Abstract: Paper No. 180

An Examination of Three Sets of Indicators of Financial Risk among Multifamily Properties

Amy S. Bogdon and James R. Follain

May 1996 

A lack of information about the financial condition of multifamily properties has hindered the development of a secondary mortgage market in multifamily mortgages and federal policies to finance multifamily housing. The purpose of this paper is to improve our understanding of the financial condition of multifamily properties. The centerpiece of the analysis is the 1991 RFS [U.S. Bureau of the Census]. Three sets of indicators of financial distress are examined in this paper. The first is interest rate related risk. We find that twenty five percent of the properties with mortgages have contract interest rates at least 87 basis points above the average contract rate, which was 10 percent at the time of the survey. This places these properties at a disadvantage in the market place because their costs are above average. On the positive side, many property owners were able to refinance or otherwise renegotiate their contract interest rates during periods of interest rate decline.

The second is cash flow risk as measured by the ratio of net operating income to the mortgage payment (DCR). The measured DCR has a mean of 2.9 and a median of 1.36 among properties with a mortgage. A quarter of all properties with some mortgage debt have a DCR below unity. If one assumes our measure overstates the true DCR by 20 percent, then as many as half of the properties have DCRs at or below 1.1, which suggests that a large fraction of the multifamily stock suffers from cash flow problems. The third is risk due to low equity. Investors with little or negative equity in the property are more likely to default than are investors with a substantial equity stake in the property. Such risk is measured by the loan to value ratio (LTV). The average LTV is .43 among all properties; three quarters of all properties have at least one mortgage and the average LTV among properties with some debt is 55 percent. Higher than average LTVs are associated with several other property characteristics: properties owned by partnerships (LTVs about 5 percentage points higher than the omitted category); properties that receive some type of assistance, e.g., Section 8 (LTVs from 2 to 5 percentage points higher than non-assisted properties); and properties with ARMs, balloon mortgages, or multiple mortgages (LTVs about 6 or 7 percentage points higher than others).  

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