Category Archives: Banking

2014 Top Mortgage Banking Firms

Cautious Optimism

By Mike Ratliff and Jack Kern – MultiHousingNews.com

Mortgage bankers continue to see good things coming for 2014. This optimism is bolstered in part by increased certainty in the lending environment. More than 60 percent of the firms that responded to the 2014 MHN-CPE Top Mortgage Banking Firms survey anticipate an increase in business for the new calendar year, while nearly a quarter expect to see a significant increase in business—somewhere in the 21 to 41 percent range.

While this year’s business is heavily weighted toward multifamily, we anticipate that lending will continue to diversify throughout 2014. We believe that the industrial and retail sectors will both see a marked increase in activity when we re-examine these firms next year.

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Transaction levels are expected to rise in 2014, though refinancing volume should remain in the “trough” until 2016 and 2017, when CMBS loan maturities realize a sharp uptick. That said, properties across all sectors are seeing fundamentals improve, with higher rents and lower occupancies, putting owners—both old and new—in a better position to refinance. In addition, December brought a bipartisan budget deal that signals Washington might be ready to play nice and avoid the hiccups that periodically downshifted the ongoing economic recovery. However, uncertainty over the future of the GSEs and concerns over a tapering of QE3 will keep the optimism for 2014 in check.

Methodology

This year’s group of participating companies provided a view of their transaction volumes and a breakout of what loans were processed, including healthcare, multifamily, office, retail, hotel, industrial, mixed-use and other types. Our rankings consider a combination of greatest coverage, transaction volume commitment across sectors, loan positioning, total intermediary lending volume and direct lending activity.

Economy Watch: Banks Loosen Lending Standards on Business Loans

By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor – MultiHousingNews.com 

The Federal Reserve reported on Monday in its October 2013 Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey on Bank Lending Practices that U.S. banks have eased their lending standards in some cases, while experiencing little change in the demand for some kinds of loans over the past three months. The point of the survey is to examine any changes in the standards and terms on, and the demand for, bank loans to both businesses and households.

The October survey found that banks eased their lending policies for commercial and industrial loans, even though there was little change in demand for such loans over the past three months. But since there are more lenders in the field than there used to be, the domestic banks that eased their commercial and industrial lending policies cited increased competition for such loans as an important reason for doing so.

The survey results also indicated that banks, on the whole, didn’t substantially change standards or terms on lending to households, which are still relatively tight compared to pre-recessionary standards. A few respondents, including a few large banks, reported easing standards on prime residential mortgage loans. The survey is based on the responses from 73 domestic banks and 22 U.S. branches and agencies of foreign banks.

Mortgage delinquencies edge up in September

LPS released its September Mortgage Monitor on Monday, reporting that 6.46 percent of U.S. mortgages were delinquent in September (over 30 days late, but not in foreclosure). The company also reported that 2.63 percent of mortgages were in the foreclosure process during the month, making a total of 9.03 percent in nonperforming mortgages for September.

The delinquency rate was up for the month from 6.2 percent in August, though most of the increase is attributable to seasonal factors. Year-over-year, the number of loans in foreclosure is down from 3.86 percent in September 2012. About 1.33 million loans are currently in the foreclosure process.

According to LPS, the states with the highest rates of non-current loans (delinquent and in foreclosure) in September were Florida, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York and Maine. The states with the lowest rates were Wyoming, Montana, Arkansas and both of the Dakotas.

Wall Street had a mild up day on Monday after wobbling around a lot, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 23.57 points, or 0.15 percent. The S&P 500 was up 0.36 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 0.37 percent.

Wind Speeds Change, But Little Difference for Design

By Jeffrey B. Stone, Ph.D., Florida Building Commissioner – MultiHousingNews.com

A comparison of the wind maps for Florida between the new 2010 Florida Building Code (which became effective in March 2012) and the previous edition of the code shows an increase of 20 to 30 miles per hour for wind speeds along much of Florida’s coast. What used to be a design wind speed of 130 or 140 mph is now 160 or 170 mph, raising eyebrows among designers. Location of speed contours have also changed.

However, if developers think this will mean drastic changes for the design of buildings, they are being misled. That’s because the design methodology associated with the higher wind speeds has also changed in the new version of ASCE 7 Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures (2010 edition). While designers must use the new higher winds speeds, they are factored in such a way that wind pressures—the design forces that exterior walls and roofs of building must be designed to resist—have not significantly changed for the majority of buildings.

