Category Archives for "Commercial Real Estate"

Immigrant Lending: An Odd Discussion With A Banker

Immigrant Statue of Liberty“Mike, I’d like to refer you a typical immigrant client who doesn’t have a social security number and runs a ‘cash business’ – and I think you know what I mean”.

“No, actually, I don’t know what you mean.  Does their business generate a lot of cash earnings that they do not report to the IRS?”

“Well, I didn’t say that – but okay”.

“Sorry, I can’t help you – I don’t risk my reputation by recommending that my capital sources conduct business with someone who illegally evades taxes.  Moreover, I think it’s offensive to imply that immigrants typically operate cash businesses to evade taxes”.

“Well then what exactly do mortgage brokers do?”

Before quickly ending my conversation with the banker (for obvious reasons), I indicated that I would be happy to work with self-employed people who legally minimize their taxes with legitimate expense deductions.  Also, I would be happy to source mortgages for those who have not yet become U.S. citizens, do not have U.S. permanent residency, or even have not yet qualified for a social security number.


As long as a “foreign national” or non-U.S. citizen can evidence an adequate two-year foreign or domestic credit history, there are capital sources who will gladly underwrite their mortgage.  In fact, it is a preferred business platform because statistics prove that these borrowers work hard to repay their debts – and tend to have solid liquidity and reserves.  One key issue is that all required documents written in a foreign language need professional translation.

Here’s the Point: Not having a social security number or green card doesn’t mean you can’t qualify for a mortgage – but you must be properly reporting your income.

Want a Mortgage? It’s Not Enough to Just Confess Your Sins!

Lenders will discover that you had a foreclosure – that you had student loan late fees – that you defaulted on your car loan – that you already sold the asset claimed on your loan application – that you were arrested several years ago – that you neglected to meet your child support obligations, etc.

creditreportIt either comes out on your credit report or through the lender’s use of fraudguard security checks – or even when they just Google your name. Lenders have these and several other extensive background checks and “Know Your Customer (KYC)” procedures that they carefully follow.

If you don’t immediately disclose your Deed-in-Lieu of Foreclosure, do you really think they will believe you are providing them with all details on everything else for which they ask?

You will generally always need to write a Letter of Explanation (“LOX”) to address collection accounts and disputes/inquiries on your credit report. And what if your explanation is solely factual and not remorseful?

As useless as sentimentality might appear in the finance world, lenders want to look into your consciousness – otherwise they have nothing to support the notion that you will do everything you can to prevent another late mortgage payment or foreclosure. The parties recommending your loan need your cooperation in order to support you – because they only have their reputations if something goes wrong with your loan. If they have to work hard for someone who has been concealing the facts (intentionally or unintentionally), they are likely to move on to the next file.


Here’s the Point: Be upfront with your untoward credit history. If the lender finds out about an unfavorable fact on their own – without you telling them, they’re not likely to (and shouldn’t) extend you a loan.


A Key Question For Your Real Estate Agent

Does the Seller truly have the authority to sell the property to me?

No ProblemSounds pretty basic, but your real estate agent may not have asked the question. If they have, they probably took the word of the listing agent that there “shouldn’t be a problem”.

One of the biggest red flags is having a Seller who is a trustee. Not only should you quickly confirm that the declaration of trust, or trust agreement, exists and is fully executed (by all appropriate parties), but that the agreement hasn’t expired or been revoked. Without such confirmation, a whole host of issues could arise that might cast a shadow on whether you or your lender will receive clean title. And, by the way, the Seller’s name on the title report needs to match the owner of record on both the chain of title and appraisal.

Worst Case? Your lender will decline the loan based on an unacceptable title report, and you will have wasted untold amounts of time and money on a property that was just never going to close.

Best Case? Your closing will be delayed until the title company, escrow agent, attorneys, and lender can sort things out.

Finally, you might be surprised to find out later that your Seller would have been happy to provide you with certain documents you needed to satisfy yourself or your lender. All you needed to do was ask for a:

  • Survey
  • Owners policy of title insurance
  • Statement showing annual premiums for homeowners or flood insurance
  • Recent roof or wind mitigation report
Here’s the Point: Pay close attention to every insert made by the Seller in your Contract for Sale & Purchase, and don’t be afraid to ask your real estate agent lots of questions – you could save yourself a lot of time.

