(EDGAR Online via COMTEX) -- Item 2.MANAGEMENT'S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS
The following discussion of the financial condition and results of operations should be read in conjunction with the financial statements and the notes to those statements included elsewhere in this report. Certain statements in this discussion and elsewhere in this report constitute forward-looking statements, within the meaning of section 21E of the Exchange Act, that involve risks and uncertainties. The actual results may differ materially from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements.
We are a Connecticut-based real estate finance company that specializes in originating, underwriting, funding, servicing and managing a portfolio of short-term (i.e., three years or less) loans secured by first mortgage liens on real property. From our inception, in December 2010, through our initial public offering, in February 2017, we operated as a limited liability company. On February 9, 2017, we completed our initial public offering (the "IPO"), the primary purpose of which was to raise equity capital to fund mortgage loans and expand our mortgage loan portfolio and to diversify our ownership so that we could qualify, for federal income tax purposes, as a real estate investment trust, or REIT.
We believe that, since consummation of the IPO, we met all the requirements to qualify as a REIT for federal income tax purposes and elected to be taxed as a REIT beginning with our 2017 tax year. As a REIT, we are entitled to claim deductions for distributions of taxable income to our shareholders thereby eliminating any corporate tax on such taxable income. Any taxable income not distributed to shareholders is subject to tax at the regular corporate tax rates and may also be subject to a 4% excise tax to the extent it exceeds 10% of our total taxable income. To maintain our qualification as a REIT, we are required to distribute each year at least 90% of our taxable income. As a REIT, we may also be subject to federal excise taxes and state taxes.
Notwithstanding the spread of the novel corona virus known as COVID-19, which had a severe adverse impact on certain segments of the U.S. and global economy, its impact on our business was negligible. Even now, as concerns mount over the impact that the Delta variant of the virus will have on the global economic recovery, we believe that there will continue to be a significant market opportunity for a well-capitalized "hard money" lender to originate attractively priced loans to small-scale real estate developers with strong equity positions (i.e., good collateral), particularly in Connecticut where, traditionally, real estate values in many neighborhoods have been stable and substandard properties are improved, rehabilitated and renovated. We further believe that there are many opportunities for us to expand our business into new markets. We also believe developers will prefer to borrow from us rather than other lending sources because of our flexibility in structuring loans to suit their needs, our lending criteria, which places greater emphasis on the value of the collateral rather than the property cash flow or credit of the borrower, and our ability to close quickly.
Review of the first Nine Months of 2021 and Outlook for Balance of Year
Compared to the first nine months of 2020, revenue increased 62.5%, net income to common shareholders increased 21.9%, and earnings per share increased $0.02 per share. The revenue increase was directly related to an increase in interest income of 58.8%, which reflects growth in our lending activities. The increase in revenue was offset by an 90.6% increase in total operating costs and expenses. The increase in operating expenses is mainly attributable to a 111.6% increase in interest expense and amortization of deferred financing costs and a 76.5% increase in compensation and related expenses. The increase in compensation expense is mainly attributable to the addition of a Chief Operating Officer in July 2020 and a Chief Investment Officer in April 2021, positions that are part of our long-term growth strategy. In addition, we added support staff in our operations and finance teams to assist in the servicing of our loan portfolio. The increase in net income to common shareholders was generally related to the growth in our loan portfolio and significant origination fee income. Mortgages receivable increased by 77.2% or $95.8 million compared to September 30, 2020, while cash and cash equivalents and investment securities increased 127.7% or $42.3 million. The increase in cash and cash equivalents and investment securities was due primarily to $30.9 million of net proceeds from the sale of common shares, and $45.5 million of net proceeds from the sale of our 7.75% Series A Cumulative Redeemable Preferred Stock, par value $0.001 per share (the "Series A Preferred Stock").
