Investor Report: Financing Opportunities by Kenneth R. Harney
You've probably heard that the Obama administration's budget sent to Congress last week emphasizes helping small businesses around the country, but you may not know that it also includes lots more potential financing opportunities for purchasers, owners and rehabbers of commercial real estate.
For starters, the White House wants $30 billion in so-called "TARP" bailout money that's been paid back by big banks to be redistributed to smaller banks to allow them to make more loans for small business purposes, including acquisitions and renovations of commercial and other investment real estate ranging from office buildings, retail strips, warehouses, restaurants -- you name it.
The budget also proposes to more than double the maximum loan amount of the government's main financing tool for small-scale commercial property -- the "SBA 504" program.
Under the budget, new loans could go as high as $5 million, up from the current $2 million cap.
Since a lot of people aren't all that familiar with the 504 program, here are some examples of the types of projects eligible for 504 financing:
- Buying commercial-use land and buildings, plus ancillary costs such as street improvements, utilities, parking lots and landscaping.
- Construction of new buildings and renovations of existing buildings to business-purpose use.
- "Green" and energy efficiency rehabilitations to commercial real estate.
Under the 504 program, which is overseen by the Small Business Administration, borrowers can put down as little as 10 percent into a deal. Compare that with financing packages available to investors and owners in the regular marketplace - where downpayments of 40 to 50 percent are standard.
Interest rates in the 504 program are attractive as well. Most financing packages involve a combination of a first mortgage and a second - with blended interest rates somewhere in the low six percent range currently.
President Obama also signed legislation recently cutting out some lending fees - roughly in the two percent range -- to lower 504 borrowers' upfront costs.
Chris Hurn, CEO of Mercantile Capital Corp., an Orland-based national lender who specializes in small business real estate financing, calls 504 "without question the very best commercial loan out there."
But not enough potential users of the program seem to know about it, Hurn told Realty Times in an interview following the release of the budget.
Are there special requirements to qualify a 504 package? Absolutely: The real estate must be intended to house the borrower's business activities, in part or as a whole. That business activity, in turn, should retain existing employment or create new jobs - generally one job for every $65,000 of loan money.
Check it out.
Published: February 5, 2010