezzanine loan from RockBridge Capital Inc. of Columbus, OH.

GlobeSt.com’s Ruda reports Davidson also picked up a $22.9 million first mortgage loan from Chicago-based Heller Financial. Although the four-year loan carries a 12% base rate, Davidson’s equity in the $33 million buyout of joint venture partner Prudential Insurance Co. is $3.6 million.

Remaining a hotel lender despite the downturn in the travel and tourism industries is David L. Babson Co. of Springfield, MA. Ken Hargreaves, Babson’s managing director, told NAIOP attendees his firm is pleased and confident because “everybody made their Oct. 1 (mortgage) payment.”

Hotel lending is also catching the attention of Sonnenblick-Goldman Co. a New York-based mortgage brokerage. “There’s been a fundamental change in lender attitude,” Mark Gordon, the firm’s managing director, real estate investment banking, tells GlobeSt.com Northeast Bureau Chief Glen Thompson.

“For the first 30 days after Sept. 11, lenders were not doing much for upscale, full-service hotels,” Gordon says. “Over the past three weeks, however, we’ve seen a fairly significant change.” Lenders are “coming back to see how hotels can be financed creatively,” Gordon says.

For example, pricing has increased 50 to 75 basis points. “Over time, that will come down as more lenders get back in the market,” the Sonnenblick-Goldman executive tells GlobeSt.com. “Right now, however, there are few (hotel) lenders, so they’re able to price more aggressively.”

Among the lenders are national banks, some German banks and Wall Street financial houses. “Lenders are being more conservative in terms of loan-to-value,” Gordon says. “They’re also testing the market’s receptiveness to debt-service coverage reserves.”

Patten of Interlachen Commercial Mortgage tells GlobeSt.com that among the income-producing and owner-occupied properties most favored currently by life insurance companies and commercial mortgage-backed securities lenders are anchored shopping centers and other retail properties; office buildings; industrial structures; multifamily assets, parking garages, mini-storage warehouses and mobile home parks.

Depending on loan underwriting guidelines, most loan-to-value ratios are up to 75% and 80%. On credit tenant leased properties, the LTV is up to 90%, Patten tells GlobeSt.com.

Interest rates are pegged at a spread over the corresponding Treasury. For example, 10-year Treasuries are currently yielding 4.5% to 5%. If the spread were 2.45%, the fixed interest rate might be 6.85%, based on a Treasury yield of 4.5%. A spread of 2.45% would mean a fixed rate of 6.95%; a spread of 2.5% would bring the rate to 7%.

“Because of the rapid downward movement of the 10-year Treasury bond during the last several weeks, the life insurance companies and the conduit (CMBS) lenders have widened their spreads in many instances so as not to follow the yield curve down below an interest rate level that the purchasers in the CMBS market are unreceptive to,” Patten says.

However, “most life insurance company lenders are willing to lock in the interest rate at the time of the application, whereas the conduit lenders will not lock in the interest rate until after their commitment has been accepted or shortly before closing,” Patten tells GlobeSt.com.

Among the biggest lenders in metro Orlando are life insurance companies and Wall Street conduits. “Credit deals in good locations are still solid,” John M. Crossman, senior vice president/director, retail services, Trammell Crow Co., Orlando, tells GlobeSt.com. “Properties less than solid are really struggling and it takes more time in all aspects to get deals done.”

The retail industry specialist says the big plus in today’s lending environment is that “we are not seeing fire sales or foreclosures.” Crossman says, “People still see real estate as a good investment.”

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