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Our primary business objective remains to grow our loan portfolio while protecting and preserving capital in a manner that provides for attractive risk-adjusted returns to our shareholders over the long term principally through dividends. We intend to achieve this objective by accelerating profitable growth and driving operational excellence. To accelerate profitable growth, we will continue to focus on selectively originating, managing, and servicing a portfolio of first mortgage real estate loans designed to generate attractive risk-adjusted returns across a variety of market conditions and economic cycles. We are also targeting larger-value commercial loans with strong, experienced sponsors. To drive operational excellence, we have embarked on a broad change management initiative to review, assess, and upgrade - or transform if necessary
Our strategy to achieve this objective also includes the following:
capitalize on opportunities created by the long-term structural changes in the ? real estate lending market and the continuing lack of liquidity in the commercial and investment real estate markets;
take advantage of the prevailing economic environment and current economic, ? political and social trends that may impact real estate lending, as well as the outlook for real estate in general and particular asset classes;
? remain flexible to capitalize on changing sets of investment opportunities that may be present in the various points of an economic cycle; and
? operate to qualify as a REIT and for an exemption from registration under the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended, or the Investment Company Act.
In terms of our outlook for the remainder of 2021, the biggest challenge remains the unknown impact of COVID-19 and future actions that may be taken to contain the spread of COVID-19. Keeping our workforce healthy and safe is our number one priority and we are following the updated guidelines and recommendations issued by the State of Connecticut and Centers for Disease Control. We continue to encourage employees to stay home when sick and encourage working from home when possible. In the event of a positive COVID-19 test result, Sachem employees inform management and follow state testing and contact tracing protocols. We have not been immune to the virus striking our employees and their family members. Fortunately, none of these occurrences has been life-threatening. However, to mitigate the risk of office closure and to ensure business continuity, our employees are equipped so they can seamlessly work remotely. This remote work set-up has proven to be effective since, at times during the pandemic, employees had to self-isolate based on their own health condition or that of an immediate family member. While loan processing and funding may have been marginally delayed, there was no material adverse impact to the service levels we provided our borrowers.
In the event we are forced to close our physical office, we think it likely that there would be some adverse impact. For example, the underwriting process would continue to function but would take longer to complete without immediate access to background and credit profiles. Loan committee meetings would continue to be held virtually (as they are under normal conditions) but the loan approval process may incur delay or not be as thorough and efficient as in the past. In addition, we may not be able to meet with borrowers or potential borrowers, including physical property inspections, which could adversely impact our ability to service our loans, monitor compliance and originate new loans. Finally, the filing of loan documents with the various recording offices may be delayed.
In summary, the consequences may include one or more of the following:
? increase the amount of time necessary to review loan applications, structure loans and fund loans;
? adversely impact the ability of borrowers to remain current on their obligations;
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? reduce the rate of prepayments;
? delay the completion of renovation projects in-process;
? inhibit the ability of borrowers to sell their properties to repay their obligation to us; and
? delay foreclosure or other judicial proceedings necessary to enforce our rights.
Other factors that we believe will impact our business for the remainder of 2021 include the following:
Increased competition. In the past, our primary competitors were other non-bank real estate finance companies (similar to Sachem Capital Corp.) and banks and other financial institutions. Our principal competitive advantages included our size and our ability to address the needs of borrowers in terms of timing and structuring loan transactions. More recently, we are encountering competition from private equity funds, hedge funds and other specialty finance entities funded by investment banks, asset managers, private equity funds and hedge funds. Clearly, the primary driver for these new market participants is the need to generate yield. They are well-funded and aggressive in terms of pricing.
Borrower expectations. The new competitive landscape is shifting the negotiating leverage in favor of borrowers.As borrowers have more choices, they are demanding better terms. As of September 30, 2021, the yield on our portfolio was 11.92% compared to 12.28% for the same period in 2020. We expect rate compression will continue for the balance of 2021.
Property value fluctuations. We remain aware of property value market cycles and utilize a dashboard of indicators to track property value trends. Our response to this development would be to adhere to our strict loan-to-value ratio and other underwriting guidelines and aggressively enforce our rights when loans go into default. By judiciously relying on our dashboard of leading indicators and continuing to make decisions in a sound and proper manner, we see no reason to expect any negative outcome regarding our business operations and growth. Some of our indicators within our dashboard are interest rate changes impacting mortgage rates, days-on-market, pending sales, NAHB's Housing Market Index, and the Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey, among others.
Increased operating expenses. Our operating expenses for 2021 are significantly higher than they were in 2020 due to our higher debt load. In addition, our dividend payments will be higher in 2021 than in 2020 due to an increase in the number of common shares outstanding as well as the issuance of of our Series A Preferred Stock, which carries a 7.75% annual dividend rate. Finally, our compensation expense has increased as we hired new personnel and increased salaries of existing employees to administer a larger loan portfolio and more complex loan transactions.
