Multifamily Lending Increased to Record High in 2019

Last year's $364.4 billion in multifamily lending volume is a 7 percent increase from the previous record set in 2018.
Source: 2019 Annual Report on Multifamily Lending
Source: 2019 Annual Report on Multifamily Lending

Fueled by strong market fundamentals and low interest rates, 2,589 different multifamily lenders provided a total of $364.4 billion in new mortgages in 2019 for apartment buildings with five or more units, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) annual report of the multifamily lending market.

Last year’s $364.4 billion in multifamily lending volume is a 7 percent increase from the previous record high in 2018 ($339.2 billion). Forty-four percent of active lenders made five or fewer multifamily loans over the course of last year.

Multifamily borrowing and lending hit a new record in 2019, driven higher by strong fundamentals, rising property values and low interest rates. By loan count, multifamily lending came from a wide range of firms, with many making only a handful of loans. By dollar volume, activity was once again driven by a relatively small number of dedicated multifamily lenders.

Last year’s numbers pointed to a robust and diverse multifamily lending environment, but conditions have changed with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the greatest being increased uncertainty. Interest rates are now lower than they were a year ago, and data has yet to show any marked changes in property incomes or values. Demand for refinancing because of low rates, particularly for government-backed loans, is unlikely to overcome a drop in sales transactions, which means multifamily borrowing and lending is likely to drop this year.

MBA’s report is based on its surveys of the larger multifamily lenders and the recently released Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data that covers multifamily loans made by many smaller lenders, particularly commercial banks. The $364.4 billion of multifamily mortgages originated in 2019 went to a variety of investors. By dollar volume, the greatest share (38 percent of the total) went to Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The top five multifamily lenders in 2019 by dollar volume were JP Morgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo, CBRE, Berkadia and Walker & Dunlop.

Jamie Woodwell is the Mortgage Bankers Association’s vice president of commercial real estate research.