Murray & Company

With more than 60 years of experience and $2 billion worth of annual mortgage placements under its belt, Murray & Company is one of Canada’s longest-lived and most active commercial real estate financial advisory firms.

The firm, which has offices in Toronto and Montreal, maintains mortgage brokerage in real estate across the country. Most of Murray & Company’s clients seek it out for mortgage financing consultation, Vice President David Tanner says.

“Our primary business is mortgage origination; we act for our clients by helping them arrange the most advantageous financing for projects and acquisitions,” he adds. “We canvass the market for the best deal for a client’s specific circumstances, talk to a variety of lenders and identify the best possible lender for a particular transaction.”

Murray & Company’s clients include owners and operators of commercial properties including multi-residential buildings, offices and retail, industrial and hotel developments, says Executive Vice President Garry DeGeer, who has worked for the company for 52 years. The company itself was founded in 1900.  

The company arranges loans from $1 million to more than $300 million, including conventional long-term, bridge and interim construction financing loans. Other services include mortgage administration, asset management and infrastructure financing.

Broad Skills

The company is led by a five-person management committee overseeing a staff of advisors, each of whom maintains his or her own list of clients, Tanner says. “Given the way we operate, all of us have to be jacks of all trades,” he explains. “Depending on the stage of a loan, we may have people negotiating terms or reviewing legal documents; we all need to have a broad set of skills.”

Staff members include lawyers, CAs, MBAs and others with specialized training who in turn share their expertise with their colleagues. “We have people here with a broad set of skills they can bring to bear in a particular situation,” Tanner says.

All staff members are guided by a strong sense of integrity and fairness, he adds. Over the years, the hard work of the Murray & Company staff has earned recognition by industry peers. Most recently, Vice President Randy Buckley was named Canadian commercial mortgage broker of the year by Mortgage Broker News in 2010.

Client Security

One major advantage the company offers to clients is approval from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), a national housing agency. This allows the company to apply directly for insurance on residential properties including multi-unit developments, long-term care facilities and mixed-use projects, according to Tanner.

Murray personnel guide clients through the insurance process and obtain certificates of insurance on their behalf. The insurance gives clients more competitive quotes from lenders.

“With the benefit of [CMHC] insurance, the lender’s position is much more secure, as they are able on call on that in the event of a [loan] default,” Tanner says.

Back on the Market

The global recession had a significant impact on the availability of loans, particularly in the first half of 2009, and greatly affected Murray and Company’s volume. 

“There was very little activity at that time … there weren’t many developers and owners who had a stomach for doing much of anything because they didn’t know what the future held,” Tanner says.

Loan activity picked up dramatically in the latter half of that year, and is continuing on an upward trend into 2011. One sign of this is an increase in the availability of longer-term – 20 to 25 year – loans. “Longer terms are not as plentiful as 5 to 10 year terms, but they are becoming more available,” DeGeer says. “Lenders are back in the real estate market and feeling more comfortable.”

Even with the upturn in lending, the loan market and financial environment surrounding the construction industry is constantly in flux as interest rates and market activity fluctuate. “Our job is to know which investors are interested in what kinds of transactions; we have to be on top of what lenders are looking for,” Tanner says. “The only way to effectively adapt is to remain active in the market, so we have current data about any changes and can find clients the services they need.” 

Funding the Square

One of the largest projects Murray & Company recently helped secure financing for is the Maple Leaf Square mixed-use development in Toronto. The project, adjacent to Air Canada Centre – home to the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs and the NBA’s Toronto Raptors – required $350 million in construction loans, which Murray & Company was able to secure from a single lender, DeGeer says.

The recently completed Maple Leaf Square features 1.2 million total square feet. Major components include an 872-unit condominium development, the 167-room Hotel le Germain boutique hotel,  the e11even restaurant, a Real Sports Bar and Grill, an 8,500-square foot Real Sports Apparel location, office and retail space and a parking facility.  The development is connected to both Toronto’s transit system and an underground network of shopping, dining and service outlets.

Maple Leaf Square was jointly developed by the sports teams’ parent company Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Co. with developers Cadillac Fairview Corp. Ltd. and Lanterra Developments. “(The development) is the epicenter of Toronto’s sports and entertainment district and a destination for fans and concertgoers from the greater Toronto area and beyond,” the developers say.

“Maple Leaf Square is a touchstone linking visitors and residents to Toronto’s vast cultural tapestry,” the developers add. “For residents of the condominiums and guests of the exclusive boutique hotel, Maple Leaf Square is home, but it is also a magnet for fans and visitors drawn by its unique combination of excitement, amenities and ambiance.”

Other recently completed Murray and Co. transactions include mortgages on new and existing shopping centres, office buildings, industrial buildings, a free standing bank, drugstore and restaurant buildings as well as condominium and land purchase and servicing loans. These transactions show the company’s adaptability to work in a wide variety of projects and loan sizes, it says.

Close Relationships

The company believes in maintaining close relationships with lenders and developers. “Our borrowers’ interests are paramount in our minds, but we also recognize this is a small market, so our lenders are very important to us,” Tanner says. “We treat everyone fairly; we do a good job balancing the interest of the borrowers who pay our fees and the lenders who put the transaction in their books.”

One of the company’s longstanding clients is the Hopewell Group of Companies, for whom Murray has financed projects in both eastern and western Canada, DeGeer says.

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