Unfunded commitments. Most of our loans are funded in full at closing. However, where all or a portion of the loan proceeds are to be used to fund the costs of renovating or constructing improvements on the property, only a portion of the loan may be funded at closing. At September 30, 2021, our mortgage loan portfolio included 157 loans with future funding obligations, in the aggregate principal amount of $61,707,185, compared to 105 loans in the aggregate principal amount of $13,342,248 at September 30, 2020. The increase is due to an increase in construction loan originations, a large portion of which is in the Florida market. Advances under these loans are funded against requests supported by all required documentation (including lien waivers) as and when needed to pay contractors and other costs of construction. In order to deal with these obligations, we are compelled to maintain higher cash balances, which could adversely impact our financial performance.
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Despite the challenges we faced in 2020, the changing dynamics of the real estate finance marketplace and the impact of COVID-19, we continue to believe in the viability of our business model. Our goal is, and has always been, to continue to grow our mortgage loan portfolio and increase our loan profitability, while at the same time maintain or improve on our existing underwriting and loan criteria. Specifically, we believe that the following factors will, in fact, help us deal with the uncertainties expected in the remainder of 2021:
From January through September 30, 2021, we funded approximately $154.8 million of mortgage loans including loan modifications and construction draws. The sources for these loans and draws included cash and cash equivalents at December 31, 2020 (approximately $19.4 million), short term marketable securities at December 31, 2020 (approximately $37.3 million), net proceeds from the sale of our Series A Preferred stock (approximately $45.5 million), net proceeds from the sale of common shares (approximately $30.9 million) and ? loan repayments (approximately $90.5 million). As of September 30, 2021, we had cash and cash equivalents and investment securities of approximately $75.3 million. We plan to use these funds during the remainder of 2021 to increase our mortgage loan portfolio. As of October 22, 2021 we had issued term sheets for new loans in the aggregate principal amount of approximately $75.6 million. Some of these loans may never get funded for a variety of reasons. In addition, as of October 22, 2021, we had applications in-house for loans totaling approximately $123.0 million. None of these loans have been approved and none may ever be approved.
Beginning in the second quarter of 2021, we significantly reduced our leverage, thereby mitigating the risks should economic conditions deteriorate. At September 30, 2021, our capital structure was 49.3% debt and 50.7% equity compared to 63% debt and 37% equity at March 31, 2021. The change was accomplished by selling equity - common shares and preferred shares - rather than by reducing our indebtedness. Our total indebtedness at September 30, 2021 was approximately $144.6 million, including deferred financing costs. Of this amount, approximately $30.1 million is the outstanding balance on our credit facility with Wells Fargo, which is currently accruing interest at the ? relatively modest rate of 1.5%. The remaining indebtedness, approximately $114.5 million, is the aggregate outstanding principal balance on our unsubordinated unsecured notes, which have a weighted average interest rate of 7.36% per annum. On the other hand, the notes provide us with operational flexibility. Other than interest, they do not have any significant costs and expenses, such as legal fees, collateral maintenance fees, unused facility fees, processing fees and the additional personnel costs relating to reporting and compliance. Second, they only have one financial covenant - an asset coverage ratio of 150%. There are no limitations in terms of the size of the mortgage loans we choose to fund, the markets in which we choose to operate and the nature of the collateral. Finally, the notes are unsecured.