“This could be causing some confusion among designers,” says Brad Douglas, PE, vice president of engineering for the American Wood Council, the major standards producer for the wood industry. “If designers are using the new wind speeds with their old design tables or software, they are making a costly mistake.”

The current wind speed maps are based on new uniform recurrence interval wind speed contours developed by wind researchers. But the ASCE 7 standard also carries new factors to use with the new maps, which results in wind pressure on buildings being about the same for most buildings. Near the shoreline, pressures may increase for some buildings; in other regions, design pressures have actually gone down.

This does not mean that construction requirements in hurricane prone areas have been relaxed. On the contrary, all buildings in Florida, even residential buildings, are now required to be designed by qualified designers in order to make sure building construction can resist hurricane-force winds. This has been a considerable transition for the residential construction industry, which used to rely on prescriptive framing techniques. Industry is meeting the demand for current design documents that are based on state-of-the-art structural engineering, but can be used by builders and code officials as well as designers. One example is the American Wood Council’s, Wood Frame Construction Manual 2012 (WFCM), which is based on ASCE 7– 2010.

One challenge that continues to hound builders is keeping the siding and roofing on their buildings when high winds strike. “The key to meeting these requirements is using products that have been tested for the specific application, and installing them correctly” says Douglas.”If you don’t protect the integrity of the structure with adequate attached siding and roofing, they could come off and expose the rest of the structure to much greater damage.” In addition, greater emphasis is being placed on the performance of windows and doors. Codes are evolving to ensure these components are designed to effectively mitigate damage. In addition, the Florida Building Commission provides a thorough product review and approval program that verifies building envelope products comply with the wind provisions of the Florida Building Code.

From Fannie + Freddie to FHA

By Keat Foong, Executive Editor – MultiHousingNews.com

Multifamily housing has been the fortunate beneficiary of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA financing programs. While the two Government Sponsored Agencies are now targeted for elimination, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) multifamily loan insurance programs, as it turns out, may not necessarily escape existential threats either. It appears the same questions about the role, size and risks of the government agencies can also be applied to the FHA.

In the latest development, the Protecting American Taxpayers and Homeowners (PATH) Act, which has been introduced in the House, proposes to impose affordability requirements on multifamily properties receiving FHA insurance. “FHA is clearly facing legislative challenges,” agrees Claudia Kedda, senior director, Multifamily and Affordable Housing Finance. “Efforts to reform the single-family program have put pressure on HUD to also take steps to mitigate risk on the multifamily side.”

Besides possible legislative pressure to overhaul the decades-old FHA financing insurance program, developers who use the FHA mortgage insurance programs, whether for construction or acquisition financing, are also meeting other challenges: FHA’s impending exhaustion of loan commitment limit of $25 billion, the reorganization and reduction of the number of HUD field offices, and FHA risk mitigation measures.

All these pressures on FHA are coming at a time of unprecedented demand for the FHA multifamily and healthcare insurance programs. As a sign that the economy is improving, commitment authority is being used at a significantly faster pace than last year, says Kedda. “FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac continue to provide the bulk of financing for multifamily rental housing at this time,” says Kedda.

On the legislative front, the PATH bill would require FHA multifamily loans to meet occupancy and rent requirements based on area median income, as well as separate FHA from HUD. The bill, sponsored by Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), aims to “slim down FHA in general,” comments Steve Wendel, executive managing director of Berkeley Point Capital LLC. “There is political pressure from Congress, and political debate on the proper size of FHA and the government’s role.”

Steps to mitigate risks on the multifamily side have already been undertaken, but there is pressure to narrow FHA’s mission, and impose capital reserve requirements on the insurance fund which is not currently required by statute, adds Kedda. “These are concerns for NAHB,” says Kedda because they can affect the availability and cost of financing for a broad range of housing.

Stillman Knight, president and CEO of The Knight Company, and deputy assistant secretary for Multifamily Housing Programs at the FHA office at HUD from 2003-05, would not brush off the seriousness of these legislative initiatives. “I am very concerned that the conversation on the Hill represents a significant threat to the traditional role of FHA,” says Knight.

Knight says that of the three concerns, supplemental funding, multifamily reorganization and FHA reform, “the greatest threat in my mind is the idea on capitol hill that housing no longer fulfills a public purpose and should be financed by the private sector without a government backstop. Our housing finance system is the envy of the world, and we will not make it better by abandoning the basic principles that made it so. Since 1934, FHA has been able to provide a cushion during recessions and for underserved areas of our great nation. It does so by serving a broad range of capital structures providing diversity and strength to its business model and its mission.”

