Commercial mortgage loans are integral to the financing of commercial real estate projects. They represent debt secured by the potential or current property owner on a recourse or non-recourse bases to finance the purchase or refinance/cash out the property. Adequate debt acquired at attractive interest rates and terms can increase the investment yield of commercial real estate while simultaneously decreasing the investor’s equity in the project, reducing risk and allowing more liquidity of investor capital for future launch. Finding a lending source which is favorable to the specific project is crucial and making sure the cost of debt is less than the investment yield to generate a profit, a necessity.
The process of getting a commercial mortgage loan entails the lender qualifying the property and the borrower to determine financial strength and capacity to pay back the debt. Lenders are not in the business of taking properties for payment delinquency, but generating an attractive interest on their money deployed to investors for their investment activities. This qualifying process is termed underwriting and the financial viability of the project is scrutinized including the potential gross income, down to the effective gross income and the property expenses are scrutinized including all recurring expenses to derive a representative net operating income. The capacity of the real estate to support the debt is important to lenders, it is analyzed and the debt service coverage ratio resulting from the NOI/debt service is calculated to determine if it meets the minimum acceptable level; 1.20:1 is the minimum acceptable for multifamily and 1.25:1 for other commercial properties; however, this can change depending on how the loan is priced and the investor profile variables which increases or decreased the risk quotient attributed to the project.
The borrower’s financial strength, investor experience and credit profile are relevant to the underwriting process, for both the property and borrower are considered. The borrower’s net worth, other commercial real estate holdings, liquidity, etc are factored into the decision making in determining if the funding request is approved, disapproved or lender modified because of associative risk. It is the lender’s objective to mitigate risk to within acceptable parameters while charging a risk premium, if necessary, and still fund the loan when all underwriting criteria are met. Commercial mortgage loans represent a viable means for borrowers to leverage their capital supplemented by debt secured elsewhere to fund acquisitions and refinancing. When the appropriate leverage is used it creates a fertile environment for profitability. However, over leverage can erode all profits. Lenders usually request property and borrower’s financials to facilitate deciding if the request is fundable and how to price the loan. Transparency on the part of the borrower expedites the process and helps the creditability and borrower-lender relationship. Remember lenders are in the business of loaning money, but they need a certain level of assurance of repayment of loaned funds. Whatever borrowers can do to produce this assurance will help to get loan approval.