Wells Fargo Home Mortgage is "very aggressively" looking to back multi-family properties, an executive with the Des Moines-based lender said at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference in San Francisco.

"We can do just about any kind of deal, but it has to make sense," said Eric Smith, a senior vice president who works out of Wells Fargo's San Francisco office. Smith said lending on income-producing properties has been a "core product" for his company for a dozen years, and the acquisition of Wachovia Bank has made Well's commitment to multi-family "even stronger."

Currently, Smith confided during PCBC's Multi-Family Trends day, Wells has a particular appetite for student housing, which Smith called "a pretty good opportunity."

With colleges looking to expand by bringing in out-of-state students who pay a higher tuition, he noted, there is "a built-in demand" for apartments on and near many campuses.

Freddie Mac also is looking for deals, but Steve Griffin, managing director of multi-family in the GSE's Los Angeles office, said good properties are "hard to find." The apartment sector may no longer be "in a free fall," he said, but "it is not stable just yet."

And noting that Freddie Mac has reverted to underwriting guidelines that were in place before the housing sector went haywire, he said 70% of Freddie Mac's apartment loans is "repeat business with good quality sponsors."

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