Kedda adds that the vast majority of FHA-insured rental properties already serve households well below the 115 percent of area median income limit that is included in the draft discussion bill. Such income limit requirements may also mean requiring developers and property managers to income certify over the life of unsubsidized loans, which is “burdensome, costly and unnecessary,” she says.

For Wendel, besides the legislative threat, the greatest challenge facing FHA is the plan to consolidate the HUD multifamily field offices over the next three years. The biggest question is “how you can manage a major consolidation and retain staff at the same time. A lot of the staff may choose not to move,” says Wendel. A related question is the impending retirement of the experienced and skilled staff, with more than half the staff eligible for retirement in the next few years, said Wendel.

“Certainly, the [HUD field office reorganization] is going to be difficult on the staff and the customers who build relationships in the local offices—no question about that,” adds Knight.

Loan commitment is another issue that has emerged in recent months, as it has in prior years. In June, HUD announced that because it was approaching its $25 billion loan commitment authority for FY 2013, it would have to prioritize remaining applications. Priority will be applied in the following order: projects affected by Hurricane Sandy, affordable transactions, and market-rate transactions.

As NAHB points out, the commitment authority does not cost the federal government money, as the FHA mortgage insurance premium generates enough revenue to cover the cost. FHA has requested an additional $5 billion for the remainder of FY 2013. However, NAHB said, it is unlikely that Congress will grant HUD the additional commitment authority before the August recess, although in years past industry efforts to convince Congress to pass bills to provide enough commitment authority until the new fiscal year have been successful and the programs continued uninterrupted.

“In this very difficult economic environment, and with continuing issues related to the FHA single-family programs, there is great reluctance by Congress to allow a bill to solve this problem,” says Kedda.

On the plus side, HUD did request $30 billion in commitment authority for the FHA multifamily and healthcare programs for the next fiscal year, FY 2014, which starts in Oct. 1. So far, both the House and Senate appropriations committees have included the higher funding number of $30 billion in the HUD appropriations bill, says Kedda.

Nevertheless, as an indication of the high level of demand for the program, even this increased funding for FY 2014 may not be enough. “There are many commitments that are waiting in the queue right now for Oct. 1 authority to be available, and those will continue to stack up,” reports Tyler Griffin, vice president of originations at Beech Street Capital. “This means a large number of transactions will be committed in the first quarter of HUD’s FY 2014, causing some concern about the authority again running out before the second half of FY 2014.”

Griffin suggests that the resulting delays caused by the dwindling FHA authority can kill deals in an environment of rising interest rates. Other deals that were time-sensitive had to be refinanced via alternate sources, whether the GSEs, or CMBS. However, only about 20 percent of Beech Street’s transactions have been affected by lower proceeds or had to be refinanced. Many “HUD borrowers are generally prepared for timing issues and have started working on their transactions with a good cushion in place. A 45-day wait for new authority hasn’t put them in the red,” says Griffin.

While the amount of FHA commitment may still be a problem, others in the industry seem less concerned that legislative challenges will be serious. There is strong political support for the FHA program in general, including support from the HUD secretary and the Obama Administration, says Wendel. “Hensarling really wants to reduce the footprint of GSE and FHA. But personally, I don’t think there is support for that type of radical restructuring of housing,” says Wendel.

“The House proposal represents the right in its proposal to reform FHA and the housing finance system, but unfortunately, the senate proposal doesn’t vary enough from the House proposal to offer a reasonable compromise in a subsequent negotiation,” says Knight. Stay tuned.

How to Maintain Servicing Levels When Originations are Down

By Keat Foong – CommercialPropertyExecutive.com

In the wake of the CMBS industry downcycle during the Great Recession, servicers are determing how best to maintain their business volume. One strategy may be to acquire other servicing companies.

Master servicers have been experiencing dwindling assets these past few years, as the amount of CMBS loans paying off or being disposed of as distressed assets has not been equally replaced by new originations, explained Daniel Phelan, president & CEO of Pacific Southwest Realty Services, a certified mortgage and commercial mortgage servicer.

As the loans originated in 2003-2007 mature, “a large amount of loans will be rolling off in 2013 and 2017. To keep their servicing operations and people in place, the question becomes how these servicers can keep their profitability when little new product has been originated,” said Phelan.

