What the banks say

Andrew Lamb

From a commercial property viewpoint an easing of credit and availability of finance for property lending will provide some real impetus to growth.  My colleague Neil Slade talked about a shortage of new development where demand exists but credit is difficult and I thought it was worth supporting Neil’s piece with a little more detail.

Well the headline from the latest Ernst & Young Item Club that “The crippling credit crunch is loosening” certainly seems to be a pointer that the availability of credit may be getting a little easier.

There is little doubt that the ongoing credit crunch and crisis in the Banks continues to affect business thinking nearly 5 years on from the start of the world’s economic woes.  The effects on property both commercial and residential are well catalogued and there for all to see – not least the retreat of values!

It is not an argument for inflating property values – what we need is more financial liquidity in the market to ‘make things happen’.

The Item Club lays bare some of the statistics around the credit crunch.  Part of their commentary was how UK Banks borrowed “£900 billion” that was borrowed from overseas up to 2008 and how we’ve been paying the price ever since as the UK reigns back from the £100 billion a year that Banks were using to fund domestic lending.

The Item Club explain that once it happened, the breakdown in the funding markets triggered several other crucial factors.  Secondary banking subsidiaries had to be supported, straining capital adequacy ratios.  Loan losses had the same effect.  Bank boards, as well as their shareholders and regulators, became very risk-averse as the losses mounted.  Tougher capital and liquidity requirements exacerbated the lending squeeze.  The ensuing recession made Banks even more worried and of specific concern for those earning their money in the property market, about the solvency of mortgage borrowers and small businesses.  Lending was depressed because the economy was depressed and vice versa, a classic vicious circle.

The Item Club thinks the background of tight credit and the Banks’ liquidity issues may be coming to an end with credit and liquidity requirements having been relaxed.  The Bank of England’s new Funding for Lending Scheme is designed to increase the flow of credit and reduce its cost, increasing the funding gap, or at least slowing the speed at which it is paid down.  It will reinforce the effect of the revival of the UK mortgage-backed securities market seen in recent weeks.

Ernst & Young say that ‘Although banks remain very risk-averse, they are effectively shifting the risk lending to affluent home buyers who have equity to invest.  In the case of first-time buyers, the builders and the government are shouldering the risk through new-buy schemes.  The banks’ capital base is also recovering’ they say.  Furthermore they comment that ‘These developments help to explain the marked improvement in the mortgage market suddenly being signalled by the Bank of England’s Credit Conditions survey, the sharpest since this survey began in 2007.  In the third quarter of this year, a significant proportion of mortgage lenders said they had loosened their lending criteria or were planning to do so, while 22% were planning to reduce the mark-up on mortgage rates.  The survey suggested that little movement in unsecured lending and forecast a continued deterioration in the outlook for lending to small companies, which it seems, are still regarded as too risky.  Nevertheless, these developments are encouraging.’

A lot of economic detail but for ‘property watchers’ and for those like us working in the property industry these are important pointers for how the market may perform over the next 12 to 24 months.

Not sure we can say this is the end of the credit crunch although we’d all hope that, it may just be the ‘end of the beginning’ though

Ian Haggarty, Corporate Banking Manager at Handelsbanken’s Temple Row Branch in Birmingham gave a presentation to the fee earners at Harris Lamb’s recent Business Development meeting at their Head office in Edgbaston.

Ian came as a guest of Fiona Mellor who chaired the meeting, and who is one of the principal senior Valuers at Harris Lamb, carrying out valuation and consultancy work for the UK’s top lenders to commercial property.

The presentation by Ian was to give the Bank’s perspective on lending in the commercial property market at the current time, with confirmation of its active role in lending on mixed investment and development funding. It was followed by a robust discussion with the Harris Lamb fee earners eager to know the Bank’s position on lending to existing and new clients as well as the lending criteria on which it would generally do business and offer terms for new loans.

As Fiona said: ‘It is an issue, especially for my agency colleagues that they need to understand not only which Banks are lending at the current time, but also the terms they can offer and the timescales involved in turning round applications for funding agreements’.

Charles D’auncey, Head of Agency at Harris Lamb commented: ‘The useful thing for the agency team is to hear the message of positive outlook from one of Europe’s major Banks and its ability to fund projects, which is really useful as we put transactional deals together – understanding a Bank’s criteria to lend is an invaluable piece of property knowledge.’

One of the points Ian made was that Handelsbanken is Sweden’s largest Retail Bank, and from a standpoint of having 135 UK branches at the moment and still expanding, the Bank finds it useful to not only work with property consultants such as Harris Lamb, with whom it has a good business relationship, but also to help inform and update professionals in the commercial market to whom it relies on to write new business.

For any more information on valuations please contact the Valuation team at Harris Lamb on 0121 4559455 or email fiona.mellor@harrislamb.com.

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