The Art of Investing (Part 2)

Art Espinoza recently asked me to return to his radio show entitled “The Art of Investing”.  Art is a respected financial advisor and wealth manager with offices in Vero Beach, Florida and Brookfield, Wisconsin, and his show airs every Saturday at 9:30 am on WAXE 107.9FM and 1370AM, or on iHeart Radio.

Here’s the Point: Listen to the following audio clip in which we debate a variety of topics including real estate trends in Vero Beach and in Florida, current demand for mortgages, liquidity in the financial markets, and the direction of interest rates:

Recently Overheard at Dinner Parties…


“I got caught in the housing crisis, so I’m not going to buy now unless it is a steal”
[Reality: They can’t afford to buy anything, and most of the low hanging fruit is gone anyway]

“I’m downsizing because I don’t need the space”
[Reality: Their income is not close to what it was, and their association fees are killing them]

“I’m nervous because interest rates have been so volatile”
[Reality: They lost most of their equity in 2008-09 and are scared to death of borrowing – even though rates remain at historical lows]

“As soon as we sell our home, we will finance the purchase of a retirement home in Florida”
[Reality: They will use their net proceeds to pay cash for the Florida condo]

Lately, when attending seminars, dinner functions, charity fundraisers, and other networking events, I hear a lot of people in real estate finance say: “It’s crazy busy right now”.  But those are the people I don’t know that well.  They stumble a little when I ask about the number of real estate loans they have closed and funded.  Unless they are focused on helping people who require portfolio loans due to prior events that have detrimentally affected their credit (and there is a lot of this business right now), volumes on conventional financings are way down and banks are shedding staff as a result.

Here’s the Point: It is encouraging that people are much more cautious now when it comes to real estate investing – even if their pride has been hurt in the past. Continued low interest rates in a market that is presently more stable provides a great opportunity to strengthen your credit and build liquidity.

Don’t Put All Your Eggs in the Stock Market Basket

basket(Thanks for putting up with my Easter pun.)  As a real estate investor, it’s time for a “feel good” reminder:

Commercial Real Estate (CRE) represents an attractive asset class.

Here are a few of the obvious reasons for some reinforcement:

Inflation Protection (with contractual rent increases, CRE can offer the perfect inflationary hedge

Long-Term Capital Appreciation (according to the National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries or NCREIF, CRE returns have outperformed the S&P 500 since the late 1970’s – ignoring the correction of property values in 2008-09)

Low Return Volatility (CRE can lead to more predictable, recurring cash flows – especially well-located properties having a stable roll-over schedule of creditworthy tenants on longer-term leases)

Diversification (CRE returns generally have a low correlation to stock and bond returns)

And for those of you who just can’t stay out of the stock market… Although 2013 was an exceptional year for the S&P 500 (32.7% return), equity REIT’s in 2014 are likely to outperform last year’s abysmal 2.7% return.  The threat of interest rate increases weighed heavily on the REIT sector in 2013, but these returns should improve with the focus now leaning on company earnings – which should lead to additional demand for space in markets with limited supply.

Here’s the Point: Over the long term, commercial real estate has proven to be a great inflation hedge and has provided low return volatility, diversification, and long-term capital appreciation.

The Art of Investing

I recently had the pleasure of apArt of Investingpearing on a radio show entitled “The Art of Investing”, hosted by Art Espinoza. Having known Art for quite some time in the Vero Beach community along the Treasure Coast of Florida, he asked me to discuss what’s happening in the real estate market, who the primary borrowers of real estate capital are, where I see interest rates going, and a variety of other related topics.

Art has been a respected financial advisor and wealth manager for 28 years, and has offices in Vero Beach, Florida and Brookfield, Wisconsin. His show, “The Art of Investing”, is broadcast every Saturday morning at 9:30 am on WAXE 107.9FM and 1370AM, or on iHeart Radio:

Art kindly asked me to make regular appearances on his program, and I look forward to sharing real estate industry dialogue and exchanging topical ideas with listeners in the future.

Here’s the Point: Click HERE to listen to our discussion of what’s currently happening in the Florida economy with respect to commercial and residential real estate activity and interest rates.

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