As an example of mergers in the servicing business, in May, KeyBank Real Estate Capital agreed to purchase substantially all of the third-party CMBS and special servicing rights from Bank of America’s Global Mortgages & Securitized Products business. Keybank also agreed to buy Berkadia Commercial Mortgage L.L.C.’s special servicing business, and it entered into a long-term sub-servicing agreement with Berkadia under which Berkadia will sub-service all CMBS primary servicing acquired from Bank of America.

Following the acquisitions, KeyBank will have a commercial mortgage servicing portfolio of about $205 billion, ranking it among the three largest servicers of commercial and multi-family loans in the U.S.

Phelan commented that KeyBank’s acquisition of Bank of America’s servicing portfolio enables it to boost its servicing business at a time when the pipeline of new servicing contracts is not necessarily robust. And KeyBank already has the servicing infrastructure in place to take advantage of the additional servicing volume, he added. Phelan surmised that Bank of America, the seller, may be relinquishing its servicing as a non-core business while it focuses on loan originations.

CPE reported that Marty O’Connor, executive vice president & head of KeyBank Real Estate Capital Loan Servicing and Asset Management, said that the portfolio acquisitions will allow the company to “further leverage our highly rated servicing platform,” while “our existing partnership with Berkadia will allow us to quickly integrate the Bank of America portfolios.”

Zillow Reports Higher Home Values; Economic Activity Still Historically Low

By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor – CommercialPropertyExecutive.com

Zillow reported on Tuesday that its Home Value Index was up 6 percent year over year in July, to a value of $161,600. That’s the first time, at least according to the home value data specialist, that home values have appreciated at an annual pace of 6 percent or higher since August 2006, and another bit of evidence that the U.S. residential market has indeed founds its legs.

July also marked the 14th straight monthly home value appreciation, according Zillow. Home values were up 0.4 percent in July compared with June.

“After three straight months of annual home value appreciation above 5 percent, the U.S. housing market recovery has proven it is on very sound footing,” Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries said in a statement. “We have entered a new phase in the recovery when we can begin to turn away from ugly recent history and turn toward what the housing market of the future will look like and how it will act.”

Economic Activity Still Historically Low 

The Chicago Federal Reserve said that its National Activity Index (CFNAI) edged up to –0.15 in July from –0.23 in June, which means that economic activity is still below its historic trend, but not quite as far below in July as the month before.

The index’s less jumpy three-month moving average, known as CFNAI-MA3, increased to –0.15 in July from –0.24 in June, marking its fifth consecutive reading below zero. Still, it was an improvement for the index, which has been hovering around zero since the recession ended. The all-time low for the CFNAI-MA3 was a little lower than –4 in early 2009. The only time it had even come close to that kind of trough before was during early 1975.

According to the Fed, the index is a weighted average of 85 indicators of national economic activity from four categories of data: production and income; employment, unemployment, and hours; personal consumption and housing; and sales, orders, and inventories. Zero indicates that the national economy is expanding at its historical trend rate of growth, which negative values mean below-average growth, and positive values point to above-average growth.

Wall Street ended the day mixed on Tuesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 7.75 points, or 0.05 percent. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, however, were up to 0.38 percent and 0.68 percent, respectively.

Mortgage Delinquencies, Durable Goods Orders Drop in July; U.S. to Reach Debt Ceiling in October

By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor – CommercialPropertyExecutive.com

Lender Processing Services, in its First Look report for July, said on Monday that the percentage of delinquent U.S mortgage loans decreased from 6.68 percent in June to 6.41 percent in July, and from 7.03 percent in July 2012. Some of the monthly decline, but not all of it, is seasonal in nature. According to LPS, a delinquent mortgage is one 30 or more days past due, but not actually in foreclosure.

The delinquency rate continues to approach, but hasn’t reached a “normal” range—that is, roughly where it was pre-recessionary years. The normal delinquencies rate by that definition is one that hovers between 4.5 percent to 5 percent.

The percentage of mortgages in foreclosure also dropped month over month and year over year. In July, the foreclosure rate was 2.82 percent, down from 2.93 percent the month before. A year earlier, 4.08 percent of mortgages were in foreclosure, according to LPS.

