12 CFR Appendix A to Subpart A of Part 365, Interagency Guidelines for Real Estate Lending Policies

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Appendix A to Subpart A of Part 365 - Interagency Guidelines for Real Estate Lending Policies

The agencies' regulations require that each insured depository institution adopt and maintain a written policy that establishes appropriate limits and standards for all extensions of credit that are secured by liens on or interests in real estate or made for the purpose of financing the construction of a building or other improvements. 5 These guidelines are intended to assist institutions in the formulation and maintenance of a real estate lending policy that is appropriate to the size of the institution and the nature and scope of its individual operations, as well as satisfies the requirements of the regulation.

5 The agencies have adopted a uniform rule on real estate lending. See 12 CFR part 365 (FDIC); 12 CFR part 208, subpart C (FRB); 12 CFR part 34, subpart D (OCC); and 12 CFR 563.100-101 (OTS).

Each institution's policies must be comprehensive, and consistent with safe and sound lending practices, and must ensure that the institution operates within limits and according to standards that are reviewed and approved at least annually by the board of directors. Real estate lending is an integral part of many institutions' business plans and, when undertaken in a prudent manner, will not be subject to examiner criticism.

Loan Portfolio Management Considerations

The lending policy should contain a general outline of the scope and distribution of the institution's credit facilities and the manner in which real estate loans are made, serviced, and collected. In particular, the institution's policies on real estate lending should:

• Identify the geographic areas in which the institution will consider lending.

• Establish a loan portfolio diversification policy and set limits for real estate loans by type and geographic market (e.g., limits on higher risk loans).

• Identify appropriate terms and conditions by type of real estate loan.

• Establish loan origination and approval procedures, both generally and by size and type of loan.

• Establish prudent underwriting standards that are clear and measurable, including loan-to-value limits, that are consistent with these supervisory guidelines.

• Establish review and approval procedures for exception loans, including loans with loan-to-value percentages in excess of supervisory limits.

• Establish loan administration procedures, including documentation, disbursement, collateral inspection, collection, and loan review.

• Establish real estate appraisal and evaluation programs.

• Require that management monitor the loan portfolio and provide timely and adequate reports to the board of directors.

The institution should consider both internal and external factors in the formulation of its loan policies and strategic plan. Factors that should be considered include:

• The size and financial condition of the institution.

• The expertise and size of the lending staff.

• The need to avoid undue concentrations of risk.

• Compliance with all real estate related laws and regulations, including the Community Reinvestment Act, anti-discrimination laws, and for savings associations, the Qualified Thrift Lender test.

• Market conditions.

The institution should monitor conditions in the real estate markets in its lending area so that it can react quickly to changes in market conditions that are relevant to its lending decisions. Market supply and demand factors that should be considered include:

• Demographic indicators, including population and employment trends.

• Zoning requirements.

• Current and projected vacancy, construction, and absorption rates.

• Current and projected lease terms, rental rates, and sales prices, including concessions.

• Current and projected operating expenses for different types of projects.

• Economic indicators, including trends and diversification of the lending area.

• Valuation trends, including discount and direct capitalization rates.

Underwriting Standards

Prudently underwritten real estate loans should reflect all relevant credit factors, including:

• The capacity of the borrower, or income from the underlying property, to adequately service the debt.

• The value of the mortgaged property.

• The overall creditworthiness of the borrower.

• The level of equity invested in the property.

• Any secondary sources of repayment.

• Any additional collateral or credit enhancements (such as guarantees, mortgage insurance or takeout commitments).

The lending policies should reflect the level of risk that is acceptable to the board of directors and provide clear and measurable underwriting standards that enable the institution's lending staff to evaluate these credit factors. The underwriting standards should address:

• The maximum loan amount by type of property.

• Maximum loan maturities by type of property.

• Amortization schedules.

• Pricing structure for different types of real estate loans.

• Loan-to-value limits by type of property.

