The 4 Most Popular Types of Commercial Real Estate Loans

Are you exploring the various types of commercial real estate loans available to businesses? This comprehensive guide will illuminate the details of these types of commercial real estate loans, including their typical forms, rates, terms, and eligibility criteria.

When delving into the realm of commercial property acquisition, whether it’s procuring a new warehouse or an office space, renovating an existing asset, or refinancing existing property debt, commercial real estate loans emerge as a viable financing avenue.

We’ll dive deep into the intricacies of commercial real estate financing, shedding light on everything from the varying interest rates and loan terms to the prerequisites for eligibility. Additionally, we’ll highlight the most sought-after commercial real estate loan types available today.

What Is a Commercial Real Estate Loan?

At its core, a commercial real estate loan is a mortgage tailored for the financing of commercial spaces, encompassing offices, warehouses, and income-generating properties. Interest rates for these loans fluctuate based on the lender and the loan type, with a range typically between 2.5% and 14%+.

These loans serve multiple purposes, from acquiring new properties to refurbishing existing ones, or even refinancing current real estate debts.

How Do Different Types of Commercial Real Estate Loans Work?

Essentially, commercial real estate loans allow businesses and individuals to use a property as collateral. This means that the lender retains a legal right to the property until the loan is fully repaid. Failure to meet debt obligations could result in the lender seizing the property.

Obtaining a commercial real estate loan involves finding a suitable lender, verifying that you meet their criteria, and submitting an application. Upon approval, you’ll evaluate the terms offered and proceed if they align with your business objectives.

Similar to residential mortgages, payments on a commercial real estate loan are split between building equity in the property and paying interest to the lender. Over time, as you pay off the loan, you gradually acquire full ownership of the property, freeing you from further obligations to the lender.

While commercial real estate loans share similarities with residential mortgages, they possess unique characteristics that are particularly relevant to small business owners, requiring careful consideration.

Understanding Commercial vs. Residential Real Estate Loans

The distinction between commercial and residential real estate loans lies primarily in their interest rates and amortization periods. Commercial loans generally have higher interest rates and shorter amortization spans, ranging from 5 to 20 years, compared to residential loans, which can extend up to 30 years.

Commercial Real Estate Loan vs. Residential Loan

Commercial Real Estate Loan:

  • Extended to business entities.
  • Features higher interest rates.
  • Amortization period between 5 to 20 years, leading to higher monthly payments.
  • The property serves as collateral.
  • Exhibits a lower loan-to-value (LTV) ratio, usually between 70% to 80%.

Residential Loan:

  • Granted to individuals.
  • Offers lower interest rates.
  • Allows for a longer amortization period, up to 30 years, resulting in lower monthly payments.
  • The property acts as collateral.
  • Carries a higher LTV ratio.

Notably, commercial loans can have an amortization period that exceeds the loan term. Their LTV ratios are typically much lower than those in residential mortgages.

Commercial Real Estate Loans: Entities vs. Individuals

Residential mortgages are predominantly issued to individuals, whereas commercial real estate loans are usually directed towards business entities, including corporations, developers, limited partnerships, and investment funds. These entities often focus exclusively on owning and managing commercial real estate.

For entities seeking commercial loans, personal guarantees from owners may be a prerequisite, especially for newer businesses or those lacking a solid financial history. However, in cases where such guarantees aren’t needed, the property becomes the sole security for the loan, leading to what’s known as a non-recourse loan, limiting the lender’s recovery options in case of default to just the property.

Loan-to-Value Ratio (LTV) Explained

The LTV ratio measures the loan’s value against the property’s value. While common in both consumer mortgages and commercial loans, LTV ratios are generally higher in residential mortgages. A favorable LTV ratio in commercial real estate is typically between 70% to 80%, implying the need for a 20% to 30% down payment.

Lenders determine the LTV by dividing the loan amount by the property’s appraised value or purchase price, whichever is lower. A lower LTV is advantageous, indicating substantial equity in the property and reducing perceived risk for lenders.

What Are the 4 Main Types of Commercial Real Estate Loans?

Businesses considering commercial real estate loans have several options:

Term Loans: 

Offer a lump sum to be repaid in regular installments over a period, often extending beyond 5 years. These loans can have longer amortization periods than the loan term, with variable funding amounts and interest rates.

Small Business Administration (SBA) Loans: 

Government-backed, they provide security to lenders, resulting in lower interest rates. Ideal for commercial real estate, these loans have extensive terms and low rates. Requirements include being a for-profit business within the U.S., with owner equity and a need for financing. Notable programs include the SBA 7(a) and 504 loans.

Business Line of Credit: 

Similar to credit cards but with higher limits and lower rates, these lines of credit offer flexibility and are ideal for uncertain project costs or operating expenses. They don’t have a fixed repayment schedule and might feature slightly higher interest rates than term loans.