Durable Goods Orders Tumble 

The U.S. Department of Commerce reported on Monday that orders for durable goods (those expected to last three or more years) dropped 7.3 percent in July, which is the steepest decline in nearly a year for the economic indicator. The decline followed three straight months of increases, including an uptick of 3.9 percent in June.

The unexpectedly weak report (economists had predicted a drop, but not that steep) might be more ammunition for those in the Federal Reserve who don’t want to slow the central bank’s bond buying just yet. The Fed might make its decision about tapering as soon as Sept. 17-18, during the next meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee.

On the other hand, the report wasn’t all bad. Take out transportation equipment—airplanes in particular, a notoriously volatile category—and orders were down only 0.6 percent. Also, other kinds of durable goods orders showed relative strength. Car and car part orders, for instance, edged up 0.5 percent in July, and compared with the same month last year, were up 14 percent.

Federal Government to Reach Debt Ceiling in October

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner on Monday that the federal government will reach its borrowing limit sometime in mid-October. “Protecting the full faith and credit of the United States is the responsibility of Congress because only Congress can extend the nation’s borrowing authority,” Lew wrote. “Failure to meet that responsibility would cause irreparable harm to the American economy.”

Wall Street was up most of the day on Monday, but took a dive at the end. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 64.05 points, or 0.43 percent, while the S&P 500 lost 0.4 percent percent and the Nasdaq lost a microscopic 0.01 percent.

Existing Home Sales Continue to Rise; Fed Minutes Spook Investors

By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor – CommercialPropertyExecutive.com

The National Association of Realtors reported on Wednesday that U.S. existing home sales increased 6.5 percent to an annualized rate of 5.39 million units in July from 5.06 million units in June. There was also a year-over-year improvement, with sales up 17.2 percent over the 4.6 million-unit pace in July 2012. The organization pegged the national median existing-home price for all housing types at $213,500 in July, a 13.7 percent increase from July 2012.

NAR also said that total housing inventory at the end of July rose 5.6 percent to 2.28 million existing homes available for sale. That represents a 5.1-month supply at the current sales pace, unchanged from June. Listed inventory is 5 percent below a year ago, when there was a 6.3-month supply.

“Mortgage interest rates are at the highest level in two years, pushing some buyers off the sidelines,” NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement. “The initial rise in interest rates provided strong incentive for closing deals. However, further rate increases will diminish the pool of eligible buyers.”

Fed Minutes Spook Investors

The Federal Open Market Committee released the minutes of its July 30-31 meeting on Wednesday, and economists, investors, and commentators were looking for hints about QE3, the Fed’s ongoing bond-buying initiative. The Fed said: “While a range of views were expressed regarding the cumulative improvement in the labor market since last fall, almost all Committee members agreed that a change in the purchase program was not yet appropriate.”

“Not yet” as of the end of July. The FOMC minutes weren’t any more specific than that about stepping down purchases in September, which is widely thought to be the central bank’s target month.

The Fed did say that it’s still watching the economy, waiting to see how it unfolds over the rest of the summer. “The unemployment rate had declined considerably since [last fall], and recent gains in payroll employment had been solid,” the minutes said. “However, other measures of labor utilization–including the labor force participation rate and the numbers of discouraged workers and those working part time for economic reasons–suggested more modest improvement, and other indicators of labor demand, such as rates of hiring and quits, remained low.” The central bank is paying attention to more than just the headline numbers, in other words.

Investors decided during the afternoon that they didn’t much care for whatever the Fed had said, though they might not have been sure exactly what that was. In any case, all the indices were down. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 105.44 points, or 0.7 percent. The S&P 500 was down 0.58 percent and the Nasdaq was off 0.35 percent.

Nasdaq Gets Weird; Mortgage Rates Hit New Highs; Leading Economic Indicators Edge Up

By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor – CommercialPropertyExecutive.com

On Thursday Wall Street experienced its biggest technical fubar since the 2011 Flash Crash, when trading stopped stone cold on the Nasdaq for about three hours, idling trillions of dollars in investment capital. After it was over, Nasdaq issued a vague statement.

“Earlier this afternoon, NASDAQ OMX became aware that price quotes were not being disseminated by the Securities Industry Processor (SIP), which consolidates and disseminates all prices for the industry,” the company said, adding that the glitch was fixed in 30 minutes. But Nasdaq had to coordinate with the other major exchanges and regulators to get things on even keel again, which took more time.