For development and construction projects, and completed commercial properties, the policy should also establish, commensurate with the size and type of the project or property:

• Requirements for feasibility studies and sensitivity and risk analyses (e.g., sensitivity of income projections to changes in economic variables such as interest rates, vacancy rates, or operating expenses).

• Minimum requirements for initial investment and maintenance of hard equity by the borrower (e.g., cash or unencumbered investment in the underlying property).

• Minimum standards for net worth, cash flow, and debt service coverage of the borrower or underlying property.

• Standards for the acceptability of and limits on non-amortizing loans.

• Standards for the acceptability of and limits on the use of interest reserves.

• Pre-leasing and pre-sale requirements for income-producing property.

• Pre-sale and minimum unit release requirements for non-income-producing property loans.

• Limits on partial recourse or nonrecourse loans and requirements for guarantor support.

• Requirements for takeout commitments.

• Minimum covenants for loan agreements.

Loan Administration

The institution should also establish loan administration procedures for its real estate portfolio that address:

• Documentation, including:

Type and frequency of financial statements, including requirements for verification of information provided by the borrower;
Type and frequency of collateral evaluations (appraisals and other estimates of value).

• Loan closing and disbursement.

• Payment processing.

• Escrow administration.

• Collateral administration.

• Loan payoffs.

• Collections and foreclosure, including:

Delinquency follow-up procedures;
Foreclosure timing;

Extensions and other forms of forbearance;

Acceptance of deeds in lieu of foreclosure.

• Claims processing (e.g., seeking recovery on a defaulted loan covered by a government guaranty or insurance program).

• Servicing and participation agreements.

Supervisory Loan-to-Value Limits

Institutions should establish their own internal loan-to-value limits for real estate loans. These internal limits should not exceed the following supervisory limits:

Loan category Loan-to-value limit (percent)
Raw land 65
Land development 75
Commercial, multifamily, 1 and other nonresidential 80
1- to 4-family residential 85
Improved property 85
Owner-occupied 1- to 4-family and home equity ( 2)

1 Multifamily construction includes condominiums and cooperatives.

2 A loan-to-value limit has not been established for permanent mortgage or home equity loans on owner-occupied, 1- to 4-family residential property. However, for any such loan with a loan-to-value ratio that equals or exceeds 90 percent at origination, an institution should require appropriate credit enhancement in the form of either mortgage insurance or readily marketable collateral.

The supervisory loan-to-value limits should be applied to the underlying property that collateralizes the loan. For loans that fund multiple phases of the same real estate project (e.g., a loan for both land development and construction of an office building), the appropriate loan-to-value limit is the limit applicable to the final phase of the project funded by the loan; however, loan disbursements should not exceed actual development or construction outlays. In situations where a loan is fully cross-collateralized by two or more properties or is secured by a collateral pool of two or more properties, the appropriate maximum loan amount under supervisory loan-to-value limits is the sum of the value of each property, less senior liens, multiplied by the appropriate loan-to-value limit for each property. To ensure that collateral margins remain within the supervisory limits, lenders should redetermine conformity whenever collateral substitutions are made to the collateral pool.

In establishing internal loan-to-value limits, each lender is expected to carefully consider the institution-specific and market factors listed under “Loan Portfolio Management Considerations,” as well as any other relevant factors, such as the particular subcategory or type of loan. For any subcategory of loans that exhibits greater credit risk than the overall category, a lender should consider the establishment of an internal loan-to-value limit for that subcategory that is lower than the limit for the overall category.

The loan-to-value ratio is only one of several pertinent credit factors to be considered when underwriting a real estate loan. Other credit factors to be taken into account are highlighted in the “Underwriting Standards” section above. Because of these other factors, the establishment of these supervisory limits should not be interpreted to mean that loans at these levels will automatically be considered sound.

