The Future of Small Balance Lending: Q&A with Alison Williams

08/16/2021

Alison Williams

Having originated debt and equity for over $3 billion in large commercial real estate transactions, Alison Williams brings her client-centric perspective to small balance lending through her new role as senior vice president and chief production officer. Formerly a Senior Director with Walker & Dunlop’s Capital Markets team, Alison’s experience structuring highly customized financing solutions for a wide range of large commercial real estate investors and property types offers a fresh and unique perspective to the largely volume-focused small balance lending sector.

Here Alison shares her thoughts on the future of small balance lending at Walker & Dunlop and the prospects for smaller properties in the multifamily sector.

Q: Who is—and will be—the typical borrower in this space?

A: There is no typical buyer in small multifamily properties. Buyers range from entrepreneurial, high-net-worth individuals interested in building a portfolio and creating generational wealth to large real estate firms with portfolios expanding from coast to coast.

Q: What are the friction points in small balance lending?

A: Regardless of the investor’s familiarity with the marketplace, the small multifamily lending landscape remains deeply fragmented and difficult to navigate, with over 3,000 different lending sources providing liquidity in the $1 million to $10 million range. Investors need resources and a true debt partner who can help them execute on their business and investment strategies. That’s why Walker & Dunlop is augmenting our capabilities in this sector. We’re bringing bankers and brokers with a proven track record in deals both large and small— people who’ve seen it all and understand how to navigate financing complexities. This framework promises borrowers certainty of execution and an overall smooth financing experience.

Q: Talk about technology. How are innovations streamlining the process—and changing the game?

A: In today’s fast-paced world, time is priceless. Borrowers need strategic partnerships that offer a highly personalized customer experience while delivering real business value through everything from knowledge, tools, and insights to business-plan-specific debt options. Not only must these partnerships deliver tangible value, but such delivery must be fast, efficient, and customizable to accommodate any borrower’s schedule or preference. This is where technology comes in.

As we’ve seen in other industries, digital innovations giving way to automation, AI, and advanced analytics are the future. Tools are emerging that put information in one place and automate time-consuming and repetitive tasks such as filling out forms. In the single-family space in particular, there has been steady innovation in how people find and finance their homes. Being as broad and dynamic as it is, we believe the small multifamily lending sector is poised for the next digital revolution.

Walker & Dunlop is working on exciting new offerings in this area to streamline processes and augment deal underwriting and decision-making methods – all while delivering a transparent and frictionless experience to our borrowers. What this means for our employees is more time to focus on delivering a highly personalized client experience and, for our borrowers, less time spent working through underwriting and closing requirements, and more time to focus on achieving their investment and operational goals.

Q: What do you see ahead in terms of performance and growth?

A: I believe the multifamily sector is positioned for favorable performance and growth in 2021 and beyond due to favorable debt markets, stable investment fundamentals, and the surge in demand for affordable housing which is proving to be immune to market fluctuations. As the multifamily market continues to grow and technology continues to transform the customer experience, Walker & Dunlop’s focus on small multifamily lending positions us well to help clients navigate the evolving landscape.

Interested in learning more? Contact us for more details.

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