The reason for the stoppage? Not stated, and perhaps not known. In any case, Wall Street ended up on Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 66.19 points, or 0.44 percent, and the S&P 500 gaining 0.86 percent. The ill-starred Naasdaq was in the black, too, by 0.99 percent.

Mortgage Rates Hit New Highs

Mortgage rates are continuing their upward creep, but the housing market still seems to soldier on in its recovery. Freddie Mac reported on Thursday that 30-year fixed mortgages averaged 4.58 percent (with 0.8 points) for the week ending Aug. 22, the highest average in about two years. During the same week last year, the average for a 30-year mortgage was 3.66 percent.

“Fixed mortgage rates continued to follow bond yields higher leading up to the August 21 release of the Federal Reserve monetary policy committee’s minutes for July,” Freddie Mac chief economist Frank Nothaft said in a statement. “Meeting participants acknowledged mortgage rate increases might restrain housing market activity, but several members expressed confidence the housing recovery would be resilient in the face of higher rates.”

So far, it has been. Separately, the Federal Home Finance Agency reported that its House Price Index for the second quarter of 2013 was up 2.1 percent from the first quarter, and up 7.2 percent compared with the second quarter in 2012. The agency’s index is based on home prices for properties whose mortgages are owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Leading Economic Indicators Edge Up 

The Conference Board reported on Thursday that its Leading Economic Index (LEI) for the U.S. increased 0.6 percent in July to 96.0, following no change in June, and a 0.3 percent increase in May. The happy year 2004 = 100, according to the organization’s reckoning.

“Following moderate growth in the last few months, the U.S. LEI picked up in July, with widespread gains among its components,” Conference Board economist Ataman Ozyildirim, said in a statement. “The pace of the LEI’s growth over the last six months has nearly doubled, pointing to a gradually strengthening expansion through the end of the year. In July, average workweek in manufacturing was the weakest component.”

According to the Conference Board, some of the other components of the index include average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance; manufacturers’ new orders; ISM Index of New Orders; building permits; stock prices; and the interest rate spread, 10-year Treasury bonds less federal funds.

Equity Investors Adjust with the Market, but Keep Focus on the Core

By Les Shaver – ApartmentFinanceToday.com

For equity investors, playing in the multifamily space over the last couple of years has been all about making adjustments. As cap rates have moved down, return expectations have changed for active insurance companies, commingled funds and private wealth in the sector. Lower yields were just one of the variety of topics that came up at the “Opening the Gates: Equity Investors Step Up Their Game” panel at the Apartment Finance Today Conference this week in Las Vegas.

“[Equity investors] had their heart set on 17 to 20 percent,” said Bob Hart, president and CEO of KW Multifamily. “Now they’ve compressed to the mid-teens.”

But Hart thinks investors may have to be willing to accept lower returns for the long term. As the sophistication of the commercial real estate market has increased, so has transparency. And yields have fallen as a result. Operators now have to differentiate themselves through operational experience and the ability to create value.

Another market shift has been in the development arena, where many developers complain about lack of equity availability. Guy Johnson, president of Johnson Capital, said that development money is available for good concepts and people. And those people are not necessarily multifamily builders: He’s seeing hotel developers jump into the apartment space.

Even in a world with development starts picking up and competition increasing for existing assets, there are still a lot of problem loans out there. Eric Silverman, managing director of Eastham Capital, warned that there were a “well” of maturities on the way. “There are clearly opportunities coming,” he said.

Hart didn’t see as many “truly distressed” deals coming down the pike, though. “I’m not seeing the kind of distress that the curve may indicate,” he said, referring to a chart Silverman showed of maturities increasing over the next few years. “It has been far more orderly,” Hart said.

Here were some other key takeaways from the panel:

-In the affordable sector, Andrew Weil, managing director of CWCapital, said that equity is looking to core markets first. Though deal size hinders investment a bit, he expects things to pick up. “As people look for new things to do, that part of the market will pick up,” he said.

-The panelists were not crazy about auctions, with criticisms of the amount of resources they sapped for due diligence and the quality of product found in them. “I see people put a lot of time into auctions and, [by the end of the process] they just want to make a buy,” Johnson said.

-Interest rate concerns were, not surprisingly, a topic of discussion. Weil said the biggest place owners and investors will see their impact is on the exit from deals.

-If the downturn taught equity any lessons, it was that sponsors needed skin in the game. “It’s hard to be serious asking for 80 or 90 percent without putting in your own equity,” Hart said.