Loans in Excess of the Supervisory Loan-to-Value Limits

The agencies recognize that appropriate loan-to-value limits vary not only among categories of real estate loans but also among individual loans. Therefore, it may be appropriate in individual cases to originate or purchase loans with loan-to-value ratios in excess of the supervisory loan-to-value limits, based on the support provided by other credit factors. Such loans should be identified in the institution's records, and their aggregate amount reported at least quarterly to the institution's board of directors. (See additional reporting requirements described under “Exceptions to the General Policy.”)

The aggregate amount of all loans in excess of the supervisory loan-to-value limits should not exceed 100 percent of total capital. 2 Moreover, within the aggregate limit, total loans for all commercial, agricultural, multifamily or other non-1-to-4 family residential properties should not exceed 30 percent of total capital. An institution will come under increased supervisory scrutiny as the total of such loans approaches these levels.

2 For insured state non-member banks, “total capital” refers to that term described in table I of appendix A to 12 CFR part 325 or 12 CFR 324.2, as applicable. For state savings associations, the term “total capital” is defined at 12 CFR part 390, subpart Z or 12 CFR 324.2, as applicable.

Excluded Transactions

The agencies also recognize that there are a number of lending situations in which other factors significantly outweigh the need to apply the supervisory loan-to-value limits. These include:

• Loans guaranteed or insured by the U.S. government or its agencies, provided that the amount of the guaranty or insurance is at least equal to the portion of the loan that exceeds the supervisory loan-to-value limit.

• Loans backed by the full faith and credit of a state government, provided that the amount of the assurance is at least equal to the portion of the loan that exceeds the supervisory loan-to-value limit.

• Loans guaranteed or insured by a state, municipal or local government, or an agency thereof, provided that the amount of the guaranty or insurance is at least equal to the portion of the loan that exceeds the supervisory loan-to-value limit, and provided that the lender has determined that the guarantor or insurer has the financial capacity and willingness to perform under the terms of the guaranty or insurance agreement.

• Loans that are to be sold promptly after origination, without recourse, to a financially responsible third party.

• Loans that are renewed, refinanced, or restructured without the advancement of new funds or an increase in the line of credit (except for reasonable closing costs), or loans that are renewed, refinanced, or restructured in connection with a workout situation, either with or without the advancement of new funds, where consistent with safe and sound banking practices and part of a clearly defined and well-documented program to achieve orderly liquidation of the debt, reduce risk of loss, or maximize recovery on the loan.

• Loans that facilitate the sale of real estate acquired by the lender in the ordinary course of collecting a debt previously contracted in good faith.

• Loans for which a lien on or interest in real property is taken as additional collateral through an abundance of caution by the lender (e.g., the institution takes a blanket lien on all or substantially all of the assets of the borrower, and the value of the real property is low relative to the aggregate value of all other collateral).

• Loans, such as working capital loans, where the lender does not rely principally on real estate as security and the extension of credit is not used to acquire, develop, or construct permanent improvements on real property.

• Loans for the purpose of financing permanent improvements to real property, but not secured by the property, if such security interest is not required by prudent underwriting practice.

Exceptions to the General Lending Policy

Some provision should be made for the consideration of loan requests from creditworthy borrowers whose credit needs do not fit within the institution's general lending policy. An institution may provide for prudently underwritten exceptions to its lending policies, including loan-to-value limits, on a loan-by-loan basis. However, any exceptions from the supervisory loan-to-value limits should conform to the aggregate limits on such loans discussed above.

The board of directors is responsible for establishing standards for the review and approval of exception loans. Each institution should establish an appropriate internal process for the review and approval of loans that do not conform to its own internal policy standards. The approval of any such loan should be supported by a written justification that clearly sets forth all of the relevant credit factors that support the underwriting decision. The justification and approval documents for such loans should be maintained as a part of the permanent loan file. Each institution should monitor compliance with its real estate lending policy and individually report exception loans of a significant size to its board of directors.

Supervisory Review of Real Estate Lending Policies and Practices

The real estate lending policies of institutions will be evaluated by examiners during the course of their examinations to determine if the policies are consistent with safe and sound lending practices, these guidelines, and the requirements of the regulation. In evaluating the adequacy of the institution's real estate lending policies and practices, examiners will take into consideration the following factors:

• The nature and scope of the institution's real estate lending activities.

