Why the banks fear foreign pre-sales: HoldenCAPITAL

Why the banks fear foreign pre-sales: HoldenCAPITAL
Why the banks fear foreign pre-sales: HoldenCAPITAL

Why the banks fear foreign pre-sales: HoldenCAPITAL


I have noted the growing frustration amongst developers in recent times with the banks requirement for higher pre-sales, particularly as the market shifts more towards owner occupied product and away from investment sales.

So I thought it worthwhile taking the time to explain that essentially, it is a means to reduce the capital impost on their own balance sheet position and maintain their return on capital that drives this requirement.

I have previously talked about the new world order in construction finance and the impact that the regulatory changes are having on our sector and this issue is directly related.

Without wanting to get too deep into the processes involved, simplistically, the banks are required to risk model every new loan transaction, which then directly determines the level of risk capital they need to allocate in their balance sheet. Construction finance can attract a high level of risk capital and given the outcomes of these models are regularly audited by APRA to ensure compliance, the banks are very motivated to achieve a lower score which means less risk capital is required improving both their return on capital and potentially an improved share price.

As a result, two key risks banks look to mitigate when assessing a construction loan application are the market and financial risks.  If a bank is required to take control of a project prior to completion, it may be forced to sell any unsold stock to recover its debt and it will generally be restricted to marketing and selling that stock in the local market. Before committing to the loan, the bank will generally require a number of pre-sales to be secured from local buyers to satisfy it that that local market actually has an appetite for the product at the price point implied in the feasibility. A pre-sale requirement of around 25 to 30% of the project stock is normally considered sufficient to mitigate that price point risk.

Because of their very nature, offshore pre-sales do nothing to satisfy banks that the local market has accepted the product or price points and it can often be the case that those sales are actually motivated by other needs such as a future migration opportunity for the buyer. As such they don’t reflect the local demand that the bank is looking to satisfy in the event that they are required to sell unsold stock in a default scenario.

The second risk mitigated by pre-sales relates to how much of the banks capital is exposed in the event of a default by the borrower. How many pre-sales will need to be secured to adequately mitigate this risk is determined by the loan metrics comprising the ‘Loan to Cost’ and ‘Loan to End Value’ ratios. Banks use these as a means of determining the level of equity the developer has at risk in the project and therefore how much of a discount the project can stand before that equity is exhausted and the Bank’s capital is at risk. Both are also key drivers in the loan risk model I mentioned earlier.

The ‘Loan to Cost’ ratio largely measures the cash equity contributed by the developer and determines the loan funds that will be required on a “cost to complete” basis, ensuring the bank always has sufficient funds to complete the project while maintaining the level of exposure they committed to at the outset the completed stock settles for its full on completion value.

The ‘Loan to End Value’ ratio measures the banks exposure relative to the market value of the completed product and as such is a measure of how much discount the product can bare before the bank is exposed to a capital loss. The higher the leverage the more pre-sales are required to ensure this risk is minimised. Traditionally Banks were keen to see that there were sufficient pre-sales to ensure that in the event that no further sales were achieved during the construction phase, there would still be an ability to refinance the balance stock at or close to a 50% loan to value ratio. This was reflected in presale requirements ranging from 30-50%, however as they have become more concerned with the state of the markets in terms of oversupply and a potential fall in value of completed stock, the requirement for increased presales to minimise this risk has become more important in their credit modelling and assessment process.

Banks also prefer pre-sales mitigating this financial risk to be by way of local sales because in the event that they end up in control of the project, they believe they will have more success in enforcing the terms of the sales contracts against local purchaser to settle. Historically, it is almost impossible for banks to enforce against foreign buyers and this is another negative factor when inputting the deal metrics into the banks risk model.

Most banks will allow 10-20% presales to off shore purchasers but will usually insist on closely vetting the contracts to satisfy themselves as far as possible of the bona fides of those buyers. This due diligence approach is also applied to the local buyer contracts, which in the bank’s eyes represent their primary means of recovering both their capital and their targeted interest return when they approve the transaction.

So in summary, the banks fear of foreign buyers is primarily driven by the risks that they represent to the banks ability to recover loan capital but more importantly, the impact that they have on the banks own balance sheet from a capital allocation perspective which in turn has an impact on their share price. Its clear from this why we are seeing a rise in the private lenders participating in the sector and as I have previously commented, this is a permanent structural shift and one that developer’s need to come to grips with and revise their business plan for funding accordingly.

This article was written by Dan Holden of HoldenCAPITAL, who are a bespoke construction finance firm, they arrange construction finance and invest in projects through their equity fund, Queen Street INVEST. To discuss your project finance requirement please call (07) 3171 4200 or visit HoldenCAPITAL here.

Dan Holden

Dan Holden

Dan Holden is Director of HoldenCAPITAL

Property Development Investment Sales


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