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Why Can't Small Co-ops Seem to Get Loans? A Mortgage Broker Explains

Patrick Niland in Legal/Financial on July 26, 2012

Brooklyn, New York City

Patrick Niland
July 26, 2012

Another reason comes from the market. Before 2009, there was a fairly active secondary market for small co-op loans. This gave lenders a ready buyer for their small loans at a decent profit. And because the secondary market pooled lots of small loans into a big package for sale to large institutional lenders, smaller co-ops received interest rates very close to those on loans to much bigger buildings. Unfortunately, that portion of the secondary market evaporated in the subsequent financial collapse.

Another challenge is cost. Because all underlying mortgages are commercial loans, lenders typically require the same documentation for small loans as they do for big ones.

That means a full commercial appraisal (which is much more extensive than the one- or two-page report that individual apartment buyers may have seen and can cost $3,000 or more), an engineering report of the building's physical condition (about $2,500), and an environmental risk assessment ($1,000 to $1,500). Then there are legal fees for both the co-op's attorney and the lender's (at least $3,500 per side), title insurance (about $3 per $1,000 of loan amount), a survey update (about $500), searches of the public records for liens and violations (another $300 to $500), and miscellaneous items (say, $200 to $300).


Some lenders charge origination fees (also called "points") of 1% to 2% of the total loan amount, but some do not. If you hire a mortgage broker, that fee can be 1% of the total loan amount (and sometimes more). And, of course, if the co-op is increasing the total amount of debt on its building or, as in your case, taking out a new loan, there is a mortgage recording tax (from 1% of the amount of "new" money in the counties outside the city to 2.05% in the five boroughs).

That means that a new $200,000 loan like the one you are seeking could have total closing costs in the range of $15,000 to $25,000.

The, of course, there's interest rates. With no secondary market for them, virtually all small co-op loans are remain in lenders' own portfolios. These lenders, which themselves tend to be smaller in size, usually have a higher cost structure, and that is reflected in the interest rates they charge. That's why smaller co-op loans like the one you want get interest rates that, depending on length (or term), are typically between 2% and 4% higher than those on bigger loans.

After painting such a discouraging picture, I'd like to leave you with a bit of good news. There are several lenders that will give you a new loan. If you have trouble finding them, I know at least one good mortgage broker who can lead you straight to them.


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

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