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HOW CO-OP/CONDO BOARDS OPERATE

A Mortgage Broker Reveals: Six Essential Steps to Co-op Refinancing

Patrick B. Niland in Board Operations on December 13, 2013

New York City

Dec. 13, 2013

 

Know your facts.

Loan officers quickly lose interest in buildings whose representatives don't have important information at their fingertips. Before calling any bank, assemble and review your co-op's records. Then put together several sets of the following:

  • A basic fact sheet, containing the co-op's address, block and lot numbers, lot dimensions, number of units, number of floors, number and type of elevators, type of heating system and fuel, and conversion date.
  • The offering plan and all amendments.
  • An up-to-date maintenance roll showing each apartment, shareholder's name, current monthly maintenance charge and payment status.
  • A list of sponsor, investor and sublet apartments showing the rents collected from each tenant. A comparison of rents collected to maintenance charges is particularly important.
  • Financial statements from the most recent three years.
  • A list of all apartment resales (with prices and sale dates) for the most recent three years.
  • Information regarding existing debt (current balance, lender, monthly payment, interest rate, due date and prepayment terms).
  • Copies of recent bank statements, including your reserve fund. 

Know what you want.

No board should begin shopping for a new underlying mortgage loan until its members have spoken with their professional advisors, including attorney, accountant, and managing agent. Your attorney will advise whether or not the existing loan allows you to refinance at this time, and ensure that your co-op's interests are protected throughout the process. Your accountant can help to develop a financial plan and a post-refinancing budget. Your managing agent knows the building's physical condition and can advise on the potential cost of repairs.

Cooperative underlying mortgage loans come in a variety of forms. The most common is a 10-year loan with a fixed rate of interest and with amortization (principal repayment) on a 30-year schedule. This type of loan has a balance at the end of 10 years (sometimes called a "balloon") that must be paid or refinanced.

A popular variant is a 10-year loan with no amortization (sometimes referred to as "interest only").

In addition to these two formats, there are 5-year loans with renewal options, and fixed-rate loans for 15, 20, 25 or 30 years. There also are second mortgage loans and credit lines that can provide additional funding for capital improvements and other needs in future years. Credit lines can be revolving (borrow and repay at will) or not, and secured (by a mortgage) or not.

Learn the market.

The financial markets are complex and constantly changing. However, it is possible to develop a general sense of whether interest rates are rising, falling, or staying the same by reading the financial press, listening to business programs on the radio and television, and searching the internet.

Not every lender in the New York City region makes underlying mortgage loans, nor every type or size of loan. Therefore, you might want to consider the services of a reputable mortgage broker to help you find the right lender for your new loan.

Understand what a loan officer does.

Loan officers appreciate a courteous manner, straightforward questions, honest answers and all the facts. They will be happy to give you a loan if (a) it makes financial sense and (b) it meets their bank's criteria. Your loan may be too big for one lender and too small for another. You may want a format that a particular lender does not offer. Or you could be rejected because your building has too few units, too many sponsor units or no elevator; is in poor physical condition; has environmental contamination; or possesses insufficient history as a cooperative. Lastly, loan officers generally do not approve loans but they recommend them to their loan committee. This committee makes the final decision, sometimes changing the terms initially offered by the loan officer.

Select a point person.

Given the importance of refinancing the underlying mortgage loan, you may want to involve several board members (or experienced shareholders) in the effort. However, channel all communications with the outside world through one person. This is the only way to guarantee accurate transmission of information about your cooperative and consistent interpretation of lender feedback. 

Be very responsive.

Whenever a loan officer requests additional information, a decision, or some action, don't delay. Either assure that your point person has enough authority to make basic decisions or establish a method to obtain same-day responses. Requiring full-board input on every question is a sure way to sideline your loan application.

Don't forget that financial markets can change faster than the weather. If they move enough in the wrong direction, your favorable loan terms can evaporate overnight. This advice applies even after you've received your commitment letter. So, stay focused until your new loan closes.

 

Patrick Niland, a mortgage broker, is the principal of First Funding of New York

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