Key Criteria Points
There are a number of factors to consider when looking to buy a care home, and finding the right business mortgage can prove tricky.
The level of experience of the potential borrower is a key consideration in a lender’s decision to invest in a care home purchase. The lender will be keen to ensure that the applicant has sufficient experience in the sector to ensure the home will be well managed.
Poor management can lead to poor standards of care, which creates an overwhelmingly negative experience for the residents. In addition, issues around care standards can lead to high profile PR disasters for all involved.
For purchases, if you own other care homes, Care Quality Commission (CQC) reports on your current home may be used to predict likely practices.
Due to the above factors, experience in running care homes is very important. First time operators can apply, and may well be successful in their funding application, but a person with experience of working in the sector at some level is far more likely to be approved.
Occupancy rates are an indicator of demand for the service. If occupancy rates are consistently low, it may be a warning sign that there is an issue.
Low occupancy rates will reduce the turnover and net profit of the business, which in turn will affect affordability.
CQC ratings are used in a number of ways to assess your commercial mortgage application. For refinances, the CQC rating will be used as a straight assessment of the running of the care home.
For purchases, a poor CQC rating may also cause problems, as a home with multiple issues may be seen as difficult to turn around. As a result, your experience will come under further scrutiny, as mentioned above.
Details of trading performance is vital in securing a care home mortgage. Lenders will use the previous trading history to assess the ability to repay the loan once issued.
Where previous trading history has been poor, but there is potential to increase profits, this must be clearly demonstrated.
Of course, lenders are willing to be flexible and take a view of the likely improvements in trading, but this must be backed by detailed projections and a business plan.
The finance terms offered on care home purchases are usually priced according to the risk associated with the application. Larger loans, for highly profitable businesses with excellent CQC ratings are likely to secure the best terms.
As a guide, finance terms for care homes are available as follows:
- Up to 80% Loan to value (of the property and business value)
- Interest only or repayment (repayment preferred by lenders)
- Loans from £100,000 – no maximum loan size
- Rates from 2.25%
- Borrow for up to 20 – 25 years
Buying Your First Care Home
First time care home buyers will have to prove their ability to run a care home and will have a lot more steps to take prior to completion.
The task is made much easier if you already have industry experience to fall back on. There are also a number of trade qualifications available, which will further bolster your perceived experience. By taking a registered management qualification prior to your application, you will improve your chances of a successful application.
Another issue to consider is the time taken for a CQC application to be approved, allowing you to become a care provider. All applicants are interviewed face to face, and according to the CQC the process takes 10 weeks to complete, if the applicant is well prepared.
Experience dictates that the process can go on for much longer than this, so be prepared for delays in your application.
Care home refinancing relies heavily on current trading performance and CQC ratings. As the care home is already trading with the same management, the lender will have a good idea of the likely future performance.
Potential lenders will occasionally accept projected trading figures. This is only usually possible when there is a material change to the business going forward. This could include a change to the management or staff structures, major cost savings or alterations to the care home itself.
Expanding Your Portfolio
If you’re an existing care home operator and are looking to purchase a new property to grow your business, a mixture of the above approaches will be used.
The lender will usually take into account the current trading and CQC performance to get a measure of the current business. They will then check the position of the new home.
Where CQC ratings are in need of improvement, your experience will be judged to see whether you can turn the situation around. Similarly, poor financial performance will be judged alongside the performance of your current homes.
A common-sense approach is then taken to understand whether the overall affordability position is sufficient to support the loan.
Timescales & Application Details
We are usually able to complete commercial mortgage applications in around 6 – 8 weeks. Depending on the situation with CQC applications, this timescale is realistic.
Where CQC applications have to be made, these timescales can vary, although your finance should be agreed within the above timescales.
Lenders remain very positive about the care home sector, with strong businesses, or strong applicants proving to be a safe bet. If you’ve got a well-performing care or nursing home business, or a good reputation for managing in the sector, lenders will be keen to support you.
The sector continues to be popular with borrowers and lenders alike, meaning funding your care home could be easier and cheaper than you think.