On July 21, 2021, we consummated a $200 million master repurchase financing facility ("Facility") with Churchill MRA Funding I LLC ("Churchill"), a subsidiary of Churchill Real Estate, a vertically integrated real estate finance company based in New York, New York. Under the terms of the Master Repurchase Agreement entered into in connection with the Facility (the "MRA"), we have the right, but not the obligation, to sell mortgage loans to Churchill, and Churchill has the right, but not the obligation, to purchase those loans. In addition, we have the right and, in some instances the obligation, to repurchase those loans from Churchill. The amount that Churchill will pay for each mortgage loan it purchases will vary based on the attributes of the loan and various other circumstances. The repurchase price is calculated by applying an interest factor to the purchase price of the mortgage loan. We have also granted Churchill a first priority security interest on the mortgage loans sold to Churchill to secure its repurchase obligation. The cost of capital under the ? Facility is equal to the sum of (a) the greater of (i) 0.25% and (ii) the 30-day LIBOR plus (b) 3%-4%, depending on the aggregate principal amount of the mortgage loans held by Churchill at that time. The MRA contains other terms and conditions, including representations and warranties, covenants and agreements typically found in these types of financing arrangements. In addition, the Company has agreed that it will not (A) (i) pay any dividends or make distributions in excess of 90% of its taxable income, (ii) incur any indebtedness or (iii) purchase any of its capital stock, unless, in any case, it has an asset coverage ratio of at least 150%; and (B) has unencumbered cash and cash equivalents in an amount equal to or greater than 2.50% of the amount of its repurchase obligations. Churchill has the right to terminate the Facility at any time upon 180 days prior notice to the Company. The Company then has an additional 180 days after termination to repurchase all the mortgage loans held by Churchill. (See Note 6 to the attached financial statements.)
We have made the necessary adjustments to our operations to replace our former co-chief executive officer by hiring new employees and re-assigning existing employees to new tasks. We now have a robust executive team that includes our chief executive and chief financial officer, a chief operating officer and a ? chief investment officer. In addition, we have added junior executives as well in accounting and administration. Although these new hires will result in increased compensation, they were and will continue to be necessary to accommodate our growth and to maintain our ability to continue to service our borrowers and manage our business without sacrificing quality.
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We have adjusted and refined our business strategy to address changes in the marketplace and our growth to-date. Specifically, we continue to strengthen our geographic footprint beyond Connecticut and the rest of New England with ? particular emphasis on Florida and Texas. In addition to the aforementioned states, our current mortgage loan portfolio includes loans secured by properties in New York, Arizona, South Carolina and California. We continue to look for opportunities in new markets that meet our underwriting and loan criteria.
We are funding larger loans than we have in the past that are secured by what we believe are higher-quality properties that are being developed by borrowers ? that we deem to be more stable and successful. In addition, we believe the migration to these types of loans will offset any rate compression and help us maintain a low foreclosure rate.
To leverage our expertise in real estate finance and our capital resources, on the one hand, and to capitalize on lending opportunities in specific markets, on the other, we plan to partner and invest with local "hard money" real estate lenders creating satellite offices under the "Sachem" influence. An advantage of this model is that these local lenders subscribe to a "Sachem" model using their own personal assets and those of other investor partners to fund loan opportunities and operations which increases their capital commitment to the opportunity. Under these arrangements, we would provide loan funding capital as well as our underwriting and servicing expertise and our local partners would ? provide us with "boots on the ground" lending opportunities. We recently leased office space in Austin, Texas, which is manned by one of our shareholders who lives in the area as well as a sales and marketing campaign, primarily via Google advertising, in the hopes of building a robust pipeline to supplement our operator and to develop the Sachem brand in Texas. We also have had preliminary discussion with local lenders in other markets, including Orlando, Florida, Greenwich, Connecticut, Charlotte, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia. We plan to continue these discussions and scout other locations as well. However, we have not yet entered into any definitive agreements and we cannot assure you that we will be able to consummate any such partnerships or joint ventures on terms that will be acceptable to all parties.
On March 24, 2021, we loaned $25,000 to our wholly-owned subsidiaiary, Sachem Sponsor LLC. Sachem Sponsor used those funds to purchase 1,437,500 shares of Class B common stock of Sachem Acquisition Corp., a newly organized blank check ? company formed under the laws of Maryland in February 2021 for the purpose of effecting a merger, capital stock exchange, asset acquisition, stock purchase, reorganization or similar business combination with one or more businesses. Sachem Acquisition Corp.'s registration statement on Form S-1 is currently under SEC review.
