The Top 10 Questions To Ask Your Community Development Real Estate Lender Before Starting Your Development Project
As a real estate developer looking to deliver social impact, the process of finding and engaging with a lender can be hard. Once your mind is set on starting a community development real estate project, who do you turn to? Where do you find them? What is the process like?
As part of the Momentus Capital family of mission-driven lenders, Capital Impact Partners – a certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) – provides flexible and affordable loans of $650,000+ ($350,000 under special circumstances) to finance key community pillars, including health centers, education facilities, food retailers, affordable housing, small businesses, and cooperatives.
We are a national lender, capable of providing loans across the country, but we also have a place-based focus in specific regions, including California, Michigan and northwest Ohio, the New York Tri-State Area, the Southeast, Texas, and the Washington metropolitan area.
We know you have got questions about the community development real estate process. To help get your process started, we offer some answers here about working with a CDFI lender.
1. When in the development process should I start working with a CDFI lender?
It is never too early to start gathering information from lenders, but you’d ideally want to get started when you are about six months from starting construction.
By then, you would have a good estimate for the timing of obtaining permits and starting construction.
CDFIs such as Capital Impact Partners will work hand in hand with real estate developers looking to deliver social impact
2. What types of reserves will a CDFI lender require?
Lenders will have contingencies on your project that may go above and beyond what you have budgeted; usually 7.5-15% of hard costs expenses and 5% of soft cost expenses.
If you are capitalizing interest during construction, which is recommended when there are no operations ongoing during construction, that will need to be included in the overall project budget.
Once construction is completed, there may be lease up reserves, debt service reserves, and/or facility maintenance reserves.
3. Where does the capital that CDFIs lend come from?
CDFIs serve as capital aggregators that attract capital from the market, banks, government sources, and foundations.
4. Will a CDFI lender hold the loans or will they sell them?
CDFIs do both. At Capital Impact, if they are sold, we ensure that there is no impact on the Borrower’s experience or relationship.
5. What influences CDFI lenders’ rates?
Primarily it is the Treasury rates, unless the CDFI has a sector/geographic fund that is independent of Treasuries.
6. Who approves the loan and how does the loan committee work?
CDFIs have groups that review deals. Capital Impact has an internal credit committee that reviews deals on a weekly basis.
Some CDFIs or specific loan products require external review and approval. Underwriting packages must be submitted at least a week in advance to receive approval the following week.
The committee cares about the financial strength of the transaction, the deal fitting into our established credit guidelines, and the impact of the transaction on the community.
7. What are some typical terms for underwriting?
Capital Impact typically provides 1-10 year loans for $1-10 million that fund construction of facilities. The loan is typically interest only during construction and can amortize longer than the maturity, resulting in a balloon payment at maturity.
8. Who will be my main contact for loan closing and will it change afterwards?
You may first interact with a business development officer or someone with a similar position, who will be the initial point of contact until a term sheet is signed.
Then you’ll speak with a loan officer who will underwrite your transaction until it is approved.
Once approved, a legal and closing team will drive the process, but the loan officer will remain involved to ensure the loan is closed according to what was agreed to with the borrower and as outlined in their underwriting.
9. As a non-legal person, how do I review a loan agreement?
Consider seeking legal counsel to review a loan document. But generally, check that the interest rate, fees, and dates match your understanding. Check the reporting and financial covenants to ensure you can meet them.
10. What should I do if I think I am going to default on my loan?
Tell your lender as quickly as possible. CDFIs are lenders with a mission to provide fair, responsible financing, and they will work closely with you when things are tough. Another very important element to take into consideration when looking to establish a relationship with a community development real estate lender is that lender’s value system. You have the right and responsibility to vet the lender to make sure that their values, goals, and philosophies align with yours. It is a two way street and any conversation about funding should be as much about the entrepreneur evaluating the funder as the funder evaluating the entrepreneur.