Uncertainty amid Covid-19 crisis leaves development finance industry in 'limbo'

Current uncertainty in the market due to the Covid-19 pandemic is putting pressure on the property development industry.

“There is uncertainty with regards to banks’ willingness to continue lending … current and future and values of property and, the biggest unknown of all, the amount of time it will take to return to some kind of normality,” said Anthony Bodenstein, managing director at Whitehall Capital.

While many development lenders have said they are conducting “business as usual”, the situation seems to be different behind the scenes.

From speaking to industry experts, DFT has learned that brokers have been struggling with the lack of information surrounding lenders’ activity, such as the change of rates and LTVs.

“Having to inform my clients that I do not know which lenders are open, which are lending and whether we could achieve the LTV that was promised last week was a real headache,” said Richard Sullivan, director at S-M & Daughters Ltd.

“The [clients] that have live applications suddenly found themselves in limbo,” he added.

The rates and LTV adjustments are not the only changes that have occurred during the pandemic.

Ben Rick, managing director at Social and Sustainable Capital (SASC), explained that it had to put on hold many of the schemes it was working on prior to the outbreak.

“We won’t know whether we will return to business as usual for some time.”

Ben added that SASC’s focus had shifted from generating new transactions to prioritising its existing clients and making sure that they were supported.

“This may include changing the terms of existing loans or making additional money available if appropriate.” 

Some development lenders are continuing to consider new loan applications, albeit in a more scrutinous manner.

“It’s important before committing to any scheme to have complete confidence in the future values you are lending against,” said Ashley Illsen, chief executive officer at Magnet Capital.

Anthony added that “inexperienced borrowers with iffy projects” will find it even more difficult to find funding.

Despite this, both lenders and brokers within the development market remain optimistic at the prospect of the crisis ending soon.

“We firmly believe that we are weeks, and not months, away from the worst of the epidemic,” said Stene Jacobs, operations director at Peritus Corporate Finance.

“What has filled me with joy is seeing how everyone is coming together within the industry to try and get through this. 

“From competitors to customers, everyone is doing everything they can.”

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