Construction finance industry likely to undergo metamorphosis: Holden Capital

Construction finance industry likely to undergo metamorphosis: Holden Capital
Construction finance industry likely to undergo metamorphosis: Holden Capital


In late 2015, the major banks began to feel the heat from APRA regarding their exposure to residential investor loans and how their appetite for this type of funding was driving new development product and impacting the market. 

Prior to this inevitable crack down by ASIC and APRA in their respective spheres of responsibility, the major banks enjoyed a long and prosperous period where they were largely unchallenged in the construction finance sector. 

However, now we are seeing changes as the capital requirements imposed on the banks start to take effect. Importantly, all political parties support the continued application of pressure via the regulatory levers to ensure that their contingent exposure to underwriting the banks deposit funds is appropriately controlled and “well managed”. This is because Australians have an expectation that their savings accounts will always be there when things get tough and they expect their politicians to ensure this is so. No political leader wants to be explaining why they allowed unscrupulous bankers to lose the hard earned savings of their Mum and Dad constituents. 

These overriding regulatory requirements are not temporary responses to a specific event; they represent an ongoing constraint that will impact the pricing and structure of all future construction loans, resulting in permanent changes to bank lending policies which will now fluctuate within certain lower risk parameters. 

This represents a new world order in construction finance and has been clearly demonstrated with all four banks being either closed for “new to bank” business; or, operating with significantly reduced appetite and lending parameters over the past 10 months. 

These loans are assessed individually via a complex risk model that requires all the relevant factors to be input to ensure the banks satisfy and maintain the accepted risk levels required of them by APRA. As a consequence, there are far fewer “discretionary” decisions available to your bank manager when he deals with an application. 

Developers can no longer expect their house bank to provide the necessary funding because “they have always done it in the past”. As many are learning, the fact that they may have had a long-term relationship with their bank is of no consequence and doesn’t guarantee an ability to borrow funds on the same terms that they have become accustomed to. 

With the banks now limiting their exposure to the sector and pricing risk far more keenly than in the past, a wide range of alternative debt providers and equity players are entering the market or broadening their existing reach. The challenge for today’s developer is identifying which ones best fit both their business and specific project needs. This in turn requires a readjustment of expectations as to what constitutes an appropriate finance cost when assessing project viability as the cost of these funds is generally between 2-3% higher. 

While all this sounds like the industry has become a lot more complicated, and in some ways it has, it also means there are far more options available to developers, enabling them to fulfil their project ambitions and maximise their available capital. Just as the housing mortgage market was completely restructured with the coming of the wholesale funds and brokerage structures, we expect to see the construction finance industry undergo a similar metamorphosis, ultimately with similar positive results for developers. 

With the re-emergence of various second tier lenders, investment funds, managed trusts and private lenders all vying for a share of what will continue to be a growingly sophisticated market, the challenge for the governments and the regulators will be ensuring that Mum and Dad investors in search of better returns get the appropriate levels of protection that their bank funds do. 

This article appeared in Holden CAPITAL's Special Edition Market Update - Winter 2016 Insights from the Front Line of Construction Finance .

This article was written by Dan Holden of HoldenCAPITAL, who are a bespoke construction finance firm, they arranged over $300 million of construction finance in 2015 across 52 projects. To discuss your project finance requirement please call (07) 3171 4200 or visit



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