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5 Tips to Work More Effectively With Your Ag Lender

Even though most people make one or two real estate purchases in their lifetime, the lender’s office can be an intimidating place to visit. Some would rather sit in the dentist’s chair! But with a handful of tips, and some inside information included in this article, you’ll be well prepared and a lot more confident when you walk into your next meeting with your ag or commercial lender. It may even be more effective and enjoyable!

1. Start the relationship early. If you have plans to buy real estate, whether it be agricultural or another investment property, you have most likely been considering this purchase for some time. Don’t wait until you think you’ve figured everything out to start communicating with a lender. As you start to explore your purchase options, involve your lender.

Begin with a conversation about the type of investment you plan to make and share a rough timeline of when (you hope) the investment will take place. During this same initial conversation, you also should gather information from the lender about its processes and procedures. More than likely, the lender will discuss its internal policy limits for loan-to-value, cash flow expectations, and other underwriting criteria for the planned asset type.

At this time, you can also inquire about the required documents needed by the lending institution to begin underwriting the loan for your investment. These documents could include but may not be limited to tax returns, business and personal financial statements, rent rolls or contracts, or other items. This early-on correspondence, which can be in person or via e-mail, should be valuable to each party as no one likes surprises in any loan process.

2. Create a narrative. A narrative is a short synopsis of who you are, what you do, and what your goals are. This will be added to your file and can be extremely valuable to your lender. Most lenders and financial institutions put together individual reports summarizing its analysis on every single one of its (potential) clients. This report usually contains a section of borrower background, a bio, and updates since the last review. By providing your lender a short narrative about yourself, its underwriting process will be expedited. This can also be done in the early stages of communication. 

Your narrative may include information like:

  • Education
  • Current employment/income sources
  • Family or marital status
  • Industry experience
  • Similar investments you’ve made before
  • Significant changes year-over-year
  • Financial goals

By this point you should have a relationship established with a lender who is ready to partner with you for your investment. Keep in mind, though, that this process doesn’t need to be limited to just one individual lender or lending source. If you would like to involve competition between lenders, tips one and two may be replicated over and over again.

3. Share the details. The next tip for an effective lending relationship is to share as many details as you can! If you have identified a specific asset to purchase, provide that information to your lender. These details are essential for underwriting a loan used for acquiring agricultural or investment real estate. 

Information to share includes (but is not limited to):

  • A way to identify the parcel (e.g., address, legal description, survey)
  • Income information (e.g., historical information, annual property-related expenses, net income projections)
  • Loan needs (e.g., borrowing amount, target rate, and terms)

Most everything listed above can be provided to the lender after an offer is made or during the due-diligence time period. The exception to this is for real estate purchased at auction. Most real estate auctions announce the sale is to be competed without any financing contingencies, which means providing your lender the information above for preapproval needs to be completed before the auction sale date. This information may also give the lender a chance to point out a deficiency that has been overlooked, which could prevent you (or the financing entity) from making a poor investment choice.

4. COMMUNICATE! When the offer has been accepted, you have your lender’s commitment letter in hand, and it’s time to complete your transaction, make sure to keep the lines of communication open! Don’t stop now! Continuing open communication will help this transaction finish as smoothly as it started. Make sure your lender has the contact information for your real estate agent, attorney, and whoever else will play a role in completing your purchase. Make sure everyone is introduced to each other (even if it’s through email). The more everyone is kept up-to-date with the process and details, the more likely your purchase will happen on time and without any hiccups!

5. Follow up. Whether or not your plans are to buy more agricultural land or investment property in the future, stay in touch with your lender. This doesn’t need to be done weekly or even quarterly. At least once a year, you should check in with your lender and make sure you’re on top of your loan. Even if you have no new purchases on the horizon, it’s more than likely your lender has a requirement for ongoing reporting and collecting updated financials. The annual check-in is the perfect time to update your narrative, too. Did anything change in the last 12 months (e.g., a new job, a new family member, or a large inheritance)? These updates will be different for all investors, but are usually required to keep your loan in good standing. Also, when you volunteer this information responsibly, it can position you as a good customer.

Every lender is different and each one may have slightly different requirements. By no means will these tips guarantee you a loan approval or the best interest rate on the market. However, my hope in sharing these tips is that they will help to take out the “intimidation factor” of the lender meeting, and to create a good relationship between you and your lender that is respectful, comfortable, and maybe even enjoyable! Happy investing!

Editor's Note: The author of this article is Tanner Winterhof. This story originally appeared at FarmlandFinder.

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