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HACKENSACK, NJ–Last week, representatives from several of the region’s leading community banks recently spoke to an audience of more than 150 members of the Industrial and Office Real Estate Brokers Association of the New York Metropolitan Area about how their organizations can fill a void in the lending arena.

The speakers included Paul Heilmann, senior vice president of commercial real estate for Columbia Bank in Fair Lawn; Philip Romano, first vice president of commercial real estate development for Investors Savings Bank in Short Hills; and Ronald Shapiro, senior vice president and senior loan officer for Union Center National Bank in Union. Their common message–although Wall Street is in trouble, and funding sources have shrunk due to the current state of the economy–community banks still have money to lend.

While community banks are more selective today than in the past, these organizations are looking to build relationships with real estate developers and brokers. All agreed that terms generally involve a 75% loan-to-value ratio. On the other hand, community banks take into consideration the parameters of each individual deal combined with the potential business relationship with customers.

The speakers stressed that they are busy with direct deals and broker deals in all property types. However, in today’s economy, not all projects are desirable. Medical arts buildings emerged as a current bright spot in the commercial real estate industry, while lending for land, hospitals, golf courses, restaurants and hotels is much more difficult. As always, in real estate, property and location are still key.

When asked about an economic turnaround, the speakers pointed to distressed asset funds as an indicator, noting when they become active, it will be a positive sign that we are at a turning point.

Compared to the rest of the nation, Heilmann noted New Jersey has “the toughest breed of real estate developers and investors in the nation. They comprise the backbone of the NJ economy and will bounce back.”

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