Bridge Loans: 

Short-term solutions providing immediate cash flow until a long-term financing option is secured. They are useful for covering purchase costs while awaiting the sale of another property or the arrival of new capital. Bridge loans are not intended for long-term financing but to bridge temporary financial gaps.

Commercial Real Estate Loans – Fees and Interest Rates

Commercial real estate loans are characterized by interest rates typically ranging from 5% to 11%, influenced by the borrower’s qualifications and the lender’s criteria. These loans, akin to consumer mortgages, entail additional costs through various fees, such as appraisal, legal, loan application, and origination fees.

It’s noteworthy that commercial loan interest rates are generally higher than those for residential mortgages. An essential aspect of these loans is the down payment, where a higher initial payment can secure more favorable interest rates and lower monthly payments.

Types of Relevant Fees

Unlike most residential mortgages, commercial real estate loans often have prepayment restrictions, manifesting as prepayment fees. These fees ensure the lender’s anticipated yield, even if the loan is repaid early. There are several forms of prepayment penalties:

Prepayment Penalty: A standard fee calculated by multiplying the outstanding balance by a specified rate.

Interest Guarantee: Ensures the lender receives a predetermined amount of interest, regardless of early repayment.

Lockout Period: Prohibits early loan repayment for a set duration, often the initial years of the loan.

Defeasance is another option for early loan termination, allowing the substitution of U.S. Treasury-backed securities for the original collateral. However, lenders may still impose penalties and fees for this process.

How to Qualify for a Commercial Real Estate Loan

Qualification criteria for commercial real estate loans vary among lenders. Banks typically require good credit, a minimum of two years in business, and at least $250,000 in annual revenue. However, regardless of the lender, factors like strong credit, a substantial down payment, and a low loan-to-value ratio universally contribute to securing lower interest rates.

Preparation is key when approaching a lender. Essential documentation and requirements include:

  • Business financial statements (balance sheets, bank statements, tax returns, etc.).
  • A minimum 20% down payment of the property’s value.
  • Personal and business credit scores.
  • Legal documents, like business licenses.
  • Financial history, including any bankruptcies or liens.
  • Remember, a larger down payment generally results in lower interest rates and monthly payments.

How to Prepare Before Applying for a Commercial Real Estate Loan

Before diving into the application process, consider the following:

  1. Define your property needs: buying land, renovating, or purchasing a new property.
  2. Assess your business’s debt capacity.
  3. Have a thorough understanding of all associated costs.
  4. Determine the needed repayment period.
  5. Prepare all necessary documentation for your chosen lender.

When selecting a lender, consider the trade-offs between banks and online lenders. Banks, with their stringent requirements and slower processing, offer favorable rates for those who qualify. Online lenders, on the other hand, provide more flexibility and efficiency, sometimes even accommodating applicants with poor credit, albeit at higher rates.

If your credit is subpar, it might be worth postponing financing until you can improve your credit score, ensuring more favorable loan terms in the future.

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FAQs About Types of Commercial Real Estate Loans

What are the main types of commercial real estate loans?

  • Term Loans: Traditional loans offering a lump sum to be repaid over a set period.
  • SBA Loans: Government-backed loans with favorable rates and terms, ideal for real estate.
  • Business Lines of Credit: Flexible credit options, akin to a high-limit business credit card.
  • Bridge Loans: Short-term solutions for immediate cash flow needs during transitional periods.

How do commercial real estate loans differ from residential loans?

Commercial real estate loans generally have higher interest rates, shorter amortization periods, and are made to business entities. Residential loans are typically for individuals, with longer amortization periods and lower interest rates.

What is a Loan-to-Value (LTV) ratio in commercial real estate loans?

The LTV ratio is a measure of the loan amount against the property’s value. In commercial loans, a good LTV ratio is usually between 70% to 80%, indicating the borrower needs a substantial down payment.

Can individuals apply for commercial real estate loans?

Yes, individuals can apply for commercial real estate loans, especially if they are investing in properties for business purposes, such as rental or resale. However, the terms may differ compared to loans made to business entities.

What are the typical interest rates for commercial real estate loans?

Interest rates for commercial real estate loans generally range between 5% and 11%, varying based on the borrower’s creditworthiness, the lender, and the type of commercial real estate loan.

Are there prepayment penalties for commercial real estate loans?

Yes, many commercial real estate loans include prepayment penalties, such as a prepayment penalty fee, interest guarantee, or a lockout period, to protect the lender’s yield.

What is the process of qualifying for a commercial real estate loan?

To qualify, borrowers usually need to provide business financials, personal and business credit scores, a significant down payment, and legal documentation. The exact requirements may vary depending on the lender.

What should I prepare before applying for a commercial real estate loan?

Before applying, assess your property needs and financial capacity for debt, and have a solid understanding of all associated costs. Prepare relevant financial documentation and determine the suitable repayment period for your business.


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