By REW staff
Meridian Capital Group, one of the nation’s leading commercial real estate finance intermediaries, was looking to give its co-op and condo financing business a boost.
Robert P. Corso, Jr. fit the bill so perfectly that a new role was created just for him.
The senior vice president and managing director of the firm’s Co-operative and Condominium Finance Group joined the firm in April, bringing with him more than three decades of experience in real estate finance.
Corso previously ran mortgage groups that arranged co-op and condo financing both at Brown Harris Stevens and Insignia Residential Group, but whereas those leadership roles were something of a balancing act between managerial and financing duties, the hired gun is now focused, with unbridled determination and focus, on working directly with clients to find — and create — the best lending products.
“At Meridian, there’s more of a singular focus… they allow me to have an entrepreneurial approach,” Corso told Real Estate Weekly. “I’m always out there in the market, always looking at the lenders, what they’re providing, and tweaking our programs to make sure we’re a step ahead.”
Though banks and other lenders in the general market remain cautious, creating strict underwriting environments, low interest rates and loan-to-value ratios are causing an influx of new lenders into the co-op and condo space, Corso said.
“Loan-to-values are so low, and the loans are so safe and secure that you have lenders coming out trying to bid for the business,” he said. “There’s a lot of competition, which is great for the co-op and condo space.”
Specifically, refinancing, a main component of Meridian’s business, has generated a tremendous amount of business (a total of $2 billion worth in the co-op and condo space sector in the last 18 months), as clients have access to more cash at lower rates.
The low rate, low LTV environment has added a new dynamic to a business that’s already riddled with myriad alternatives for clients, involving refinancing, new loans and lines of credit, mortgages, second mortgages, and the like, Corso said.
In some cases, old notions have been flipped on their heads.
“Because of the rate environment being so low, some of our clients are getting into 15 or 30 year loans,” Corso said. “We normally would say to a client, ‘Don’t do that, because you’re going to be stuck with this loan,’ but because rates are so low, we are looking at all of these opportunities for the clients as well.”
But, Corso added, “It’s not just about getting the best rate, which we always strive to do, but providing other flexibilities within the products.”
That includes the ability to pay down a loan, flexibility in terms of increasing loan amounts within a loan period, and the creation of new products, like the green product that Meridian will roll out with Beech Street Capital in the near future, which will provide efficiency upgrade financing.
Corso first “got a kick out of” co-op financing as a young man, working for his father’s Robert Corso Company, which not only ran brokerage and mortgage groups, but also at one time managed and owned over 100 buildings.
“I think having that background and experience helped me to look at this business in a different way, through the eyes of our client,” he said. “If I’m on an inspection, working with the superintendent or the manager, I know all the issues that they’re working through and facing, whether it be benchmarking requirements, or upgrades in terms of conversions of boilers.”
From as far back as he can recall, Corso said he always had an interest in his father’s business, citing him as a great influence.
“He was a great negotiator, a very polished professional,” he said. “This was way back in the day when brokers were brokers. He definitely looked out for his clients.”