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December 13 , 2001, Toronto-Ross Brennan, President and CEO, Commercial Mortgage Origination Company discussed results of a survey of 40 financial institutions and all schedule A banks on commercial mortgages in Canada. Michael Dosman, Chairman of the Toronto Real Estate Board's Executive Council, Commercial Division is reporting on this and the views of panellists on what to expect from the economy in 2002.
WHO’S DOING THE BUSINESS
Brennan noted the average loan is $3 million with $13 billion in annual volume (4700 new commercial loans). Life insurance companies are doing the most business with 40 per cent of this total. Banks are next with 20 per cent, pension funds at 15 per cent, 13 per cent securitized, 9 per cent credit unions and 3 per cent warehouse.
Pension funds have significant cash reserves that are not yet available in the lending market due to the lack of internal expertise to underwrite. If their lending increases by only 3 per cent of total asset allocation, this could have a major positive impact on the availability of funds in the market.
WHERE IS THE BUSINESS BEING DONE
Ontario, with 38 per cent of the country’s population, accounts for 46 per cent of these loans followed by Quebec with 18 per cent.
By property type, office accounts for 31 per cent, 25 per cent retail, 22 per cent multi-family, 16 per cent industrial and 6 per cent other.
The majority of loans are for 5 to 10 year terms and currently liquidity for real estate debt is excellent, both short and long term.
LARGE MORTGAGE MARKET
Other panelists discussed the large mortgage market with loans over $25 million. This market is more conservative than the small loan market, but lender concerns are the same.
There is a good supply of capital in this segment of the market and conduits have increased their lending limits. However, there is decreased activity from offshore lenders. Annual volume is $5 billion with the average loan totaling $94 million. Traditionally, major office and retail interests seek funding in the mortgage bond mortgage for loans in excess of $50 million.
Since the last major downturn in the early 1990s, the loan transaction cycle time has been averaging three months. Lenders want to ensure the asset is maintained at a level that the asset is in as good a state of repair and maintenance in year 10 as it was at the point of purchase. That is why NCF is so important so the lender can require the borrower to assign a per cent of cash flow into a capital and maintenance fund with a spending schedule.
HOW WILL OUR ECONOMY PERFORM IN 2002 AND BEYOND?
Jeff Rubin, Chief Economist and Managing Director of CIBC World Markets Inc. observed that in his view the U.S. economy has been in a recession since March 2001, but that the impact has not yet been reflected in our GDP.
He noted that over 400 basis points (four percentage points) have been cut in U.S. interest rates and will continue to fall. The housing sector and auto sales have not been impacted yet. Rubin is expecting $150 billion in direct fiscal stimulus by next year in the U.S. "We have yet to see comparable stimulus in Canada and anything less than $8 to $10 billion will be insignificant," said Rubin. He argues Ottawa is not positioned to spend this much and that tax cuts (sales taxes) will stimulate but is not hopeful this will happen and is expecting around $4 billion in fiscal stimulus from Ottawa.
Rubin expects monetary policy will do the heavy lifting for the economy through interest rate cuts. The 30 per cent devaluation we’ve seen in the Canadian dollar should have led to inflation, but that hasn’t happened. Huge surpluses have also contributed to the low Canadian dollar in Rubin’s opinion.
He is anticipating a recovery by spring/summer 2002. However, it will not be as rapid as the expected U.S. recovery where the government has initiated greater fiscal stimulus.
Don Drummond, Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist with the TD Bank Financial Group was of the view that productivity in the construction sector hasn’t been very good. He went on to predict 2002 building starts growth in the industrial market of 1 to 1.5 per cent, 1.5 to 2 per cent in the commercial-office market and 2.2 per cent in multiple housing units.
Drummond went on to note that the shift appears to be towards a service-based economy, consistent with other industrialized countries. David Baxter, Executive Director of The Urban Futures Institute predicted that the increase in consumer spending will grow faster than population growth over the next 50 years. He expects population growth of 30 per cent in southern Ontario, Alberta and B.C. Without population growth in Canada, he is projecting dramatic labour shortages by 2050, especially when other factors are considered such as an aging population, low birth rate and early retirement.
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