Bank funding gap for property development set to widen: Qualitas

Bank funding gap for property development set to widen: Qualitas
Bank funding gap for property development set to widen: Qualitas

The big four banks’ increased capital requirements will heighten the need for alternative funding sources for property development, according to a real estate investment firm Qualitas.

The company, which provides equity and debt financing to residential, commercial and retail property developers, discussed the issue in a briefing in Sydney.  

The Australian market is unusually dependent on big banks for commercial real estate lending, said group managing director Andrew Schwartz.

“Australia’s four major banks dominate the $230 billion commercial real estate debt market, with a market share of over 90%. In comparison, commercial banks in the United Kingdom and United States control between 40%-60% of the market, with non-banks, such as institutional debt funds, controlling the remainder. But real estate debt funds haven’t had a big presence in Australia to date,” he said.

This is set to change in the coming years, with the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority’s decision to increase the big banks’ required capital levels. When coupled with banks’ internal requirements that limit commercial real estate Loan to Valuation Ratios (LVRs) to around 55-65%, Qualitas says the market will need more options.

“The banks have their hands tied when it comes to making loans to property developers. As a result, there is a need for additional funding sources, which is where Qualitas fills the gap. Sometimes we provide this alongside the banks, through mezzanine debt, and other times we provide senior debt or equity,” Schwartz said.

While co-investing from its own balance sheet, Qualitas also invests discretionary capital on behalf of institutional and high-net-worth investors. It is seeing strong interest from offshore investors keen to access the Australian property market, which continues to demonstrate relative value compared to North American and European markets. 

“The depth of capital in foreign markets is huge - relative to Australia – and the weight of this money has compressed returns offshore, while they remain higher here. Some investors are also attracted by the fall in the AUD. As a result, we expect 2016 will see increased momentum of foreign capital coming to Australia. This is good news for the market, as it will increase the options available to those who need capital from alternative sources,” said Schwartz.

However, accessing quality deals in the local market can be challenging for overseas investors, according to Schwartz.

“Some of the biggest managers providing commercial real estate debt and equity capital globally aren’t seriously competing down here – they operate on more of a fly in/fly out basis. As a result, they don’t have the networks of contacts or on-the-ground access to deals before they hit the market.

“We deliver superior returns on a risk adjusted basis. Returns are attractive, so people assume it must be very risky. However, there are reasons they are high. Access is key: we are providing capital that our clients can’t source from the banks, while the market we operate in is very closed, built on networks, trust and long term relationships; so there is an information arbitrage at work,” Schwartz said to emphasise that Qualitas delivers above-market returns.

Residential Development Alternative Funding

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