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What Investors Should Know About Commercial Real Estate Loans

Your commercial real estate transaction does not close unless the loan is approved. You can also improve the cash flow if the interest rate for the loan is low. So the more you know about commercial loans, the better decision you can make about your commercial real estate investment.

Loan Qualification: Most of you have applied for a residential loan and are familiar with the process. You provide to the lender with:

 

  • W2’s and/or tax returns so it can verify your income,
  • Bank and/or brokerage statements so it can verify your liquid assets and down payment.

 

In general the more personal income you make the higher loan amount you qualify. You could even borrow 95% of the purchase price for 1-unit principal residence with sufficient income.

For commercial loan, the loan amount a lender will approve is based primarily on the net operating income (NOI) of the property, not your personal income. This is the fundamental difference between residential and commercial loan qualification. Therefore, if you buy a vacant commercial building, you will have difficult time getting the loan approved since the property has no rental income. However, if you

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  • Occupy at least 51% of the space for your business; you can apply for SBA loan.
  • Have sufficient income from another commercial property used as cross collateral; there are lenders out there that want your business.

 

Loan to Value: Commercial lenders tend to be more conservative about the loan to value (LTV). Lenders will only loan you the amount such that the ratio of NOI to mortgage payment for the loan, called Debt Coverage Ratio (DCR) or Debt Service Ratio (DSR) must be at least 1.25 or higher. This means the NOI has to be at least 25% more than the mortgage payment. In other words, the loan amount is such that you will have positive cash flow equal to at least 25% of the mortgage payment. So, if you purchase a property with low cap rate, you will need a higher down payment to meet lender’s DCR. For example, properties in California with 5% cap often require 50% or more down payment. To make the matter more complicated, some lenders advertise 1.25% DCR but underwrite the loan with interest rate 2%-3% higher than the note rate! Since the financial meltdown of 2007, most commercial lenders prefer keeping the LTV at 70% or less. Higher LTV is possible for high-quality properties with strong national tenants, e.g. Walgreens or in the areas that the lenders are very familiar and comfortable with. However, you will rarely see higher than 75% LTV. Commercial real estate is intended for the elite group of investors so there is no such thing as 100% financing.

Interest Rate: The interest for commercial is dependent on various factors below:

 

  • Loan term: The rate is lower for the shorter 5 years fixed rate than the 10 years fixed rate. It’s very hard to get a loan with fixed rate longer than 10 years unless the property has a long term lease with a credit tenant, e.g. Walgreens. Most lenders offer 20-25 years amortization. Some credit unions use 30 years amortization. For single-tenant properties, lenders may use 10-15 years amortization.
  • Tenant credit rating: The interest rate for a drugstore occupied by Walgreens is much lower than one with HyVee Drugstore since Walgreens has much stronger S&P rating.
  • Property type: The interest rate for a single tenant night club building will be higher than multi-tenant retail strip because the risk is higher. When the night club building is foreclosed, it’s much harder to sell or rent it compared to the multi-tenant retail strip. The rate for apartment is lower than shopping strip. To the lenders, everyone needs a roof over their head no matter what, so the rate is lower for apartments.
  • Age of the property: Loan for newer property will have lower rate than dilapidated one. To the lender the risk factor for older properties is higher, so the rate is higher.

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