Low Interest Rates, High Anxiety Borrowing

Money is cheap today. In a conversation yesterday with developers, low rates seemed to make it only more aggravating that lending remains a challenge to procure for new construction or rehabilitation. 

Measures to gauge risk as perceived by banks (such as the “TED spread,” shown, and swaps spread) suggest that lenders are currently charging interest rates much closer to the risk-free Treasury yield than they have since the spring of 2007. That ought to mean that lending is flowing more readily for projects with strong fundamentals. Still, looking at interest rate graphs ignores multiple issues that confound borrowers – namely, underwriting criteria put in place in crisis.


One developer described yesterday, difficulty finding a lender to underwrite a 70% pre-leased commercial development in a prime location – soon to be less than 200 feet from a new light rail station, in a growing metro area with a diverse economy. It could be that banks’ perception of risk as illustrated by interest rate spreads has changed – in which case underwriting criteria need to follow suit.