How Easy Is It To Get An Art-Backed Loan?
by october ·
CONTRIBUTOR I write about art and investing
Would you spend more money on art if you thought that you could borrow money against its value? After all, buying art can be an expensive business and collectors are often loathed to part with it. Even collectors who do want to sell soon discover that art is an illiquid asset. If you could borrow against your prized Picasso, so much the better, and if you could borrow that money cheaply and channel that cash into something with a higher yield, art would start to look considerably more appealing as an investment.
The reality, though, is that art is hard to value and hard to authenticate and few mainstream banks want to lend against it. Some banks do offer art-secured loans at very low rates of around 2.5% to 3% to ultra high-net-worth collectors such as Steve Cohen, whose art collection is worth an estimated $1 billion.
Collectors at this level (and let’s face it, not many collectors are) can use these cheap loans to buy property, businesses or even more art, but there’s a big catch, and that it to arrange these loans, banks typically need to hold other assets with that institution that can be used to repay it. These borrowers are essentially taking out a loan against their whole portfolio, not just their art collection. Auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s also offer loans at competitive rates – as long as you are buying or selling art through them.
It is possible to take out a non-recourse, general purpose loan that is just secured against the value of your art from one of the other specialist lenders in the market. Interest rates here range from high single digits to well over 20%, but most lenders are only interested in making loans of over $500,000 and typically will only lend 40% of an artwork’s value. That means you need to have an artwork worth at least $1.25 million to be considered.
Some companies like Borro will make short-term loans against lower value art and collectibles, but will charge you interest of between 35% and a staggering 83% on an annualized basis. Then there are the so-called loan-to-own lenders, who bet that borrowers will default on the terms of their loan so that they can sell their precious artwork and keep the profits for themselves.
Put all these different lenders together and current size of the art lending market is estimated at £6 billion ($9.6 billion) a year, according to Deloitte and ArtTactic’s 2014 Art & Finance report, which was published last month. When you consider that global art sales last year were an estimated $63 billion, that isn’t very much at all.