Experts Predict Mergers Between RE Servicers

30 March 2016 – El Mundo

The real estate servicers that emerged from the financial institutions are driving housing developments, taking advantage of the recovery in the sector in areas with demand, and also the growth in rents. Experts predict that we will see mergers between these entities over the next few years in order to reduce costs.

Servihabitat, owned 51% by the TPG and 49% by CaixaBank, currently manages €51,000 million of assets for financial institutions, Sareb, investment funds, holding companies and large landowners, and whereby leads the ranking of servicers in the Spanish sector. Of the total, €21,000 million relate to financial assets and €30,000 million relate to real estate assets. The company also has 59 developments under assessment and under construction, containing more than 2,500 homes, as well as 38,000 contracts for rental assets.

The Executive Director of Servihabitat’s real estate business, Juan Carlos Álvarez, has explained that the firm has completed 18 developments containing 707 homes over the last three years. Moreover, it finishes an average of 15,000 homes per year from developers who have left projects unfinished, given that most of the financial assets that it manages relate to developers who have filed for bankruptcy; it deals with just a handful of mortgages to individuals.

Whilst at the beginning of the crisis, it was common practice to pursue court proceedings and “daciones en pago” to manage financial real estate assets, now the strategy involves making the real estate assets supplied as collateral more attractive to sell them at the best price possible, says the Director of Financial Assets, Agustín Melchor.

Solvia, the real estate arm of Banco Sabadell, has also gained a lot of weight in the multi-client servicers field, although its two main clients are the bank led by Josep Oliu and Sareb. It manages more than €28,000 million of assets, of which more than €5,300 million are financial assets, and it also manages land under development worth €4,200 million, and more than 10,000 rental properties (worth more than €2,500 million).

In the development sphere, it has constructed more than 3,400 homes since 2011 and currently has 34,426 properties up for sale, including homes (13,634), parking spaces, storerooms, retail outlets, offices, warehouses, plots of land and others, such as moorings and buildings under construction. It has 23 new property developments underway – 21 that it is constructing on behalf of clients and two that it is marketing itself – which contain more than 1,100 homes, primarily in the areas of Barcelona and Madrid, Levante and Andalucía.

Rental properties as a business

Although Servihabitat and Solvia do not own any assets themselves (they manage them on behalf of their clients), Anticipa Real Estate (owned by the fund Blackstone and created with 40,000 mortgages from CatalunyaCaixa) specialises in buying up mortgages and properties to focus on the business of rental homes. Thus, its strategy involves long-term management, rather than the liquidation of assets, and in 2015, it acquired developer loan portfolios from CaixaBank and Sareb for around €1,000 million and 5,000 homes in total; it also agreed to buy 4,500 homes from Banco Sabadell – 3,000 of which are currently rented out.

Of the portfolio of mortgages under management, 25% pay normally, whilst the remaining 75% pay with varying degrees of default. Anticipa plans to apply “dación en pago” arrangements to the majority of its problem loans. To date, it has signed 3,000 agreements in total. Following the “dación en pago”, most borrowers leave the home, but 5% remain, with a reduced rental price under a three year contract, explained the CEO of Anticipa, Eduard Mendiluce.

The future of the sector

Experts predict that there will be mergers between the servicers over the next few years, as the banks de-couple themselves from these companies and new investors look for economies of scale to reduce their costs, according to the Esade Alumni Real Estate Club. One of the first examples has been the Norwegian company Lindorff, specialist in non-performing loans and recoveries, which has acquired Aktua, the real estate services company of the former Banesto: “We expect to see more operations”, say sources at the Club.

Moreover, the distancing of the banks is going to force these companies to look for new clients and choose between offering end-to-end real estate services to third parties and becoming real estate companies. Sources at the Club expect that the major banks will sell their servicers and that over the long-term, there will end up being four operators in Spain after the concentration process: Servihabitat and Solvia, as integrated service companies and Neinor Homes (the fond owned by Lone Star) and Anticipa as real estate companies, the first focusing on development and the second on rental properties.

Original story: El Mundo

Translation: Carmel Drake