• The size and financial condition of the institution.

• The quality of the institution's management and internal controls.

• The expertise and size of the lending and loan administration staff.

• Market conditions.

Lending policy exception reports will also be reviewed by examiners during the course of their examinations to determine whether the institutions' exceptions are adequately documented and appropriate in light of all of the relevant credit considerations. An excessive volume of exceptions to an institution's real estate lending policy may signal a weakening of its underwriting practices, or may suggest a need to revise the loan policy.


For the purposes of these Guidelines:

Construction loan means an extension of credit for the purpose of erecting or rehabilitating buildings or other structures, including any infrastructure necessary for development.

Extension of credit or loan means:

(1) The total amount of any loan, line of credit, or other legally binding lending commitment with respect to real property; and

(2) The total amount, based on the amount of consideration paid, of any loan, line of credit, or other legally binding lending commitment acquired by a lender by purchase, assignment, or otherwise.

Improved property loan means an extension of credit secured by one of the following types of real property:

(1) Farmland, ranchland or timberland committed to ongoing management and agricultural production;

(2) 1- to 4-family residential property that is not owner-occupied;

(3) Residential property containing five or more individual dwelling units;

(4) Completed commercial property; or

(5) Other income-producing property that has been completed and is available for occupancy and use, except income-producing owner-occupied 1- to 4-family residential property.

Land development loan means an extension of credit for the purpose of improving unimproved real property prior to the erection of structures. The improvement of unimproved real property may include the laying or placement of sewers, water pipes, utility cables, streets, and other infrastructure necessary for future development.

Loan origination means the time of inception of the obligation to extend credit (i.e., when the last event or prerequisite, controllable by the lender, occurs causing the lender to become legally bound to fund an extension of credit).

Loan-to-value or loan-to-value ratio means the percentage or ratio that is derived at the time of loan origination by dividing an extension of credit by the total value of the property(ies) securing or being improved by the extension of credit plus the amount of any readily marketable collateral and other acceptable collateral that secures the extension of credit. The total amount of all senior liens on or interests in such property(ies) should be included in determining the loan-to-value ratio. When mortgage insurance or collateral is used in the calculation of the loan-to-value ratio, and such credit enhancement is later released or replaced, the loan-to-value ratio should be recalculated.

Other acceptable collateral means any collateral in which the lender has a perfected security interest, that has a quantifiable value, and is accepted by the lender in accordance with safe and sound lending practices. Other acceptable collateral should be appropriately discounted by the lender consistent with the lender's usual practices for making loans secured by such collateral. Other acceptable collateral includes, among other items, unconditional irrevocable standby letters of credit for the benefit of the lender.

Owner-occupied, when used in conjunction with the term 1- to 4-family residential property means that the owner of the underlying real property occupies at least one unit of the real property as a principal residence of the owner.

Readily marketable collateral means insured deposits, financial instruments, and bullion in which the lender has a perfected interest. Financial instruments and bullion must be salable under ordinary circumstances with reasonable promptness at a fair market value determined by quotations based on actual transactions, on an auction or similarly available daily bid and ask price market. Readily marketable collateral should be appropriately discounted by the lender consistent with the lender's usual practices for making loans secured by such collateral.

Value means an opinion or estimate, set forth in an appraisal or evaluation, whichever may be appropriate, of the market value of real property, prepared in accordance with the agency's appraisal regulations and guidance. For loans to purchase an existing property, the term “value” means the lesser of the actual acquisition cost or the estimate of value.

1- to 4-family residential property means property containing fewer than five individual dwelling units, including manufactured homes permanently affixed to the underlying property (when deemed to be real property under state law).

[ 57 FR 62896, 62900, Dec. 31, 1992; 58 FR 4460, Jan. 14, 1993. Redesignated at 75 FR 44692, July 28, 2010; 78 FR 55597, Sept. 10, 2013]