Operational and Financial Overview
Our loans typically have a maximum initial term of one to three years and bear interest at a fixed rate of 5% to 14.2% per year and a default rate of 18% per year. We usually receive origination fees, or "points," ranging from 2% to 5% of the original principal amount of the loan as well as other fees relating to underwriting, funding and managing the loan, such as inspection fees. Since we treat an extension or renewal of an existing loan as a new loan, we also receive additional "points" and other loan-related fees in connection with those transactions. Interest is always payable monthly in arrears. As a matter of policy, we do not make any loans if the loan-to value ratio exceeds 70%. In the case of construction loans, the loan-to-value ratio is based on the post-construction value of the property. We rely on readily available market data, including appraisals when available or timely, tax assessment rolls, recent sales transactions and brokers to evaluate the value of the collateral. Finally, we have adopted a policy that limits the maximum amount of any loan we fund to a single borrower or a group of affiliated borrowers to 10% of the aggregate amount of our loan portfolio, taking into consideration the loan under consideration, unless otherwise approved by our board of directors. At September 30, 2021, we had one borrower whose outstanding loans, in the aggregate principal amount of $22.3 million, represented 10.2% of our mortgage loan portfolio. In addition, we had a second borrower with loans having an aggregate outstanding principal amount of $10.0 million, which represented approximately 4.6% of our mortgage loan portfolio. However, our total funding obligations to this borrower are approximately $23.4 million. On a fully funded basis, the total amount outstanding to this borrower would have represented approximately 10.0% of our mortgage loan portfolio as of September 30, 2021. Our revenue consists primarily of interest earned on our loan portfolio. As of March 31, 2021, our capital structure was weighted towards more debt versus equity and debt service has become a significant factor in determining our net income. As of September 30, 2021 our capital structure shifted and is more balanced -- approximately 49.3% debt and 50.7% equity. Most of our debt, approximately $114.5 million, is unsecured unsubordinated 5-year notes. The weighted average interest rate on these notes is 7.36%. In addition, we had a balance of approximately $30.1 million at September 30, 2021 under our margin loan account with Wells Fargo. The outstanding balance on this loan bears interest at a rate equal to 1.75% below the prime rate. The interest rate on this loan as of September 30, 2021 was 1.5%.
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In addition, our net income for the three and nine months ended September 30, 2021 has been adversely impacted by a reduction in the yield on our mortgage loan portfolio as well as $90.4 million of loan payoffs during the nine month period compared to $55 million for all of 2020. In the first nine months of 2021, we realized faster payoff of investment "fix and flip" loans with these projects coming to fruition quicker due to a stronger real estate market and, we believe, our sound underwriting and analysis of each project. The velocity with which our loans are paid off reflects the health of our portfolio. Despite these payoffs, we were able to redeploy the capital into new loans, boosting the yield to our shareholders by recognizing origination fees over shorter durations than originally underwritten. Our strategy continues to be to adhere to our current underwriting guidelines, which we believe will allow us to continue to grow our loan portfolio while protecting and preserving capital in a manner that provides attracted risk-adjusted returns to our shareholders.
For the nine months ended September 30, 2021 and 2020, the yield on our mortgage loan portfolio was 11.92% and 12.28%, respectively. For this purpose, yield only takes into account the stated interest rate on the mortgage note adjusted to the default rate, if applicable. We believe the interest rate compression will continue to be a factor for the remainder of 2021 as we implement our new strategy focusing on larger loans, secured by higher quality properties being developed by more seasoned developers with a history of successful development projects. On the other hand, since the interest rate on our outstanding indebtedness is fixed, we have reduced the risk on interest rate compression if and when interest rates begin to increase. That will enable us to continue to focus on growth and building market share rather than short-term profits and cash flow.
We seek to mitigate some of the risk associated with rising rates by limiting the term of new loans to one year. At September 30, 2021, approximately 87.6% of the mortgage loans in our portfolio had a term of one year or less. If, at the end of the term, the loan is not in default and meets our other underwriting criteria, we will consider an extension or renewal of the loan at our then prevailing interest rate. If interest rates have decreased and we renew a loan at a lower rate, the "spread" between our borrowing costs and the yield on our portfolio will be squeezed and would adversely impact our net income. We cannot assure you that we will be able to increase our rates at any time in the future and we cannot assure you that we can continue to increase our market share.
As a real estate finance company, we deal with a variety of default situations, including breaches of covenants, such as the obligation of the borrower to maintain adequate liability insurance on the mortgaged property, to pay the taxes on the property and to make timely payments to us. As such, we may not be . . .
Nov 04, 2021
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