MICHEL DURAND / PRESIDENT AND PRINCIPAL BROKER / MORTGAGE ALLIANCE COMMERCIAL
What do brokers need to do to succeed in the commercial market?
Michel Durand: There are no secrets here, and it’s no different than what it takes to succeed in any market or industry. First, surround yourself with the best professionals to help you accomplish your objective – I would recommend using the most reputable commercial mortgage brokers to facilitate financing your transactions for your client or if you’re helping with purchasing a property, seek out and find the most reputable and active commercial Realtor in that particular market. I would also add that to be successful, you need to stick to what you know how to do well. As a broker, you will get better returns by investing your time in transactions that you understand thoroughly and for which you have a proven track record of success. Find your niche and stick with it. Master what you do, and you will be more successful at it. I see too many people trying to do anything and everything that comes across their plate, hoping to make it work. Hope is not a good business model. Working on transactions that you do not master leads to the borrower and lender getting frustrated and, more often than not, the transaction falling apart.
What are some of the major trends affecting the commercial market today?
MD: The pandemic has had a significant effect on securing commercial mortgages. The lenders reacted, as they usually do to abrupt changes in the economy, by immediately taking a wait-and-see position with respect to any new loan requests they received at the beginning of this situation. Many commercial loan programs were stopped, as this was the first time in history that the lenders had to deal with so many requests for mortgage deferrals. Many lenders had no choice but to take a significant amount of personnel out of their usual underwriting and loan processing positions and have them spend all their time addressing mortgage deferrals. Most lenders have come back to something we can describe as close to normal operations. That being said, because much of the staff is working from home, there are additional delays in processing commercial loans for all the lenders right now. The lenders are not the only ones with additional delays that affect our industry; CMHC has now advised the market that it will be between eight to 12 weeks, once the file is submitted, before they can start working on that transaction. With uncertainty continuing in the market, lenders are being appropriately more conservative in their underwriting, which is affecting loan-to-values being offered to borrowers. The lenders are being rightfully less aggressive on loan-to-values in the current market. That said, the current situation is significantly better than the uncertainty that reigned in the market three months ago.
What’s the best way for a broker to transition from residential to commercial mortgages?
MD: I cannot understate how difficult it is to transition from residential to commercial mortgages as a broker. There are absolutely no synergies that can be shared or that can be used in commercial mortgage brokering that come from residential mortgage brokering. I believe the biggest mistake most residential mortgage brokers make is trying to apply the concepts that have served them well on the residential side to getting a commercial transaction done. To become a successful commercial mortgage broker, you essentially have to throw out everything you’ve learned and every reflex you’ve developed on the residential side. Everything is different: the client approach, how to target your market, how to underwrite the loan, how to submit to a lender, how you get paid for your transaction, how you need to negotiate with the lender, as well as all of the professionals involved in getting the transaction closed. I have rarely seen a residential agent successfully transition to commercial mortgage brokering. That being said, the best way to transition from residential to commercial is to find yourself a mentor who has dedicated his career to commercial mortgage brokering and shadow that person for the next three to five years. Learn how to underwrite a commercial mortgage transaction. Unless you can defend your request to the lender and prove that your request meets all their policies, the lender will see your intervention as being a fly in the ointment. Last but not least, recognize that unless you are ready to dedicate 100% of your time to commercial mortgages, you will not achieve much success or respect from the lenders you need to work with to meet your clients’ needs.
What qualities does a top commercial broker need to have?
MD: Without a shadow of a doubt, if you do not master your craft, you will not be successful at what you do. You need to develop relationships with lenders so the lender sees you as a facilitator who will allow the transaction to be processed with fewer challenges, instead of seeing you as the broker who just keeps asking when the term sheet will be ready. If you are unable to have the lender recognize that you are an expert and an ally, and that you will help expedite the process, you will not get much collaboration from that lender. Additionally, you need to know the lenders’ underwriting policies as well as – if not better than – the underwriter or account manager you’re dealing with. It’s fair to say that most lenders on the commercial side do not like dealing with mortgage brokers. That’s because most brokers submitting a commercial transaction are not properly prepared to ensure the process is easier than if the broker were not involved. Most brokers underestimate the amount of time, work and effort required to successfully conclude a commercial mortgage transaction. The broker needs to be systemized, needs to be organized and needs to follow up on a regular basis on every aspect of the transaction with both the borrower and the lender. Lastly, the commercial broker needs to have enough experience and confidence that will allow him or her to properly address and mitigate any challenges the lender mayhave, as well as to properly correct any misconceptions the borrower may have on how quick or easy or at what rate his loan should be. In sum: Be less of a broker and more of a facilitator