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ORLANDO-Atlanta-based Primary Capital Advisors, a laid-back mortgage banking industry player in Central Florida for several years, is out to get a bigger share of the pie over the next five years, according to Todd Cohen, vice president and manager of the firm’s Downtown Orlando office.

The mortgage banker feels he can reach his target by zeroing in on the multifamily market, the favorite product among most lenders today.

“Demand is catching up with supply” in metro Orlando’s multifamily market, Cohen tells GlobeSt.com. In 1999, for example, 15,000 apartment units came on line. This year, only 6,000 new units surfaced.

“That’s barely a year’s supply, assuming new apartment construction is going at the same time,” Cohen says.

Primary Capital will do $100 million in loan volume this year and at least that amount in 2002, says the Miami-born executive. Freddie Mac’s Early Rate-Lock program will be one of the vehicles helping Primary next year as it has this year.

“I have heard that many lenders nationwide are curtailing their lending in Central Florida, but I don’t see that all,” Cohen tells GlobeSt.com. “In fact, we recently got word from Freddie Mac that they have only made some minor adjustments to their underwriting practices that allows them to manage risk while remaining extremely competitive.”

He says Florida “and more specifically, Central Florida, continues to be a very active area for multifamily deals, with respect to sales and financing.” In fact, he says, Primary Capital has rate-locked about $75 million in permanent financing in the last 30 days alone and has a pipeline that approaches another $100 million.

“While rates were climbing over the past few weeks, Primary Capital, as a Freddie Mac Program Plus Seller/Servicer, had a distinct advantage because of the early rate-lock option, which quickly eliminated interest rate risk in the uncertain capital markets environment that exists today,” Cohen tells GlobeSt.com.

He says movement in the Treasuries of 10 to 20 basis points, “once uncommon, happen quite often nowadays.”

By the end of this month, Primary Capital will close on three area apartment permanent financing loans totaling $72.9 million. The Freddie Mac program will account for $48.6 million of that volume.

The class A garden-style developments are the 360-unit, 19-acre Alexan at Maitland Crossing, Maitland, FL; the 488-unit, 75-acre Alexan at Legacy Dunes in Kissimmee; and the 444-unit, 55-acre Legacy at Fort Clark, four miles from the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL.

The loan rates for all three properties were confirmed in early November. Maitland Crossing will be closing at 5.65% for a six-year term. Alexan at Legacy Dunes will close at 5.78% for a seven-year term. Existing rates for solid apartment projects are in the low 6% to 6.5% range for 10 years, Cohen says.

In arranging the three loans for the developer, Trammell Crow Residential, the banker says Freddie Mac’s early rate-lock option cemented the deals for Primary Capital and their clients.

Conventional conduit lenders have to operate with a floor, an industry vehicle that allows the lender to benefit when rates are fluctuating. Freddie Mac operates without a floor on what it calls a risk-based pricing concept–evaluating the property, the borrower and the amount of the loan.

“What that means simply is that if rates go down on a Freddie Mac loan from the time the loan is signed to the time it rate-locks, the borrower will get the lower rate,” says Cohen. “If the rates go up and above the borrrower’s locked-in rate, the borrower isn’t forced to pay the higher rate.”

Cohen likes the Freddie Mac program because “it’s an attractive alternative to standard delivery” of loans. “While other lenders have instituted interest rate floors and fixed pricing, Freddie Mac has none,” the banker tells GlobeSt.com. “They price each deal according to their perception of risk. That allows us to match up good deals with good projects and borrowers.”

But Freddie Mac isn’t the only lender offering rate-lock plans. “We do a lot of business with the conduits as well, always trying to match the borrower’s needs with the plans that are being offered,” Cohen says.

BCD Holdings, a Dutch family-owned company that focuses on the travel and financial services industries, is Primary Capital’s parent. Besides multifamily and retail, Primary Capital will also do deals with office, light industrial and warehouse properties.

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