Wining and Dining
Every commercial real estate loan ever made had at least a few black hairs. Maybe the property had some vacancies. Maybe the borrower’s net worth was not larger than the loan amount. Maybe the property was a little older. There are a thousand potential flaws to a commercial real estate loan, and every deal has at least a few of them.
Will your commercial lender fixate on the one or two negatives on your deal or will he recognize the two-dozen other pluses? The answer lies with your loan officer and with Loan Committee. Do they like you? If so, your deal has a chance.
Commercial lending is also an advocacy process. Loan Committee’s job is to say, “No” to every deal. Their job is to point out the flaws in your commercial loan package. Your loan officer is like the public defender in a criminal trial. His job is to convince Loan Committee that your commercial loan request should be approved. It’s his job to point out all of the strengths on the deal and to refuse to take “No” as an answer.
So will your loan officer fight hard for you in Loan Committee? Well … does he like you? But how do you make the loan officer at the bank like you?
- If you are personable and the lender is local, try to deliver your commercial loan package in person. Sit down and get to know your commercial loan officer. Chat him up. Schmooze him.
- Make a big fuss over the receptionist or the commercial loan department secretary. Bring her flowers or candy. Joke or flirt with her over the phone. Compliment her in an interesting way. “Hey Julie, I really like your new necklace.” You want her saying, “Mr. Wilson, that nice Mr. Blackburne is on the phone,” rather than, “Hey, boss, that jerk Blackburne is holding for you.” (I was soooo arrogant in my early years as a commercial mortgage broker, and I was often rude to the receptionist. Dumb-dumb-dumb.)
- Make sure your commercial loan package is nicely organized and understandable before you submit it. Lenders appreciate a well-organized package.
- Take your loan officer out to lunch. Everybody loves a free lunch. Take your loan officer out for drinks after work. Play golf with your loan officer. Golf is a great way to develop a relationship with a lender.
- If your loan officer is local, invite him to a ball game or a barbeque at your house. Even if he has to decline, he will appreciate the invitation. If your loan officer is located far away, arrange in advance to meet him at a commercial real estate finance trade show. Meet for drinks or golf there. The great Dale Carnegie tells the story about how he learned that the 12-year-old son of an important sales prospect collected foreign stamps. When Dale Carnegie received an envelope from Africa with an unusual stamp a few weeks later, he rushed it over to his sales prospect. The man was immensely grateful, and Mr. Carnegie eventually made that sale. My point here is to look for ways to show kindness and thoughtfulness to your bank loan officers. If you want to have friends, be a friend. Invest a little money in your schmoozing of bankers. Commercial real estate loan officers may move from Bank of America to Wells Fargo Bank, but they seldom leave commercial real estate lending completely. Your investment in most cases will pay off handsomely.
- As a mortgage broker, a good argument can be made that the most significant contribution that you add to a deal is your relationship with your best lenders. If you learn nothing else from this section, at least tattoo the following words to your forehead: Commercial lenders close loans for their friends.